What is a Golden Visa?

“Golden Visa” is a residence permit scheme. The Golden Visa programs grant investors the right to live in a country in exchange for a qualifying investment. The investment options, the benefits, and the extent of the preferential treatment differ depending on the issuing country.

Which Countries Offer “Golden Visa” Programs?

Portugal, Spain, and Greece have three of the most sought after residency by investment programs in Europe. All three countries offer a Golden Visa scheme, where a foreign national receives a residence permit in exchange for a qualifying investment. All three programs require the applicants to be a non-EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals.

Golden Visa Comparison: Portugal vs Spain vs Greece

Although quite similar in principle, the programs vary in certain aspects. Below, we will take a look at each program and go through a thorough comparison. First, let’s take a brief look at the three programs.

Investment Options

All three countries have multiple investment routes that lead to the Golden Visa residence permit. The common denominator in all of them is the option to invest in real estate. It is also the most popular investment method in all three countries.

The lowest investment threshold belongs to the Golden Visa program in Greece, with 250,000 euros in real estate.

Portugal Golden Visa Spain Golden Visa Greece Golden Visa
Real Estate: €500,000 Real Estate: €500,000 Real Estate: €250,000
Real Estate €350,000; Rehabilitation of a 30+-year-old property Capital Transfer: €1M Capital Contribution: €400,000
Real Estate in Low-Density Areas; €280,000/€400,000 Investment in a Business: €1M  
Capital Transfer: €1M Investment in Government Bonds: €2M  
Creation of 10 full-time jobs    
Investment in R&D: €350,000    
Investment in funds; €350,000    
Investment in National Heritage, Arts, and Culture: €250,000    

Benefits

Each program provides the right to live in the corresponding country and travel within the Schengen countries without the need for an additional visa. If your preferred route of investment is real estate, then each country allows the investor to rent out the investment property. Other benefits vary between countries.

Although Portugal’s Golden Visa program outweighs the counterparts in Spain and Greece, the family reunification allows for the most flexibility in the Greece Golden Visa program. Greece appears to have the most generous definition of dependants.

  Portugal Golden Visa Spain Golden Visa Greece Golden Visa
Live & Work Right to live and work in Portugal Right to live and work in Spain Right to live in Greece (not the right to work)
Travel Visa-free travel within the European Schengen Area Visa-free travel within the European Schengen Area Visa-free travel within the European Schengen Area
Stay Requirement (Residence) Low stay requirement in Portugal: 7 days/year on average No requirement to reside in Spain No requirement to reside in Greece
Family Spouse, Dependant Children, Dependant Parents Spouse, Dependant Children, Dependant Parents Spouse, Dependant Children, Parents, Parents in Law

Stay Requirement for Residency

In order to upkeep the residence permit and have the right to renew it, all three countries require the applicant to preserve the investment. As for time spent in the country, Portugal has a minimum, whereas Spain and Greece have no stay requirements for residency to be continued.

Citizenship is another story, and we will cover that in the next section.

  Portugal Golden Visa Spain Golden Visa Greece Golden Visa
Stay Requirement (Residence) Low stay requirement in Portugal: 7 days/year on average No requirement to reside in Spain No requirement to reside in Greece

Citizenship

The “Golden Visa” does not magically entitle the applicant to receive Citizenship in any country. However, each program grants the applicant the right to apply for citizenship according to the country’s regular naturalisation timeline. The requirements to apply for citizenship vary greatly between Portugal, Spain, and Greece. The most important variance is in the stay requirement.

For the Golden Visa to lead to citizenship, the below requirements need to be met;

  Portuguese Citizenship Spanish Citizenship Greek Citizenship
Tests Portuguese Language Test Spanish Language Test, Spanish Citizenship Test Greek Language Test, Greek Citizenship Test
Stay Requirement (Citizenship) Seven days/year for five years of residence Ten years of residence, where the majority of each year is spent in Spain 183 days/year for seven years of residence
Travel Freedom Travel to 186 countries without a visa Travel to 188 countries without a visa Travel to 171 countries without a visa

Tax Regime

It is essential to point out holding a Golden Visa in Portugal, Spain, or Greece does not require the applicant to become a tax resident in the corresponding country. Only if the applicant chooses to spend more than 183 days of a year in the country, he or she becomes a tax resident. Residents and citizens of Portugal, Spain, and Greece, who spend less than 183 days per year in the country, are exempt from taxation on almost all foreign source income.

