The so-called “Golden Visa” programs gained popularity in recent years. But, what are they? Golden Visa refers to a temporary residence permit, obtained by making a qualifying investment in the host country. The permit grants a number of rights to you, typically involving a right to live and work in the country, visa-free travel within a number of countries, among others.
The most popular European Golden Visa programs are offered by Spain, Portugal, and Greece. In this article, we will take a closer look at each and compare the three programs across several criteria.
What You Will Find in This Article
- Target Market: Who Can Apply for a Golden Visa in Europe?
- Which European countries offer Golden Visa?
- Benefits: What Good Is a Golden Visa
- “Stay Requirement”: How much time needs to be spent in the country for a Golden Visa?
- Investment: Which investment types qualify for Golden Visa in Europe?
- Citizenship: Does Europe Golden Visa Program Lead to Citizenship?
- Wait Time and Validity: European Golden Visa
- Application Costs for Europe Golden Visa
- Tax: What Are the Taxation Consequences of Golden Visa Europe Programs?
- Final Decision: Which Golden Visa Europe Program Is the Best?
- Frequently Asked Questions on Residency by Investment in Europe
What Is Golden Visa in Europe?
A Golden Visa is an investment-based type of authorization that offers a route to permanent residency or citizenship in a foreign country.
Golden Visa programs are offered by many EU and Schengen Zone countries. Through EU Golden Visa programs, you can be eligible for EU residency and citizenship citizens by capital transfer, real estate acquisition, or through a donation.
Target Market: Who Can Apply for a Golden Visa in Europe?
Technically, if you have a clean criminal record, and aren’t an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, you can apply for the Golden Visa programs in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, as long as you make a qualifying investment.
The below groups of people typically find these residency by investment programs appealing;
Citizens from Developing Nations and Emerging Countries
Many people from the developing world have access to means, however, they desire access to opportunities, healthcare, education, safety, and stability in developed countries.
Europe Golden Visa programs hold the most benefits for this group of people. The programs provide them and their families with the above luxuries, as well as hassle-free travel opportunities. The programs even lead to European citizenship, as long as their requirements are met.
Investors and Business Owners
These programs are compelling for investors and business owners looking to spend a significant amount of time in Europe. The programs in all three countries allow the applicant to get unlimited access in the EU Schengen countries. So if your goal is to live, work, and travel in Europe, these permits may perhaps do the trick.
Hong Kong Citizens and US Citizens
Although neither country is a developing nation, investors from Hong Kong and the US are showing an increasing interest in the Golden Visa programs.
Their motives to get an additional residency or citizenship may range from taxation reasons, retirement, business relocation, a lifestyle change, or just an idealistic discomfort with their home country.
British people have started to show interest in Europe Golden Visa programs post-Brexit. Previously, they were free to stay in the EU countries for as long as they want. As the circumstances have changed, they’re trying to secure European residency and even citizenship at the end of a certain period.
Which European Countries Offer Golden Visas?
Before answering how to get Golden Visa in Europe, it’s important to list the European countries that offer Golden Visas.
Here are some of the most popular countries that offer Golden Visas:
Greece’s Golden Visa is one of the best residency by investment schemes thanks to its low investment threshold of €250,000. Plus, the country doesn’t require the Golden Visa holders to stay in Greece which is a great incentive if you’re not ready to commit yourself to live in Greece full time.
Officially known as Ireland Immigrant Investor Program, Ireland Golden Visa is for those who are interested in making an investment in an English-speaking country in the EU. The minimum investment amount is €1 million while the donation option costs €500,000.
Italy’s Golden Visa program is suitable for those who are ready to make an investment in the Italian economy. The minimum investment amount is €500,000 which is through an investment in an Italian limited company. Also, if you live in Italy for 10 years, you can be eligible for citizenship.
Malta has a residency scheme that is available either through a real estate purchase or leasing. Plus, you’ll need to make a donation to designated institutions. The minimum investment amount for Malta Golden Visa is €150,000. The highlight of the program is that you don’t have to live in Malta to maintain your status.
Portugal’s Golden Visa is among the best residency by investment programs as it leads to citizenship in five years. The minimum investment amount is €280,000 which is available through real estate acquisition. The stay requirement is only for seven days on average per year.
Spain offers a Golden Visa scheme that is available through real estate purchase, capital transfer, or business set up in the country. The minimum investment amount is €500,000 and the stay requirement is only for one day in a year.
