Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Road to Greek Residency ~ Timing is Everything

As all travelers know, timing is everything.  A missed connection, a traffic jam, a detour, any number of things can impact the timing. And timing can make or break a trip.

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Road to Karyovouni village - Greek Mani
One thing we’ve learned in our years of travel is that sometimes – even with the best laid plans and preparation – timing is beyond our control. Such is the case of our Road Trip to Greek residency. . .

Our Journey thus far: 

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Highway between Kalamata and The Mani - Greece
For those just joining us: We are part-time U.S. expats from the Seattle, Washington area who own a home in the Greek Peloponnese. Two years ago when we entered this lifestyle it seemed our tourist visa stays (90 days in and 90 days out per the Schengen Treaty) would be just right. But the rigidity of those limits have us wanting a bit more flexibility to travel, or stay longer, or return more frequently and the way to do that is to have a resident visa.

P1030134We set off on our Road Trip to Residency in February  – with bulging application packets of documents proving health, wealth and honorable citizenship. We traveled to San Francisco for an interview and review of those documents by the Greek Consul there who serves the U.S. area in which we live.

Our documents needed to be current, so there was a tight timeline between the California trip and our return to Greece. Timing is everything.

Having obtained a 12-month entry visa as a result of that San Francisco meeting – we then made a quick trip to our state capital Olympia, Washington. There we had those stacks of documents notarized and later apostilled by the Secretary of State’s office so that the Greek government could accept them. Tight squeeze in scheduling, but timing is everything.

On the Road in Greece:

Our mid-March return to Greece where we plan to be until early June – seemed back then more than enough time to make it through the Residency permit process. So optimistic were we about being approved and the process going smoothly that we decided we’d buy a car this spring as well. (A resident permit is required of foreigners registering cars here).

However, the first month came and went as our packets of documents were translated into Greek and the new documents stamped and added to that pile of paperwork we’d brought with us.

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The Scout waits in the Immigration office
Last week was – finally -  ‘the’ week. With our Greek attorney in the lead we took those documents to the Greek immigration office in Kalamata. It was a sparsely furnished, stark, sort of place. Only a handful of other hopefuls were ahead of us, and we waited our turn to talk to one of three clerks behind a glassed-in counter.

With luck we’d be issued a temporary visa, the authorities would keep and examine the documents closely and with more luck we’d be issued a permanent visa before we leave. We’d given up hopes of buying the car this trip.

The clerk smiled at us and welcomed us in English – a good start, I thought. But then in Greek he told our attorney why we wouldn’t be getting any permits that day nor would we be leaving our documents for review:

The immigration laws changed April 1st (no joke!).

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New forms, new fees - paid them at the post office which is also a bank

We would need to pay another fee to the bank, have photos taken and put on a CD, and we would have to have fingerprints taken by immigration officials. The conversation at the counter went:

“Can we do that today?”  The Scout asked, trying to salvage a bit of the ground we seemed to be losing.
“That is a problem,” explained our attorney. “The equipment is here but the law is so new it isn’t hooked up”
“When will it be hooked up?’ asked The Scout.
“Maybe next week,” she replied. “But they also need a technician to operate it. . .”

We quit asking questions.

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The official how-we will-look-as-residents photos
The directions for the photos advised no smiling. We had them taken after leaving the immigration office – it wasn't difficult to not smile.

On Road Trips - Pay attention to the Road Signs

P1030503In early March we’d read a Greek news article about an overhaul of the country’s immigration system for foreign residents.  It sounded really slick as it changed from a sticker pasted into the passport, to a plastic card - a residence card, with computer chip, that doubles as an identity card.

The change was initiated back in 2002 – 15 years ago! – when all European member states agreed to introduce the new cards The aim is to have a uniform residence permit for the European Union. The regulation was updated in 2008. Some countries have completed the process, for instance, Germany rolled them out in the fall of 2011.

Basically it uses electronic photo identification and fingerprints and other data on a chip in the card and sounds much like the U.S. Global Entry card used many thousands of travelers there.

So that explained the need to go get photos taken, pay an additional fee, and await the fingerprint machine and technician. We seemed to have timed our effort to put us right in the middle of the conversion. . .and that is where I intended to end today’s post.

Stop! Listen to other travelers

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Stop sign near our home in Greece
Monday morning we had a conversation with a fellow American who lives down the road from us. He’d also been in the pursuit of a residency permit and obtained it back in mid-March. We congratulated him on his timing, having avoided the new system.

