Over the last few years, Portugal has become the premier destination of choice for US high net worth expats.
Firms had seen an opportunity to increase their business due to the rise of Americans moving to Portugal. Global advice firm Blacktower Financial Management launched an American desk specifically targeting those looking to move to Portugal.
But this Portugal/US connection could be on the verge of collapse, after the closure of the Portuguese golden visa scheme.
According to residency and citizenship-by-investment firm Astons, Greece is most likely to benefit from this influx of US expats, with the nation already seeing a 740% annual increase in American investor applications.
Greece 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 (£300,000, $282,000). But this is set to rise to €500,000 in May 2023.
Alina Lesina, immigration expert for Astons USA, said: “In 2020, we saw a mass exodus of American HNW individuals leaving the US and it was Portugal that they had their sights firmly set on 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.”
Change on the horizon
International Adviser spoke with Hoxton Capital Management, Chase Buchanan and Blacktower Financial Management to find out if advice firms in Europe have seen a rise in US expats looking at Greece.
John Westwood, chairman of Blacktower Financial Management, said: “Portugal has become the place to be for American high net worth individuals in recent years. But with the government announcing changes to the golden visa programme, expats are considering other residency options. As a result, other countries are likely to experience a boost in US investor applications, as Portugal may no longer be the longer term solution.”
Alex Ingrim, private wealth manager at global advice group Chase Buchanan, said: “We have seen an increased interest in Greece among American home buyers and expatriates as they are surveying the tax and financial landscape. At many events we have attended in the last six months, potential US expatriates have shown strong interest in Greece as one of their preferred options for a life abroad.
“Greece has three highly competitive tax regimes and a double taxation agreement with the US that enables Americans to live in Europe without considerable financial implications. The foreign pension regime is similar to Portugal’s non-habitual resident (NHR) regime, however, it lasts even longer at 15 years. Clearly, the Mediterranean lifestyle is similar to other countries offering golden visa schemes, and the Greek islands have long held an attraction for American vacationers.
“Given the still relatively low property prices and low cost of living in Greece, we expect even more Americans to become interested as the golden visa gains more publicity. The key difference between the Greek and Portuguese schemes, and the competitive advantage for Portugal, was the path to citizenship that the Portuguese golden visa offered. Now that this option is removed, we agree that Greece will seem even more attractive.”
Lewis Paterson, financial adviser at Hoxton Capital Management, said: “We believe Greece will succeed Portugal as the number one option for HNW US clients looking for a gateway to the EU and other nationalities. Greece is well positioned to take over where Portugal has left off, already a popular choice with HNW US clients, and this will only increase. Like Portugal, Greece also has a favourable tax regime that sets it apart from other options clients may consider.
“While Greece may indeed become a popular choice for HNW individuals looking for a gateway to the EU, it is essential to note that many factors can influence such decisions. Some of these factors include the political and economic stability of the country, the quality of life, the accessibility of the country, and the availability of high-quality services and infrastructure.
“While Greece has made significant progress in economic stability and growth in recent years, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Additionally, it is important to note that tax regimes can change, and clients should not make decisions solely based on the current tax environment. Greece may become a popular choice for HNW individuals looking for a gateway to the EU. Still, many factors can influence this decision, and clients should carefully consider their options before making any decisions.”