Greece's golden visa scheme comes to near halt

Pedro Gonçalves
Greece's golden visa scheme comes to near halt

Greece's golden visa programme has been brought almost to a halt by the Covid-19 pandemic, with less than 400 visas issued this year.

According the figures from the Migration Policy Ministry, between January and early September only 368 so-called Golden Visas were issued, taking the sum of investors to have received these permits since the beginning of the program to 7,903.

At end-2019 this number had come to 7,535, from 4,107 permits at end-2018. 

With international air traffic at a crawl and tough health restrictions in place for travelers, few are willing to take the risk of coming to Greece, the European Union banning those who don't live in the bloc with few exceptions, leading to some applications in the works to be left in limbo.

At least 120 Chinese investors who have already bought property in Greece cannot return to submit the necessary documents for the issue of their residence permit, that country representing 74 percent of those getting the visas, according to local news outlet Kathimerini

Greece sells five-year residency permits and European Union passports to wealthy foreigners, a scheme criticised for being open to money laundering and criminal activity.

The European Commission has vowed to end  ‘golden visa' programmes in the EU.

The call to stop the policy came from the very top of the European Commission, as President Ursula von der Leyen voiced it during her first state-of-the-union speech earlier this month.

"European values are not for sale," she said.

"The breaches of the rule of law cannot be tolerated. I will continue to defend it and the integrity of our European institutions - be it about the primacy of European law, the freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary or the sale of golden passports," she added.

Cyprus has announced the suspension of its "golden passport" scheme to sell citizenship to wealthy investors following a sting by investigative journalists.


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