Sunday, June 18, 2017

Road Trip to Greek Residency ~ Journey’s End

Just like that it was over.

So quickly and easily that it didn’t seem possible our long and winding Road Trip to Greek Residency had come to an end with only a 10-minute stop at the Greek Immigration office in Kalamata on Friday.

That's all the time it took to pick up our permanent residency cards.

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Road in the Peloponnese wine country

After more than six months on this ‘road trip to residency’ our journey's end was remarkably . . .unremarkable.

We even managed to end the journey on our own – we didn’t have our steadfast attorney at our side as we stood at the Immigration office counter. We handed over our paper ‘temporary’ permits, the official checked our files in the computer, double-checked our passports and issued us the small plastic cards that make us Greek residents.

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Our Greek residency ID permit cards

These cards, similar in size to hotel keys, are the keys to our future travels in Europe and time spent in Greece. And that part really is quite remarkable!

As our long-time reader-friends know, we hadn’t envisioned this road trip back when we purchased our Stone House on the Hill two and a half years ago. The Schengen Treaty guidelines for tourists were going to accommodate us well we thought at the time: 90 days in Greece and 90 days out of all Schengen countries.

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The Stone House on the Hill 2017
No way were we going through the bureaucratic hassle of getting a residency permit, we’d emphatically vowed back then. We’d had enough translations, costs, and legal fees in buying the house we proclaimed to anyone else who unwittingly asked about our part-time ex pat lifestyle.

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Gare du  Nord - Paris, France
One thing we should have known even back then was that we – of all people – should never say never.  Sticking to a 90-day schedule is a rigid way to travel. There’s no flexibility for things that might happen during or outside that window of time  – health issues, special events, spur of the moment side trips - anything could cause a misstep while doing the Schengen Shuffle.

Schengen governs travel in so many countries on this side of the Atlantic that the travel time clock was constantly ticking. Penalties are severe for overstaying the Schengen welcome and don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t check arrival and departure date stamps in the passport. We’ve been checked every time we’ve arrived and left Greece and once even cautioned about the 90-day limit.

A look in the rearview mirror

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A look in the rearview mirror

Looking back we realize we began pondering this road trip to residency more than a year ago. We researched while in Greece and in the U.S. We had numerous email conversations with our Greek attorney and phone conversations with the Greek consulate serving our region of the United States.

The journey really got underway last September when we met with our attorney and she outlined out the route we’d need to travel.  Our first stop in February was at the Greek Consulate in San Francisco. An initial interview with each of us and review of our application documents was completed there. We each left with an entry visa which gave us 12 months in which to start (and hopefully complete) the process in Greece.

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An appointment with our attorney at a Kardamyli village coffee shop

With our documents approved by the consulate staff we proceeded to get them notarized and apostilled in the U.S. Then, immediately upon our arrival in Greece, they were turned over to our attorney for translation into Greek.  We made our offical application in early April at the Immigration office in Kalamata. Officials there would review documents, perhaps require more documents and/or an in-person interview before a panel of five persons before determining whether to grant the permanent residency permit.

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Many forms were filled out, fees paid and office visits made
We hit a roadblock of sorts as the result of timing. Greece decided to comply with a decade-old European Union rule for immigration which changed the visa/permit process from one of a stamp in the passport to one of an ID card that conforms with all other EU immigration cards.  We applied as the change over was implemented so we needed fingerprints, photos and more fees had to be paid. Those little cards hold much information about us in them.

We finally -- in late May learned that we’d been approved. We didn't speak much about it because until the cards were in hand, nothing was guaranteed. We have friends who were ‘that close’ when laws or minds of officials changed, and it was back to the drawing board for them. We crossed our fingers and waited. . .

But getting the cards in hand proved to be quite a waiting game in itself as they are delivered to the Kalamata Immigration office on Thursdays. They come from the police department. However we had no indication of which Thursday.

Bottom line:  Had we not extended our stay in Greece by a few weeks we would have returned to the States this spring without the permanent permits. They arrived on a Thursday a few weeks after being issued. The day we picked them up was day 93 of this stay.

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Road to Kalamata

Immigration isn’t for the faint-of-heart

I’ve always admired those folks who moved to another country – immigrants, who for whatever reason wanted a life (or who were forced to make a life) in a new country.  Now that we’ve been through this process – and this is nothing compared to those seeking citizenship – I have only the highest regard for anyone who undertakes a road trip to residency or citizenship in another country.

It is tough. It is expensive. It is humbling. It is frustrating. And it is all beyond your control. You put your best self forward and present your life story to unknown officials who will determine whether you do or don’t qualify for that precious residency permit.  In our case, a permit that will make travel easier and allow us flexibility in our lifestyle. For some though it means freedom and security from a war-torn country or pursuit of a professional goal or educational endeavor.

Journey’s End. . .or Beginning?

We are set until April 2019 – we can stay as long as we want. Why, we could even move here and live full-time!  Should we seek a renewal we will go through a modified application process again in two years. The next permit under current law would be for three years.

It has definitely been an interesting process ~ one that generated tales we can share and laugh about with others who’ve traveled the same road to residency. We have several friends here from the US who’ve become residents in Greece. Our journeys to residency have each had their own twists, turns and roadblocks, but we all agree we are better for having completed the journey.

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The Scribe and The Scout - Greek residents!
Our little key-card sized permit stands ready to unlock doors to new adventures for us.  While waiting for the permits to arrive, we’ve dared to discuss some possibilities. . .some that sound downright improbable right now. But five years ago who’d have thought we’d buy a house in Greece? Two years ago who’ve have thought we’d be Greek residents? 

