Golden Visa Programs Compared: Spain, Portugal, and Greece

The so-called “Golden Visa” programs gained popularity in recent years.  But, what are they?  Golden Visa refers to a temporary residence permit, acquired by making a qualifying investment in the host country.  The permit grants a number of rights to the applicant, typically involving a right to live and work in the country, visa-free travel within a number of countries, among others.

The most popular countries with a Golden Visa program in Europe are Spain, Portugal, and Greece.  In this article, we will take a closer look at each and compare the three programs across several criteria.

Target Market: Who Can Apply for a Golden Visa?

Technically, anyone with a clean criminal record, who is not an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen can apply for the Golden Visa programs in Spain, Portugal, and Greece, as long as they 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.

The 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.  

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 differ between programs.  You can find it detailed in the below chart.

SpainPortugalGreece
LivingYes: right to live in SpainYes: right to live in PortugalYes: right to live in Greece
WorkingYes: right to work in SpainYes: right to work in PortugalNo
TravelingTravel within the EU Schengen Area without an additional visaTravel within the EU Schengen Area without an additional visaTravel within the EU Schengen Area without an additional visa
Family InclusionYesYesYes

 

The stay requirement and the right to apply for citizenship are two important factors.  We will cover them in the coming sections.

“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 the applicant 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 the applicants to stay an average of seven days a year in the country to uphold their 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 does not have a stay requirement for the applicants.

Investment: Which investment types qualify for Golden Visa?

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 Euro
Make a Capital Transfer of 1,000,000 Euro
Invest a minimum of 1,000,000 Euro in a Spanish Business
Invest a minimum of 2,000,000 Euro in Spanish Government Bonds

 

Portugal Golden Visa Qualifying Investments
Invest in a Real Estate in Portugal with a minimum value of 500,000 Euro
Invest in a Real Estate in a low-density area in Portugal with a minimum value of 400,000 Euro
Invest in a Real Estate in Portugal with a minimum value of 350,000 Euro; provided that the Property is at least 30-years-old and that it will be Rehabilitated
Invest in a Real Estate in a low-density area Portugal with a minimum value of 350,000 Euro; provided that the Property is at least 30-years-old and that it will be Rehabilitated
Make a Capital Transfer of 1,000,000 Euro
Create a company that Employs ten (10) Portuguese citizens with full-time jobs
Invest a minimum of 350,000 Euro in a Qualified Fund in Portugal 
Invest a minimum of 250,000 Euro in National Heritage, Arts, and Culture in Portugal
Invest a minimum of 350,000 Euro in R&D in Portugal

 

Greece Golden Visa Qualifying Investments
Invest in a Real Estate in Greece with a minimum value of 250,000 Euro
Make a Capital Contribution of 400,000 Euro in a Greek Government Bond

Citizenship: Does Golden Visa 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 the specific naturalization requirements of the country are met by the resident.

Below, you will find the citizenship requirements of Spain, Portugal, and Greece, once you have a Golden Visa.

Citizenship Requirements for Golden Visa Holders
SpainTen 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
PortugalFive 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
GreeceSeven 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 allows 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 187 countries without a visa as of 2020.

How many countries can you visit with a Portuguese Passport?

Portuguese citizens can travel to 186 countries without a visa as of 2020.

How many countries can you visit with a Greek Passport?

The citizens of Greece can visit 183 countries as of 2020.

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Wait Time & Validity:

How Long Does It Take to Get a Golden Visa & How Long Is It Valid?

The wait times to receive your Golden Visa varies depending on the country and depending on how busy the immigration office is these days.

As of 2020, the average wait times after making your investment and applying for the Golden Visa are listed in the below table.

Spain Golden VisaPortugal Golden VisaGreece Golden Visa
Wait TimesSix MonthsSeven MonthsThree 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.

And 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
SpainInitial 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
PortugalInitial Permit Valid For One Year (changed in 2020 to Two-Years)
Rest of the Permits Valid for Two Years each
GreecePermits 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:

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for a Golden Visa?

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
Spain87,57 Euro per person at initial application and at each renewal
Portugal533.90 Euro per main applicant and 83.30 Euro per family member as an initial processing fee
5,336.40 Euro per person at initial application
2,668.20 Euro per person at each renewal
Greece2,000 Euro per main applicant and 500 Euro per family member older than 21 and 150 Euro per family member under 21 at initial application and each renewal

Tax: What Are the Taxation Consequences of Golden Visa?

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 does not automatically make you a tax resident in any of these countries.  And as long as you are not 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.

SpainPortugalGreece
Income Tax19% to 45%14,5% to 45%9% to 44%
Corporate Tax25%21%24%
Inheritance & Gift Tax1% to 7%
* varies by region
0%10% to 40%
* varies by relation
Tax Incentive Program for ForeignersSpain does not have oneNon-Habitual Residence Program (NHR); exemption for ten yearsGreece is debating to have one in 2020; 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 7% for the initial ten years of their residence in the country.

Final Decision: Which Golden Visa 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 launched 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.

Golden Visa Programs Compared: Spain, Portugal, and Greece

The Easiest Path to EU Citizenship: Portugal Golden Visa

The Portuguese Golden Visa program, which 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.

Golden Visa Programs Compared: Spain, Portugal, and Greece

The Cheapest Way to EU Residency: Greece Golden Visa

The Golden Visa Greece program, which launched in 2013, only requires the Golden Visa applicant to spend a minimum of 250,000 Euro in 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.

Golden Visa Programs Compared: Spain, Portugal, and Greece

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.

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