Benefits: What Good Is a Golden Visa
All Golden Visa programs provide applicants with similar rights and benefits in general.
These common rights include the right to live in the host country, the ability to travel within Schengen states without an additional visa, and the right to include dependent family members within their application.
The extent of these rights and benefits slightly differs between programs. See the chart below for a quick comparison of the most popular ones:
|Living||Yes: right to live in Spain||Yes: right to live in Portugal||Yes: right to live in Greece|
|Working||Yes: right to work in Spain||Yes: right to work in Portugal||No|
|Traveling||Travel within the EU Schengen Area without an additional visa||Travel within the EU Schengen Area without an additional visa||Travel within the EU Schengen Area without an additional visa|
The stay requirement and the right to apply for citizenship are two important factors. We will cover them in the coming sections.
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“Stay Requirement”: How much time needs to be spent in the country for a Golden Visa?
Once you obtain your Golden Visa;
Spain does not require you to spend an extended time in the country; you merely need to enter the country once a year. Thus, it is interpreted as a one-day stay requirement per year.
Portugal requires you to stay an average of seven days a year in the country to uphold your Golden Visa status. If your Golden Visa permit is valid for a period of two years, Portugal requires you to spend a total of 14 days in the country within the two-year period.
Greece doesn’t have any stay requirement.
Investment: Which investment types qualify for Golden Visa in Europe?
An investment has to be made in order to apply for the Golden Visa. Spain, Portugal, and Greece each have a list of qualifying investments for their residency by investment programs.
Below, you may find a comprehensive list of qualifying investments for the three Golden Visa programs.
|Spain Golden Visa Qualifying Investments|
|Invest in a Real Estate in Spain with a minimum value of €500,000|
|Make a Capital Transfer of €1 million|
|Invest a minimum of €1 million in a Spanish Business|
|Invest a minimum of €2 million in Spanish Government Bonds|
|Portugal Golden Visa Qualifying Investments|
|Invest in Real Estate in Portugal with a minimum value of €500,000|
|Invest in Real Estate in a low-density area in Portugal with a minimum value of €400,000|
|Invest in Real Estate in Portugal with a minimum value of €350,000; provided that the Property is at least 30-years-old and that it will be Rehabilitated|
|Invest in Real Estate in a low-density area in Portugal with a minimum value of €350,000; provided that the Property is at least 30-years-old and that it will be Rehabilitated|
|Make a Capital Transfer of €1.5 million|
|Create a company that Employs ten (10) Portuguese citizens with full-time jobs|
|Invest a minimum of €500,000 in a Qualified Fund in Portugal|
|Invest a minimum of €250,000 in National Heritage, Arts, and Culture in Portugal|
|Invest a minimum of €500,000 in R&D in Portugal|
|Greece Golden Visa Qualifying Investments|
|Invest in Real Estate in Greece with a minimum value of €250,000|
|Make a Capital Contribution of €400,000 in a Greek Government Bond|
Getting EU Permanent Residence Through Investment
In general, Golden Visa EU countries offer a temporary residence permit at the first approval stage. After meeting the stay requirements and other criteria, you can get a permanent residency in the EU.
For example. Portugal Golden Visa leads to permanent residency after five years. If you manage to meet the stay requirement at the end of this period, which is around 35 days in total in five years, you can be eligible for permanent residency.
Citizenship: Does Europe Golden Visa Program Lead to Citizenship?
Yes, Golden Visa indirectly leads to citizenship. A Golden Visa is a path to residency in a country. Residency is a path to citizenship, provided that you meet the specific naturalization requirements of the country.
Below, you will find the citizenship requirements of Spain, Portugal, and Greece, once you have a Golden Visa.
|Citizenship Requirements for Golden Visa Holders|
|Spain||10 years of residing the majority of the year in Spain|
|DELE A2 Spanish Language test|
|CCSE Spanish culture test|
|Clean criminal record from home country|
|Portugal||Five years of residing an average of seven days per year in Portugal|
|A2 Portuguese Language test|
|No unpaid taxes in Portugal|
|Clean criminal record from home country|
|Greece||Seven years of residing for more than 183 days per year in Greece|
|Greek citizenship test|
|Clean criminal record from home country|
Note on Spanish Citizenship:
Fast-Track to Citizenship is an Option for Citizens from Former Spanish Colonies
Recent legislative changes in Spanish law allow citizens from a number of countries to qualify for citizenship earlier than the regular requirement. Applicants from former Spanish colonies can apply for Spanish naturalization after two years of meeting the stay requirement in the country. Please contact us for more details.
