Introduced by the Greek government a few years ago to drive investment into Greece, the residency-by-investment programme has since become rightfully popular. While other European programmes such as Cyprus receive the most attention, Greece has quietly become a very desirable, and very cost-effective, route into Europe.

In fact, the Greek residency-by-investment programme is the most cost-effective way into Europe by a considerable distance, with a qualifying real estate investment of only EUR 250,000. As a Greek resident, you’re entitled to live in Greece permanently and travel freely across the Schengen area – and that’s only the beginning.

What does the Greek residency programme have to offer?

So let’s examine the benefits of the Greek residency-by-investment programme more closely and see whether it’s the right choice for you.

1. Visa-free travel across the Schengen area: One of the biggest advantages to Greek residency is your entitlement to visa-free travel throughout the Schengen region. This 26-state area includes France, Germany and Spain – and numerous other European countries. Greek residence means you can travel easily and at will throughout the entire Schengen zone, for up to three months during any six-month period.

2. Avoid second citizenship restrictions: This is true of other residency-by-investment programmes such as Malta, Portugal and Cyprus but it’s still worth mentioning. Some nations do not allow second citizenship, which forces aspiring investors of those nationalities to choose between their home and acquired citizenship. This isn’t the case with Greece, and you can hold Greek residency without incurring the wrath of your home nation.

3. Cost-effective investment: The Greek golden visa scheme is incredibly cost-effective, making it an obvious choice for investors seeking entrance into Europe without huge investment. To secure residency in Greece you need only to invest EUR 250,000 into real estate.

4. Real estate investment offers strong ROI potential: The option to invest into real estate is generally more desirable than a straight donation as you can hope to achieve financial returns from renting your property out, as well as the benefits of residency. There is also an option to qualify for residency if you’ve invested at least EUR 250,000 into leasing of hotel accommodation – but there’s no real benefit to doing so when you could own property instead.

5. Easy resale to recuperate investment: Every investor likes to know they can recuperate their outlay quickly if needed. If your situation changes, you can easily withdraw your Greek real estate investment by selling your property. There’s an almost guaranteed market, because the sale of the property in turn transfers your residency permit to the new buyer.

This makes Greece the perfect option if you care about flexibility and shorter-term returns. Business in Europe over the next few years? Greek citizenship could be the answer, and you can easily sell it on when you no longer need it.

6. No residency requirements: Unlike some other programmes in Europe, Greek residency has no requirements to stay in-country in order to maintain your residence permit. If you don’t want to spend time in Greece, you don’t have to. Clients must be in the country 180 days per year, for 7 years, after which time they will be able to apply for a Greek passport and citizenship. If they choose not to live in Greece, they can hold the property as a “plan B” option just in case they decide to move their families there in the future to keep their Schengen visa free travel.

Your investment secures you a five-year residency permit which you can renew as long as you still hold your qualifying investment. Time spent in (or out) of the country isn’t a determining factor, so you can secure residency without disruption to your lifestyle. For investors looking for, say, visa-free entry into somewhere like Switzerland, this is a cost-effective and non-disruptive way to achieve that.

7. Family-friendly programme: The Greek residency programme is known for favourable conditions that make it a strong and cost-effective choice for families. The programme allows you to include your spouse and children (under 21) for no extra cost. Each of these family members receive an individual Greek residence permit which can be likewise renewed along with your own.

The option to add family members onto your application for no additional cost is fairly unusual for these programmes, so Greece sets itself apart here. It’s a pathway to opportunity, not just for you but for your family.

8. Explore a beautiful, peaceful and culturally-rich nation: Greek residency doesn’t mean you have to live in Greece, but you might want to. It is one of the most visited countries in Europe, thanks to the nation’s rich culture, stunning coastline, warm people and historical significance. Plus Greece boasts some world-renowned thermal springs, many of which have been used since ancient times. Add the pleasant Mediterranean climate and it’s not hard to understand why some 30 million tourists visited Greece in 2016.

9. Favourable tax climate: Potential investors are naturally concerned about tax legislation. If you choose to be non-resident (for tax purposes) in Greece, you’ll only be taxed on income actually sourced in Greece. You only pay income tax on worldwide income if you’re a Greek tax resident.

Likewise, companies that are non-resident for tax purposes in Greece only pay income or capital gains on funds derived through a permanent base in Greece. There are tax incentives available for companies making profitable investments into Greece.

Greece also holds numerous tax treaties with many nations across Europe and the wider world, including the Middle East, all of which can offer generous incentives and reductions.

How to secure a residency permit in Greece

Acquiring Greek residency is simple, and the entire process usually takes as little as two to three months.

The first requirement is investment: a straightforward EUR 250,000 into real estate. Other options are variations on this theme. For instance, you could invest EUR 250,000 into a 10-year qualifying lease instead.

You can own this real estate personally or through a legal entity in which you hold all the shares. You can also own multiple properties where the cumulative value is EUR 250,000. Joint ownership is also an option so long as all parties invest at least EUR 250,000 – unless we’re talking about spouses with undivided ownership in which case you both receive residence permits for that EUR 250,000 investment.

The second requirement is an entry visa, which you get before you can obtain a residence permit by applying to the Greek consulate authority in your home country.

This entry visa can be any category but Type C is popular, while Type D offers various benefits including free movement throughout the Schengen area (although does require proof of financial capacity to purchase property and certify that you’re planning to do so). Either way, once your resident permit is issued, a visa is no longer necessary.

So once you’re granted an entry visa and provided you can prove real estate ownership, you can apply for your residence permit. There are minimal other requirements here except a health certificate from a Greek medical professional certifying that you don’t have any pre-existing conditions that would threaten Greek public health. If you’re entering on a Type D entry visa, this can be a certificate from your home country instead.

Once you receive your permit, you’re a Greek resident for the next five years. You can renew this permit indefinitely for as long as you hold your property, and as long as you maintain a clean criminal record in Greece and your home country.

Let Greece unlock Europe the cost-effective way

Investors considering citizenship or residency-by-investment are spoilt for choice, as the concept of such programmes gains huge traction worldwide. Despite the competition, Greece continues to hold its own and deserves your real consideration.