Greece Golden Visa: A Comprehensive Guide
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Are you thinking about living in Greece as an expat or perhaps spending your retirement there?
You may be interested to learn about the Greece Golden Visa program. In this article we will discuss how you can secure a residence in Greece through the program.
What is the Greece Golden Visa Program?
The Greece Golden Visa program is a residency by investment program which allows foreign nationals to obtain Greek residence permits.
The Golden Visa program started in 2013 at a time when the Greece economy was not doing well and was in dire need of foreign investments.
The program has become a big success story since then attracting over funds of more than EUR 1 billion in the following years.
The Greece Golden Visa program is what you would call a residency by investment program which allows foreign nationals to the European Union to obtain Greek residence permits by investing money, in this case in Greek real estate.
In order to be eligible to apply, you need to invest at least €250 000 in Greek real estate, anywhere in the mainland or its islands.
The visa grants residence to Greece and visa-free travel to the Schengen Zone. If you decide to live in Greece permanently, then you can also apply for Greek citizenship after seven years of continuous residence.
If you have a family member who is living in Greece, it’s also possible for them to apply for an extended family reunification permit. This means that your loved ones will be able to join you in Greece and move there legally.
Greece also provides public healthcare and public education benefits as part of the right to reside there.
It should be noted that the visa does not grant you the right to work in Greece, however.
The applicant and their family members can instead start enterprises in Greece, create bank accounts, and increase their global investment portfolios.
The Greek residence will be revoked for the resident and his family members if they sell the invested property to another non-EU citizen. It will transfer to the buyer provided that the new investor complies with all other program requirements.
How did the Greece Golden Visa program start?
The Greece Golden Visa program was started in 2013 when Greece economy was not doing well. It is a residence by investment program which was designed to attract foreign investments to contribute to a long term and sustainable growth for the Greek economy.
From the start of the program through the end of 2017, almost 2,300 residence permits for real estate owners were issued (a total of approximately 5,700 when counting also family members).
Chinese nationals have received about half of these visas, with Russians coming in second and Turkish nationals recently moving up to third (obviously because of political turmoil in our neighboring country).
Additionally, nationals of Egypt, Lebanon, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other nations have been granted residency permits.
The success of the program has netted more than EUR 1 billion for the Greek economy in those years.
According to global professional services network KPMG, much of the program’s success can be attributed to the low investment levels of only EUR 250,000, and the lengthy residence permit (five years subject to indefinite renewals of five year periods provided the applicant still owns the property).
It also helps that the granting of residence permits extends to the applicant’s family members (spouses, children up to the age of 21, parents of both applicant and spouse), and there are quick processing times (40 to 60 days from the time of investment to the permit issuance)
The application process is also relatively low cost at EUR 500 for each permit excluding those for minor children, and there are no minimum stay requirements other that lawful entrance into the country.
The program has become a big success story with the number of investors from a variety of countries that applied, and has become an example to many nations on how to implement a residency by investment program.
The program also helped boost tourism in a country that had been hit hard by the financial crisis that began in 2008. In fact, tourism has increased in Greece significantly since its implementation.
What are the requirements when applying for a Greece Golden Visa?
In order to be eligible to apply for the Greece Golden Visa, you need to invest at least €250 000 in Greek real estate.
As long as the purchase price exceeds EUR 250,000, the purchased property may be located anywhere on the Greek mainland or the islands, may be residential or commercial, may consist of one or more properties, may be in the form of shares in real estate holding companies, or may be both.
You also cannot be a resident of the European Union.
The Greece Golden Visa is a temporary residence permit valid for five years, renewable, with permanent residence becoming available after 7 consecutive years of living there.
You also do not need to live in Greece or have stayed in Greece for any period of time before applying for the visa, provided you entered the country legally.
This is the list of documents you need to submit for your application, according to the Greek government:
- Application Form
- Four (4) recent printed digital passport photos, also stored in digital form (CD) jpeg2000, with certain specifications applied.
- Certified copy of a valid passport or other travel document recognized by Greece with the valid national visa.
- A fee of €16 concerning the printing of the separate document (electronic residence permit).
- A fee in the form of an electronic fee in accordance with provisions of Article 132 of Law 4251/2014 and of Article 38 of Law 4546/2018 (101 A), where appropriate.
- An insurance contract from a private insurance body, as provided by the legislation in force, which shall cover all health and safety risks and the size of the benefits financed, as defined in the decision issued by delegation of the provisions of Article 136 par. 3 of Law 4251/2014.
- A certificate issued by the notary who composed the purchase contract or the notarial deed for the lease of hotel accommodation facilities or furnished houses for tourists in complex tourist accommodation facilities which certifies the personal data of parts contracted, the information concerning the property, the type of payment of the agreed price or hire and the specific information concerning the transaction of the payment, according to the provisions of article 20 B, the existence, by chance, of dissolving heresy, as well as if the particular property has been used by the seller for the issuance of the permanent residence permit or
- A certificate issued by the notary (in case the sum paid during the property purchase was lower than two hundred and fifty Euro (250.000) but the current objective value of the property exceeds or is equal to the amount concerned and which should state that, ” “According to the result of the check conducted on contract no ……… for the purchase of property, the income of the property value was paid in full and the contract is NO longer subject to terms, conditions and time limits and the objective value of the property amounts to ….
