Residence Permit for Property Owners in Greece: The ‘Golden Visa’ Program

The “Golden Visa” Program for granting Residence Permits to Property Owners was launched in Greece in 2013, and is now in force by virtue of the provisions included in article 20.B of the Greek Immigration and Social Integration Code (Law 4251/2014, as amended) as well as in an implementing Joint Ministerial Decision (No. 30825/2014, as amended by JMD 68019/2015).

This legislation provides the right to third country, non-EU, citizens, as well as to members of their families, to obtain a residence permit in Greece on the condition that they own or purchase real estate property in the country, the contractual value of which exceeds 250,000 €. The same residence permit can also be granted to non-EU citizens who have concluded a timeshare agreement (under art. 8 par. 2 of Law 4002/2011) or have leased hotel accommodations/tourist facilities for at least 10 years (under Law 1652/1986), provided that the minimum value of the real estate property and the contractual value of the lease agreement is 250,000 €. The price in all the above cases shall have been paid in full upon the signing of the contract.

This residence permit is issued for a five-year period and can be renewed for an equal duration every time, as long as the property remains in the ownership and possession of the same person or the timeshare or lease agreements remain in force.

The third-country nationals who fulfill the legal requirements for this residence permit may also be accompanied by certain family members (more specifically, their spouse, their children under 21 and their parents) to whom an individual permit can be issued following a relevant application. The family members’ residence permit will expire at the same time as the permit of the main applicant.

This type of permit does not establish the right of access to employment in Greece. However, and most importantly, it provides the right to travel freely within the Schengen area, for a up to of 3 months within a 6-month period, as well as the right to multiple entries.

It is also worth noting that the holders of this residence permit are not required to actually live in Greece and that the permit holder/real estate owner also has the right to conclude rental agreements for the property.

In case the permit holder chooses to permanently reside in Greece, this time period can be calculated towards the time of stay necessary to obtain long-term resident status. Provided that all specific legal conditions are met, it would then be possible to also file an application to acquire the Greek Citizenship by naturalization. It is clear however that the “Golden Visa” program in Greece is a scheme towards acquisition of a Residence Permit and does not directly lead to Citizenship, except if, after long-term stay, all other strict legal requirements for naturalization are fulfilled.

Ownership of the 250,000 € Property

Real estate owners who wish to apply for this kind of residence permit in Greece shall personally have the full ownership and possession of real estate property in the country, that is worth 250,000 € or more according to the price mentioned in the contract of purchase. In case of joint ownership, the permit can be granted only if the share of each joint owner is worth 250,000 €. However, the permit can still be granted if the joint owners are spouses with indivisible shares on a property worth 250,000 €. The property may also be owned by a legal entity, in which case however the applicant shall own 100% of all stocks or company shares.

It is important to note at this point, that in order to be eligible for the residence permit it is not necessary to own or purchase one single real estate property, as the value of more properties purchased by the same person on the conditions here described, can also be added together in order to reach the limit of 250,000 €.

In addition, in case the value of the purchased property does not reach the above amount, but all the other preconditions are met, a residence permit can still be granted if the owner proceeds to construction works on the property, and the cumulative value of the land purchase and the construction works is at least 250,000 €.

Specific Requirements – Procedure

  • The contract of purchase shall specifically mention not only the price of the property but also the fact that it has been paid in full upon the signing of the contract either by crossed bank check or with bank transfer to the beneficiary’s account in a Greek bank.
  • The person who applies for this residence permit shall have entered the country legally with any type of entry visa or shall legally reside in the country under another type of permit.
  • The applicant is also required to have a private health insurance policy that would provide coverage for his/her whole length of stay in Greece.
  • The administrative fee for each individual application for this type of residence permit is set at 2000 €
  • The competent authority where the relevant applications are filed is the Immigration Department of the Decentralised Authority of the region where the property is situated.

Residence Permits for Investment Activity

In addition to the above, a scheme for granting residence permits to third-country (non-EU/EEA) investors and executives (as well as their family members) who undertake an investment project in Greece is also in place (by virtue of Art. 16 of the Greek Immigration and Social Integration Code and Ministerial Decision 53969/2014). These are also five-year renewable permits, granted to investors who contribute to the investment project at least 250,000 € of their own funds, as well as to a number of executives, depending on the total amount of the investment. The permits can be renewed for an equal duration as long as the implementation or operation of the investment continues. The investment activity may concern any economic sector, provided only that it is deemed to have a positive impact on national economic development.

Results of the “Golden Visa” Program so far

According to data provided by the Greek Ministry for Migration Policy, last updated in July 2018, almost 3.000 Property Owners/Investors have been granted Residence Permits since the launch of the “Golden Visa” program. If family members are also included in the calculations, the number of Permits reaches 7.500. According to the statistical data, almost half of those Residence Permits were granted to Chinese citizens. Russian, Turkish and nationals of Middle-East Countries dominate the rest of the list. Lastly, the Real Estate value corresponding to these permits, invested in the five years since the launch of the program, has reportedly reached approximately 1 billion Euros.