Greece’s Permanent Residence Programme (“Golden Visa”)
Greece’s Permanent Residence Programme (“Golden Visa”) enables an entire non-EU family, including dependent children up to the age of 21 and the parents of both spouses, to obtain permanent residency status in Greece within just 2 to 3 months, with a real estate investment of only €250,000. It is now the most competitive permanent residency scheme in Europe, attracting the highest number of applicants each year.
Why Choose Greece?
Compared to its relatively modest surface area of 131,957 km², Greece boasts a staggering 13,676 km coastline — one of the world’s longest and second only to Norway in all of Europe. The country’s natural beauty is unparalleled and presents endless opportunities for tourism, leisure, and exploration.
As of 2019, Greece has a population of 10,450,180 and its capital, Athens, just over 3,153,350. The country is still rather sparsely populated and can offer a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the big metropolises of the 21st century.
Greece is also a member of some of the world’s most exclusive geopolitical clubs. The country became a member of the EU on January 1, 1981, and has had the Euro (€) as its currency since joining the Eurozone on January 1, 2001. As of January 1, 2000, Greece is also a member of the border control-free Schengen Area.
It should also be noted the recent economic crisis has driven Greek property prices down, resulting in prime real estate assets being offered at especially attractive terms. The landscape is now ideal for investors seeking a broader investment plan via property ownership.
Legal Framework - What Is the Greek Permanent Residence Programme?
By virtue of the Immigration and Social Integration Code (Law 4136/2013 as amended by 4251/2014, Government Gazette 1, no 80) in 2014, the Greek government introduced provisions to obtain permanent residency in Greece for non-EU nationals and members of their families. Non-EU nationals who purchase real estate property in Greece worth €250,000 or more (excluding VAT, if applicable) are eligible for Permanent Residency in Greece, which is often referred to as the Greek “Golden Visa”.
What Are the Benefits of the Greek Permanent Residence Programme?
The Greek Permanent Residence Programme is now the EU’s most popular permanent residency programme. Some of the reasons for its appeal include:
- The low investment threshold;
- No minimum stay requirements;
- Unlimited Renewal - the applicant may renew the residency permit indefinitely every five years, without additional cost;
- Visa-free travel through all Schengen countries for a total of 90 days every 6 months;
- Extended Family Inclusion - The main applicant can include their entire family, including their spouse/partner, both sets of parents, and children up to the ages of 21.
What’s more, Greek Permanent Residence Permit holders can:
- Obtain permanent residency in Greece within one to three months of applying for a residence permit;
- Apply for a permanent EU residence permit after five years of residing in Greece, granting them the right to live and work in any EU country (with the exception of Denmark and Ireland);
- Apply for Greek citizenship after seven years of residence in Greece. After obtaining citizenship, the applicant may liquidate their real estate investment.
As of December 27, 2019, a total of 18,616 permanent residence permits have been issued to investors and members of their families. The top ten countries of origin are China (13,075), Turkey (1,342), Russia (1,004), Lebanon (466), Iraq (369), Iran (337), Egypt (336), Syria (212), Jordan (206), and Ukraine (183).
The scheme is clearly becoming increasingly popular with each passing year. While only 723 residence permits were granted in 2014, the year when the Greek Permanent Residence Permit program was launched, the numbers have been rising steadily ever since. A total of 1,805 permits were granted in 2015; 3,151 in 2016; and 5,687 in 2017. That was followed by a drastic increase to 11,279 in 2018 and an all-time high of 18,616 in 2019.
The Greek Permanent Residence programme, is a residence only investment scheme, unlike the many “citizenship by investment” programs which have raised much controversy in other EU member states.
The option for citizenship is however available to applicants who live in Greece for the minimum of seven consecutive years. This subject to conditions introduced in the domestic immigration law and EU immigration legislation.
What Types of Real Estate Transactions Qualify for the Greek Permanent Residence Programme?
There are several ways in which non-EU nationals can obtain a Greek Permanent Residence Permit. These include:
a) Purchasing real estate satisfying the below requirements:
- Minimum value of €250,000;
- Either residential or commercial;
- Owned personally or through a legal entity based in Greece or anywhere else in the EU. In the latter case, the applicant must own 100% of the company shares (In cases of joint ownership of the property, owners should be spouses or partners with a cohabitation agreement registered in Greece, having undivided ownership of the property).
