Saturday, August 3, 2019

In Greece ~ Is this it?

With due respect to the original lyrics of this popular 'Drifter's' song. . .

. . .And then it happened, it took me by surprise. 
I knew that he felt it too, by the look in his eyes. . .

It was a look of disbelief, actually.  

The text message had arrived on our Greek phone Monday morning. But, as with regular mail, we've become rather relaxed about checking for texts in this expat life of ours. So it was late Tuesday when I noticed the message that seemed different from those of  the usual telemarketing kind.




'But, of course', as we say here, it was in Greek ,as most text messages we receive are. We tried sounding out words. Google translate indicated two of them were something to do with 'residence permit' and we promptly forwarded the message to our attorney with the question, 'Is this it?'.


It was at our attorney's house last Sunday morning, while chatting on her porch (it was an appointment; we were picking up legal documents, but as I've said before, we do things differently here) that she'd reminded us to watch text messages: that is how we would be notified of our residency permits.

Now for those who've been following the saga here and on Facebook you know that we've been in the midst of the renewal process for what feels like forever.  Those plastic cards are what allow us to live full-time in Greece and conversely, to leave Greece. Back in December we began identifying the required documents. In February we gathered them, had them notarized and apostilled. They were translated into Greek and submitted to immigration officials in mid-March.

At that time we received  temporary -- papers with our photos stapled to them -- residency permits which would serve as identification until the small plastic cards were issued.



Two years ago after receipt of our first residency cards -

Two years ago when we first went through the process, it took - what we thought at the time - a very long seven weeks to get the cards.

This year it took 4.5 months.  



Why we live in Greece - views like this

While one can speculate on any number of reasons why there was such a delay, the most universally accepted one seems to blame the country's "Golden Visa" - an enticement for investing in the country. The Golden Visa' is a five-year residency permit offered to those who purchased property valued at 250,000 euros or more. A plum, you might say, while the rest of us apply for two- and three-year visas. The Golden Visas applications have overwhelmed the centralized review conducted in Athens. Recent media reports say some hopeful purchasers were told they'd have interview/application appointments in 2021!  And some investors, according to the same report, have decided to look for property elsewhere in Europe where the visa offer is the same, but the processing time far shorter.

With that kind of backlog, we probably should have been pleased back in early July when we stopped at the Immigration office and was told by Mr. Milas (the face of authority who sits behind the glass enclosed counter holding your life in his computer), that we needed to be patient as it would likely be six months and we'd maybe have cards in September. . .



We couldn't leave Greece so we flew to Thessaloniki from Kalamata

He clarified again that we could not leave Greece (other than to go back to the US) without those cards.  So the spring and summer travel seasons passed us by and as we've watched them go, we learned several important truths about ourselves:

 * We really aren't good at being patient! ('We've already lived here for two years! How long can it take to issue two plastic cards?!' we'd snarl periodically.)

* We are getting older and our travel days are limited. (Do we really want to be in a position of not being allowed to travel while we are able? - That well may be a question that determines whether we decide to renew our residency permits again in three years.)



Greece - we can call it home again for another few years


 * Our move to Greece was to be a launch pad for travels on this side of the world and when  grounded, we get cranky. (Yes as we watched great travel deals come and go on the computer screen, we'd sigh and say, 'If we weren't being held in detention. . .')

*We value our freedom yet have taken it for granted. ( We Americans pride ourselves on being from the 'land of the free' so when some government tells us that we aren't free to travel, it feels very uncomfortable.)

*The immigration process is humbling and intimidating. We finally understand the concept of being square pegs trying to fit in round holes.(Do we meet the financial and health insurance requirements? Did we get the right documents? Will they accept 'xyz' document as proof of. . .?) 

 *We empathize with immigrants. 

 *We have learned and grown. When I first wrote here about our frustrations of 'being grounded', I received many interesting responses from you, telling of your own, or the experiences of your friends and family members when applying for residency in the United States. They were enlightening, some downright amazing.


