Foreign Assistance in Greece

Residence and Work Permits in Greece

Round and round the papers go
and where they stop, nobody knows


 Perhaps this is the most difficult article I've written at least compared to the ones about driver's license conversion, Army obligations, and Buying/renting property. This is because the laws change not only every month but sometimes they are so confusing that it really isn't worth changing at all since the ones in authority who issue these permits have reached the point where they don't care any more. They are still trying to come to terms with law 2910/2001 passed in 2001, and now we have law 3386/2005 passed by a majority of the parliament, only 2 senators showed up, and came into effect, no joking, at the stroke of midnight December 31. No one in their right minds would leave their Christmas eve dinner to go to parliament and contest the law, even the opposition PASOK party. On Jan. 2 when everything was closed, I called the dept. of residence permits, a branch of city hall on a 1000 to 1 chance it would be open. It was. My contact there and head of the dept. told me to come right away as there are no people waiting  and fighting in ¼ mile long lines which is usually the scene on a daily bases there. I breezed through the paperwork I had for a client of mine. It really looked civilized.When I finished my work I asked her (can't mention names) what this new law was about. "What law, oh that one , don't worry about it. We'll get the circular in about 8 months and by then it will have changed again." The entire process is so messy, complicated that it's no wonder that 50% of all applicants give up and prefer to remain undocumented.Before we move on to untangling the mystery and complications involved in obtaining the residence permit, it must be said that the following does not apply to EU residents, except when they wish to buy a car or property and even then it's no problem whatsoever. The following is based on talks with lawyers, extensive reading through my articles from various sources, personal talks with people in charge and personal experience in this matter.

PART 1.  Tourist Visa:

 A tourist visa can only be obtained by the Greek consulate in your country with the exception of Americans, Canadians, Australians, South Africans, and perhaps Japanese passport holders. In these cases no visa is necessary as you are granted 90 days in Greece automatically upon entry into the country. It is not 3 months as some would be misled but 90 days. There are some nationalities where a visa even for a few days is difficult or impossible to get. To get a tourist visa for an Indian national was like trying to climb Mt. Everest. I had to be a sponsor, fax in to the Greek consulate there my tax returns, and what property I owned. He had to prove he had tons of money in his bank in Calcutta and even then the consulate wouldn't approve a visa. I gave up; I'll never try this again. If you are not a citizen of the four above mentioned countries, then check with your Greek consulate, not with me.

PART 2.  Extending your 90 days:

Now it becomes a bit complicated. First you have to explain to the authorities why you want to stay longer; then explain it to yourself. If you say because “I love souvlakia,” they will answer that there are better ones in N.Y.; there are by the way. Greek salad on the other hand is a credible reason. Second, you have to have proof that you brought into the country 15 euros per day for every day of the extension. That means that you have in a bank account money that is or converted to euros from foreign currency. An easy way is if you exchanged money at the airport and kept the pink/red slips (receipts) . Third, pay the fee of 480 euros. Again this varies on a case to case basis and may even reach 800 euros, but 480 is the norm. Fourth, 3 photocopies of your passport, 3 colored photographs, and proof that you are insured in your country; social security, private insurance etc. Fifth, fill out an enormous and incomprehensible application. There are people who will do this for you outside the Alian's Bureau who charge 20 euros. It's worth it. This permit is good for 6 months and yes to extend it for longer when it expires will cost you another 480 euros, even for one day longer. What a money making racket you'll say, but the govt. figures if you love Greece so much then you'll pay. Living in the land of the "gods" is not cheap. Sixth, prove where you live. An address, no. not an e-mail address, friend, neighbor, hotel or jail cell is adequate. During this time you want to bring your spouse or children, then it's more complicated. They will have to pay the same as you. You will now have to prove you have an income from your country 15% higher than previously stated for yours and 10% for your children under 18 years of age. They figure children can get by with McDonalds but your wife needs her expensive French cuisine. Don't ask me about the logic behind this, I don't know.

