Golden Visa system in a bind

Golden Visa system in a bind

Greece’s Golden Visa program, offering five-year residence permits to non-European Union citizens who invest at least 250,000 euros in local property, appears to have become a victim of its own success.

Professionals who cooperate daily with investors from abroad report that “the system has reached its limits, if not exceeded them,” with the Piraeus department of the Decentralized Authority of Attica – the state’s administrative tier above the Regional Authority – having stopped accepting applications by investors, forcing them to look to other authorities.

“About a week ago we applied for an appointment for a customer of ours, but to our surprise the response was negative, as the office is unable to serve investors at all, not even in one or two years’ time,” says Alexandros Risvas, head of the Risvas & Partners law firm, which is an active member of the Swiss-based Investment Migration Council.

He adds that problems are now being reported at decentralized authorities outside Attica too, with most law firms having turned to them in recent months in a bid to get appointments for their clients as quickly as possible.

To ease the pressure, in early April, the previous government had allowed applications for Golden Visas to be submitted to any decentralized authority in the country, and not necessarily the nearest to the property purchased. This provided a temporary solution to the problem, given that 70-80 percent of property purchases are within Attica.

However, many other areas of the country are reporting delays and problems, as instead of dealing with an application within a day, authorities often take a month or more now. It therefore appears to be just a matter of time before the system becomes completely blocked, thereby obstructing the continuation of the Golden Visa program.

Risvas goes on to note that some investors have started turning to other countries instead, such as Cyprus, Spain and Portugal, where there are also delays but not as long as in Greece. The local market expects Greece’s migration policy agencies to intervene to restore the program’s normal work flow.

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