Alexander Varnavas Talks to Business Daily about the Greek Golden Visa.

Article translated into English: Original Greek Article here

The managing partner of Varnavas Law Firm, attorney Alexander Varnavas, refers to the “exceptionally good” course of the Golden Visa program. Varnavas specializes in investment immigration.

Alexander Varnavas stresses that the doubling of the minimum investment threshold (from 250k EUR minimum to 500k EUR) should not apply across the country.

The Golden Visa program in Greece is progressing “exceptionally well”, in a positive direction that will be seen in the summer months of 2023, argues attorney Alexandros Varnavas, who specializes in investment immigration issues and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Investment Migration Council based Geneva.

In an interview with Business Daily, Mr Varnavas emphasizes that the doubling of the amount of the minimum investment to 500,000 euros, which has been announced by the government, is not a mistake, provided that it does not concern the entire territory and that there will be safeguards security for those who have already purchased assets in the past.

He also underlines that in order to make the Greek Golden Visa program competitive, compared to Portugal’s unique advantage, i.e. the time of actual residence required to submit a naturalization application, needs to be eliminated.

“The right to work is also an element that holds us back, in relation to the competition, since all other European countries give their investors the right to work, either in the private sector or by opening their own businesses, thus drawing know-how from abroad or even additional investment funds and contributing in return to the community”, he adds.

How has the demand for the Golden Visa been shaping up lately? From which countries does the demand come? Has the investor profile changed recently?

Although the interest did not stop even in the middle of the pandemic crisis, after the gradual opening of the borders, there was a rapid increase in requests which peaked in the last couple of months, following the announcement of the Prime Minister to double the minimum investment limit. Given that China still imposes a closed border policy to deal with the pandemic, the Chinese have not appeared in masses, but their gap has been filled by other nationalities, such as Americans, Arabs, and also British, who, after Brexit, can be included in the program. Regarding the profile of the average investor, we see no changes; people still come from the upper social strata of their countries of origin, who are usually highly educated and have strong cosmopolitan characteristics.

After a good run in recent years, we see the performance of the program drop. Why do you think this happens?

I wouldn’t say that the performance of the program dropped; on the contrary, based on the statistics, the best year of the program was 2019, with increasing trends and many promises for 2020. Reading the numbers, we should, therefore, not overlook the almost three-year period of the global policy of closed borders (due to the pandemic), which curbed the possibility of the arrival of applicants and completion of the investors’ applications. After all, Greece itself kept its borders strictly closed for investors, since we refused entry even to applicants who had already completed the investment and only the submission of their application was pending. The program is going incredibly well, and this will be seen in the statistics of the summer months of 2023 when all or even most of the previous year’s applications will have been processed, and in fact, despite the non-appearance of Chinese investors – which is expected in great numbers for 2023 – and despite the sanctions on Russian nationals after the declaration of war in Ukraine last February.  

Various changes are being considered by the government during this time. What do you think needs to be done to regain the competitive advantage of the program internationally?

In principle, the changes that are planned must be made by introducing long transition periods, at least six months, and an ideal scenario would be one year. Likewise, market professionals, who know details in practice, should be considered in order to avoid malfunctions and ultimately discrediting the program. Doubling the amount of investment announced by the government is not an incorrect decision, provided that it does not apply to the entire territory and that there are safeguards for those who have already bought in the past.

At the same time, a constant demand from the market for the Greek program is to eliminate the key competitive advantage of Portugal, which concerns the time of actual residence in order to submit a request for naturalization. Its main characteristic is that the holder of a Portuguese Golden Visa can be naturalized after five years, having actually stayed in Portugal for only 35 days, while the holder of a Greek Golden Visa will need to prove a real stay (residence) of at least 1,300 days during the last seven years, plus ties due to work etc. at the same time the disadvantage of not even granted the right to work. 

As it is, by its nature, the naturalization process already has enough control processes regarding the applicant’s integration into Greek society, such as a good knowledge of the Greek language, and an adequate knowledge of Greek history and culture. 

The right to work is another element that holds us back, in relation to the competition, since all other European countries give their investors the right to work even if, either in the private sector or by opening their own businesses, thereby drawing know-how from abroad or even bringing additional investment funds, in favour of the community.

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