- A certificate of encumbrance issued by the land registry or national cadaster agency attesting to the non-existence of any encumbrance
- A copy of the notarial deed for the lease of hotel accommodation facilities or furnished houses for tourists in complex tourist accommodation facilities acknowledging the full payment of 250.000 Euro and where there is reference to the granting of an operating license issued by the National Tourist Organization (EOT) and
- Proof of transfer registration issued by the competent land registry where the relevant lease has been transferred or
- Purchase agreement of a land parcel or land site and relevant contract concerning house building/restoration lodged out in the competent Tax Office in accordance with the Law and
- Planning permission in the name of the person concerned
- Invoices issued by the contractor/s and the relevant receipts or
- Timeshare contract for a minimum period of five years which should clearly state the corresponding income per year and
- Proof of transfer registration issued by the competent Land Registry and
- A certificate issued by the National Tourism Organization (NTO) that it has been informed of the particular timeshare
What are the tax considerations for applying for a Golden Visa?
Investors with Greece Golden Visas can continue to be non-Greek tax residents and only pay tax on income earned within Greece, not money earned outside.
Greek taxes on rental income from real estate are progressive, starting at 15% (for income up to EUR 12,000) and rising to 45%. (for amounts over EUR 35,000).
While some running costs are tax deductible, when real estate is owned by a legal entity, all costs associated with its exploitation are subject to general deductibility rules and are tax deductible (the current corporate income tax rate is 29%).
Local real estate sales are also subject to a 3.09% effective transfer tax on the buyer and assessed on the greater of the purchase price and the real estate’s objective tax value. On the purchase of new buildings, a 24% VAT is applicable.
As with most tax matters, it is recommended you consult a financial planner or tax expert to guide you through the process of paying your taxes.
Can I make other investments aside from real estate when applying?
Yes. You can also be qualified for a Greece Golden Visa when you make capital contributions to Greek companies or invest in Greek shares, and bonds, according to residence and citizenship by investment experts Henley & Partners.
With the exception of portfolio investment companies and real estate investment companies, you can make a capital contribution to a company with a registered office or establishment in Greece with a minimum value of EUR400,000.
The purchase of shares in a share capital increase or bonds that are, at the time of issue, must be permitted for trading on regulated markets or multilateral trading mechanisms that operate in Greece.
You can also make a minimum value of EUR 400,000 capital contribution to a real estate investment company as of Article 21 of Law 2778/1999.
The company must invest exclusively in Greece, for the acquisition of shares in a share capital increase.
Another way you can make investments is by contributing the minimum EUR 400,000 to a closed-end investment company as of Article 5 of Law 2367/1995, for the acquisition of shares or to a closed-end mutual fund, as of Article 7 of Law 2992/2002, for the acquisition of shares.
The alternative investment institutions must have the intention to invest exclusively in companies that have headquarters or establishments in Greece as well.
For investing in Greek shares or bonds, you can purchase Greek government bonds with a minimum acquisition value of EUR 400,000 and at least three years of residual maturity at the time of purchase, via a credit institution established in Greece.
This credit institution must be the custodian of these bonds.
You can also purchase of shares or corporate bonds with a minimum acquisition value of EUR 800,000.
These shares should be admitted for trading or are traded on regulated markets or multilateral trading mechanisms that operate in Greece.
Mutual fund investments must be a minimum value of EUR 400,000, with the fund incorporated in Greece or another country and with the intention to invest exclusively in shares, corporate bonds, and/or Greek government bonds that are admitted for trading or are traded on regulated markets or multilateral trading mechanisms, operating in Greece.
Finally, any purchase of units or shares of alternative investment funds with a minimum purchase value of EUR 400,000 is also accepted.
As with the others, these funds must be established in Greece or another country of the EU, and must intend to exclusively invest in immovable property in Greece.
Should you consider applying for the Greece Golden Visa program?
The Greece Golden Visa program is very competitive as a residency by investment program.
Your investments will make you eligible for a temporary Greek residence permit, valid for five years and renewable indefinitely. You can also apply for an extended family reunification permit, which will allow you to bring your spouse and children with you.
You can stay in the Schengen area with no time restrictions so long as you keep renewing the visa every five years. You do not need to live in Greece to maintain your residency permit.
Because Greece is a member of the European Union and belongs to both Schengen Area and Eurozone, anyone who owns the golden visa has easy access to many European destinations.
This is why the Greece Golden Visa is one of the most popular immigration programs available. The program has attracted billions of Euros to the country and made it in fact one of the largest investment destinations in Europe after Germany.
This shows that people are interested in investing their money here because they believe this will provide them an opportunity for better life quality.
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