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If You Want EU Access, Get a Golden Visa

Christina Georgaki of Georgaki & Partners
IMI Official Partner

There is an old saying: You’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

People sometimes get so wrapped up in the details of something that they completely forget the big picture. In investment migration, the biggest picture that people tend to overlook is how to get EU access easily.

This issue has been a major topic of discussion regarding Caribbean Citizenship by Investment Programs (CIPs) for the past few years. Everyone has become so obsessed with the possibility of the Caribbean Five (Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, and St Lucia) losing visa-free access to the EU that they zero in on the potential problem and forget there is a much simpler solution – EU residency.

This tunnel vision prevents people from applying Occam’s Razor, a principle stipulating that if you have more than one solution to a problem, the simplest is often the correct one. 

To put it in simpler terms – if you want EU access, get an EU residency.

The sad reality is this idea, for some unknown reason, is not mainstream. This could be because of how RCBI firms in outbound countries market and package the Caribbean CIPs, the belief that a passport is more valuable than a residency permit (which isn’t always the case), or just because Caribbean CIPs have historically had a lower price point than EU Golden Visas.

Whatever the reason, all of this is about to change, and investors need to realize that they have a better solution at hand.

Level Pricing

Four out of the Caribbean Five have signed an MoA that will, among other matters, double the minimum investment thresholds of their CIPs. This will bring the Caribbean price points level with that of Greece’s Golden Visa, if not higher.

Considering that Caribbean CIPs will double their amounts in June and the Greek Golden Visa has a grace period until the 1st of September, there is a window of opportunity when the Greek Golden Visa is much more affordable than Caribbean CIPs. 

Donation minimums will rise to $200,000 (€184,328), while the real estate option will require an outlay of at least $400,000 (€368,656). 

Since investors cannot recoup anything from the donation option, it is essentially all cost. The real estate option requires nearly the same as Greece’s €400,000 real estate category and significantly more than its €250,000 option.

But pricing is just part of the story. For the most part, real estate investments in the Caribbean lack any proper ROI framework. A vast majority of projects are still in the construction phase (some just broke ground), and it seems many of them will never open.

Since developers rely on CIP applicants to fund construction (sometimes in addition to other funding mechanisms), then a CIP investor cannot confidently assume they will receive any ROI during the mandatory holding period since the project will most probably remain inoperational throughout those five years. 

The exit strategy is also another important issue to consider; how many non-CBI investors do you think will be lining up to buy a share in a development in one of the smaller Caribbean countries? Reselling a CIP real estate share is quite the challenge.

In Greece, you can buy one or more actual properties, rent them out immediately, use them yourself, and sell them easily within one of Europe’s most dynamic housing markets. 

Properties in Greece also appreciate in value, unlike Caribbean CIP shares that are bound by CIP regulations.

Buying real estate in Greece trumps doing so in the Caribbean. This one is a no-brainer.

Waiting Times

Another important issue is the processing time for a Caribbean CBI application. 

Historically, Caribbean CIPs have been extremely quick to produce results, but now waiting times have nearly tripled.

Antigua reportedly requires an average of eight months, while the situation in St Lucia is worse, with many investors waiting over 18 months with no clear end in sight. 

Grenada’s backlog is getting worse, and in St Kitts & Nevis, the government is still adjusting to the new regulations it has implemented.

Despite dealing with a backlog, Greece’s Golden Visa maintains quick processing times that range between three to six months. This isn’t surprising; Greece has more resources to tackle its backlog, and the process itself is simpler. 

For those who need EU access quickly, the Golden Visa provides a much faster option than the Caribbean.

EU Access

Finally, we need to address the core issue of visa-free access to the EU.

A straight line is the shortest distance between two points, so why would anyone draw a zig-zag to get to their final destination?

A Greek Golden Visa grants its holder visa-free access to the Schengen Area. Greece is part of the Schengen Area, and its access won’t go away, unlike Caribbean visa-free access, which could disappear at any given moment.

The EU is already discussing adding a law that would make operating a CIP grounds for suspension of visa-free travel. Since the EU Commission has broached the subject, consider it halfway to a decision.

This makes Caribbean CIPs an unreliable option for investors looking for enhanced mobility to the EU especially when you consider all the problematic illegal discounting and rumors of alleged lax due diligence plaguing Caribbean CIPs, which could give the EU even more reason to suspend visa-free travel.

You also need to consider that a residency permit in Greece grants full access to the EU, not just a 90-day visit every 180 days. With a residency permit, you can live, work, study, and do whatever you want (legally, of course) within Greece and the EU market. 

Caribbean CIP marketing agents push ads for “easy access” to the EU. I say go for full access instead and get the best of what the EU has to offer. 

To learn more about the Greek Golden Visa, contact Christina Georgaki through her website or email her directly at c.georgaki@georgaki.com