New immigration law introduces major changes

25 Jun 14

GREECE

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? Greece’s new immigration law introduces major changes aimed at simplifying and streamlining procedures and fast-tracking investment-related residence permits.

What does the change mean? The main changes include mandatory online payment, longer durations for residence permits, fast-track service for investors and elimination of short-term permanent residence permits.

  • Implementation timeframe: The new law went into effect June 1.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residence permits, Van Der Elst visas and short-term residence permits.
  • Who is affected: Foreign nationals applying for the above visas, investors and real estate buyers, and local Greek companies.
  • Impact on processing times: The changes will expedite processing.
  • Business impact: The immigration law contains incentives for foreign nationals seeking to invest, purchase real estate or conduct economic or investment activity in Greece.

Background: On June 1, the new law, No. 4251 of 2014, took effect. The main changes are:

  1. All government fees for residence permits must be paid through the Ministry of Finance website using a personal access code and e-banking or a bank deposit.
  2. Unless otherwise provided, residence permits will be issued for two years instead of the former one-year duration. Renewals will be issued for three years rather than the former two-year duration.
  3. Residence permits are available for third-country nationals involved in investment activity in Greece. These applicants will be fast-tracked on a rapid five-day processing schedule for residence permits. The duration of these residence permits has been lengthened to an initial period of five years and may be renewed for five-year durations.
  4. Third-country nationals who buy property in Greece valued at 250,000 euros or more are eligible to apply for a residence permit.
  5. Short-term residence permits are abolished. Applicants in this category, such as seasonal employees and performing artists, now only require a visa issued by a Greek consulate that allows residence for work or other purposes for an applicable period of more than 90 days.
  6. Van der Elst visa-holders and “short-term” applicants can no longer obtain residence permits. Instead, they may apply for a visa for a particular term (more than 90 days), which may not be renewed, except for humanitarian reasons. Their dependent family members can apply for a Schengen short-stay visa (if required by nationality) and the duration of their stay is limited to 90 days in any 180-day period.
  7. For local Greek corporations, EU corporations and third-country nationals living in Greece and holding residence permits for independent economic activity or for investment activity, the new investment framework provides the opportunity to hire third-country nationals who are senior managers, experts, financial or legal advisors, or specialized or technical personnel. In the past, the law did not allow local companies to do so. A residence permit application must be supported by an official recommendation by the appropriate department of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness.

BAL Analysis: The immigration changes, in particular the longer residence permit validity and fast five-day processing of residence permits for investors, are aimed at easing red tape and attracting investors to improve Greece’s economy.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Greece. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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