Greek lawmakers Wednesday passed the country’s new immigration code, which, among a wide array of other legislative updates, also saw the country postpone the beginning of the transition period for real estate-based golden visa applications from the original April 30th this year to July 31st.
Background: In September last year, the Greek government announced it would be doubling the minimum investment requirement for the golden visa program’s real estate option from EUR 250,000 to EUR 500,000. In December 2022, details emerged to reveal that the higher minimums would apply only to 36 key municipalities. Moreover, the government planned to provide a grace period during which investors would be able to invest at the previous, lower threshold, even in those key municipalities, as long as they paid a deposit of at least 10% of the purchase price by April 30th, 2023 and concluded the investment before the end of the same year.
The Hellenic Parliament this week voted to postpone the beginning of that transitional period by three months to July 31st, giving foreign investors additional time to identify a property and proceed with the investment at the original EUR 250,000 threshold.
Minister of Migration and Asylum, Notis Mitarakis, commented on the passing of the bill that “today, we are completing the legislative work of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, establishing effective procedures to deal with the challenges of immigration, taking into account the needs of the Greek economy and society, acting as a deterrent to illegal immigration, but, at the same time, institutionalizing effective legal passages where we as a country want.”
Prospective investors are additionally incentivized to begin the investment process by a provision that enables them to switch to another property during the (now) five-month-long transition period, as long as they pay the 10% deposit before July 31st.
“This extension relieves the stress of investors, as more of them will have enough time to travel and select a property in the areas affected by the changes,” commented Alexander Varnavas of Athens-based Varnavas Law on the news.
Among the 36 municipalities that will see the minimum requirement rise, 28 are in the Greater Athens region and six in Greater Thessaloniki, while the remaining two are the island municipalities of tourist hotspots Santorini and Mykonos.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis surprise announcement of the price increase in September last year drove an almost instantaneous surge in applications during the fourth quarter of last year, a trend that has continued into 2023. Government statistics show program authorities have struggled to meet the sudden intensification of demand; in the last six months, Greece has received 4,133 applications from golden visa investors but has only managed to approve 1,505 in the same period.
According to Varnavas, however, processing times remain reasonable:
"The processing time is not bad for the moment. We can submit electronically whenever we are ready and we can get an appointment for the collection of the biometrics within 1-2 months. After submitting the biometrics, we need another month to get the residence cards printed. A total of 2-4 months isn't that much."