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Citizenship by investment: What to know before investing in real estate in Greece

Elena Karitzis, Head of the Immigration and Corporate Administration Departments and Andreas M. Damianou, Partner at A. Karitzis & Associates discuss how real estate investment is fast becoming a route towards permanent residency and citizenship in Greece

Can you provide a brief overview of the objectives of the Golden Visa Scheme?
In summary, the Government of Greece introduced a procedure for third-country nationals to obtain Permanent Residency in Greece, which is renewable every five years, by acquiring a property in Greece with a minimum value of €250,000.

What makes this scheme so unique for investors?

The Golden Visa Scheme is unique in several ways, firstly it is the lowest investment scheme of any real estate residency visa scheme in Europe now. Secondly, it is comparatively easy to acquire. However, one of the main attractions for investors is there is no obligation to reside in Greece, which is often one of the main concerns that all investors examine before deciding which scheme to apply for.  

What property options are available to prospective investors?

Investors have the flexibility to buy either a residential or commercial property with a minimum value of €250,000. This can be done in several ways for example; through investing in one property exceeding that value, through several properties that combine to make up the €250,000 minimum investment, or through joint buyers combining investments into one property. Furthermore, the investor can rent the property, meaning they can benefit from receiving an immediate return on investment.

What qualification criteria can investors expect regarding their family?

Qualifying family members of the Greece Golden visa include the spouse, the main applicants’ children, and parents of both the investor and their spouse. Therefore, the entire family can acquire a permanent residency for €250,000.  

What makes Greece an ideal investment opportunity?

Greece is an incredibly attractive prospect for potential investors for several reasons. Until recently a VAT of 24% was imposed on properties with building permits issued after 2006, however in an attempt to boost the Greek real estate market, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently announced a three-year suspension of VAT payments. In addition to tax exemption, investors will benefit from the ability to travel freely across Schengen countries.

Many European countries have recently offered similar Golden Visa Schemes, however, Greece is one of the most economically attractive given its requirement of only €250,000 investment compared to other countries such as Portugal, where the minimum investment is double.

Although there is no requirement for investors to live in Greece, those who choose to will benefit from the security of living in a country with one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, a thriving economy and an enviable climate of 300 days of sun per year.

What can investors expect from the visa and renewal process?

The application process is very straightforward, with minimum paperwork. Once the property has been bought and the sale agreement signed, the documents are collected and the application is then deposited. At this point the approval will take approximately 3 months until the investor receives their Permanent Residency Card.  

On the day the application is submitted, the applicant will receive their receipt which can be used immediately to travel to and from their home country until their Permanent Residency Card is issued.

The visa is renewed continuously every 5 years as long as the property remains in the name of the applicant. The investor of course may wish to sell the property at any time but will need to purchase another one with the same amount of investment in order for the visa to remain valid. 

Our firm represents the investor throughout the whole procedure, including assisting with finding the appropriate property, dealing with all due diligence required, preparing and reviewing all necessary paperwork used in the  governmental authorities, depositing the application with the relevant Migration Department, up until actually handing over the PR Card to the investor and his family. 

Can the scheme offer citizenship?

Holders of Permanent Residency cards in Greece are also entitled to apply for citizenship within 7 years, but this applies to the investors who are actually residing there continuously.

Golden Visa Schemes across Europe have often been criticized by the EU Commission for being a “doorway” for corruption and money laundering, how would you respond to this criticism to assure investors?

The Greek authorities have always been extremely strict, more so than other EU countries across matters such as; opening bank accounts, visa applications, the examination of passports, and bank transfers. They have very clear regulations around proof and are known for their strict local civil office regulations.

What impact has lockdown had on the application process in terms of technology and digital applications?

The country has dealt immediately and professionally with the situation and now elements of the procedure, for example; the tax office is accepting applications online and via email which previously was impossible as the client had to be there in person.

A. Karitzis & Associates will be exhibiting at this year's Cityscape in Egypt, taking place on the 4th to the 7th at the Egypt International Exhibition Center.

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