Real Estate Investment
Visa Free Travel
The ability to travel in Europe is one of the top goals for many seeking residency-by-investment programs, and one of the least expensive and easiest ways to obtain it is in Greece.
The ancient country, which experienced a decade of recession, opened its doors in 2013 to high net worth foreigners through its Golden Visa program. With a minimum investment in real estate, foreigners gain renewable five-year residency and the freedom of travel throughout the EU Schengen zone.
From the program’s inception through September 2017, the Greek government has issued 1,725 such permits, bringing in more than $1 billion euros to the nation’s economy. The biggest sources of applicants are China, Russia, Egypt and Turkey.
While the permit allows residency and travel, it does not allow employment, except for a company’s chief executive. It also is not a route to citizenship, except for establishing long-term residency, one of the requirements of naturalization. Those who live in Greece can apply for citizenship and a passport after seven years.
Even though Greece doesn’t have a Citizenship-by-Investment program, foreign investors, who are Greek residents, may apply for citizenship after seven years.
Those interested should apply to the Greek consulate authority in their home country for an entry visa, submit travel documents and pay a 500 euro fee. Documents must be submitted in Greek, except for those issued by foreign authorities, which need to be certified. Applicants may enter the country for a few days and assign their case to a lawyer who will complete the process as their proxy.
Applicants need to buy the property in Greece before applying for the residency permit. As soon as the application is submitted, the applicant is allowed to stay in the country for one year. Processing of the permit applications takes about 40 days and must be completed no more than two months after all the documents have reached authorities. Greece taps buyers with a 24 percent value-added tax on property. Government, notary and lawyer fees for the real estate acquisition and permit application total about 15,000 euros.
Those who obtain a residency permit can travel freely within the Schengen area, comprising of 26 European nations that have abolished passports and other border control at their common boundaries.
As the birthplace of democracy and the Olympic Games, Greece is a developed country with a high standard of living. While the country’s economy and its employment levels have improved since 2010, the Greek people continue to feel the pain of continued austerity measures, including tax increases and pension cuts, tied to the country’s bailout by the European Union.
Even with its economic troubles, Greece continues to attract tourists for its history and natural beauty. Its architectural ruins, its sandy beaches and its convivial people made it the eighth most-visited country in Europe in 2016, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Tourism is a major source of foreign revenue, followed by shipping. Most of the country’s business is centered in its capital, Athens. Greece taxes its residents on income earned in any part of the world, but credits taxes paid in the country in which the profits were generated. Income is taxed at a rate of 22 to 45 percent.
Foreign nationals who buy either residential or commercial property valued at 250,000 euros or more can acquire a residence permit for themselves and members of their immediate families, including spouses and children up to age 21. Two or more properties totaling at least 250,000 euros qualify the buyer, and two or more buyers can go in on a property together as long as they each contribute at least 250,000 euros. Residency permits are also granted to those who lease hotel accommodations or a furnished tourist residence for at least 10 years.
Permits are issued for five years and can be renewed repeatedly. The purchase or lease payment must be made upfront. The residence permit is withdrawn should the owner sell the property, but renting out the property is allowed.
In May 2017, Greece announced it will expand its Golden Visa program to those who invest at least 250,000 euros in bonds and investment fund shares.
Foreigners who make investments characterized as strategic, which means they will have a positive impact on national development and the economy, also qualify for residency permits. Up to 10 people, including the investors, can enter and reside in the country to launch and run the investment. These permits, which include family members, are for 10 years and are renewable.
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