How many countries can you visit with a Spanish Passport?
Spanish passport holders can visit 190 countries without a visa as of 2021.
How many countries can you visit with a Portuguese Passport?
Portuguese citizens can travel to 188 countries without a visa as of 2021.
How many countries can you visit with a Greek Passport?
The citizens of Greece can visit 186 countries as of 2021.
Wait Time and Validity for European Golden Visa
How Long Does It Take to Get a Golden Visa and How Long Is It Valid?
The wait times to receive your EU Golden Visa varies depending on the country and depending on how busy the immigration office.
As of 2021, the average wait times after making your investment and applying for the Golden Visa are listed in the table below.
|Spain Golden Visa||Portugal Golden Visa||Greece Golden Visa|
|Wait Times||Six Months||Seven Months||Three Months|
Mind you, these are assuming that you have no travel restrictions to the host country, thus you can visit the corresponding immigration offices to provide your biometric data in a timely manner.
Nevertheless, it is best to get an update from your law firm regarding the most recent wait times at the time of your application.
Once you receive your Golden Visa card, how long is it valid for? The table below lists the current validity periods of the three different residency by investment programs.
|Golden Visa Cards Validity Periods|
|Spain||Initial Permit Valid for One Year; within that year, applicant must visit Spain to get the Two-Year Permit|
|Second Permit Valid for Two Years|
|Third and the rest of the Permits Valid for Five Year Each|
|Portugal||Initial Permit Valid For One Year (changed in 2020 to Two-Years)|
|Rest of the Permits Valid for Two Years each|
|Greece||Permits Valid for Five Years at a Time|
Portugal used to issue the first permit as a one-year card. In 2020, due to a legislative change in relation to COVID-19, they started issuing the first card for a validity period of two years, just as the rest of the cards to follow.
Application Costs for Europe Golden Visa
How Much Does It Cost to Apply for a Golden Visa for Europe?
Apart from making the qualifying investment, applying for a Golden Visa requires fees to be made to the corresponding government. These fees are typically paid per applicant and per dependent.
In the chart below, you will find how these fees differ between Spain, Portugal, and Greece.
|Golden Visa Application Fees|
|Spain||€87,57 per person at initial application and at each renewal|
|Portugal||€533.90 per the main applicant and 83.30 Euro per family member as an initial processing fee|
|€5,325 per person at the initial application|
|€2,663 per person at each renewal|
|Greece||€2,000 per the main applicant and €500 per family member older than 21 and €150 per family member under 21 at initial application and each renewal|
Tax: What Are the Taxation Consequences of Golden Visa Europe Programs?
Taxation has little to do with a Golden Visa, it has everything to do with tax residency. If you have a Golden Visa from Spain, Portugal, or Greece, it doesn’t automatically make you a tax resident in any of these countries. And as long as you aren’t a tax resident in these countries, you only have a tax obligation on your income that you generate in the host country. You have no tax obligation on your foreign income.
If you choose to spend the majority of your year and become a tax resident in these countries, you will be faced with the below tax rates.
|Income Tax||19% to 45%||14,5% to 45%||9% to 44%|
|Inheritance & Gift Tax||1% to 7%
* varies by region
|0%||10% to 40%
* varies by relation
|Tax Incentive Program for Foreigners||Spain does not have one||Non-Habitual Residence Program (NHR); exemption for ten years||Greece is debating to have one; 7% flat rate for ten years|
The Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) Program in Portugal is a tax scheme designed for foreigners looking to become tax residents in Portugal. It is one of the most attractive tax programs in the European Union.
Greece is working on a similar program, which will provide foreigners looking to relocate or retire in Greece with a flat tax rate of seven percent for the initial ten years of their residence in the country.
Golden Visa Europe Comparison: Which Golden Visa Europe Program Is the Best?
It’s not fair to label one Golden Visa program as “the best”, as they each have their own pros and cons.
All three Golden Visa programs of Spain, Portugal, and Greece provide a basic set of advantages that is stable for all. These include:
- The ability to live in the host country,
- The ability to travel within the European Schengen countries without an additional visa,
- The ability to add family members on to the application,
- The luxury of having an association with a beautiful, sunny country with low crime rates and lovely people near the Meditteranean.
