The cumulative number of Greek golden visas issued grew by 137 in December, bringing the 2021 annual total to 1,035 approvals, according to figures published by Enterprise Greece this week. That represents a 10.3% improvement on 2020.
The figure, which makes Greece’s Golden Visa Europe’s biggest as measured in approval volume last year, is considerably above the Portuguese Golden Visa‘s 2021 total of 865, the UK’s investor visa‘s 422 (we still have only Q1-Q3 2021 figures, but they will certainly not exceed 1,035 in the final tally), to say nothing of Italy’s “Dolce Visa”, which approved 40 main applicants last year. Applications for Latvia’s Golden Visa have dwindled to virtually nothing in recent years, while Spain’s Golden Visa approved 232 main applicants in the first half of 2021. The last time Ireland provided a statistical update for its Immigrant Investor Program, on February 25th, the record showed it had approved 18 applications in the first two months of the year. Malta’s MPRP, the Cyprus Golden Visa, and the Luxembourg Golden Visa have yet to provide any data.
Of all the Greek golden visas approved in 2021, close to half stem from the year’s fourth quarter alone, hinting at a rising trend in approval volumes as we embark on 2022, a sanguine development for a program that was among those worst hit by the pandemic.
While annual main applicant approvals grew only modestly, the number of approved dependents rose markedly, from 1,971 in 2020 to 3,383 in 2021. The implication is that the average family size for a Greek golden visa application last year was 3.3 individuals, up from just 2.1 in 2020. In other words, if Enterprise Greece's figures can be trusted (which is a big "if"), Greece's golden visa investors brought, on average, more than one full family member more in 2021 than in 2020.
All told, close to 30,000 individuals (main applicants and dependents) have received Greek golden visas since the program opened in 2013, most of them Chinese.
Americans, however, are increasingly making their presence felt in the Greek Golden Visa program, as they have been doing in the last year and a half in Portugal and the UK as well.
While Greece approved about 20% more golden visa applications than its chief rival Portugal in 2021, the latter still raised some 48% more FDI thanks to its considerably higher average investment amounts.
A note about the figures from Enterprise Greece
As we have pointed out on several occasions in the past, the figures released by this bureau have been unreliable and subject to frequent retroactive adjustments without notification or explanation. IMI only discovers this because we keep our own, separate records of the figures published, which allows us to compare Enterprise Greece's numbers today to its own numbers published in the past. We find that they are inconsistent.
For example, we have arrived at the 1,035 annual approval figure for 2021 by subtracting the historical cumulative total as reported on Dec 31st, 2020 (8,575 approvals since the program opened) from that reported on Dec 31st, 2021 (9,610 approvals). Looking at the figures reported by nationality, however, we find that the top 10 countries alone saw their combined golden visa numbers expand by 1,284 during 2021, i.e., by more than the reported total for all countries.
In other words, something is amiss. We note that Enterprise Greece obtains its figures from the Ministry of Migration and Asylum. We don't know which of the two organs are responsible for the discrepancies - nor whether the discrepancies are a result of willful manipulation or neglectful record-keeping - but we hope both offices can work to mitigate this state of affairs going forward. In the meantime, we can but take at face value the figures shared by officialdom.
To Enterprise Greece's credit, it has this year finally begun reporting data on a monthly basis, as Portugal's SEF has always done for its golden visa, a change in practice that we welcome and commend.
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Christian Henrik Nesheim is the founder and editor of Investment Migration Insider, the #1 magazine - online or offline - for residency and citizenship by investment. He is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, documentary producer, and writer on the subject of investment migration, whose work is cited in the Economist, Bloomberg, Fortune, Forbes, Newsweek, and Business Insider. Norwegian by birth, Christian has spent the last 16 years in the United States, China, Spain, and Portugal.