It should be noted the vast majority of applicants chose the above investment route.
b) Signing a 10-year Lease Agreement satisfying the below requirements:
- Minimum value of €250,000;
- For hotel accommodation or furnished tourist residences in integrated tourist resorts;
- The applicant must make a single upfront payment equivalent to a ten-year lease.
c) Being the owner of real estate in Greece, acquired prior to the entry into force of Law 4146/2013 regarding the Greek Permanent Residence Permit scheme, satisfying the below requirements:
- The property was acquired for a minimum of €250,000; or
- The current objective value of the property is at least €250,000.
d) Purchasing Land or Acreage satisfying the below requirements:
- The applicant must have proceeded to the construction of a building on that plot of land;
- The cumulative value of the land purchase and the construction agreement is at least €250,000.
e) Signing a timeshare agreement satisfying the below requirements:
- The minimum cost of the agreement is €250,000;
- The applicant must make a single upfront payment.
f) Being the owner of real estate in Greece, acquired through intestate succession, will or parental concession, with a minimum value of €250,000.
In all aforementioned cases, the real estate value amounts to the value of the lease or property, as stated in the contract of purchase.
How is the investor taxed for a Greek Permanent Residence investment?
Greek Permanent Residence programme investors may continue to be non-Greek tax residents and pay tax only on their income derived in Greece. Greek tax for property rental starts at 15% (for income up to EUR 12,000) and goes up to 45% (for over EUR 35,000).
There are certain deductible operating expenses while in case of real estate held through a legal entity, all expenses for the use of the property are tax deductible*.
There is no Capital gains tax on real estate sales. Such transactions are only subject to a transfer tax of 3.09%, burdening the purchaser and imposed on the higher between the purchase price and the objective tax value of the real estate. VAT at the rate of 24% is applicable on the purchase of new buildings.
Who Is Eligible for Greek Permanent Residence Programme?
Provided that the investment criteria have been met, the following persons are eligible for a Greek Permanent Residence Permit:
- The main applicant;
- The applicant’s spouse or partner with a cohabitation agreement registered in Greece;
- The main applicant’s unmarried children under the age of 21;
- Unmarried children under the age of 21 of the applicant’s spouse or partner, provided that the applicant has legal custody over them;
- The parents of both spouses or partners.
How to Apply for Greek Permanent Residence Programme: A Step-By-Step Guide
Step 1: Obtaining an Entry Visa
Depending on nationality, the main applicant(s) and any eligible family members may first have to apply for entry visas. They may do so at the Greek consular authorities in their country of origin or the country where they currently reside.
Any visa category is suitable, as all that is required is to ensure legal entry into the country. After the applicants apply for residence permits, they no longer need a valid visa.
Step 2: Gathering the required documentation for the Greek Permanent Residence Programme Application
After obtaining entry visas, the applicants must provide the following:
- Four recent, colour passport photos, both printed and digital, of each applicant and eligible family member;
- Two copies of the application form;
- Certified copies of their valid passports or travel documents (these must be recognized by Greece and feature the entry visas if required);
- Official and certified translations of the applicants’ Family and Marriage Certificates, as well as the Birth Certificates of any children under 18;
- A contract for the purchase of the real estate;
- Proof of registration of the contract with the relevant Land Registry;
- A certificate issued by either the Land Registry or the National Cadaster Agency attesting the absence of any encumbrance;
- Medical insurance from Greece or any other country for the main applicant(s) and any eligible family members;
- A fee of €2,000 for the main applicant’s five-year residence permit and €150 for every adult family member. Children under 18 are exempt from fees. Applicants pay the fees via the e-Paravolo online platform;
- A fee of €16 for each electronic residence permit, to be paid via the e-Paravolo platform.
In addition, valid Greek residence permits must also be provided in cases where the applicant(s) and any eligible family members:
- Bought real estate in Greece before Law 4146/2013 came into effect;
- Own real estate in Greece through a legal entity where the main applicant owns all shares;
- Have purchased a plot of land or acreage and constructed a building;
- Have signed a lease or timeshare agreement for hotel units or tourist facilities operated under the authorization of the Hellenic Tourism Organization (EOT).
Finally, if the seller of the real estate is a third-country national, the applicant(s) must submit a certificate from the Aliens and Immigration Department of their competent Decentralized Authority. This requirement applies even if the real estate has already been used for residence permit applications in the past, as well as if the property is sold by a legal entity.
Any supporting documents must be in Greek. The applicants would need to have any documents in a foreign language translated and certified.
Applicants can have their foreign-language documents translated:
- Through the Translation Service of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs; or
- Through a lawyer who is a member of a Greek Bar Association and whose signature is certified by the Bar Association.
Two methods of certification are acceptable:
- An apostille stamp for documents from countries that are signatories to the Hague Convention;
- Certification by a consular authority.
Step 3: Submission of the Documents
The application and all supporting documents may be submitted at any office of the Aliens and Immigration Department at the Decentralized Authorities in Greece.
