Starting in January 2023, Greece will increase the minimum value of property required for its Golden Visa, one of the most popular programs of its kind for wealthy foreigners wishing to acquire residency in Europe, from €250,000 to €500,000o ($532,000).
The new minimum value at the time of purchase will apply to a single property in the northern section of the country, the central and south sectors of Athens in the Attica Region, the islands of Mykonos and Santorini and the Municipality of Thessaloniki.
The previous minimum value of €250,000 will be maintained for the rest of the country. The “Residency by Investment”, or Golden Visa scheme, permits third-country nationals to acquire residency in Greece provided they invest in real estate and meet specific conditions.
The decision, approved by parliament in late December, was motivated by the fact that, according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, investors were buying up Greek properties, particularly in Athens and other popular destinations, pushing out Greeks and triggering increases in rental prices.
Mitsotakis added that the new amendments are intended to make real estate more affordable for Greek citizens.
Foreigners who already have gained permanent residence by investment can renew it if they can prove that they still own or possess the property.
The Golden Visa is issued within two months of submitting the application and additional supporting documentation.
The deadline is December 31, 2023, for those who have already applied and are in process of buying in the areas where the investment limit has changed.
Golden Visa rush
The demand for Greek Golden Visas has been skyrocketing: The amount of foreign investment for real estate hit €414.4 million in the second quarter of 2022, a 67% increase from the same period in 2021.
According to a report by the daily Ekathimerini, one-third of real estate transactions in the Hellenic Republic in recent years were from purchases made specifically to acquire a Golden Visa.
Apartments and luxury houses in Athens’ center, its Riviera and in popular tourist areas are the most popular.
The new law, the paper reports, has given way to a new rush of “foreign buyers snapping up real estate before the limit for Greek residence permits rises from €250,000 to €500,000.”
The interest is particularly intense among Chinese buyers who have acquired almost 6,000 golden Greek visas since 2014.
New record of foreign real estate investment
Despite strong opposition to Golden Visa programs from the European Commission, Greece has been particularly open to foreign investment in exchange for visas in recent years, with 2022 expected to mark a record in foreigners’ real estate purchases.
International capital investment in real estate during the first half of 2022 grew more than 60% compared to last year, leading analysts to predict that 2022 will set a new record.
Golden visas offer wealthy people the opportunity to ‘buy’ the right to residency — sometimes without even having to reside in the country. It serves as a “golden” opportunity to invest in Europe and derive expedited residency privileges.
A Golden Visa permits the main investor and their family (if included) to live, work, study and access healthcare services in the country. Many such visas are a fast-track route to citizenship, rendering the overall process easier.
Although the scheme is offered by various E.U. member countries, it’s often been criticized by Union officials as opening doors to illegal activities including money laundering and corruption.
The European Commission has been calling on member states that run such schemes to terminate them as soon as possible due to their exposure to criminal activities and the risk to security, transparency and the values that underpin the European Union.