Application and approval volumes are rising while processing times are falling sharply. After a rough 2020, the Greek Golden Visa is back in business.
Enterprise Greece this week published its first statistical update for the program since June 1st. In a departure from convention, there were no retroactive alterations to the numbers in this week’s report. The figures show a sharp increase in approvals during the reporting period (the months of June through September) compared to the previous one (January 1st through May 31st).
554 main applicants and 1,746 of their family members have received golden visas in Greece so far this year. In the first five months of 2021, Greece only approved 117 main applicants, a rate of just 23.4 approvals a month. In the last four months, however, that rate shot up to 109.25, a 367% improvement in monthly approval volume.
Much of the improvement is owed to rising productivity at the Greek immigration bureaus, according to Panos Rozakis, CEO of Prime Synergy Greek Residency.
"We've seen a dramatic difference in processing times," Rozakis exclaims. "Prior to the pandemic, we saw average wait-times of 3-5 months. In Athens, processing times were even longer."
In early 2019, Athens-area immigration bureaus were so busy they told applicants to schedule appointments with regional bureaus or face waiting times of more than a year.
"Now, we generally get approvals in about a month, and sometimes we see approvals within days, even in Athens," Rozakis comments, and explains that a restructuring in how the immigration bureaus handle applications is behind the improvement; investor visa applications are now processed separately from asylum applications and other categories of immigration.
Rozakis also says he's observing changes in the nationality distribution of applicants. "Applications from countries we never used to see before are rising, especially from Africa." Upon review of the inquiries in his firm's CRM, he says Algerians are the top African source country now, followed by Ghana, Nigeria, Botswana, and Zambia.
"The future is looking bright. Interest is strong," says an ebullient Rozakis.
New-found African interest in the program notwithstanding, Chinese investors remain the dominant applicant group. On a cumulative basis since the program's beginning, they account for 69% of approved main applicants. But the Chinese proportion has been dropping; in the last four months, only 19% of approved applicants were Chinese.
A new entrant has also made an appearance in the all-time top 10 applicant nationality list: The USA. 86 main applicants and 221 of their family members have been approved overall, making for an average family size of 3.6. The largest families of all, however, are found among Iraqis, who average four people per application.
The Greek improvement also brings the program closer to reclaiming the lead from its chief rival, the Portuguese Golden Visa. Prior to the pandemic, Greece was the undisputed champion of the European golden visa contest, approving about three times as many applications per week as Portugal. Portugal, however, was able to maintain relatively stable approval figures throughout 2020, and is only now seeing a dip in approvals. The 2021 decline in Portugal, however, may have less to do with the pandemic than with the SEF's apparent de-prioritization of investors in favor of HQA and D7 visa applicants.
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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 14 years in the United States, China, and Spain.