Most expats in Europe rent housing while they’re abroad, typically under the assumption that their stay abroad will be temporary. Anyone looking for a more permanent stay would probably benefit from taking a look at the local real estate market. That’s because some European nations offer residency visas to anyone buying property in their country. Some even offer citizenship – that means full rights to work, social services, and an EU passport. Before I get into where and how you can get EU residency by buying property, I’ll explain the benefits of such a scheme.
The benefits of using property investment for EU residency
Being an expat does not come without its share of paperwork and bureaucracy. Under normal circumstances, you need a good reason to be in the country. That means you need to find a job or apply to school in order to obtain a visa to allow you to live there. In some cases, you can apply for a freelance visa to give you some flexibility about how you make money. In all cases, having short-term visas means you have to renew your stay every one or two years. This is a painstaking and costly process that can take months at a time. It requires you to maintain your employment or education status in order to keep.
However, if you have enough cash saved up, you can bypass all that by obtaining instant residency through a financial investment in real estate. If the investment is high enough, you can even qualify for citizenship. They’re known as Golden Visas in some countries, and they open up the doors of the EU to foreign citizens who have a good chunk of change to invest. Some, but not all countries, allow you to qualify for the golden visas even if you take out a mortgage. That means you wouldn’t need the whole amount, just enough for a down payment. Information available online is inconsistent on the mortgage restrictions; it’s best to check directly with the immigration ministry of the country where you’re looking to buy.
For digital nomads like me, this can allow you to have a home base that is independent of work or study status. This scheme is also ideal for those who are retiring or who want to make an investment in popular real estate markets that are guaranteed to offer high returns. Just how much of an investment are we talking?
Property visa in Greece
The cheapest way for you to buy yourself EU residency is to buy a property in Greece. That’s because they have the lowest minimum amount required to qualify: €250,000. The residency visa is granted on a five-year basis, provided you still own the property or properties. You can buy a series of real estate properties, residential or commercial, as long as they meet the minimum requirement in total. If you did have enough cash lying around and you wanted to put all your eggs in one basket, you can get some pretty nice villas in Crete for that amount of money.
There is no minimum stay requirement, so you can buy the property and leave it rented. If you are interested in moving to Greece, you can apply for full citizenship after seven years.
Golden Visa in Portugal
To live in Portugal, you need a bigger budget. With a €500,000 investment, you can gain residency for you and your family, renewable every two years. The caveat (if you can call it that) with the Portugal Golden Visa is that you must spend at least two weeks in the country every two years. After a period of just five years, you can apply for permanent residency. And after six years, you can apply for citizenship and a passport.
Golden Visa in Spain
Similar to the Portuguese requirement, Spain’s investment visa requires you to make a €500,000 investment, which can also be split into different properties. The Spanish visa offers residency for your immediate and extended family if you want to bring them all to live with you. For half a million euros, you’re guaranteed to find a place big enough for everyone. Your residency must be renewed every two years, as long as you own the property. In order to apply for citizenship, you need to have lived in the country for a minimum of 10 years.
Golden Visa in Cyprus
Cyprus’s investment visa options have caused all kinds of trouble in the EU, because they originally had very lax laws regarding who could qualify and offer an inordinate amount of benefits. In exchange for a property investment of €300,000, Cyprus grants residency for life for the investor and their family, and it can be passed down to dependents. For citizenship, Cyprus offers the easiest (though expensive) way into the European Union. For €2 million, you can instantly get citizenship and a passport. This grants you the right to live, travel, and more importantly, work anywhere in the EU.
The Malta Individual Investor Program
Malta recently got into the business of offering citizenship for foreign investors. Their route is a little more complex. While the minimum property investment amount is just €300,000, investors are also required to make a contribution to the government’s national development fund that amounts to double that. However, after just one year of residency through this scheme, you become eligible for citizenship and a passport.
Buying a home that comes with citizenship, health care, and mobility in the EU is probably worth the steep prices.