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November 10, 2020

Following the overhaul and suspension of the citizenship by investment programmes of Malta and Cyprus, respectively, Greece is reviewing its popular residency by investment programme, which has seen a surge of interest in the last few months, with proposed changes including a fee structure aimed at attracting investment to less touristy parts of the country.

With the aim of both safeguarding its property market and curbing overpricing and shady activity, the Greek government is examining a series of changes to its popular Residency by Investment programme (Golden Visa Program), reports GTP.

Proving both popular and lucrative since its launch in 2013, the country’s Golden Visa Program, which was set up to encourage foreign investment and help boost its struggling economy, has issued 6,304 residency permits and channelled more than 2 billion euros of foreign capital into the local property market in the last seven years, according to Migration Policy Ministry data (January 2020) with investors hailing predominantly from China, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran, Ukraine, Jordan and Syria.

However, having come to a bit of a halt during the pandemic, the programme is being revised with changes set to go into effect once the pandemic subsides.

These changes follow the European Commission’s long-held criticism of such programmes and the announcement that it would be launching legal action against Cyprus and Malta over their programmes due to the fact they granted nationality and instant EU citizenship without requiring “a genuine link with the country”.

Malta is currently overhauling its programme, which is considered to Europe’s best CBI Programme (according to the latest CBI Index 2020) whilst Cyprus’ programme is suspended but is predicted to relaunch with new guidelines.

New requirements under consideration by the Greek Development and Investments Ministry include changing the minimum property investment cost from €250,000 to a sliding scale of costs depending upon the region they wish to invest in and introducing incentives for property purchases outside of Attica.

In the past, the programme has seen heavy investment interest in property in the southern suburbs of Greece, such as Attica and the Cyclades, and the government now wishes to promote the commercial and touristic value of other regions in order to revive the real estate market nationwide.

In particular, say local media reports, when re-launched the programme’s investment focus will be on the regions of western and northern Greece, which will require a lower minimum investment outlay. Further changes will demand that investors provide a certificate of value for the property they plan to purchase.

Similar adaptations have been made to Portugal’s residency by investment programme. The government recently announced that from 2021, Portugal’s Golden Resident Permit Programme will only allow applicants to invest in real estate outside of its most popular areas (Porto, Lisbon, Algarve region) in a bid to attract more investment nationwide.

While processing of applications to Greece’s Golden Visa Program has been incredibly slow during the pandemic, almost coming to a halt (just 368 permits issued in 2020, compared to 3,428 in 2019) interest in the programme has actually surged due both to the pandemic and the Brexit deadline edging ever closer.

Residency and citizenship solutions provider Astons reports to have seen increased interest of 30% in Greece’s programme from British citizens during the last quarter of 2020.

In fact, Greek citizenship and a Greek passport, which is possible under this programme – though it takes seven years of investment and holding a residency permit to gain it – allows applicants to live, study and work in any of the EU member states and gives them visa-free access to 184 countries.

And with properties currently under-valued due to the national debit, it’s a good time to invest in Greece, which as a popular tourist destination, offers a quick and reliable return on investment. In fact, Greece was ranked as the 11th worldwide for being an attractive country for investment, according to  fDi’s Tourism locations of the future 2019/2020.

To find out more about the current Residency by Investment Programme offered by Greece, click here. Watch this space for the new requirements.