Investors from China benefited most from Greece’s golden visa program which offers five-year residency rights in return for real estate acquisitions or for strategic investments exceeding 250,000 euros, the economy ministry said.
According to ministry data citing issued real estate permits, of the 1,573 licenses granted, 664 were to buyers from China, 348 from Russia, 77 from Egypt, 73 from Lebanon and 67 from Ukraine by January 31, 2017.
Meanwhile, of the total 3,809 residence permits – including authorization to investors’ relatives – 1,580 went to individuals from China, 787 from Russia, 211 from Iraq, 203 from Lebanon and 179 from Egypt.
The data was presented during a meeting between Alternate Economy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas and Enterprise Greece representatives as well as real estate experts during an evaluation discussion on the program. Company executives operating in the market were asked to submit written proposals for improvement of the visa program by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by March 3.
The golden visa grants a five-year residence permit renewable for third country nationals who purchase – individually or through a legal entity – property in Greece valued at a minimum of 250,000 euros, or who have taken out a minimum 10-year lease in hotel accommodation or tourism facilities. The residence permit does not foresee a right to employment and citizenship can only be granted after seven years of residency.
The government announced earlier this year plans to lower the purchase value minimum from 250,000 euros to 200,000 euros as well as allowing for alternative deposit methods. Officials were also examining the possibility of allowing foreign buyers to launch businesses activities in specific sectors of the economy if the investment exceeds 250,000 euros.
The Economy and Development Ministry is about to start examining how it could expand the program which offers visas to non-European Union citizens to more investment categories besides properties in an attempt to improve the existing framework.
A meeting on that subject on Thursday decided that the minimum investment requirement of 250,000 euros for a so-called Golden Visa will be retained for the time being, while also discussing whether the incentive could be expanded to other investment categories, such as stocks and bonds. These options are offered in similar programs in other countries.
Furthermore, the ministry is preparing to hold discussions with other ministries about the possibility of providing the additional incentive of Greek citizenship for investors. Property market associations have in fact been demanding such an incentive for several years, as its inclusion in the programs of other countries, such as Portugal’s, has proven particularly successful, bolstering investor numbers.
Thursday’s meeting also decided to step up information campaigns about the Golden Visa program at the country’s consulates and embassies around the world, as it has not fetched the anticipated results in the years since it was first introduced in Greece.