You are not allowed to smile in these photos but you can laugh out loud when you look at them!

The text message turned out to 'be it' and the next morning we raced to the Immigration Office to collect those precious cards.  It was all over in less than 10 minutes, and really rather anti-climactic. 

But I can assure you that as we handed over the temporary permits, our passports and watched as the official checked one document against another and studied his computer screen, we held our collective breaths (we've learned nothing is 'a given' in this process). It wasn't until we had the cards in hand and were leaving the parking lot that we breathed a sigh of relief.


A toast to you all for your support and encouragement: Yamas!

Let us offer a toast of thanks to you all! You helped ease us through a most tedious process.

So many of you have been  cheerleaders -- and you know who you are. You left encouraging messages on FB posts, you wrote comments on the blog posts,  you wrote emails inquiring about the process, you let us know you were out there cheering us on. 


Our friend and attorney, Voula



Also a 'shout out' to our attorney, who has held our hands and gone 'to bat' for us with Immigration officials.Voula Spireas came into our lives nearly four years ago at the recommendation of fellow American expats.  She divides her time between her law practice in Kalamata and her family home in Kardamyli, now called Yioryitsa's Backyard.  There she operates an Airbnb and the courtyard has become a gathering place for special events. Voula is a stalwart of the arts, culture and historical community. And the best part of this process has been that she's gone from being 'our attorney' to being a good friend as well.


I close with a promise no more posts about residency permits (for at least two and a half more years when the renewal process starts up again).Safe travels to you and yours!  And next week I will get around to telling you about driving in Greece. . .I've got a real horror story for you!

Linking soon with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday








17 comments:

  1. Fabulous! I can SO relate to every thought and emotion you suffered through. I get it! Congratulations, now you can enjoy life for the next 2 1/2 years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somehow I knew you would understand every bit of it!! Yes, I am putting away files and other documents today!

      Delete
  2. Wow, that is some ordeal. Glad it worked out once again and you will be traveling when and where you want, at least for the next 2 1/2 years. I'm not sure I could be this patient. Have learned a lot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is rather a strange feeling being at the mercy of another government. . .well, I suppose any government that limited my freedoms would feel strange, but particularly when you are an 'immigrant'.

      Delete
  3. Finally ...... two thumbs up, my friends.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank goodness. I was worried you'd give in and go to the new lake house. Such a relief for you both --- have a raki !! Best wishes to you both.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Plan to have that Raki tonight at a taverna up the hill. I was afraid that that lake house was going to be the only place we could go to and that wasn't a real exciting thought either!! ;-)

      Delete
  5. I am really happy for you two! Happy travels to wherever you choose to go and the freedom to do it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it is strange as we should be jumping for joy that we get to live here and with the rules that were imposed, instead we are jumping for joy that we get to leave!

      Delete
  6. Part of me is sorry you won't still be captives in Greece when we are in Athens at the end of September, but, of course, I'm very happy for you that the waiting ordeal is over, and the world can again be your oyster. (I'm actually not really sure what that oyster thing is about, but you know what I mean.) Bon voyage to wherever you may roam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We will miss seeing you the end of September! That said, it is nice to know we are finally able to leave the confines of this place and not just to return to the US.

      Delete
  7. Yehey! At first I thought, "oh no...it's a rejection!" It was a nail biter!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Woohoo! Let the travel begin! Congratulations. I am so glad ours are 5 years so it's a long time in-between renewals. Now the world really is your oyster. Have fun planning them out! We are off to Rome for two weeks in September and now trying to find dog sitters because it was on the fly :-). Kemkem

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We ended up continuing to be stuck in Greece as our kitty sitter was booked up and the garden caretaker was on vacation. Sigh. Maybe next year will be the travel year!

      Delete
  9. Yay!! Congrats on two more years of freedom while you live and travel outside your Greek home!

    ReplyDelete

We have been having problems in recent weeks with our comment section and I am not quite sure how to fix it. Thanks for letting us know. Some comments have been coming in as emails, so I will respond to those as I get them.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...