A draft bill by the Greek Ministry of Finance brings notable changes to the Greek Golden Visa scheme launched in 2014. The initiative aims to improve and supplement the current residence permit regulation applicable to third-country nationals and therefore to attract the rapidly increasing interest of foreign investors.
- It is Golden. It is a Visa. But most of all, it is Greek. Greece, through its Golden Visa program, is poised to shatter records of every other residence by investment scheme, while all its European competitors bite the dust. Since the ignition of the program, in early 2014, Greece has issued more than 8,500 golden visas to main applicants and around a dozen thousands to their dependents. If the trend continues to apace, Greece shall exceed 15,000 issued golden visas within 2019, making the Greek Golden Visa the world’s largest golden visa (or equivalent) program, exceeding even the US EB-5 program by more than half.
II. The Greek Golden Visa in a nutshell
- The Greek Golden Visa program, enables an entire non-EU family, including dependent children and the parents of both spouses, to obtain permanent residency status in Greece, within just three months or less, with a real estate investment of just 250,000 euros. More specifically, the highly sought-after visa grants a five-year residence permit renewable for third country nationals who purchase property in Greece valued at a minimum of 250,000 euros (or who have a minimum 10-year lease in hotel accommodation or tourism facilities). Through the scheme, investors gain both residency rights and instant access to the Schengen Area. Permanent residency holders are able to apply for Greece (EU) citizenship as well.
III. Draft bill
- The Greek government plans to implement changes to the Golden Visa scheme, one of the most competitive and attractive programs, with a coming draft law expanding the forms of investments required for eligibility. The revised draft bill, tabled in parliament by the Ministry of Finance, aims to improve and complement the current residence permit scheme (Golden Visa) for third-country nationals investing in Greece, taking into account the needs of the Greek economy, the interest shown by foreign investors and the relative international practice.
- More analytically, the draft bill entitled “Harmonizing Greek legislation with European Parliament and Council Directive (EU) 2016/943 of 8 June 2016 on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure” shall bring changes with respect to the number of third-country nationals who are allowed to enter and stay in the country with the aim to implement a specific investment plan, funded either by themselves (as investors) or by a foreign legal entity, which they represent, and shall add new forms of investment activities granting eligibility.
- In particular, the amended provisions of law 4251/2014 shall stipulate the following:
(a) the number of investors who are third-country nationals, who participate in the implementation of an investment plan and who are able to participate to the funding of same as individuals and to receive an entry and residence permit to Greece, shall not be limited, provided that each individual invests the required minimum amount of capital and that the rest of the conditions of the law are met; and
(b) in case a foreign legal entity wishes to participate to the funding of the investment plan, it should be provided that shareholders or officers of same are eligible for entry and residence permits, the number of which shall proportionally increase depending on the amount of the investment of the foreign legal entity, with a maximum of three persons.
- In addition to the two above-mentioned cases for entry and residence permit eligibility, it would still be possible to grant entry and residence permits to up to ten -depending on the total amount of investment- third-country nationals, employed for the implementation and operation of the investment plan.
- Further, the scope of the existing scheme is broadened with the addition of intangible investments to investment activities which grant eligibility to the Greek Golden Visa. In particular, non-EU citizens can select one of the following alternative options:
(a) With the purchase of shares in a share capital increase or bonds issued on a bond loan, by companies with a seat in Greece or an establishment in Greece and listed on the Greek stock market.
(b) With the contribution to a real estate investment company of Law 2778/1999 (A 295) aimed at investing exclusively in Greece, by acquiring shares in a share capital increase.
(c) With the acquisition of shares in domestic Alternative Investments Corporations (Investment Equity Funds of Law 2992/2002 and business holdings companies of Law 2367/1995) investing exclusively in companies based or headquartered in Greece.
(d) With the acquisition of Greek government bonds.
(e) With a time deposit at a Greek credit institution.
(f) With the purchase of shares, corporate bonds or Greek government bonds that trade in regulated markets.
(g) With the purchase of units in a mutual fund incorporated in Greece or another country and investing exclusively in securities (shares and corporate bonds or Greek government bonds) that are admitted to trading or traded on the Greek stock market.
(h) With the purchase of stakes or shares in an Alternative Investment Corporation set up in Greece or in another EU country aimed at investing exclusively in real estate in Greece.
- For the above-mentioned investment categories, the investor may either be an individual, or a Greek legal entity, which is ultimately owned by a third-country national, or a foreign legal entity. In the latter case a residence permit is granted for up to three persons, shareholders or officers of the said entity, depending of the size of the investment.
- The Greek Golden Visa is being expanded to cover more than just real estate. The draft bill shall pave the way for the imminent expansion of the eligibility criteria to anyone who invests in Greek equities, funds, corporate bonds or government debt securities in addition to real estate buyers. The updated framework shall constitute thus a fresh move towards the stimulation of Greece’s economy through a gushing wave of investors.