Properties-for-permits interest picks up in the last 4 months
by Nikos Roussanoglou,, 19 October 2015

A Greek program that awards residence permits to non-European Union citizens who buy property in this country has only met with limited interest. Recently published data from Enterprise Greece show that just 983 such permits have been issued since 2013, although there has been a 28.5 percent yearly increase in the last four months.

Third-country citizens are entitled by law to a residence permit in Greece and therefore the EU if they acquire real estate totaling 250,000 euros or more.

To date, Chinese buyers have shown the greatest interest, obtaining 335 permits, with Russians a close second on 315 permits. Buyers from the United Arab Emirates rank third with 151 permits, followed by Egyptians (53) and Ukrainians (52). Just 21 American citizens have bought into the program.

Estate agents report that while there is a relatively strong property-buying interest, it is only a small part of that which translates into actual purchases.

Comparisons with last year are also interesting: Up until the end of September 2014 i.e. in the first 15 months of the scheme's implementation just 436 permits had been issued with another 83 pending. Total takings added up to 67 million euros. In the following 12 months i.e. from October last year up to last month 464 new permits were issued, boosted by the uptake recorded mainly since June 2015. This development may well be viewed rather positively as it took place in a negative macroeconomic context, with the political uncertainty and the capital controls enforced in late June.

There is also a problem with the interpretation of the law, as in cases where the investors have chosen to stay in Greece for six months per annum or more (i.e. a minimum of 183 days), they are obliged to pay income tax here, including on money they have earned elsewhere.

As the Tax Office for Residents Abroad ("DOY Katikon Exoterikou") has explained, any citizens with a permanent or main residence in Greece who stay in this country for at least 183 days per year are automatically considered taxable residents of Greece. All this while the residence permit law does not allow investors to acquire a working permit.