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.
|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.
|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.
|The Stone House on the Hill 2017|
|Gare du Nord - Paris, France|
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
|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.
|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.
|Many forms were filled out, fees paid and office visits made|
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.
|Road to Kalamata|
Immigration isn’t for the faint-of-heartI’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.
|The Scribe and The Scout - 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
Travel Photo Thursday –
Weekend Travel Inspiration