In the below chart, you may find a detailed comparison of various tax rates and programs in the three European countries;

  Portugal Spain Greece
Income Tax Between 14,5% - 45% Between 19% - 45% Between 9% - 44%
Corporate Tax 21% 25% 24%
Inheritance & Gift Tax None Between 1%-7% depending on the region Between 10%-40% depending on relation
Foreigner Tax Incentive Program Yes: Non-Habitual Residence Program; exemption for ten years None Yes: Proposed in 2020; 7% flat rate for ten years

Portugal has one of the most favourable tax schemes for foreigners in the European Union. The program is called Non-Habitual Residency (NHR). The program went through some changes in 2020, but it still attracts a good number of foreigners to relocate to Portugal.

As of 2020, a similar tax incentive program is in the works in Greece. The parliament is working on creating a program where foreigners, who would like to relocate to Greece and become tax residents pay a flat rate of 7% for the first ten years of their residence.

Application Costs

  Portugal Golden Visa Spain Golden Visa Greece Golden Visa
Processing Fee 533.90 euros (+ 83.30 euros/family member)    
Initial Application Cost 5,336.40 euros/person 87.57 euros/person 2,000 euros, (+ 500 euros/family member older than 21, + 150 euros/family member under 21)
Renewal Application Cost 2,668.20 euros/person 87.57 euros/person 2,000 euros (+ 500 euros/family member older than 21, + 150 euros/family member under 21)
Legal Fees Varies between Law Firms Varies between Law Firms Varies between Law Firms

Issuing Time

The issuing time varies depending on how busy the corresponding immigration office is.

Due to COVID-19, all three countries temporarily suspended the immigration offices in charge of issuing the Golden Visa permits in 2020.

However, at the beginning of 2020, the total issuing time for a Golden Visa was:

  • Portugal: Seven (7) Months
  • Spain: Six (6) Months
  • Greece: Three (3) Months

It is best to check the updated wait times with your law firm before applying for a Golden Visa in any of these countries.

Validity Period

Portugal initially issues a Golden Visa permit that is valid for one year. The first card is then renewed for a two-year card. Every card after that is valid for two years at a time.

Note: Due to a pandemic related procedural change in 2020, each permit, including the first one, is valid for two-years. There is a good chance this procedural will be permanent and the initial one-year permit will always be a two-year permit from here on.

Spain initially issues a Golden Visa permit that is valid for one year. Within that year, the applicant needs to go to Spain to apply for the two-year residence permit. Once the two years are over, the next permit Spain issues is a five-year permit. All permits as of then are valid for five years each.

Greece issues a Golden Visa permit that is valid for five years. The permit is renewed every five years, provided that the main applicant preserves his or her investment.

The Verdict

There is no doubt that Portugal, Spain, and Greece are all beautiful Mediterranean-like countries. Accordingly, they all enjoy similar perks like mild climate, delicious cuisine, low crime rates, and hospitable people, among many others. The Golden Visa programs of each three countries also share a number of similar benefits, such as visa-free travel within Schengen states, the ability to live in the corresponding country, family reunification, and other usual suspects.

Apart from these common denominators, the residency by investment program of each country has its own defining pros and cons. Below, you can take a look at the final verdict on all three programs.

Portugal Golden Visa: the easiest way to European citizenship

Portugal’s Golden Visa program was launched in October 2012. It has since been very popular for investors looking to obtain European citizenship without having to reside full time outside of their home country. It has been particularly popular among applicants from China, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, and Russia.

Pros:

  • It can lead to citizenship after five years of only spending an average of seven days a year in Portugal
  • A wide variety of investment options to choose from

Cons:

  • Relatively high application fees

Spain Golden Visa: the largest economy among Golden Visa programs

Spain launched its Golden Visa program in 2013. Investors, who wanted to have a vacation home in popular Mediterranean cities like Barcelona or Madrid, typically opted for this Spanish Golden Visa, shooting two birds with one stone.

Pros:

  • Highest GDP among the three countries

Cons:

  • It does not lead to citizenship without actually living in the country more than 183 days of the year for the second half of a period of ten years

Greece Golden Visa: the most affordable option

The Greek Golden Visa program launched in July 2013. It has gained popularity due to the relatively low ticket size of its real estate investment requirement; 250,000 euros.

Pros:

  • Lowest investment requirement among Golden Visa programs; a minimum of 250,000 euros investment in real estate
  • Fastest processing time at three (3) months

Cons:

  • It does not provide the right to work in Greece
  • It does not lead to citizenship without actually living in the country more than 183 days of the year for seven years

Regardless of your need or stage, please feel free to ask us any questions you may have regarding the Golden visa programs.

About The GET Golden Visa

If you need help evaluating your Golden Visa options, The GET Golden Visa and their many offices in several countries can act as your independent advisors throughout the entire process.

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