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Economy

Wealthy Americans Lining Up for Greece’s Golden Visas, EU Passports

While other European Union countries are ending Golden Visa programs due to concerns about money laundering and criminal activity, Greece is continuing with the scheme. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ New Democracy government remains committed to the program, despite doubling the minimum investment in property purchases to €500,000 ($532,325) for most parts of the country.

This increase was necessary because multiple properties were being bought up and used for short-term rentals on platforms like Airbnb, which was causing neighborhoods in Athens to lose residents and causing rent prices to skyrocket.

Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rearview mirror and international air traffic is booming again, wealthy individuals from countries outside the EU, especially Americans, are once again showing interest in investing in Greece. It remains to be seen if Greece’s decision to continue with the Golden Visa program will pay off in the long run.

In a recent feature report, CNBC highlighted that interest in Greece’s Golden Visa program nearly doubled in 2022, with 2,767 applications according to data from the Greek Ministry of Asylum and Migration, up from 1,525 in 2021. The Chinese make up the majority of applicants, accounting for 63% of all applications since the program began in 2014, during a time when Greece was facing an economic and austerity crisis and in need of funding.

Applications from wealthy Americans saw a significant increase of 740% in 2021. The program fast-tracks foreign applicants, while even Greeks in the diaspora have to wait for two years or more for residency permits or dual citizenship to be reviewed or approved.

Greece has emerged as a top destination for wealthy Americans seeking residency programs, with interest in the Golden Visa program doubling in 2022, according to recent data from the Greek Ministry of Asylum and Migration. Chinese nationals have accounted for 63% of all applications since the program’s inception in 2014.

Portugal and the United Kingdom remain the most-favored spots, but Portugal is ending its program, making Greece a prime spot to take advantage of the demand. Despite concerns about money laundering and criminal activity, Greece is likely to become the “destination of choice” for American expatriates seeking golden visas, as well as digital nomads skilled in high-tech, says Alina Lesina, an immigration expert for Astons USA.

Olympia Anastasopoulou, Secretary-General for Tourism Policy and Development within Greece’s Ministry of Tourism, stated that the trend of Americans seeking Golden Visas in Greece was unsurprising given the increasing number of tourists visiting the country. She also noted that Greece has a competitive advantage compared to other countries due to its lower cost of living, great year-round climate, and ability to iterate the program as needed.

However, to bring in more tourists like Spain, the minimum investment threshold for the most popular areas in Greece will be raised from 250,000 euros ($266,162) to be more in line with other countries still offering the visas. Anastasopoulou added that the changes were aimed at protecting the local real estate market and young people but would remain open to reevaluation and adaptation. Greece was ranked among the world’s leading “residence by investment” programs, according to the latest index from citizenship and residence advisory firm Henley & Partners.

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