Thursday, March 2, 2017

Greek ‘Road to Residency’ ~ First stop: San Francisco

We set off this week on our Greek Adventure; traveling on the ‘road to residency’. First stop: San Francisco, California to meet with the Greek Consulate serving this region of the United States. 

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Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco
What prompted this journey through American and Greek bureaucracy is the constraint of doing the ‘Schengen Shuffle’ (90-days-in Greece and  90-days out, per the Schengen Treaty zone agreement). We want greater flexibility in the time we spend at our Stone House on the Hill and the only way to do that is to become a resident-card-carrying person. The card, to which we refer, is the Greek equivalent to a ‘green card’ as it is called in the U.S.

The residency application process for Americans has two parts.  The first must be completed while still in the U.S.  So Monday we headed to San Francisco for a Tuesday morning meeting with the Greek consulate. The session was part interview and part a review of our documents which (we hoped) showed that we met Greek thresholds for income, health, medical coverage and repatriation.

One quick trip 

At just over 24-hours our trip to the ‘City by the Bay’ may have been one of our shortest on record. Northern California has been drenched with rain storms in recent weeks. Hotel prices were breathtakingly expensive, ($300 and above in the city’s center where we needed to be). So we weren’t inclined to stay any longer than necessary. We’d decided to make the most of our few free hours there and celebrate The Scout’s recent birthday in this city where crooner Tony Bennett left his heart. . .

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One of San Francisco's famed cable cars
‘I left my heart in San Francisco.
High on a hill it calls to me
to be where little cable cars
climb halfway to the stars!’
-- Lyrics from Tony Bennett’s, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco

Our Posh (Hotwire) Hotel on Nob Hill

In hopes of finding a reasonably priced room, The Scout turned to Hotwire.com, the internet site on which you book a hotel by its star-rating, price and location, then find out its name after you’ve hit the purchase button. He chose Nob Hill as it was about a mile from the Consulate’s Office; walking distance, if you are up for hill climbing.

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The Scarlett Huntington Hotel - Nob Hill, San Francisco
We were delighted to find we’d be at The Scarlett Huntington, originally built back in 1924 as an apartment house but long ago converted to a hotel. It was shut down a couple years ago for  a $15 million renovation.  While room rates begin at the $350 range, our Hotwire prices was $175 plus taxes and fees. They upgraded us at check-in to a high floor with a room that overlooked the Episcopal Church’s Grace Cathedral.

A great, reasonably priced room and not a cloud in the sky.  It couldn’t get any better . . .but then it did.  We began the birthday celebration with a half block walk to the towering Mark Hopkin’s Hotel and headed to their lounge, aptly named for its location, the Top of the Mark for a glass of wine and a birthday toast.

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The Scout and The Scribe - Top of the Mark - San Francisco
What unbeatable views we had. . .

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View from Top of the Mark - San Francisco
From the sweeping city skyline and bay, to a view overlooking Nob Hill and Grace Cathedral. . .so many views in any direction. (For those wondering, our glasses of wine were $12, about what we pay when we go out in Kirkland these days – with no views like these.)

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Nob Hill from the Top of the Mark - Grace Cathedral, center left
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Then we headed a block beyond that park pictured above and returned to one of our favorite San Francisco eateries.

We found the tiny Nob Hill Cafe, 1152 Taylor Street, is as wildly popular as we remember it being decades ago.

We got there just before 6 p.m. without reservations and lucked out getting a table. When we left an hour and a half later the restaurant was full and foodie fans stood in clusters on the sidewalk waiting for their chance to get inside the small Italian restaurant.

Tuesday Morning: Back to Business

The Consulate’s office is in a residential area of historic homes and tree-lined streets, not far from Pacific Heights and Nob Hill.  The neighborhood’s architecture was postcard perfect:

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San Francisco's Historic Homes 
We were early for our appointment so we strolled for a few blocks soaking in the beauty of the area and speculating on the history of its many building styles. Who had occupied them? What was the narrative they could tell?

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Loved the ornate entryway

To Get or Not To Get ~ The Entry Visa

The time had come. Our journey would continue or stop inside this lovely old building which was painted blue and white, the colors of Greece.

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Greek Consulate Building - San Francisco
P1030085Dimitri, the consulate with whom we were meeting and who’s name has been a household word for a year now – greeted us warmly. We spoke of the Peloponnese, our shared love of Greece, olive harvests, olive oil, fishing and villages. It was an enjoyable start to the meeting.