'No,' he said. 'I had my photos on a CD and they fingerprinted me in the Kalamata office. And issued a residency card - not a sticker in the passport.'

(Now it had taken him a half dozen visits to the Immigration office to get it done, but obviously he timed that March visit correctly.)

So as I wrote in the beginning, timing is everything when you travel -  even on Road Trips to Greek Residency.

Thanks for being with us again this week. Next week, I’ve got a Greek ferry tale for you. Should we resume the road trip, you’ll be the first to know! As always, happy travels to you and yours!

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

21 comments:

  1. Just got to love rule changes in the middle of a process. But it does sound like you're getting closer. You have more patience than I.

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    1. Well we are either on the road to developing it, or losing it completely - that is for sure!!

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  2. Hello Joel and Jackie,
    This sounds frightfully complicated and time consuming. You are almost there and it will all be history very soon.

    Hope you had a lovely Easter in Greece

    Helen xx

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    1. We'll it is certainly an interesting journey - not sure it is one I would want to undertake again though. Thanks for the lovely Easter wishes, Helen, I hope you had a great weekend and a wonderful spring lies ahead for you!

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  3. Oh my goodness. I feel your pain The Aussie immigration laws changed completely the year I applied for residency, and even our lawyer didn't know what to do!! Thankfully they figured it all out and I received my residency, but holy moley, what a gong show! Wishing you much endurance and good timing. xo

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    1. Your comment made me smile - I guess misery loves company and I so appreciate we are not the only ones who can tell Catch-22 stories about dealing with immigration. Thanks for the good wishes! xoxox

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  4. I am shaking my head in disbelief and feel so sad for your glitch in your journey. I hope you don't give up and keep on pushing forward, one bureaucratic office at a time. Good luck to you Jackie and Joel.

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    1. Thanks much Mary - I do believe that it will take nothing more than luck, and plenty of good luck, from this point forward.

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  5. Oh, how I can relate to those glum photo ID's! Some of the best lessons that expat'n can teach are patience and persistence. We had long lists of "To Do's" broken down into half dones and almost-theres and all you can really do is inch along resolutely towards the done mark! As seasoned travelers you already know that, despite planning for all contingencies, there are so many things beyond your control. Point being, by the time you finish getting your Greek residency, you'll be well on your way to sainthood! 😁

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    1. We'll we've put the road trip into 'park' and await a green light from whoever the fingerprint gods or whizzes might be. Patience and persistence are the key words for sure!!

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  6. I'm cheering you on from Australia. I've heard Greek Bureaucracy is frustrating to say the least. There is nothing for it but to grin and bear it and hope.

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    1. Thanks much Jan. I can hear those cheers from afar and appreciate them greatly.

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    2. I could be being totally selfish because I'm eager to hear as much as you've got to share on Greece lol.

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  7. Oh, Jackie, I am saddened to hear of your delay in obtaining your Greek residency. Yes, having come back in January, I, too, have had to deal with some changes that did not exist before I left. Stay on course, and you will arrive at your designated destination!

    Poppy:)
    P.S.: Beautiful pics of the road to residency, especially the second one!

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    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Poppy. We were prepared for delays and detours and hope soon to be traveling at the same breakneck speed for which Greek drivers are famous for! ;-)

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  8. I don't think it's just about getting Greek residency, I think it's about bureaucracy in general. Bureaucrats have a certain rule-bound mindset and are extremely reluctant to move outside the rules. And that applies even when the rules change: it takes them time to get their brains to accept the changes. So frustrating for the rest of us! Keep up the positive thinking, though! You'll get there eventually!

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    1. Thanks Rachel. We had the same frustrations in the US getting the insurance company and banking institutions to write the letters we needed for this process. They had a way of saying what needed to be said, and it wasn't what the Greeks wanted in the letter -- so dealing with multiple bureaucracies has been a bit of a challenge.

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  9. Welcome to Greek bureaucracy! And it appears it's forever changing at the whim of who you see on any given day - hell, even on the SAME day!
    I wish you luck...now you know why most people in Greece have to 'be creative' - the system makes people like that.

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    1. Or they throw in the towel as we say. . .which is an option that is looking quite good right now. But there does come a point that you have so much money and time invested in the process, that even throwing in the towel isn't an option!

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  10. Oh, Red Tape!

    Good luck with your timing.

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  11. These things are alays so complicated! But it will all be worth it in the end...

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