With nearly 8,000 successful applicants (not counting their families), 2019 was the best year for Greece's Golden Visa Program since it was first launched in 2014. In contrast, this year's statistics are looking rather grim. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a substantial drop in the number of Golden Visas awarded to foreign nationals, with Chinese applicants being hit particularly hard.
An Underwhelming 2020
According to a report released last month by Juwai IQI, which owns Southeast Asia's largest real-estate network, the Golden Visa Program has brought in more than $3 billion in foreign capital to the Greek economy. What's more, Chinese citizens make for at least 80 percent of all Golden Visa holders.
However, when it comes to 2020, we may have to manage our expectations. Experts predict that much fewer visas will be awarded this year. The Greek Immigration Bureau is closed, and international travel is severely restricted because of the coronavirus. As a result, most applicants will not be able to complete their applications or get a final decision.
The result? Given the dynamic nature of the situation, it is impossible to make definitive projections for the end of the year. However, so far, Greece has lost an estimated $156 million in Golden Visa revenue. While the government has ushered in a number of reforms to reduce red tape and streamline the application process, it is highly unlikely that 2020 will be as good as — let alone better than — 2019.
The Silver Lining
That said, a surge is expected in both applications and visa awards by the fourth quarter — or as soon as the pandemic is under control and the authorities remove the travel restrictions.
The demand for Greek Golden Visas among well-to-do Chinese individuals is as high as ever. While there are cheaper schemes in the Pacific and the Caribbean, none offer visa-free travel and residency not just in Greece but across the EU's Schengen Area.
What's more, Greece has so far managed to curb the pandemic better than most European nations. If this tendency continues, the country will become even more attractive to foreign investors from China and elsewhere.
With any luck, Greece may be able to win a considerable slice of the Chinese buyer market share. The country could even compete with the U.S. and the U.K. These economies traditionally attract much more Chinese investment but are now losing their appeal due to their less-than-ideal pandemic response.
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