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22 November, 2021

Residence Permits In The EU: Which Country Was Most Often Chosen By Investors In 2021

The residence by investment programmes in Spain, Greece and Portugal are among the most popular in the EU. All three offer investors residency status in exchange for the purchase of real estate. But there are nuances that influence investors' choices.

Residence permits in Spain, Portugal and Greece by investment: programme statistics for 2021
Photo: Adobe Stock

We have compared the statistics of residence permit programmes in Spain, Greece and Portugal for the year 2021. Find out which EU country investors most often choose to become residents and why. 

How many investors received a residence permit between January and June 2021

The number of approved applications and issued residence permits is one of the main parameters by which the demand for the investment programme can be judged. 

Statistics on the residence permit programme by investments are collected by the country's migration service. But while in Portugal, data is published every month, the Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Welfare and Migration only published a report in November for the period from January to June 2021.

In order to draw objective conclusions about the relevance of the programme, we need to compare the results for the same period. Therefore, below we compare the programme statistics for Spain, Portugal and Greece for the first six months of 2021

Portugal issued the most residence permits by investments in the first six months: 445 investors were approved

Spain approved half as many investor applications as Portugal, with 232.  

Greece, about 226 investors have been approved. The figure is approximate because the migration service updates the data several times a year. It is known that from January to May 117 investor applications were approved and from January to September 554 applications were approved. This means that from June to September, Greece issued around 109 residence permits to investors each month.  

Number of approved investor applications for EU residence permit programmes: Portugal, Spain and Greece in 2021

How demand for programmes has changed in the second half of 2021

The demand for residence permits in Portugal and Greece continues to grow, as the statistics for the following months of 2021 confirm. Greece is now leading in the number of approved applications: The immigration office has changed its procedures in order to process investors' applications faster and to prevent queues from forming. 

Number of approved investor applications from January to October 2021

747 applications
698 applications

How demand for residence permits in Spain has changed during the second half of 2021 is unknown. But if you compare the results for the first six months with the same period in 2020, the number of approved applications has dropped by 55%.

55% fewer
applications approved by Spain in half a year 2021 compared to the same period in 2020

The peculiarities of the Spanish application procedure could be the reason why fewer investors are approved in 2021. 

If the Spanish migration service does not review an investor's application within 20 days, the application is considered approved 'by default' after this period. 

In 2020, because of the pandemic, there was a queue of applications from investors wishing to obtain a residence permit in Spain. As a result, most applications turned out to be approved by default. 

In 2021, the migration service resumed work as standard, so document checks are stricter and half as many applicants are approved.

5 reasons to get a residence permit in Portugal or Greece instead of Spain

A smaller amount of investment. Under the terms of the residence permit programme in Spain, the investor needs to purchase one or more properties with a total value of at least €500,000.

A residence permit in Portugal can be obtained by purchasing a property under one of two options:

  1. Buy one or more new properties or properties under 30 years old for €500,000.
  2. Buy a property over 30 years old under renovation for €350,000.

If an investor wants to buy a property in a region with low population density, the value of the property can be 20% less: €400,000 for new properties and €280,000 for historic properties.

How an investor got a residence permit in Portugal with a 20% savings

Anton bought a share in the hotel in order to obtain a Portuguese residence permit. The property was a renovation project of a 17th century monastery. The property was located in a region with low population density, so the investor saved €70,000 to participate in the programme.

Find out more about the investor's story

Greece offers a residence permit at half the cost of Spain: the real estate transaction must be from €250,000. You can buy the entire property, rent a hotel or apartment in a resort complex for 10 years, or buy a plot of land for construction.

Cost of real estate for a residence permit by investmen

From €500,000 
Residence permit in Spain
From €280,000 
Residence permit in Portugal
From €250,000 
Residence permit in Greece

Pay less property taxes. Property tax rates in Spain are, on average, twice as high as in Portugal and Greece: both when buying and when maintaining a property.

Taxes on buying and owning property

Tax Spain Portugal Greece
On the transfer of ownershipFrom 7 to 11%From 0 to 7,5%3%
Stamp duty or fee for registering at the property registry1%0,8%0,5%
Annual municipal property taxFrom 0,4 to 1,3%From 0,3 to 0,8%From 0,25 to 0,35%

Property prices in Portugal and Greece are rising faster. The cost of housing in Portugal rose by 5.2% when comparing prices in the first quarter of 2021 with prices at the beginning of 2020. The year-on-year price increase in Spain was just 0.9%. The statistics are quoted by Eurostat.

Greece does not transmit data on property prices to Eurostat, but statistics are kept by the National Bank of Greece. According to the bank, apartment prices in the country increased by 3.2% at the end of 2020 compared with prices in 2019. 

Investors own the property for five years in order to retain their residence permit in the EU. After five years, the property can be sold and the invested money returned. If property prices in the country have risen steadily during the ownership period, the investor will also earn on the difference in value.

Examples of properties to buy in Portugal and Greece

Residence permit in Portugal by purchasing a property: example of an apartment

Studio in the historical centre of Lisbon Price – €350,000

Residence permit in Greece by purchasing real estate: an example of an apartment

Three bedroom apartment in the outskirts of Athens Price – €290,000

A quicker path to citizenship. An investor can apply for Portuguese citizenship if he or she has maintained residence permit status for five years. To do so, the investor needs to comply with the terms of the programme and spend at least 7 days per year in the country.

The investor can obtain a Greek passport after seven years of permanent residence in the country. After five years of residence permit, it is allowed to apply for permanent residence permit, and after another two years - for citizenship.

Spanish citizenship will not be issued to an investor before 10 years. If an investor moved to Spain and spent not more than 10 months outside the country during the five years, he can get permanent residence permit. After another five years, he can apply for citizenship

Time frame for obtaining citizenship after a residence permit by investment

5 years
in Portugal
7 years
in Greece
10 years
in Spain

There is no need to give up your first citizenship. Portugal and Greece allow their citizens to hold several passports. Spain, however, does not: before Spanish citizenship can be granted, an investor will have to renounce his or her existing citizenship, such as Russian citizenship.

Holders of residence permits in Portugal and Greece have the right to live, work, do business and study in the country of residence. They can enter the country at any time, even if the borders are closed to tourists. It is also possible to travel visa-free through the Schengen area with a residence card.

Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent for residence permit programmes in Portugal and Greece. If you want to buy a property and become a resident of one of the European Union countries, seek advice from the experts of the investment programmes.

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Residence Permits In The EU: Which Country Was Most Often Chosen By Investors In 2021