Greek investment environment.
The Greek real estate market offers many lucrative investment opportunities as a resultant of the revitalization and recovery of the Greek economy after a long period of deep recession underpinned by preferential and relatively lenient legal framework.
As a matter of fact, lately an “entrepreneurial boom” takes place in Greece, as the economy has initiated to emerge again out from recession and Greece can offer now the potential to high-impact entrepreneurs and investors from all over the globe with interest in Greek market to pursue business opportunities.
Due to the long-lasting recession, the Greek real estate market is one of the most competitive in Europe offering tempting prices due to the undervaluation of Greek real estate properties that reached a historical low.
The attractive real estate market along with the relatively recent amendments in Greek Immigration Law create an ideal invigorating entrepreneurial environment.
Other crucial factors enhancing investments in Greece, such as the geostrategic location of Greece consisting a strategic investment destination the low cost of living and the low criminality should be taken under serious consideration.
The Golden Visa Legal Framework
Law 4251/2014 re: “Immigration and Social Integration Code and other provisions” (published on Gov. Gaz. Α 80/1.4.2014) amended the former legal regime for the issuance of residence permits, abolishing L. 3386/2015 and introducing more advantageous legal provisions. Golden Visa is currently regulated by Art. 20Β of L. 4251/2014 as amended by L. 4332/2015, L. 4587/2018, L. 4589/2019 and L. 4635/2019. The above-mentioned Art. 20B stipulates in par. 1 (as cited below) the specific requirements upon their fulfillment a third-country national is entitled to issue Golden Visa.
The requirements granting the eligibility of a third country national to apply for a Golden Visa are stipulated under the Art. 20Β par. 1 pursuant to which “By decision of the Secretary General of the Decentralized Administration a 5-year renewable residence permit shall be granted to a third country national who:
(a) Has legally entered the country with any type of visa or legally resides in the country, even if the residence instrument in his possession does not permit change of residence purpose.
(b) Has the full ownership, possession of real estate property in Greece. In case of joint ownership of a property to the value of EUR 250.000, the right of residence shall only be granted if the owners of the property are spouses with indivisible shares in the property. In all other cases of joint ownership, the right of residence shall only be granted if the joint ownership rate of each joint owner equals to the value of EUR 250.000.
(c) Has the full ownership, possession of real estate property in Greece via a legal entity whose shares are fully owned by the applicant.
Persons entitled to reside permanently in Greece.
The advantages of Golden Visa are not solely limited to the financial benefits entailing from the admittedly low required investment capital. Golden Visa grants to a third country national the right to reside in Greece accompanied by his/her family members.
Pursuant to Art. 20B par. 4 as it was recently amended by the Art. 31 par.6 & 40 of the L.4540/2018, the third country national, holder of a Golden Visa (hereinafter referred to as “sponsor”), may be accompanied by his/her family members to whom individual residence permits shall be issued following a relevant application, which shall expire together with the residence permit of the sponsor.
Family members shall mean:
- the spouse or the partner living in a civil partnership with the sponsor.
- the unmarried children of both spouse who are under 21 years old.
- the unmarried children of the sponsor or of the other spouse or partner provided that the custody is entrusted for the children of the sponsor to the latter and for the children of the other spouse or partner to the latter who are under 21 years old.
- the direct relatives in ascending line of the sponsor or the spouse/partner.
It is worth noting that Golden Visa regime sets the upper age limit of the children to the age of 21 years old, whereas other kinds of residence permits, set the aforementioned limit to 18 years old.
Furthermore, another point worth being highlighted is the right of the parents of both of the spouses/partners to accompany the latter in Greece. This option was introduced for the first time by the Art. 8, par. 28 of the L. 4332/2015 entailing even more preferential treatment for Golden Visa holders.
The investment capital
Greek Law stipulates the lowest investment capital required for a European residence permit thus offering the most affordable Golden Visa option in the European Union. The value of the real estate property shall amount at least €250.000.
It should be clarified that the crucial amount for the issuance of the Golden Visa is the contractual price of the real estate property as it is strictly referred on the Sale & Purchase Contract (S&P Contract).
Method of payment
One of the thorniest issues regarding Golden Visa Law, which has been subject to consecutive amendments of the Law within the last years, is the method of the payment.
Greek Law provisions are very strict regarding the payment methods that have to be respected. S&P contracts not indicating that the amount was paid via one of the below methods will not be approved by the competent authority for the issuance of the Golden Visa. The above excessive formalism of the Law has led to the amendment of the Art. 20B par. 2 with the Art. 226 of L. 4635/2019 introducing amongst other options the capability of payment via POS.
The Art. 20B par. 2 as it was very recently amended by the Art. 226 of L. 4635/2019 stipulates that “The agreed payment or lease is paid totally by crossed bank cheque in bank account of the beneficiary (seller) which is held in a credit institution operating in Greece or via credit transfer, pursuant to the definition 24 of the Art. 4 of L. 4537/2018 (A’84) or via POS established by a payment service provider operating in Greece, via charge of a bank credit or debit card of the buyer to the bank account of the beneficiary (seller) pursuant to the definition 11 of the Art. 4 of L. 4537/2018, operating in Greece. The above methods of payment could be concluded by the spouse and/or by blood or marriage relatives of second degree of the buyer.
Furthermore, the Art. 226 of L. 4635/2019 introduced the capacity the payment to be deposited by the close relatives of the applicant (blood or marriage relatives of second degree), a provision which makes the Golden Visa regime even more friendly to investors.
Duration of Golden Visa – Renewal
According to Art. 20B par. 1 of L. 4251/2014 golden visa lasts for 5 years. In virtue of par. 5 of Art. 20B Golden Visa may be renewed perpetually for an equal period each time, namely 5 years, provided that the real estate property remains in the ownership and possession of the third-country national.
Contrary to other countries’ legislations, actual residence in Greece after granting the Golden Visa is entirely optional. Golden Visa does not require the sponsor and his/her family members to reside permanently in Greece. Periods of absence from the country shall not hinder the renewal of the residence permit.
Resale of real estate property during the period of validity of the residence permit shall have as a consequence the simultaneous revocation of the seller’s Golden Visa.
Long-Term Resident Residence Permit and Nationality via Naturalization
Under the former legal regime as it was in force before the introduction of Law 4332/2015, it was stipulated that : “The period of residence referred to in the provisions of part B hereof (golden visa) shall not be taken into account for inclusion in the status of long-term resident and the granting of nationality to the relevant residents.”
After the implementation of Art. 8 par. 32 of 4332/2015 which abolished the aforementioned provision, the period of legal residence in Greece due to Golden Visa can be taken into consideration for the calculation of the required period for the issuance of the Long-Term Resident Residence Permit. Hence, Golden Visa holders are eligible to apply for the issuance of a Long-Term Resident Residence Permit according to the provisions of the Art. 89 et seq. of L. 4251/2014 provided that all the relevant requirements are fulfilled.
In alignment with the above, the Article 5 of the Code of Greek Citizenship (L. 3284/2004) stipulating the formal requirements for the acquisition of Greek Citizenship via naturalization was amended by the Ministerial Decision No. 130181/6353/2018 (Gov. Gazz. 1208/02.04.2018) including in the necessary for the acquisition of the Greek Citizenship residence permits Golden Visa.
In view of the above, Golden Visa holders are now entitled to apply for the acquisition of Greek citizenship through naturalization !