Greece to broaden Golden visa plan but with a higher price tag

Greece to broaden Golden visa plan despite EU concerns

Greece is preparing legislation to broaden the net cast to catch foreign investors by offering them a residency permit despite growing pressure in Europe to impose tighter controls on the measure.

After a slow start, Greece's Golden Visa program has picked up sharply in recent years, offering non EU nationals - and their family - a five year residency permit if they buy real estate in excess of 250,000 euros. By providing one of Europe's cheapest visa programs and a property market shattered by the country's crisis, Greece has drawn some 1.5 billion euros since launching the program in 2012.

These revenues have boosted Greece's appetite for more foreign income as the economy 's recovery remains weak.

Deputy Economy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas told journalists on on Wednesday that the government wants investors to qualify for residency programs with more options to choose from.

A law is being prepared that will also give non EU nationals Greek residency if they invest 400,000 euros in shares or bonds issued by Greek real estate investment companies, or if they place this amount in a Greek bank. A third option will be introduced, says Pitsiorlas, awarding the residency for those investing 800,000 euros in Greek government bonds.

The larger number of investment choices is seen as helping up demand in key parts of the economy that remain under enormous pressure. However, the rules concerning these schemes may be soon up for revision across Europe amidst concerns in Brussels that member states are handing out visas without checking where investors got their money from.

A report issued by Transparency International and Global Witness this week said that the doors of Europe are open to criminals and the corrupt, thanks to lax, opaque, and mismanaged ‘Golden Visa’ schemes.

The two anti-corruption organisations say the financial benefit of citizenship- and residency-by-investment schemes is undercut by risks arising from insufficient due diligence, conflicts of interest, and wide discretionary powers.

Cyprus and Malta are among the heaviest scrutiny - both states that provide investors with a passport with a high price tag attached. Greece, like nine other EU member states, offer investors a residency permit only.