Global Arena interviewed Georgios Filiopoulos, CEO of Enterprise Greece, on the various immigration programs that Greece offers under its Golden Visa Program.
About the Author
Georgios Filiopoulos is the CEO of Enterprise Greece, Greece’s national investment and trade promotion agency. Before serving in the public sector, Mr. Filiopoulos worked as a business executive for various companies and organizations in the US and Greece. He received his MBA from HEC Paris, holds an MA in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, an MA in Journalism from the University of Memphis, and a BA in Advertising from Kansas State University.
What are various immigration programs that Greece offers?
The legislative framework for the Greek Golden Visa Program was established in 2013. Additionally, with the immigration Law in 2014, new residence permits were introduced, such as the residence permit for financially independent person and the residence permit for special purpose and the working permit.
What are the investment options?
The Greek Golden Visa program offers three options:
a) for real estate owners of value >€250.000
b) for investment activity of value >€250.000 and
c) for investment in securities or a bank deposit in Greece of value >€400,000
What is unique about the Greece Residency by Investment Program?
The Greek Golden Visa Program is a highly competitive program compared to similar programs of other European countries and has the lowest minimum investment amount for a property purchase compared to similar programs in Mediterranean countries. Furthermore, there is no minimum stay requirement and no restriction to the type (house, land plot, etc.) and the number of the properties as long as the minimum amount exceeds €250,000.
How did covid-19 affect your operations and how did you respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic?
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic was the most severe health crisis in recent years. Greece, however, proved to be one of the safest investment destinations, due to the extremely effective handling by the Greek government. Issues associated with the Golden Visa Program were exclusively focused on the partial difficulty of third-country nationals in entering Greece, for reasons related to travel bans to EU countries, in order to complete either their investment or part of the required administrative procedures.
With the implementation of a new law, non-EU citizens who have made an investment through the three options of the Greek Golden Visa program can now apply for a residence permit through a proxy, without the obligation to previously visit Greece. The Power of Attorney for the appointment of a proxy must be signed before a Greek Consular authority. The non-EU citizen must enter Greece within a period of 12 months from the date of the confirmation receipt of the application in order to submit his biometric data.
What factors should be considered for real estate investment in Greece?
The real estate sector in Greece has been traditionally one of the most important pillars of the Greek economy and a key recipient of FDI in Greece. Based on the available data for 2019, foreign direct investment in the real estate sector, which represented 35% of total FDI (4.1 billion in total), increased by 28% compared to 2018. This increase of FDI inflows over the past couple of years can be attributed to the success of the Golden Visa Program for non-EU residents, but also to the development of the short-term rental market, mainly in Athens and tourist regions. To that, the hospitality sub-sector was also one of the main drivers for investors to look into the real estate market of Greece.
It is probable that the pandemic will largely determine the reallocation of investments in the industry, both in the short and in the medium term. Our feeling is that the hospitality part has still much to give, while other categories of properties will see a sharper demand, like for example mixed-use spaces, residential, but also logistics, as e-commerce is picking up a lot.
Another very promising factor that leads to the expectation of a swift reboot is that during the last two years, the landscape has changed completely. There were new project developments, new infrastructure and strategic projects taking place, record numbers in tourism, all of which is expected to bring about more investments in the sector, especially after the health crisis subsides.
To this end, new reforms and significant legislative changes that have been introduced to facilitate the business environment and make the market more profitable for interested investors, change the landscape completely and provide for even more investment opportunities in the market.
What’s the average rental yield for properties? Is it subject to tax?
Despite Covid-19, Greece remains on the map of foreign investors as it presents actual investment opportunities with real estate valuations being relatively lower than those in competing destinations, allowing for significant returns.