Besides these, there are small details that differ between the three programs. We categorized each three according to these small, but essential differences;
The Highest GDP Option: Spain Golden Visa
The Spanish Golden Visa program, which was introduced in 2013, gives access to a large economy, with flourishing business opportunities. It is estimated that close to 600 million people speak Spanish in the world. Investors, who are interested in actually moving to Europe find Spain to be a vibrant, hip, yet relaxing country to pursue. The downside is that the Golden Visa program does not lead to citizenship unless you choose to live there significantly.
You can find out more about the Golden Visa Spain here.
The Easiest Path to EU Citizenship: Portugal Golden Visa
The Portuguese Golden Visa program, which was launched in 2012, only requires the Golden Visa applicants to spend an average of seven days in Portugal in a year. After five years, it is pretty straightforward to apply for Portuguese citizenship, which practically gives you all the perks of being a European Union citizen.
You can find more details on the Golden Visa Portugal in our article.
The Cheapest Way to EU Residency: Greece Golden Visa
The Golden Visa Greece program, which was launched in 2013, only requires the Golden Visa applicant to spend a minimum of €250,000 on any real estate in Greece. This is enough to qualify for the Greek residence permit for the main applicant and a generous menu of family dependants. Furthermore, there is no requirement to spend any time in Greece.
You can visit the Golden Visa Greece page to find out more.
There are many moving parts when choosing the right residency or citizenship by investment program. Each Golden Visa program went through many changes since its emergence. The most important part is to come up with your priorities and find the right program that fits your search criteria. We strive to do exactly that. Please feel free to contact us and we would be glad to give you further information on the programs, and to answer any and all questions you may have regarding the details.
Get Golden Visa: Who We Are And What We Do
Get Golden Visa is a full-service investment immigration agency & investment advisory company. We provide end-to-end solutions on residence and citizenship by investment programs in numerous countries worldwide.
We have local offices in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, and the UK with legal professionals and licensed real estate professionals in our team.
We work with clients from all around the world, interested in obtaining Golden Visas or in making real estate investments internationally in Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey.
Contact us and talk to one of our experienced team members to help you with any and all your questions.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Residency by Investment in Europe
Which European countries have Golden Visas?
Golden visa programs exist in several EU and Schengen nations, allowing foreign investors to become permanent citizens. Greece, Malta, Portugal, and Spain are some of the European countries that offer Golden Visas. You can also check out Italy Golden Visa.
Who is eligible for Golden Visa?
The eligibility for Golden Visa varies depending on the country. But in general, you have to meet the following eligibility criteria:
- You’re over 18 years old
- You have a clean criminal record
- You have the sufficient funds to make the required investment
How much do I need to invest to get a Golden Visa?
The investment you need to make depends on the program you choose. For example, in Portugal, the amount is €250,000 for the donation option. For real estate acquisition in Spain, the required investment is €500,000.
What is the best Golden Visa in Europe?
The answer to this question depends on your needs. If you want to get citizenship without fully relocating to the country, Portugal can be a good option as its stay requirements are very flexible – only seven days on average per year.
Can I buy citizenship in Europe?
If you want to buy citizenship in Europe, you can check out the Malta citizenship by investment program. The minimum investment amount starts from €690,000 and it offers citizenship between 12 to 36 months.
Do you get a passport with Golden Visa?
Golden Visa is not a direct route to getting a passport. However, if you meet the requirements, at the end of a certain period, you can be eligible to apply for a passport.
Why should I get a Golden Visa?
There are many reasons why you should get a Golden Visa. Its benefits include the following:
- More mobility
- Tax benefits
- Business opportunities
Can you work on Golden Visa?
Working on a Golden Visa depends on the country. For example, Portugal allows Golden Visa holders to work in the country. However, Greece doesn’t grant such rights.
Which countries give citizenship if you buy a property?
There are many countries in the Caribbean that offer citizenship in exchange for property investment. St.Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica are some of these countries. Malta and Turkey are two other countries that give citizenship if you buy property.
Which country gives citizenship easily?
Below countries give citizenship easily if you meet the requirements:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St.Kitts and Nevis
How to get a Golden Visa in Europe?
Although the route to getting a Golden Visa differs depending on the countries’ regulations, it is mainly done through real estate acquisition, capital transfer, or company formation. The other requirements usually include proving the source of your funds and presenting a clear criminal record.
What is the cheapest Golden Visa Europe countries offer?
Malta’s Golden Visa is among the cheapest Golden Visa Europe offers, with a minimum investment amount of €150,000.