Then we got down to business.  We were applying as individuals, so our documents were identical, but had to be presented as though we were on our own.

I went first presenting and explaining each of the documents. It took an hour.

P1030082It wasn’t a slam dunk.


The insurance letter wasn’t written to specific categories of coverage as defined by the Greek entry requirements. ‘The insurance company wouldn’t write it that way. But it says the same thing,’ I explained.  He sighed.  The FBI fingerprint check, was deemed somewhat dated, it was three months old, dated last November. . . My doctor hadn’t used the correct stamp on the medical form. . . 

The Scout’s turn. The documents were identical to mine. Another hour passed as documents were moved from The Scout’s stack to Dimitri’s.

Dimitri left the room to enter our information into the system. We sighed. 

We paid the non-refundable application fee ($390 for both of us). He collected our passports and self-addressed, stamped envelopes so they could be returned once the application process was complete – two or three days, most likely.

Then Dimitri said we were approved. Done. No fanfare. Just step one completed.

Now the clock starts running. We have a year in which to obtain the residency permit. This visa is a one-time-shot. He made it clear he wouldn't issue a second one.

Then our conversation turned back to Greece. 
We told Dimitri to come for coffee the next time he’s in The Mani.

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Back at the hotel an hour later, our mobile phone rang. It was Dimitri. Our passports could be picked up. . .the visas were attached. . .with visa photos as flattering as those in the front of the passport – no mistaking us!

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Entry visas - set the process in motion

So our road trip to residency journey continues. It requires one more trip and a bit more bureaucracy before we leave for Greece. Hopefully you can join us on that journey next week. Thanks again for sticking with us on this rather long and winding road.

We can’t end this segment without sending a big, make that HUGE thank you to all of you who sent us good luck messages both in the comments, on Facebook and via email after reading last week’s post about heading out on this journey.  It is a humbling process and your words were just the confidence builder we needed.  If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here.

Safe and happy travels to you all.

Linking up this week:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

34 comments:

  1. Congrats!! All that work gathering your info was worth it. . . in spite of those visa photos. Why is it passport/license/visa photos always come out so bad?? You two are definitely much better looking than those photos. :)

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    1. Never take a close-up photo of your passport/visa/drivers license photo -- I was trying to keep all personal information out of the photo of the vis and had to sacrifice vanity to do so! Glad you think we look better than the photos show. Erma Bombeck wrote a book that I treasure titled, "When you begin to look like your passport photo it is time to go home". ;-)

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  2. What a wonderful birthday gift, Joel. Many happy returns. Congratulations, and here's to further success when we can call you Kirie and Kiria xx

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    1. We jumped the first small hurdle - now on to the real competition, I guess! Thanks for the congratulations!

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  3. Congratulations!!! This is great news indeed!!!
    I wish you a happy life in our beloved Greece!!!
    <3
    D.

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    1. Oh Despina, Thanks so much for the good wishes. We still have a long way to go for the permit, but we are on our way. Now we can present ourselves and our documents to the Greek authorities in Kalamata! xxx J

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  4. Congratulations. That is a lot of administrative work. It will be all worthwhile.
    I loved your images of San Francisco. My first trip to the USA was to San Francisco and it has remained a favourite.
    have a great week end

    Helen

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    1. Hi Helen, Thanks so much for the congratulations. Glad you enjoyed the photos. It has been ages since we were there and it was nice to see our favorite spots still in business and going strong. It also helped to have two sunny days as we have had little of that this winter! xxx J.

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  5. I can remember how we felt when we had our appointment with the Portuguese Embassy and hoping that we had everything we needed and in order. Such trepidation and such a relief to finally submit our applications and let it wend it's way through the system. I loved the, "He sighed ... we sighed ..." back and forth. I could almost hear a clock ticking while Dimitri shuffled your papers! For all the hurry up and wait, and the disappointing lack of fanfare (what, no trumpets?) how totally AWESOME to get your visas. 🥂 What a huge relief and I have a feeling that you're doing a boogie dance and saying, "Okay, now for the next chapter!"

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    1. Unless you've been through it, you can't understand the stomach churning that accompanies each sigh, turn of the paper, scan of it, flipping it back and forth looking for that key phrase that means you passed. I had checked and rechecked those packets to the point I was going to scream and finally decided, "I am done!" If it didn't pass muster, it didn't there was no longer anything I could do about it. And we've had no time to celebrate as Dimitri kept all our originals, we are racing to replace them and get the apostilles before we leave for Greece. The next chapter is being written. So nice to know, you understand. xxx J.

