The ongoing crisis in the real estate market in Greece has recently lead the government to rethink its immigration policies. In an effort to encourage investments, the Greek Parliament passed Law 4146/2013 which, among other things, sets the requirements for third country citizens to obtain a residence permit in Greece by investing in or acquiring real estate in Greece.
According to Article 36A of the aforementioned Law, a five year residency permit can be granted to third country nationals who own or intend to purchase or invest in real estate in Greece, the value of which exceeds 250.000 euro. Specifically, the following categories of persons qualify for the acquisition of this new type of residence permit:
– third country citizens that own or intend to own real estate in Greece or
– third country citizens who have signed a lease for a minimum of 10 years for hotel accommodations or furnished tourist residences in integrated tourist resorts and
– family members of the above described third country citizens.
All of the above individuals qualify provided that the monetary value of the contract (whether a lease or a contract of sale) equals or exceeds the amount of 250.000 euro.
According to Law 4146/2013, the subject real estate property must be owned and be in possession of its owners. If there is more than one owner of the property, then the following distinction is made: a) if the co-owners are spouses and own the property in undivided shares, then they both qualify for a residence permit; b) if the co-owners are not spouses, then each owner can be granted a residence permit if (and only if) the amount invested by each of the co-owners is at least 250.000 euro. Acquisition of real estate is also possible by a legal entity (such as a corporation) but in this case, the person applying for a residence permit must own 100% of the company shares.
In regards to the real estate investment, it is not necessary that the person interested in obtaining a residence permit own one specific property. The investment can include several properties, as long as their total combined value exceeds the specified amount. Thus, if a third country citizen purchases three homes that have a total value of 250.000 euro, he or she qualifies for a residence permit in Greece.
In the event that a third country citizen does not actually own the property but intends to purchase it upon receiving the residence permit, the Law requires that this intention be documented. Specifically, the third country citizen must be able to show the following two types of documentation: (a) a signed and valid binding contract with a law firm or a real estate officer, which contract proves that the applicant has committed to purchase the real estate and (b) a certificate of an A-class certified bank or other recognised institution, certifying the existence of bank accounts or other mobile assets (bonds, shares, etc.) which can cover the investment cost of at least 250.000 euro. Third country citizens who intend to apply for a residence permit through leasing hotel accommodation should be aware that the new Law requires for the lease agreement to provide for a one-time payment of the total amount of 250.000 euro for the ten-year leasing of the property. The value of the property is determined not based on the actual agreed price between the seller and the buyer but on the price indicated on the contract.
The duration of this type of residence permit is 5 years and it can be renewed indefinitely (for a 5-year period each time) provided that:
– the real estate property is still owned and possessed by the applicant or
– the existing lease agreement is ongoing. It is important to point out that the renewal of the residence permit is allowed even if the applicant has not been physically present in Greece throughout the five year period. The process to obtain a residence permit is the following:
1. The interested party must first apply for an entry visa (type D) to the Greek Consulate of their country of origin. The acquisition of an entry visa is necessary, as the applicant must be physically present in Greece at the time of applying for a residence permit.
2. The applicant must provide the following documentation: (a) two copies of the application, (b) three recent color photographs, (c) a certified true copy of a valid passport or travel document recognised by Greece along with the relevant valid entry visa and (c) a Health Certificate from a Greek public hospital certifying that the applicant does not have any condition which can pose a risk to public health. Some exemptions from this requirement are possible under certain circumstances.
3. The following are also required: (d) a copy of the contract for the purchase (or leasing) of the property of a minimum value of 250.000 euro, (e) notarisation stating that the contract fulfils the conditions required by law for the granting of residence permits to real estate owners in Greece (pursuant to Article 6 paragraph 2 of Law 4146/2013), (f) proof of title transfer from the competent Land Registry and (g) certification by an insurance company for the cost of hospitalisation and medical care. If the owner of the real estate is a corporation, then a copy of the statute of the corporation is required and must indicate that the applicant is the sole owner of the company shares.
The qualifying applicant is entitled to bring his or her family members with them. In order for the family relatives to receive a residence permit, they must be able to provide: (a) a certification by an insurance company for the cost of hospitalisation and medical care (health insurance policy) and (b) a recent family status certificate from their country of origin which certifies the family relationship.
The interested applicant can either apply in person or through a proxy, but the applicant must be in Greece on the date that the application is filed. It should also be noted that the application process must be completed within the duration of the entry visa. If the entry visa expires, the applicant can no longer continue the application process. Upon filing the application and the required documents, the applicant will receive a confirmation, which is valid for one year. Throughout this year, the applicant can lawfully reside in Greece and transact with all relevant authorities in regards to his pending application.
The actual processing time for this type of residence permits is yet unknown (since this is a new process) and varies depending on the local authority where the application has been filed and the volume of pending applications. However, the law provides that all involved local authorities must give priority to these types of permit applications and indicates that an effort must be made to process them within a two-month period.
For the purpose of this Law, family members are considered spouses over the age of 18 and unwed children under the age of 18. Parents do not qualify as family members, nor do children over the age of 18. If a child becomes an adult during the period of an existing residence permit, then a separate residence permit will be granted. Finally, potential applicants should be aware that a residence permit acquired pursuant to this Law does not grant a right to obtain Greek citizenship and does not allow the holder to seek employment in Greece.
Although the entire process can be completed in person, the Greek Authorities generally advise that potential applicants retain the services of an experienced attorney (in order to ensure that the required documentation is in proper form and that the necessary deadlines are met).