In recent years, Portugal has become the premier destination of choice for America’s expatriating high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), but it’s Greece that is most likely to benefit from this influx of American investment now that Portugal has chosen to call time on its Golden Visa programme, with the nation already seeing a 740% annual increase in US investor applications.
That’s according to Astons, the international experts on real estate, residency and citizenship through investment, who believe that the strong increase in American interest in Greece residency through investment is only going to grow further now that Portugal is no longer welcoming them with open arms.
Analysis by Astons found that 6,705 high-net-worth individuals chose to exit the USA during the initial pandemic year of 2020, a 224% increase on the previous year and the highest annual total seen in the last decade.
While this number fell by 64% in 2021, the number of wealthy Americans expatriating from the USA has once again started to climb, increasing by 18% between 2021 and 2022.
The latest figures on US investor migrant trends shows that Portugal had been their destination of choice, with the Portuguese golden visa scheme attracting by far the largest number of applicants in both 2021 and 2020.
However, the Portuguese government has now made the decision to close its golden visa scheme in order to help combat the nation’s growing housing crisis, although their digital nomad and D7 visas remain in place. A D7 visa does require applicants to spend 183 days a year living within Portugal, versus a requirement of just 14 days in every 2 years via their previous Golden Visa scheme.
As it stands, it’s unclear as to whether Portugal will offer a transitional period and this is unlikely to be decided until 16th March. The nation may choose to close their Golden Visa scheme immediately, as was the case in Ireland, however the nation could continue to benefit from foreign investment if a more gradual approach is implemented – often six months to a year.
There is also debate around whether it is constitutional to move the goalposts with regard to existing investor visas. Those who have invested via Portuguese real estate could have to prove that the property is their primary residence or relinquish the ability to rent it on a short term basis. While those invested via other channels could see the status of their visa changed.
So where are America’s wealthy individuals likely to head now that Portugal has closed its doors?
Astons believe that it’s Greece that could now become the preferred nation for expatriating USA HNWIs. The nation not only saw the third highest level of applications by US investors in 2021, but this level of activity was 740% higher than the previous year.
The Greek golden visa is one of the most popular schemes in Europe and currently, the cost of obtaining a Greek golden visa is just 250,000 euros, also making it one of the more affordable routes to European residency.
While already popular amongst American investors, there is also a growing sense of urgency to secure a Greek golden visa before the cost of investing doubles in May of this year to 500,000 Euros.
Immigration Expert for Astons USA, Alina Lesina, commented:
“In 2020, we saw a mass exodus of American high-net-worth individuals leaving the USA and it was Portugal that they had their sights firmly set on with when obtaining alternative residency via a golden visa.
However, it’s likely that Greece will now become their destination of choice following the Portuguese government’s decision to close its golden visa scheme.
Not only has it been the second most popular European golden visa scheme amongst US investors in recent years, there has also been a huge increase in this interest on an annual basis.
The scheme itself is one of the more affordable routes to European citizenship, whilst the nation is also similar to Portugal in geographical terms and with regard to its lifestyle offering and climate.”