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3 Reasons Greece, and Not Spain, Is Europe’s New Golden Visa Leader

Georgaki & Partners
IMI Official Partner

As Portugal’s Golden Visa continues barreling toward a seemingly inevitable closure, the world is left with just a handful of residency by investment programs (RBIs) to maintain a much-needed supply of EU global mobility solutions.

Soon enough, the Greek, Spanish (and, to some extent, Malta and Latvia) Golden Visas will be the only thoroughbred EU RBIs worth considering. It is not as if they have taken a back seat to Portugal’s program, as Greece’s 9,610 and Spain’s 10,891 approved applications during the past decade are on par with Portugal’s 11,262. The difference is slim, and the closure of the Portuguese Golden Visa may cause demand for the Greek and Spanish programs to grow 50% in the upcoming few years. 

However, while both options seem similar in their framework and benefits, the Greek Golden Visa has the upper hand due to a few critical distinctions, starting with its sustainability.

A sustainable future

Recent news of Spanish political parties moving to end the real estate option under their Golden Visa program – or close it altogether – put Greece’s option on top.

Greece’s recent tinkering with its Golden Visa was a deliberate and calculated move to ensure it does not fall prey to politicians trying to find a scapegoat for any possible housing crisis, the exact issue which has led to the Portuguese Golden Visa’s seemingly impending demise. 

In Spain, on the other hand, it seems like some political groups have already started tightening the proverbial noose, using the Golden Visa as political leverage to gain votes and standing among the population that does not understand the intricacies of how the program affects the economy. This is by no means a death sentence for the Spanish Golden Visa, but it would be unreasonable to ignore the same signs that have put its Portuguese counterpart in its current position. 

Greece’s government has been able to steady the ship during a decade of fiscal turbulence stemming from the 2009 financial crisis, and the overall economic outlook continues to improve gradually. 

The housing sector is also doing better than its Spanish counterpart regarding long-term stability, as Greece’s home prices increased at a Compound Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of 21.4% between 2017 and 2021. In Spain, however, the CAGR for housing prices is nearly double that of Greece at 40%, hinting at an overheated market.

The key to choosing a Golden Visa if you want to invest in real estate is to find the program and country that offers a solid property appreciation rate (and hence arbitrage gain) while also keeping an eye open for a possible housing crisis that may affect your investment negatively in the future. That balance is critical, and Greece’s recent amendments to its Golden Visa have only strengthened its position within a healthy investment environment.

Affordable optionality

Another area where Greece has the upper hand is its more affordable options under the Golden Visa. 

The real estate option in Greece (€250,000 in most regions) is half the Spanish Golden Visa’s requirement of €500,000.

Even if investors choose to go for properties in North, South, or Central Athens or properties in Thessaloniki, Vari, Mykonos, or Santorini, where the minimum investment is €500,000, investors will still save on property taxes, which are levied at a 3% flat rate in Greece but range from 6% to 11% in Spain.

But it isn’t all about the real estate, as Greece’s other Golden Visa investment options, establishing a business or investing in financial products (deposits), are very reasonably priced at €250,000 and €400,000, respectively.

In Spain, though, investing capital in a business or a bank deposit would require an outlay of €1 million. In comparison, the minimum for the government bonds option is set at €2 million, a far cry from the affordability of the Greek Golden Visa’s alternative options.

A faster process

The final distinguishing factor between the two visas that highlights Greece’s superiority lies within the inner workings of the program itself.

The Greek Golden Visa has one of the simplest application procedures in the world of investment migration. The new government online application portal has streamlined the process further. 

The program also has a speedy processing time, with Henley & Partner’s Residence Program Index even listing the Greek Golden Visa as one of the fastest residency by investment programs worldwide. 

Second, the centralization of the process gives the Greek Golden Visa an edge, as it all happens locally without any major interference by Greek embassies. Spain’s Golden Visa may rely on its embassies’ processing abilities depending on how and where the applicant decides to apply for it. Spanish embassies are notoriously tricky regarding the application, as emphasized by their 9.26% rejection rate of Uniform Visa Applications, almost double that of Greece’s 4.91%, which is irrelevant since Greek embassies are excluded from the process but highlights the Spanish tendency to complicate the process.

Finally, for those looking to live in the EU and strive to become citizens, the road to naturalization under the Greek Golden Visa is quicker than that of Spain (seven years compared to Spain’s ten), except for certain nationalities who qualify for quicker naturalization in Spain.

So a simple, centralized process with a quicker route to naturalization through a more sustainable program at a more affordable cost put the Greek Golden Visa in a league of its own.

To know more about the Greek Golden Visa and why it is the optimal EU residency by investment program, you can contact Georgaki Law through our website.