The applicants may submit the documents in person or through an appointed lawyer acting via a Power of Attorney. In both cases this must be done before the expiry of the entry visas.
Eligible family members do not need to submit their application for initial residence permit simultaneously with the main applicant(s). They may do so at a later date, after they enter the country.
Step 4: Upon Arrival
Upon arrival each applicant would need to provide:
- Four recent, colour passport photos, both printed and digital;
- A digital sample of their signature for all applicants over the age of 12;
- The fingerprints of two fingers for all applicants over the age of 6;
- A fee of €16 payable through the e-Paravolo platform;
- A completed residence permit application form;
- Supporting documents as required.
If the application is submitted by an attorney, the applicant(s) will be asked to present themselves in person at a later date to submit their biometric data (signature and fingerprints).
Step 5: Processing of the Application
The processing time of residence permit applications may not exceed two months after all required paperwork has reached the competent authority.
In the interim, if all required supporting documents have been included, the applicant(s) will be issued a confirmation that their application has been successfully submitted. The confirmation:
- Is valid for one year;
- Serves as proof that the applicant(s) have a pending residence permit application;
- Entitles them to reside legally in Greece while their application is being processed;
- Entitles them to all the benefits of the residence permit that they have applied for;
- Allows the applicant(s) to carry out any legal transactions in relation to their real estate.
Step 6: Issuing of the Residence Permit
If the applications meet all relevant criteria, the Aliens and Immigration Department of the Decentralized Authority will issue permanent residence permits valid for five years. Eligible family members will receive residence permits of the same duration as that of the main applicant.
It is important to note, however, the residence permit does not entitle its holder to the right to work in Greece.
The children of the applicant will be issued with residence permits that are valid until they reach the age of 21.
As of February 20, 2017, all EU Member States issue electronic residence permits. These replace the printed stickers that were previously affixed in the holder’s passport or travel document.
Step 7: Renewal of Residence Permits
While the residency rights under the Greek Permanent Residence Permit program are permanent, each permit is valid for five years. Therefore, the permits must be renewed at the end of each five-year period.
The children of the main applicant(s) must renew their residence permits when they turn 21. These will be valid until they reach the age of 24. After that, the children would be able to apply for further renewal as per the applicable immigration legislation.
Applicants must meet two conditions in order to be able to renew their residence permits:
- The applicant(s) must remain in full ownership of the real estate; and
- Any relevant contracts and/or leases must still be in force.
All applications for renewal of residence permits must be made at least two months prior to the expiry of the applicant’s current residence permit. Late submission of up to a month from the expiry of the active permit is possible, but subject to a €100 fine.
Periods of stay abroad do not prevent the renewal of permanent residence permits.
In cases where the holder of a permanent residence permit sells their property to another third-country national, they lose their residency rights, as the rights pass onto the new owner.
How Much Does the Greek Permanent Residence Permit Cost?
The application fee is €2,000 for the main applicant and €150 for every adult family member. Children under the age of 18 are exempt.
Electronic residence permits cost a further €16 per person.
Legal and Other Expenses
In addition to the government fees, the applicants would also need to cover the relevant legal fees and other costs arising from the relevant real estate transaction. These include:
- Legal fees as agreed with the applicant’s legal representatives;
- €100 for Power of Attorney per person;
- 1.2% of the contractual real estate value for notary services;
- 3.09% of the real estate value for all resale properties or VAT 24% of the real estate value for new properties that are bought directly from the developer;
- 0.475% of the real estate value for all properties payable to the Public Land Registry or 0.575% of the real estate value payable to the Public Cadastral Office.
- Private health insurance (approximately €150 per person)
How Can Savva & Associates Assist You?
Savva & Associates offers the following professional services to third-country nationals interested in obtaining permanent residency through real estate investment:
Real Estate Transactions
- Assistance at all stages of the real estate transaction, including real estate sourcing, title search, and property due diligence;
- Drafting of the sale and purchase contract and any other required documents;
- Registration with the Land Registry;
- Obtaining certificates from the cadastral authorities and notaries.
Tax, Finance, and Accounting
- Opening a bank account in Greece for the purposes of the real estate transaction;
- Tax registration, including applying for a Tax Identification Number (TIN).
Greek Permanent Residence Programme Applications
- Preparation of the application and all supporting documents;
- Arranging biometric data appointments;
- Filing of the application and all supporting documents with the Ministry of Internal Affairs;
- Applying for renewal of permanent residence permits every five years.
Our team of highly experienced professionals can advise you further on the Greek Permanent Residence Permit application, on the basis of your particular circumstances. Please feel free to contact Charles Savva at email@example.com to discuss how we can be of assistance to you.