ATHENS – The pickup of Greece’s economy battered by lockdowns over a still lingering COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t seen a big rise in the number of rich foreigners seeking Golden Visas that come with residency permits and European Union passports – but maybe they are.
The influx had slowed in 2020 as the pandemic raged and before vaccines were available but the New Democracy government has turned its attention toward speeding an economic recovery and luring foreign investors.
There were 151 Golden Visas granted in November, raising the total so far in 2021 to 989 while in all of 2020 there were 938, showing remaining hestitancy as Greece deals with the pandemic.
They are being led by the Chinese, who made up two-thirds of the applicants, followed by Turks, Russians and Lebanese, said Kathimerini, with a property purchase of at least 250,000 ($281,000.)
That gives them a fast-track to a five-year residency permit and Greek passport while even those in the Diaspora with proof of heritage and family in the homeland have to wait two years or more for theirs.
But market analysts told Kathimerini that the numbers don’t show how keen the interest really is and with hopes the economy will get better as if the pandemic recedes and investors becoming keen on the country again.
Achilleas Risvas, head of the Risvas & Partners law firm, which is an active member of the Geneva-based Investment Migration Council, told the paper that, “Purchases made by third-country investors this year are far higher than the permits issued. We have a great number of investors who have completed the process of buying a property, but have not yet managed to advance their residence permit applications, due to the months of delays at a number of land registry or cadastral offices.”
That has impeded the issuance of the visas in a program that the European Union said should be cautiously vetted to insure there is no criminal activity or any money laundering going on.
Greek bureaucracy again is an obstacle too, the report noted, as besides the signing of the contract, investors must also have the title deeds in their hands, which requires the transfer of the contract at the competent land registry or cadastral office.
That process of transforming land registries into cadastral offices and the transition phase several offices are in means delays can be six months, which means many applications in 2021 won’t be approved until 2022.
Based on the latest statistics, since the program started in 2014, 9,473 such permits have been issued to individual investors, and a total of 28,411 including their family members.