Greece is the birthplace of democracy, the Olympic Games and a country of unparalleled natural beauty. As such, it has always been a beacon for tourists making it the eighth most visited country in Europe in 2017 attracting more than 27.2 million visitors. Even though Greece doesn’t have a Citizenship-by-Investment program, it does offer one of the least expensive and easiest ways to obtain residency and by extension, the freedom to travel throughout the EU Schengen zone. Foreign investors, who are Greek residents, may apply for citizenship after seven years.
Investors can apply for citizenship after residing in Greece for seven years via the process of naturalization. Naturalization can only be achieved if the applicant can prove that they have established close ties with the country and that they have successfully integrated into Greek society. An exam must also be successfully completed to demonstrate that the applicant has obtained an adequate knowledge of the Greek language.
A residence permit can be obtained by foreign nationals who invest in either residential or commercial property valued at EUR 250,000. The permit includes members of their immediate families, including spouses and children up to age 21. A buyer can also invest in two or more properties totaling at least EUR 250,000, and two or more buyers can contribute to the same property investment as long as each makes a contribution of at least EUR 250,000. Residency permits are also granted to those who lease hotel accommodations or a furnished tourist residence for at least 10 years.
Residence permits are issued for five years and can be renewed repeatedly. The investor must hold on to the property in order to retain the residence permit but renting it out is allowed.
In November 2019, Greece announced new broader criteria for investors interested in obtaining a five-year residence permit in addition to the investment in real estate:
- Investment of a minimum of EUR 400,000 in Greek securities and companies. Under the revised criteria, a time deposit at a Greek bank of at least that amount for at least 12 months with a fixed order for renewal will suffice for a residence permit and so will an investment of the same amount in a real estate investment company.
- Investment of a minimum of EUR 400,000 in state bonds of at least three years’ duration through a Greece-based bank, or the investment of a minimum of EUR 400,000 in a mutual fund set up in Greece or abroad to invest exclusively in shares and bonds trading in Greece and with total assets of least EUR 3 million
- Investment of EUR 800,000 in stocks or corporate bonds in the Greek capital markets
Length of process
The application process takes approximately 30-60 days from the time of investment until the Residency Permit is issued. The applicant needs to have made the property investment in Greece prior to applying for the visa. Once this is done, our partners can take care of the application process, conveyancing and legal work for the property. A typical application involves initial discussion with ourselves followed by a 3 or 4 day visit to Greece to view properties, meet with lawyers and open a bank account. The application after this point can be processed within Greece by the clients’ lawyers under Power of Attorney. Provided everything is done correctly at this stage the client will not need to visit again to collect the residence permits.
In addition to the investment, applicants will need a clear criminal record and medical insurance to cover any stay in Greece. There is no minimum stay requirement and the residency visa can be renewed after five years providing the investment is maintained.
Qualifying family members include spouse and all children under 18. Children 18 and over can qualify if studying and dependent. The Greek residency program has been extended to the parents of both investor and spouse.
Taxes for Residents and Non-Residents
Non-residents in Greece will pay tax on their income derived in Greece but not on income from outside of the country. Income tax starts at a rate of 22%. Rental income from property in Greece is taxed at rates, from 11% to 33%. Certain expenses are deductible from the gross income. Capital gains tax (CGT) is charged at 15% on property sales.
Living and Working
The residence permit allows the applicant to live in Greece but not to work. However, the applicant can set up business in Greece.
Gaining visitor visas to travel to Europe and the Schengen zone has become problematic from many countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Once granted, the Greek residence permit allows freedom of travel throughout the EU Schengen zone.
The Greek program offers the lowest real estate investment level of any European residency scheme. It is also has favourable family rules. Taxes on property are high and the restrictions on citizenship make it less attractive than the programs of Portugal and Cyprus.