New Democracy Will Sell Greek Citizenship to Rich Foreigners

The National Herald

FILE - Eleftherios Venizelos airport in Spata, near Athens. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS - Going past the sale of Golden Visas that come with a residency permit, Greece’s new ruling New Democracy said it wants to lure rich foreigners by offering them citizenship if they invest at least 2 million euros ($2.2 million) and move here for good.

While the visas allow wealthy foreigners to buy property but not live in it - which has seen those from China, Russia and other countries scooping up Greek apartments and turning them into short-term rentals - citizenship gives investors a Greek passport.

To get it though, part of their investment must be buying a home that costs at least 500,000 euros ($550,710) and paying at least 50,000 euros ($55,071) in annual maintenance costs, apparently whether it's needed or not.

With the United Kingdom set to leave the European Union, wealthy foreigners and investors are looking for other alternatives in Europe, said Kathimerini in a report on the scheme that also includes steps to vet applicants for fraud.

The Golden Visa program – also in effect in Greece – has seen accusations in a number of countries that offer it that it's open to infiltration by criminals looking to launder money and hide their cash in foreign countries.

To get citizenship, proof of purchase of buying the required limit of real estate must be shown, paid in full with crossed check or bank transfer into the account of the beneficiary through an account with a Greek bank or a credit institution supervised by the Bank of Greece.

Without explaining why, if it could turn out to be a cash cow, the government reportedly will set a cap on the sale of citizenships at 200 annually while even Greeks in the Diaspora will continue to have to wait up to two years and longer to get dual citizenship even if their grandparents were born in Greece and they can provide documents in a program open to corruption and bribery.

The government is also examining the prospect of offering incentives to individuals and legal entities to choose Greece as where their income will be taxed instead of their home countries and as New Democracy is trying to roll back taxes hiked by the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA.

The new incentives will be added to the already existing Golden Visa program which was introduced in 2013. That offers a five-year residence permit to non-EU citizens who buy property in Greece worth at least 250,000 euros ($275,355).) In March, the Golden Visa program was extended to also include the purchase of stocks and bonds among other means.