As I said earlier, we, of all people, should never say never. . .

Thanks to so many of you who’ve served as our cheerleaders along the way.  Your words of encouragement and enthusiasm for our efforts have meant more than you'll ever know! We have appreciated both your interest in our lives and your continued time spent reading our tales.  Hope to see you back here next week – and I promise this is the last you’ll hear of this road trip – it’s been a long one!

Safe and healthy travels to you and yours~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

36 comments:

  1. Congratulations. It must feel so good to have those cards now!

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    1. Thanks Donna! Anita over at No Particular Place to Go kept telling me the freedom I'd feel once I had the card and I didn't understand until I got it! Pack the bags and show me Europe!!

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  2. Congrats, Jackie and Joel! It's so thrilling to know that you two have striven and struggled to get this residency solely because you love this country so much! I am elated for you and grateful that Greece has become your second home. All the best!!

    xx
    Poppy

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    1. Who'd have thought? This country continues to work its charms on us, doesn't it?? Thanks for all your kind words and encouragements! Hugs, Jackie

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  3. Well done on reaching journey's end. Congrats to you both and raise a glass of Raki to celebrate. Love to you both. x

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    1. Thanks much! Hopefully we'll be able to extend our time here enough to get to Crete for a rendezvous with you two. . .

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  4. I am absolutely thrilled for you. What a great happy ending--or new beginning, rather.

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    1. Hopefully more beginning than end, but I guess at our ages that is up to the travel and health gods. . .

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  5. So happy for you! What a journey! Can't wait to find out what comes next. . .

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    1. Me either! And sometimes that is the best part of an adventure. . .not knowing it is coming! Thanks for the wishes Cindy!

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  6. Great, continuing story! Love it! And, frame the photo of you two --- best ever!!! xox Joanne and Mike

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    1. Thanks much! Hopefully new adventures await us. Hope to see you in Seattle this summer!! xoxo Thelma and The Ambassador

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  8. What an incredible journey you've been on! So thrilled you finally have those precious cards. :-)

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    1. As you can probably relate, dealing with immigration officials isn't the most calming of activities. It is nice to have a two-year window in which to enjoy our efforts!

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  9. Congratulations! I am so happy that you finally got the coveted cards. Now to celebrate, treat yourselves to a day on the beach and relax!!

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    1. Ha, ha, ha Mary. You know us better than that! The carpenters are here this week working on installing the final wood ceiling! Thanks for the congratulations!

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  10. Congratulations on receiving your residency cards. I've been following your journey and I applaud your persistence. I'm sure many people (including me) envy what you have done but the process looks so overwhelming. As you say, it's not for the faint-of-heart.

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    1. It was daunting, but there comes a point where you have so much time, money and effort into it that you need to see it through. It isn't for the faint-of-heart or thin-skinned. Thanks for cheering us on! xx J.

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  11. Congratulations! Now you can easily travel all over Europe!

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    1. You know we had a taste of that a couple weeks ago and were so amazed to travel to France and Switzerland and back without much of a glance by anyone at travel documents! What a nice thing!

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  12. What a process, I can't imagine doing this going to another state, let alone another country - congrats

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    1. It is pretty amazing what countries put you through. I don't think most people who condemn 'those immigrants' have any idea of the process they've navigated to be a citizen. Thanks for the congratulations!

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  13. WooHoo and a big congratulations! I was surprised to see how similar your Greek residence cards look compared to our Portuguese residence cards - guess we're all part of the bigger European Union now! I loved your reflection on the many reasons people choose to live in another country and what a long and difficult road that dream can be for many people. Looking back, it's not hard to realize how fortunate we are that we are able to choose where to live and have the financial resources and our magic US citizenship which makes us welcome (at least for now) in most countries.
    As for the actual event of receiving your residence visas ... Guess you'll have to break out the balloons and wine and plan your own celebration!

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    1. Glad to hear you speak of the similarities as that was part of the delay in our process: Greece getting on the EU ID card band wagon. You are correct about how fortunate we are to be able to choose where to live and have the financial resources to go after it. And you were correct about the changes in our attitudes with that little piece of plastic in hand. . .it really is a key to new adventures!

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  14. Congratulations! My husband wanted to do this in Mexico but I hesitated so we chose a base in Phoenix, Arizona. But with our timeshare, we can spend 2 months a year in some part of the world. But a European base would have convinced me!

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    1. We did go through a Mexico phase and obtained a similar FM3 permit for there and I can tell you it was a whale of a lot easier and less expensive than this. It is nice to have the convenience of the timeshare life!

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  15. Congratulations on this exciting beginning! Such a nice story with a happy ending (I mean beginning:-)

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    1. It really is a juxtaposition isn't it? End or Beginning - either works in this case! Thanks for stopping by Irene.

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  16. Happy trails, you wandering legitimized Hellenic souls.

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    1. Thanks much! Hopefully one of these days you and Barbara will venture back to The Mani and spend some time with us here!

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  17. Congratulations. I'm sure the cats are thrilled to know you can stay as long as you and they like. Now, if only they had frozen mai tais in Greece. ;-)

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    1. You nailed it: the only thing missing are those frozen concoctions of happiness! Thanks for the congratulations!

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  18. A long and winding road but ultimately worth it. Congrats to the new Greek residents.

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  19. Yay, mazal tov!!! This makes me so happy for you!

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  20. woo hoo! congratulations! done! fabulous!

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