By Mary Tsiganou
The Greek Golden Visa investment program has faced many developments, challenges and, most importantly, growth over the recent few years. With the ever-increasing popularity of Greece as an investment destination, the number of issued Golden Visas has skyrocketed to more than 4,150 investors as of January 2019. If including the investors’ family members, that number jumps to more than 11,400 visas as of January 2019. Together with strong financial reform efforts, the Greek economy is ready to handle a larger volume of incoming investments while promising steady and reliable rates of return.
Investment opportunities are abundant and varied, meaning that investors have the flexibility to adapt their investment plans in accordance with their personal or business needs, industry know-how, budgets and overall preferences. From buying and renovating entire buildings or buying an apartment for one’s own use, the options are attractive. Essentially, a new Greek economy is in the making and is ready to be shaped by local and international investment, ideas and businesses.
With a foundation based on a strong investment framework, the Greek economy has a goal of long-term growth. The economy is becoming more diversified, flexible and, most importantly, accessible.
What are the best ways to implement and take advantage of an investment in Greece with regards to the current terms, conditions and laws?
Why spend 250,000 euros in Greece?
What is the thought process behind a residency-by-investment? In order to drive incoming capital into the country, investment options such as the Golden Visa program provide a legal framework that is quite favorable to international investors. Facilitating investment and boosting the economy is by far the most impactful consequence of the program, since it has brought more than a billion euros into the economy since being put into motion. The funds generally go to private homeowners, contractors, developers and, of course, the government. The expenses associated with acquiring a Golden Visa are contributing to the recovery and development of the Greek economy after its recent severe economic crisis.
The program is also commonly used by people who were already keen on investing abroad; it gave them extra motivation to proceed. After all, anyone who ever bought property in Greece, even before the program began, is eligible to apply for a Golden Visa. Further enhancing the inclusivity and flexibility of the program, it is important to note that any type and any quantity of real estate can be bought (such as two properties both amounting to 250,000 euros). Moreover, the investor can rent out the property from the first day and has no obligation to actually live in Greece for any set number of days.
There are many core benefits and motivation behind families who pursue a Golden Visa in Greece. They include education, a passive income and visa-free travel.
For families looking for a high-quality education for their children, Greece is surely a great immigration destination. There are 13 international schools in Athens, the most popular being British and American schools. Graduates of these schools receive offers from top universities around the world, which shows how successful the teaching is at these campuses. Compared to international schools at many other countries, attending an international school in Greece is competitive in both its teaching quality and low costs. The average tuition fee in Greece is only half the price of an international school in China, for instance. Applicants also face less competition and may have a more diverse and stress-free study environment in Greece.
When it comes to passive income, this is a very fortunate and popular by-product of the real estate route. It allows an investor to be minimally involved in the maintenance and upkeep of their investment. Whether that is having a property management company handle your property or hiring people to run your business, the Golden Visa program allows you to be as involved or uninvolved as you wish. In addition to this, investors are allowed to rent out their property or operate their business from the first day, which means there is no time wasted when it comes to gaining your investment back.
Golden Visas also help investors’ abilities to move abroad at any given point. This is a very important factor for families that may need an option like a new home in Greece. There is also visa-free travel, an undeniable and straightforward benefit. The visa gives essentially a permanent and unlimited travel permit that’s valid in every Schengen Area country. For travel purposes, this is equivalent to a European passport.
Factors to consider
The driving forces behind the desire to have a foothold in Europe are a constant. However, any serious investor must also consider timing. When considering the circumstances of the Greek economy, 2019 is overall in a positive state. Greece is getting ready to move on after the recent exit of the Memorandum. The 10 years of financial turmoil have created a lot of issues. Prices hit rock bottom, especially for real estate. Businesses were shut down. Salaries decreased. Due to this, the Greek state, through its representatives, is more and more engaged to create a friendly environment for foreign investors.
The Greek government has taken a proactive role in charting a determined course for Greece that is friendly to investment, promotes growth and welcomes new business. The next decade is poised to experience sustained growth in tourism, information and communication technology, energy, environmental sciences, food, beverage, agriculture, logistics and life sciences. Greece’s exceptional human capital, advanced infrastructure, geostrategic position and potential for economic expansion are attracting investor interest from around the world.
