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With some of the world’s best healthcare systems, educational institutions, and outstanding standards of living, Europe is a very desirable place to live and settle down. With that being said, these benefits generally require individuals and their families to live there and gain a residency permit. The good news is that several European countries offer, or residency by investment programmes, otherwise known as ‘Golden Visas’. These programmes allow individuals to gain permanent residency by investing a specified amount into specific investment channels. 

As of now, there are primarily 5 different countries that offer a ‘Golden Visa’ programme of some form; Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Cyprus. Whilst these programmes generally follow a similar structure, some countries are easier to gain residency than others, especially when one takes into account each applicant’s personal circumstances. If you are wanting to settle down and live in a European country, or want to gain permanent residency in these countries, it is important to understand how these programmes are different and the different requirements for each one. 

We have ranked the programmes below looking at the stay requirements, process duration, and the investment value and explained each programme in further detail. 

Take a look below where we explain the process for each of these programmes in further detail. 

Portugal Residency

Ranked as the number one country for quality of living, and ranking the 3rd happiest countries to live in for expats. The country enjoys year-round sunny and warm climates, some of the most stunning coastlines and beaches within Europe, as well as a low cost of living, making it no surprise that Portugal’s ‘Golden Visa’ programme is one of the most popular in the world.

Arguably the easiest way to become eligible for Portugal’s residency by investment programme is through buying a Portuguese property worth at least EUR 500,000. The country offers beautiful, affordable & spacious properties, providing excellent value for money. Whilst the government is going to be implementing restrictions regarding where and the type of property that can be purchased to become eligible, as of now, individuals can purchase any property anywhere within Portugal, including the stunning coastal cities of Lisbon and Porto, or along the gorgeous Algarve coast. A great advantage of the Portuguese programme is that there are minimum stay requirements, with applicants only having to visit the country for 14 days within a 2 year period. This makes things a lot easier for investors who want to become European residents without actually moving to Portugal. This is also good news for individuals and their families whose endgame is obtaining European citizenship. After holding the investment and meeting the stay requirements for 5 years, under the Portuguese programme individuals can apply for Portuguese citizenship.  

Greece Residency

The country has become a highly desirable retirement spot and tourist destination thanks to Sunny year-round weather, beautiful islands, affordability and vibrant culture. Therefore, its residency by investment programme is popular for those who are looking to buy a holiday home whilst enjoying the benefits that residency in the country offers. Considering the country’s excellent standard of free healthcare, especially in larger hubs such as Athens, have made it highly popular for retirees to settle down and enjoy their golden years in a gorgeous Mediterranean setting,

Withstanding, if you are looking to move to Greece for employment, it can be a tough market to get into, especially if you don’t speak Greek. It can therefore be challenging to live in the country for extended periods of time and maintain the investment requirements necessary for residency.  

The process for obtaining Greek residency is arguably the most simple, and one of the cheapest in Europe. Individuals simply need to purchase a property with a value of at least EUT 250,000, and they will gain residency immediately with no strings attached, and there are no stay requirements. With that being said, if the individual wishes to gain European citizenship, the process is not as easy as Portugal’s route to citizenship in the fact it takes a considerably longer amount of time. Individuals need to maintain their investment for at least 7 years and renew their residency permit after 5 years. Individuals also need to visit Greece at least once in order to get their passport stamped and go to immigration to take biometrics. After 7 years of holding the investment, you will be able to apply for Greek citizenship. 

Spain Residency

Famed for its gorgeous food, lively culture, and of course, the year-round sunny weather, the country remains one of the most popular tourist and retirement destinations in Europe. The country has a unique charm and romance to it, thanks to its rich history, welcoming attitude, and relaxed pace of life. People go to Spain to enjoy life, which has enabled its residency programme to thrive.   

The programme follows a similar process to Greece and Portugal in that individuals just need to invest in a property. Whilst a similar structure, the process for both permanent residency and citizenship is considerably longer. After purchasing a property worth at least EUR 500,000, one can gain residency, which must be renewed every 2 years. After being a resident for 5 years, individuals and their families are eligible for permanent residency, and after 10 years, eligible for citizenship. Like Greece and Portugal, there are no stay requirements in order to gain residency, which is very beneficial for those wishing to live in another country whilst receiving the benefits that residency brings. However, for those wishing to live within Spain, they should be aware that if the stay exceeds 6 months per year, they will have to pay the high taxes that domiciled residents are required to pay, which can be a significant cost, especially for high net worth individuals, making the residency programme considerably more expensive than other similar golden visa programmes. 

Cyprus Residency

This delightful island in the Mediterranean is basked in the sun 89% of the time, making it a popular destination year-round. Cypriot residents can expect to enjoy a relaxed, laid back pace of life, and a high standard of free education and healthcare which has allowed it to develop a thriving expat community, especially amongst retirees and families. With that being said, job opportunities can be hard to come by and whilst corporate tax and taxation for non-domiciled residents are attractive, personal income taxes are relatively high. As such, living and gaining residence in Cyprus for those wishing to work their full time can be somewhat of a challenge. 

To gain residency in Cyprus, like Greece, Spain, and Portugal, individuals can purchase one or more properties with a combined value of at least EUR 300,000. However, unlike some of the other programmes, applicants are also required to deposit EUR 30,000 from abroad into a Cypriot bank as well as show their annual income.  The process for permanent residency is considerably quicker than other programmes, with the entire procedure taking just two months. Whilst there are no stay requirements, like Greece, individuals must visit the country at least once within the 2-month application period. 

One of the key differences between Cyprus residency by investment programme and the other programmes listed above is that Cyprus is not part of the Schengen Area, meaning that individuals wishing to gain residency for more effortless mobility throughout Europe are out of luck. What’s more, this programme is not a route to gaining Cypriot citizenship. 

Overall, for those wishing to become a European resident, there are multiple routes and ways to obtain it, with the ease of receiving it varying from programme to programme. For a quick route to residency with no stay requirements, it can be said that Greece and Cyprus offer the easiest way. However, it is bearing in mind that maintaining residency in these countries for those wishing to move their long term can be somewhat more problematic if you consider taxation and employment rates. Potential applicants should also take into account the fact that Cyprus is not part of Schengen, so visa-free travel throughout Europe under this visa is not permissible. For those able to spare 14 days within a 2-year period, Portugal’s residency programme offers an affordable route to not only residency but also one of the quickest routes to citizenship. Whilst more expensive, Spain’s residency programme has no stay requirements, making it easier for applicants who are either unable or unwilling to take time out to visit the host country.

As you can see, the issue of ‘what are the easiest ways to get European residency’ is complex and multi-faceted. The ease of residency varies depending on each person’s circumstances and needs. To better understand these programmes, book a free consultation with one of our expert immigration advisors, who will be able to discuss your situation and help decide which programme is suitable and easiest for you.

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