Residency Permits Lure Rich Chinese to Greece

– Want China Times

Buying properties in Greece became more popular earlier this year in China after it was highly recommended by immigration agents, because the financially troubled Greek government has introduced a policy to give permanent residency to any foreign buyer purchasing a Greek property worth more than €250,000 (US$340,000), Guangzhou Daily, the official newspaper of the Guangzhou municipal party committee, reports.

As Greece is one of the 27 European Union member states, and also one of the Schengen countries, permanent residency there applies to both the EU and the Schengen region.

The good weather and beautiful landscape there, as well as the comparatively cheap properties prices, has spurred many wealthy Chinese nationals from places like Shanxi and Jiangsu to emigrate to Greece.

Chinese nationals began to emigrate to Greece on a considerably large scale from just after the turn of the century, mostly second generation overseas Chinese from other European countries.

In 1998, hundreds of Chinese moved to Greece, and were welcomed because they brought with them cheap but quality textile products, thus leading to a second influx of Chinese immigrants, but by the end of the year 2000, only about 5,000 Chinese had remained in Greece.

In 2001, an immigration amnesty which effectively gave legal status to illegal residents, boosted the numbers of legal Chinese residents there to around 10,000.

Greece conducted another immigration amnesty in 2005, and as Chinese immigrants to other European countries at that time were approaching a saturation point, the total number of Chinese residents in Greece gradually swelled to more than 20,000.

Investment immigration, however, restricts Chinese property buyers from the right to employment and social welfare in Greece.

Most Chinese in Greece set up small clothes or shoe shops, said Wang Peng, who is now Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director of the only Chinese newspaper in Greece.

After the 2008 global financial crisis, Greece became the first to fall victim to the European debt crisis, forcing the Greek government to introduce immigration policies aimed at attracting rich investors from China, Russia and the Middle East, in a bid to help its finances.

On April 9, the Greek congress passed a new investment immigration revision, lowering the minimum purchase price for properties that can qualify foreign nationals for permanent residency from €300,000 (US$401,000) to €250,000.

Although investment immigration restricts property buyers from working in Greece, buying property to operate as a factory is not restricted, lawyers said.

According to Greek law, non-EU citizens who buy Greek properties of more than €250,000 in value will be given Greek residency for five years, and after the five year period expires, their residency can be extended on the condition that they do not sell the property.

The benchmark of €250,000 refers to the property’s net value, while related tax and expenses for attorneys and property agents has to be added on top of this price, buying a property to get residency will cost at least €300,000, the report said.

A property agent, surnamed Han in Greece, said she has helped five Chinese families from Shanxi and Beijing successfully immigrate to the nation, because of the new Greek immigration policy. While some old Chinese residents in Greece have considered moving to Italy because of the stagnant business environment in Greece, the report said.