The Migration Ministry has upwardly revised the 2019 data for the Golden Visa program, which provides residence permits to non-European Union citizens who invest over 250,000 euros in Greek realty, but it is clear that 2020 will be the first year that the program sees a drop, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The latest figures show that the total number of five-year residence permits issued last year amounted to 3,080, a new high for a single year. This constitutes an increase of 39 percent on the 1,881 permits issued in 2018.
It should be noted that, up until early February, the number of permits issued from applications made in 2019 was at just 2,239, but hundreds more have been added in the meantime, as the last stage of processing for February and March has now been completed.
Nevertheless 2020 is expected to be the first southbound year in the program’s performance: First-quarter statistics showed just 227 permits issued, as travel restrictions for Chinese citizens, who account for the bulk of demand for the Golden Visa program, had already started to come into force in late January.
According to the latest data available – i.e. up to end-March 2020 – 7,414 permits have been issued since the launch of the program, with almost three quarters, or 72.2 percent, concerning 5,352 Chinese investors. This illustrates the importance of the Chinese market for the Greek program.
Before the epidemic broke out, at an event at the start of the year, members of the Association of Chinese Investors in Greece had forecast that Chinese investments in the Greek property market this year would range between 800 million and 1 billion euros. Today, even the most optimistic estimates don’t see that figure topping 500 million euros, and that’s only if the economy and the realty market pick up from June so as to allow a substantial flow of transactions from the third quarter.
In that context, industry insiders say the recovery of China and its return to normal are a necessary step for demand to return to the Greek homes market; however, the fact that the Covid-19 problem has shifted to Europe, including Greece, has extended the inactivity of those investors. Therefore the next few months will likely remain quiet for this market, given that the completion of any property transaction is practically impossible at the moment.