Prices are well below their pre-sovereign crisis peaks (down by 35% in residential property), allowing for handsome yields. According to data from the Bank of Greece, in 2019, apartment prices increased at an average annual rate of 7.3% compared to an increase of 1.8% in 2018. In the first quarter of the year 2020, when the pandemic had not yet come to Greece, prices had increased by 6.9% compared to the corresponding quarter of 2019. In any case, we strongly believe that a correction in real estate valuations due to the current epidemic crisis would actually make the Greek real estate market more alluring, possibly across all market segments (retail, logistics, offices, residential, etc.).
Coming to the taxation part of the question, please note that any natural person or legal entity, earning income in Greece is generally obliged to submit annual tax income statements and be taxed for such income. Taxation on income arising out of management of real estate in Greece ranges from a percentage of 15% up to 45%; for an annual income from real estate up to 12,000 euros, the tax amounts to 15%; for any such amount between 12,001 and 35,000 euros, to 35%; for any such amount exceeding 35,001 euros, to 45%.
In case the management of real property is within a legal entity’s scope of activities, or is included in an individual’s professional/business activity, the income earned (by real property) falls under the general taxation rules, and is taxed, in principle, at 24%.
Can the residency permit be extended to family members?
The program offers a permanent residence permit (which shall be renewed every five years) to non-European investors and their families. According to immigration law, family members of the main applicant are: a.) Spouses, b.) the other spouse or partner with whom a third-country national has a cohabitation agreement in Greece, c.) the direct unmarried descendants of the spouses who are under the age of 21, d.) the direct unmarried descendants of the supporter or of the other spouse/partner, provided that their custody has been legally entrusted to the sponsor (for his/her children) and to the other partner (for his/her children), under 21 years of age, and e.) the direct relatives of the spouses in the ascending line.
What is the minimum stay requirement after being granted the residency of Greece?
As we mentioned before, one of the main advantages of the program is that there is no minimum stay requirement. The holder of the residence permit is not obliged to stay in Greece for a specific period of time.
Does the residency permit give the right to work in the EU?
The residence permit gives the right to permanently reside in Greece and to travel and stay at 26 European countries for three months every semester without a visa. The acquisition of a residence permit in one European country does not automatically give you access to reside permanently or to work to the other European countries.
How can the investor and family obtain Greek citizenship?
Since 2018 residence permits of real estate owners and investors have been added to the categories of residence permits that are eligible for the submission of an application for the acquisition of Greek citizenship by a ministerial decision.
Therefore, a third-country citizen who has been granted a residence permit as a real estate owner or an investor can apply for Greek citizenship provided that s/he resides permanently and legally in the country for seven years, s/he does not have a criminal record, s/he has adequate knowledge of the Greek language and has integrated in the economic, social and political life of the country.
The above ministerial decision applies only to the real estate owners and investors themselves, and not to their family members, who must first obtain the long-term residence status, which is a prerequisite for naturalization.
Do you have any statistics to indicate how many people have taken Greece residency over the last five years?
According to the most recent data (up to January 1, 2021) that we received from the Ministry of Migration and Asylum, 8,011 residence permits have been issued to investors (property owners), since the commencement of the Golden Visa Program in 2013. Furthermore, since the commencement of the program, 23,785 residence permits have been issued to investors (property owners) and family members accompanying them.
What are the government costs and legal fees involved in obtaining the residence permit?
The application fee for obtaining a residence permit of up to a five-year duration is €2000 for investors and real estate owners and €150 for family members. Children under 18 years old are exempted from this fee. Additionally, the fee for the printing of the separate document (electronic residence permit) is €16.
What income taxes apply to income generated in Greece?
The standard VAT rate is 24%. Any individual who has his permanent residence (as defined by Article 4 of Law 4172/2013) or usual place of domicile in Greece (over 183 days per calendar year) is subject to income tax for his income generated in Greece (domestic income) and abroad (foreign income), i.e., his worldwide income earned within a certain tax year. Moreover, any individual, regardless of his permanent residence or usual place of domicile, is subject to income tax for his income generated in Greece within a certain tax year.