Portugal vs Greece: The Battle to be Europes Top Immigration Destination
The Atlantic against the Mediterranean — Portugal vs Greece — rivaling destinations for expatriates, nomads and foreign investors. Both emerging in recent years economically and gleaming at the top of relocation lists. Whether it’s for foreign investors backed by capital, retirees looking for a calmer warmer place or digital nomads wanting to embrace a new place and culture whilst getting the best bang for their foreign bucks — Greece and Portugal are in a bull fight for the best destination.
These destinations go beyond the low cost of living, high-quality of life, mouth-watering cuisines, breathtaking sceneries and cities steeped in history. These reasons alone easily justify pursing a life in either place. But, both countries offer direct, clear immigration pathways — icing on the cake for expats. Each government has worked hard to remove unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic nightmares that many European counterparts have failed to clean up.
Portugal and Greece have both undergone significant immigration changes in the last couple years, eliminating, constricting and adding new immigration pathways.
So, how do we determine which country is crowned supremacy as Europe’s leading immigration destination? We don’t — the choice is individualistic, but we can break down each country’s available pathways and incentives.
Portugal and Greece were head to head when it came to the Golden Visa market in Europe, that is until recently. Portugal’s decision to eliminate the real estate investment pathway may have negative consequences in this battle. Greece was already offering the golden visa by real estate investment at a lower cost of €250k and €500k in popular areas, as opposed to Portugal’s bar of €280k – €350k. Not to mention the ability to invest in the capital cities which Portugal inhibited in recent years. Whereas Athens only raised the minimum investment cost to a fair market price.
This October, Portugal’s Golden Visa changes went into effect, significantly narrowing investors options to pursue the program
Portugal vs Greece Investment Options:
Greek golden visa investment options as of November 2023 include:
- • €250,000 to €500,000 (depending on the area of investment) into residential or commercial real estate
- • €250,000 in timeshare or furnished tourist residences
- • €400,000 bank deposit
- • €400,000 in government bonds
- • €400,000 capital contribution to a business
- • €800,000 combined investment into shares, corporate bonds, or government bonds
- €400,000 investment into a Greek fund
- €400,000 investment into a Greek alternative investment fund
Portugal Golden Visa investment options as of November 2023 include:
- €500,000 in collective investment structures, such as funds not directly or indirectly related to real estate.
- Investing in existing companies and contributing to job creation with a minimum investment of €500,000.
- Donations and other liberalities in the artistic and/or scientific domains.
The Greece Golden Visa undoubtedly offers investors more investment options, as well as a greater chance of return on investment. Investors also have lower investment minimums with real estate in 90% of Greece at the 250k threshold.
According to International Advisor and their sources, Greece had already seen a 740% increase in American investor applications back in May 2023. That’s not a typo. For many Americans Greece was already on the radar as the next Golden Visa “it” spot.
It’s safe to say Greece now takes the prize of having a better Golden Visa. However, it really depends on the goal of investors. Portugal still offers great Golden Visa incentives such as a relatively clear cut path to citizenship within 5 years and only a 7 day per year stay requirement. The Portugal Investment Funds will likely become a popular investment route to the Golden Visa, while Greece will heavily rely on real estate investment.
Retirement or Passive Income Visas
Portugal D7 Visa is known as the “retirement visa” or “passive income visa.” It’s a very approachable immigration pathway for retirees and semi-retired individuals with enough passive income stream to comfortably live in Portugal. The minimum income bar is rather low at €760/month (roughly €9,120 annually). This is extremely affordable in comparison to the cost of living in places like the U.S., U.K, and Canada. Hence, many retirees from these country flock to Portugal pursing the D7.
Greece has likewise long been a place attracting retirees and passive income holders with their FIP visa. The FIP visa requires the main applicant to have a minimum of €2,000/month or a total of €48k in the bank.
Digital Nomad Visas
Even digital nomads find the choice between Greece and Portugal to be almost an impossible one as both are such top destinations for the ever-growing remote work on the go movement. The decision is almost best left to the flip of coin.
When it comes to immigration practices, Greece was one of the earlier European countries to implement its Greek Digital Nomad Visa back in 2021. About a year and a half later Portugal came around to writing the D8 Digital Nomad Visa into law in October 2022. Though Maderia Island, Portugal was home to the first nomad village with the government sponsored in early 2021. It largely set a tone around the world for digital nomad villages and how cities needed to equip if they wanted to attract digital nomads.
So while nomads weren’t able to get an official remote work visa, because hey — bureaucracy takes time — it’s safe to say Portugal takes the lead in this visa category with currently over 16,000 digital nomads residing in Lisbon alone. Greece on the other hand is home
Greek Digital Nomad Requirements:
The minimum basic requirements to qualify for a Greek Digital Nomad Visa are:
- 18 years or older
- non-EU citizen
- Prove you can work via telecommunications technology
- An employment contract with a company registered outside Greece
- Have a minimum monthly salary of at least €3,500
Portugal Digital Nomad (D8) Requirements
- 18 years or older
- non-EU citizen
- Proof of a fully remote contract or freelance
- Minimum total monthly income of €3,040
- Accommodation in Portugal for a 1-year extendable contract
Portugal seems to be attracting more digital nomads. Internet and infrastructure is known to be better in Portugal and caters to digital nomads. The beauty about being a digital nomad is that experiencing both countries is easily pursuable. The digital nomad visa is relatively quick to acquire in Greece and Portugal.
Greece tax treaties are quite favorable. In fact, Greece’s foreign pension tax regime lasts for 15 years with a flat tax rate for pension income of just 7%. This is longer than Portugal’s comparable non-habitual resident (NHR) regime which lasts only a decade and taxes pension income at 10%. In recent global mobility news, headlines have been centered on Portugal’s plans to end the NHR program in early 2024, further removing incentives for expatriates. However, nothing has yet to be determined in legislation, so it’s likely the NHR program will live to see another year or so, but it is a major factor for potential investors and expats to be aware of.
Route to Citizenship
While Portugal and Greece may be neck and neck European residency by investment options, Portugal’s Golden Visa was more popular than Greece due to its flexible pathway to citizenship. Upon living in Portugal through any of the aforementioned visa programs, residents can eventually obtain Portuguese citizenship after 5 years of residency if they follow the right steps. Steps to citizenship include:
- You must have reached a minimum age of 18.
- You should hold legal resident status in Portugal for an uninterrupted five-year duration.
- You must possess a clean criminal record, both in Portugal and your country of origin.
- Successfully passing a Portuguese language proficiency examination at the A2 level is mandatory.
Keep in mind that the five-year residency criterion applies specifically to non-EU citizens. For EU citizens, the requirement is substantially more lenient — necessitating only six months of legal residency in Portugal to be eligible to apply for citizenship.
Obtaining Greece citizenship is more timely, less straightforward and less tested. There is a potential to acquire a Greek passport after living in Greece for 7 consecutive years of tax residency. That means spending 6 months per year in Greece. Even then, a level of Greek language would also be required among other things. Overall, Greece doesn’t offer a clean cut citizenship pathway as Portugal.
Greece vs Portugal — Decide with Lincoln Global Partners
Truly both Greece and Portugal offer enticing immigration pathways for all different situations and goals. Choosing the right destination and visa type varies and is best sorted out with professionals who understand both destinations, their markets, incentives and downsides long and short term. Book a free 30-minute consultation with us to start the conversation.