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  6. Congratulations on leaping this hurdle, and the best of luck completing the next one!

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    1. Thanks much for the good wishes Rachel. Fingers are crossed!

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  7. Glad to hear things are moving forward! I know how much of a hassle going to consulates and embassies are. Funny consulate story: my husband once had to get a visit to enter Belize (when he was still living in El Salvador) and the consul lover did the paperwork because he was not feeling well. #TPThursday

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    1. Now that was a nice Consulate! I am comforted in knowing so many of you understand the visa experience and understand my tales! Thanks for the comment, Ruth.

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  8. Happy Birthday to Joel! All the best!

    Jackie, you are on your way, yay! You got to enjoy a wonderful trip to San Francisco combining business with pleasure, and it all went so amazingly well! Sky high views of a wide variety of gorgeous architecture, delicious cuisine, and great Greek news - I'd say the road ahead looks very good!

    Kalo Mina!

    xx
    Poppy

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    1. I hope your positive thoughts hold true, Poppy. As I wrote, it wasn't a 'slam dunk' so I am going to remain on edge until we see this through to completion - one way or the other. Kalo Mina to you as well!! xxx Jackie

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  9. I look forward to visiting San Fran someday :) I think I would love it!!

    I wish you a wonderful weekend :)

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    1. On a clear day, there is no more beautiful a city. In the fog and rain, well, that's another matter!! Thanks for the visit.

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  10. Congrats. A lot of work but well done. Good on you for inviting Dimitri for coffee. I wonder if he will come?

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    1. It would be fun to meet with these folks in a social setting. Our friends dealt with officials in Boston who come from 'our' area of Greece and who said they'd like to get together when they return for a visit. We shall see if any of us do end up meeting for coffee or krasi. . . thanks for stopping by!

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  11. It's a shame San Francisco is so expensive but it's great you were able to do what you needed to do in such a short time. The "bureaucracy" of the whole process would scare me....particularly for France (which loves bureaucracy). Congratulations on taking the plunge! I'm sure you were so excited when Dimitri called to say everything was ready to be picked up. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey to residency!

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    1. We've been inspired by others who've tackled and successfully completed the process - that is my light at the end of the tunnel, Janice. It does make you far more sympathetic to those who've gone through any immigration vetting whether it is to come into a country or to move to another. And it is an adventure, that's for sure!

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  12. Glad to hear that everything went smoothly for you both. I love your views, and I think I will live S.F. through you two! Thanks for linking up this week. #TPThursday

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    1. Oh, we did say we really need to go back there more often when both the airfare gods and hotel gods work together and provide a 'reasonably priced' getaway! #TPThursday.

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  13. Exciting news! Congratulations. You are now one step closer to not having to worry about the Schengen shuffle!

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    1. Yes, another step forward. So far, so good. The road trip is an interesting one - that's for sure!

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  14. Good luck on the rest of your residency road trip. It's nice you were able to squeeze in a few lovely hours amid the stress of the rest of the San Francisco visit.

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    1. A good reminder that quality can be just as important as quantity when it comes to a get-away. Thanks much for the visit and comment, Donna.

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  15. You're on your way -- continued wishes for good luck in this interesting process. Sounds like you made the most of your short time in the city. I've never tried Hotwire - has your experience with it always been so good? Maybe I should check it our next time. Belated birthday greetings to The Scout!

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    1. We've used Hotwire several times and each time (knock on wood) have ended up in a great hotel. It does help to kind of do a bit of homework and research, for example, which four- or five-star hotels are located in a given area of the city and then you know that you will likely end up in one of them. Thanks for the belated B-Day wishes for The Scout!

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  16. Belated happy birthday and congratulations! Loved the happy ending to the story...which sounds more like a beginning!

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    1. Well, it is definitely a start of sorts. It clears the way to start the process in Greece . . .and then the real adventure begins. Thanks for the b-day wishes!!

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  17. Grace Cathedral - ha!- where the famous labyrinth is! Your winding steps to residency are just like a labyrinth, with Greece at its center. It might all make you dizzy but you're getting there, step by step!

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  18. Congrats! You must have been so nervous as you waited for Dimitri to make the final decision. All that paperwork. Can't wait to read your continuing story...

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