Real estate residency investment route
The most popular and straightforward way to be granted visa-free travel in the Schengen Zone through an investment is by buying property in Greece worth at least 250,000 euros. The types of real estate include just about anything, from flats in the Athens city center and beach houses on the islands to plots of land, shops, offices, warehouses or even entire hotels. As long as the value of the property hits the 250,000-euro benchmark, an investor is eligible for a Golden Visa, as is most of their family.
There are factors to watch out for when buying property in Greece for a Golden Visa. First, regarding the validity of the contract when acquiring property, make sure you work with a reputable real estate agent, lawyer and notary in order to be certain that the property is indeed under your name according to government standards. These can be sought out individually or collectively in the form of an investment consultancy instead of looking for individual professionals.
Also, consider the payment method. Payment through a bank transfer or bank checks is the safest and only way to complete a real estate transaction for this purpose. Cash payments are never accepted due to there being no way to trace proof of funds. Card payments have also recently been deemed unacceptable.
There are different usages possible for a property. Over the past two to three years, investors have almost exclusively bought within the historical center of Athens, with the plan of renting out in the short term. It is debated that with such saturated investment, are there are still investment opportunities? Will circumstances in this market be different in the future? It may be wise to aim for the broader city center, south Athens or even the less popular northern suburbs with their abundance of green space and international schools. These are areas that never lost their value in the eyes of the locals. Properties there can easily be resold to both to Greeks or international investors. Every real estate investor should take into consideration more factors, such as the location, the construction of the property and values.
There might also be some problems associated with properties being used in short-term settings. Sometimes, other residents of the building are reluctant to receive short-term guests due to safety concerns. As of now, the vast majority of properties have not faced this issue but by veering away from a saturated market, investors will have a larger number of property options to choose from and a variety of ways the properties can be utilized.
The Golden Visa general investment route
For avid investors who do not wish to be confined within the real estate sector, the Greek government has introduced investment activity as a different way of acquiring permanent residency.
Even though technically all sectors are eligible for the purpose of residency-by-investment, it is important to prove in your application that your business will actually have a positive impact on the Greek economy, society and culture. This can be broken down into these guiding points: creating jobs, innovation, technological advances, use of domestic resources, exports of products and services.
The more people your company needs to being able to operate, the more the country benefits overall. Even though some executives can be non-EU residents and be granted a Golden Visa too, the rest of the staff will need to be residing in Greece. New ways of thinking and working, as well as new products, can provide interesting business plans and there is a high possibility these will be eligible for a Golden Visa. Greece welcomes new ideas. The program is there to nurture such one-of-a-kind endeavors.
Introducing new technology in your chosen industry is also a valid way to prove the positive impact of your business. Scientific advances and the implementation of the latest research is a factor that is highly considered. Apart from domestic labor, the use of Greek suppliers and manufacturers majorly impacts the Greek economy by supporting already existing local business owners. If your product can easily and successfully be exported with a strong demand from international markets, the more likely it will be considered to help the national economy as well.
When weighing all those factors and drafting a strong business plan, the main argument in favor of this route is that the return on investment is not limited to fixed factors such as rental income. It is, rather, limitless and dependent upon the success of the business. Keep in mind the positive impact on national development and the economy and you should be good to go. Investment and immigration consultants can help shape your ideas into a business plan close to the government standards so they’re ready to be approved.
It is important to note that the type of business eligible for investments is quite broad. Both new companies and existing companies are eligible. You can buy an established Greek company and build upon that, or set up an entirely new one.
A few sectors to inspire your research are energy, tourism, food and beverage, transportation, life sciences and IT. The most characteristic example would be investing in solar energy or wind power, a very lucrative sector in Greece due to the favorable climate and technological know-how. Tourism is also inherently a very Greek investment, as hospitality has been embedded in Greek culture for thousands of years. After all, the shortage in tourist accommodations is a factor that allowed the short-term rental industry to flourish.
Recent program updates
Recently, Greece has added new investment options starting from 400,000 euros. The program has added eight new investment routes for non-European citizens intended for investors to contribute to the country’s development and stimulate the national economy. Options include buying shares or bond loans in a Greek company or a company listed on the Greek stock market, contribute to a real estate investment company with a mission to only invest in Greece, invest in Greek government bonds for at least three years or purchasing shares in Greek mutual funds.
On whichever route you may wish to follow, Greece can accommodate almost every kind of international investor and has set up a legal framework to simplify the process and help investors succeed.
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