PART 3.  What is Shengen? :  

Most EU countries  have signed the Shengen agreement which, in short, stipulates that your passport does not get stamped from one Shengen country to another. For example, if you come to Greece via , let’s say Belgium which is a Shengen country, your passport will be stamped in Belgium but not in Greece. If from Belgium you travel all around Shengen countries and end up in Greece, your passport will only be stamped once in Belgium. This has created a headache to Greek customs and to the govt. How can the authorities know how long you’ve been in Greece for? You could be here for one day or 10 years, there’s no definitive way of finding out. With this in mind the authorities will count the time you entered a Shengen country to be equal to an entry in Greece, but this line of thought is flawed as some countries don’t even bother to stamp passports from non Shengen countries in the first place. So then, knowing this fact, proposed you keep your airline ticket as proof of when you entered; but how about if it was a one way ticket and you threw it away? They can’t answer that. They attempted to ask for a hotel booking, but what if you were staying with a friend, sleeping on the beach, or any other place? In short, they don’t know what to do so don’t bother doing anything at all. If you’re a citizen of the 4 above mentioned countries they don’t even ask any questions upon departure. However, although this sounds good, it is not if you want a residence permit. Here you have to have a stamp of entry. If you come from a non Shengen country there is no problem, you will get stamped, but from a Shengen country it is good to ask for your passport to be stamped. You have that right. (remember the 90 days?)

PART 4.  Student permit:  

If you are enrolled in a school here, Greek or foreign, you are allowed a residence permit for the amount of time needed to finish your courses. The school will prepare the proper papers. I personally did this when I went to A.C.S. and Deree College. As an added bonus, students do not have to pay the 480 or so euros.

PART 5.  Opening a Business :  

Under law 3386/2005, anyone can open a business here providing you have deposited at least 60.000 euros in a Greek bank, and if your business “contributes to the development of the national economy.” What this means I haven’t a clue. Does opening up a factory which makes banjo strings contribute to the economy? If this is not enough, you must apply for a residence permit at your local consulate and the investment must be at least 300.000 euros. So total you’ll need 360.000 euros to start. How many banjo strings would you have to sell to break even given that no one plays banjo here and few know what it is.

PART 6.  Married to a Greek:  

This way is perhaps the easiest comparatively speaking to the other options. I’m stressing “comparatively” as it is still tricky and time consuming, but at least “somewhat” logical. It’s in effect the only cases I deal with. If you are or planning to marry a Greek citizen, here iswhat’s needed: 1) Do not over-stay the 90 days tourist visa. By the way, this and what follows applies to the 4 “privileged” countries mentioned, 2) Do have your passport stamped upon arrival. 3)  Make sure your marriage certificate is registered in the marriage bureau on Mitropoleos St. Athens. 4) Make sure you have the family parcel or page in the city hall (eikogeniaki merida)  5) 3 color photographs of your passport including the page with your stamp of entry. 6) 3 photographs of the Greek’s I.D. card or Greek passport. 7)  Application (a long one)  8) Now this one is funny; an affidavit sworn by the Greek stating, now don’t laugh, the authorities take this one seriously, I and my spouse live in harmony; we love each other dearly to this date and I don’t flirt with any other man/woman.  There is no application fee and no 480 euros, it’s free, compliments of the Greek govt. in return for supplying Greece with F 16’s at a good price; spare parts, shipping and handling not included. By the way, the permit is for 5 years with automatic extension for an other 5 and so on and so forth. It ‘s also a work permit.

                                        ……..just an afterthought

There is a saying: The Japanese spend 10 years in planning and one year to build. In Greece it’s 1 year of planning and 10 years to build. This holds true in virtually all aspects of Greek infrastructure, purhaps more so in bureacracy. Greece was bombarded and still is by an unforseen invasion of immigrants, 95% from the former eastern block and the middle east. Greece was not prepared, it caught her unaware. Greece had no plan let alone any contigency plan to deal with this, so it’s not surprising that when it comes to permits, residence or otherwise, the laws change every so often. This a “ hit or miss” or rather a “if you don’t succeed the first time, try something different” approach to the problem. Greece never dreamed of an influx of  immigrants in such a magnitude in such a short period of time. Many Greeks resent the fact that their country is losing its identity with so many dark skinned, white robed, strange tongued migrants. It is a fact that many crimes committed here by forigners (not the privileged 4) are migrants from Albania, Pakistan, Iran, and lately Russia. Greece is slowly turning inwards, a bit nationalistic as a protection from this threat real or imagined.

Let there be no misunderstanding; Greece loves tourism and Greeks are and have been very warm and respectful towards tourists, but which tourists? The ones (preferably from the big 4) who come, spend loads of money, and then scram. This is what they have been used to for the last 50 years. Now things have changed. There is no turningback and Greece will just have to get used to something different. The Greeks are strong willed and they will adjust; they have to. It’s just…..growing pains.   

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