|Inner Mani, Peloponnese, Greece|
|Our Stone House on the Hill - The Mani, Greece|
|Road sign in the Peloponnese - It's all Greek to me|
We didn’t need to be ‘residents’ to buy a home in Greece; we could do so as tourists. We had some requirements, like getting a tax identification number and opening a bank account. But we could stay up to 90 days every six months because of. . .
The Schengen Treaty
The Schengen Treaty (aka Schengen Border Agreement) established criteria for travel for those living within the ‘Schengen Zone’ and for those of us those entering from other countries.
The agreement, while making borders hassle- and visa- free for residents of the 26 European Treaty countries, puts a time limit on visa-free travel for Americans, like us. Basically, 90-days-in and 90-days-out. To stay longer, you need a visa.
So strict is the rule, that it can impact you even if you are transiting through an airport within the Schengen area. If you've hit your 90-day limit in one country and are heading home via an airport in another Schengen country, the authorities can deny you entry into that country for the few hours you planned to spend at the airport waiting for your next flight if your schedule has you exceeding the limit.
Penalties for over-staying the 90 days in Greece range from 500 – 1200 euros ($530 -$1,272) and violators are denied entry back into the Schengen Zone for at least three months, sometimes longer. Don’t let people tell you ‘not to worry’ - they do check passport entry and exit stamps, closely! We know from first-hand experience.
Schengen Countries (shown on the map):
- All European Union countries, except Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom, are members of the Schengen Borders Agreement.
- In addition, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are also members of the Schengen Borders Agreement (but they are not European Union members).
Hitting the 'Road to Residency'Obtaining an ‘entry visa’ is the first of a two-step process required to apply for a Greek residency permit, which if granted, will be good for two years. This first step takes place before leaving the United States. We must meet with the Greek consulate serving our region (in our case, that is San Francisco). If he determines we meet the thresholds set by the Greek government, he will grant us the ‘entry visa’.
That visa, good for a year, allows us to start (and hopefully complete) while in Greece the process for obtaining a residency permit. There, we will need to have our documents first translated into Greek. Then we will be interviewed by Greek immigration officials and our documents reviewed. They will determine whether or not to grant the residency permits.
|The Peloponnese Greece|
Conversations began with our Greek attorney (yes, you need one) a year ago. We’ve had two telephone conversations with the Greek consulate in the US (basically, the ‘gatekeeper’ who determines whether or not you can begin the application process in Greece). They were in agreement, that we should set off on the road to an ‘Economically Independent Individual Visa’. ( There are any number of visas from which to choose including for those who want to work in the country or for students, just as there are for people coming to the U.S.)
|Preparing our application packets - Sunday morning sorting|
1. Completed Application form plus two color passport size photos
2. A copy of our property contract showing we own a home there (those who are renting must provide a rental agreement with address)
3. Itinerary for the flight to Greece
4. A clearance letter from the FBI based on a fingerprint background check (this review in the U.S. takes 12 –15 weeks, so we sent finger prints for review back in August 2016 and received letters from the FBI in October 2016.)
5. Health form completed by our U.S. doctor after an exam which says we are in good mental health, with no contagious diseases, specifically tuberculosis and syphilis. The form must be signed and stamped by the physician.
6. Proof of medical insurance coverage in Greece. The threshold on insurance is strict and includes coverage for illness and accident, hospitalization and guarantees a level of our co-pay. (Our U.S. insurance company has written a letter detailing the coverage we have. We’ve also included a list of physicians and hospitals in Kalamata and Athens who fall within the coverage ‘network’)
7. Proof of medical evacuation/repatriation insurance back to the United States. I’ve underlined a part of this requirement, because many companies we found will only evacuate to the nearest facility that can treat you. Greek authorities require that it be back to the country of residence. (This is a new requirement. We have purchased membership with Air Ambulance Card, a company based in the United States that offers both medical evacuation and repatriation of ‘mortal remains’’ for both travelers and ex pats.This company serves US and Canadian citizens. Their representatives have been a breath of fresh air in a bureaucratic world – hope we never need their services, but if their care is anything like their customer service we’ll be in good hands.)
8. Copies of W2 or 1040 income tax filings for the last two years.
9. Proof of income which presently is 2,300 – 2,400 euros ($2,438 – $2,544) a month, for each of us. (The income threshold has increased from 2,000 per person, per month to the amounts I listed. We are presenting information on our Social Security payments, pension payments, letters verifying accounts we hold at financial institutions as well as monthly bank statements).
10. Passport, plus a photo copy of the first page – the one with info and photo.
11. Any additional documents that prove you have the means to stay in Greece. (We’ve included our Greek tax identification numbers, receipts showing we’ve paid our taxes there, and information about our Greek bank account.)
|The road trip to residency - Peloponnese, Greece|
While I’ve tried to provide a ‘just the facts’ review of our timetable, the we’ve steps taken and the current requirements, I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you the process of gathering ‘proof’ has been at times stressful and mentally taxing. “Just” getting a notarized letter or a verification of insurance coverage has introduced us to new levels of bureaucracy within U.S. corporations.
It has also been a humbling experience. We’d liken it to our young adult years when we suffered nervous ‘am-I-good-enough’ jitters and doubts when applying to colleges or for those first jobs. Now comfortably settled into our 60-something-lives it has seemed strange to be gathering proof of our very being – health, wealth, and law-abidingness.
But it is an adventure, no doubt about it. It has certainly shaken up the rhythms of our normal preparation for a return to The Stone House on the Hill.
|Road to Residency - where will it lead?|
For those new to TravelnWrite, and who want to see what lead us to this post, click here: The Stone House on the Hill.
Safe travels to you and yours~
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