Monday, April 29, 2019

'It's the Rule' ~ You can't leave Greece. . .

Oh, the places you will go! 
-- Dr. Seuss

Our list of spring travel possibilities was lengthy: a cruise, a ferry trip from Greece to Venice, a visit to Prague, Vienna and Budapest, my birthday trip (carried over from last year) to Morocco, and perhaps a rendezvous with a friend from the States in Geneva.

Regulars here know that one of the reasons we decided to move to this side of 'the pond' was the launch-pad our Greek location provided for travel on this side of the world.

Grounded: 'Because it is the rule'

Hydra Island - Leonard Cohen made his home here

But our trip in late March to the Immigration Office to renew our Greek residency permit put an end to the possibility of those spring trips real quick.

It was at the glassed-in counter in the rather drab office in the outskirts of Kalamata where our applications began their journey through layers of bureaucratic reviews.

They were reviewed first at the ground floor counter as we stood there watching and answering questions about them, then they headed 'upstairs' and if they passed the review there, they'd be off to Athens for further review. We don't know where they are now.

Temporary residence permits - do not smile, we were told

We'd passed the first inspection and were issued our temporary permits; paper versions (pictured above) of what will be plastic cards one day when The Scout asked what he thought was a logistics question,

'Now, we can travel with this document, right?'

'You can return to the United States,' said our attorney,  'but  you can't travel anywhere else outside Greece until you have your permanent resident's permit. . .or you risk forfeiting your right to residency.'

"We could last time,'.  said The Scout, a retired attorney, in reference to the waiting period for our first permit. 'Why can't we now?'

"Because it is the rule," answered our attorney. We all chuckled.

The Scout redirected his question to the official behind the counter, who answered, "Well, because it is the rule!" Again we all chuckled. . .

. . .because 'it is the rule/law/way it is done' is such a standard answer that you almost expect it as an explanation to a myriad of situations.

We quit chuckling when they said we'd likely get our plastic cards in LATE June or MID-July, some four months down the road.

Goodbye spring travels in Europe.

From the Land of the Free

Greek beach at Kitries - Peloponnese

You can't leave.

Such a simple phrase. But let me tell you it doesn't jive with the American mindset.

We 'Yanks' hail from the 'land of the free' where we sing out  'Let Freedom Ring' and where our 'unalienable rights include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. (And travel, you've probably figured out, is that pursuit of happiness for us.)

Kythira Island - Greece

Many of you are probably thinking, 'So what's the big deal? You are in Greece -- tough place to be stuck, right?'

And in a way, that's a reasonable observation.  Greece offers multitudes of destinations.  We will likely add a few more to our 'been there' list by mid-summer.

My point here is that being told by a government --wherever you are living in the world -- that you can travel to one place but the rest of the world is off limits, just doesn't compute.

Living Life Differently

While I generally write about the good side of 'living differently', there are frustrations that come with living an expat life.  And this immigration process is one that anyone considering making an expat life in Greece needs to take seriously.

A ferry trip may be in the offing this spring to some Greek destination

You see, it isn't just us.

Two other American couples living in our area re-applied for residency permit renewals the end of November 2018.  One of the four got his permit -- the plastic card -- a month ago, but because of errors made in the immigration office, his wife got hers two weeks ago.  An even better tale from their experience was: they overpaid by 50 euros but Immigration will only make a refund into a Greek bank account. Not having one, they tried to open one but to do so the bank needed the residence permit which she didn't have. . .you get the idea. . .

Immigration officials lost a document submitted by the other American couple so they had to round up a replacement copy and submitted it a couple months ago. It is going on a five month wait for them. They've yet to receive their plastic cards

Another friend who spends a portion of his life living in Mykonos had his original residence permit expire while he waited for his renewed permit - he'd submitted the paperwork more than a year before. The government allowed him to stay despite the expiration, but not to leave until the new permit was issued without risking his residency status.  In that case, the delay was the backlog of applications to review.

When we first applied in 2017 our cards were issued in seven weeks -- at the time it seemed an eternity. But the plastic card system was new to Greece then and the delay was caused by fingerprint machines and the photos that had to be incorporated in the process.

Two years later it is taking months for the review of documents to be completed and the cards issued.  The cost, by the way, went from 300 euros application fee to 1,000 euros per person.

The reality: We are Immigrants

Immigrant -A person who comes to a country to take up permanent residence.

We are immigrants - and delighted two years ago when our cards came

The fact is we are immigrants. We've chosen to be and we are working our way through the legalities - and 'rules' -- that are associated with our choice.

As I've told you before going through an immigration process, even when you choose to do it, is humbling. It is also frustrating and rather un-nerving at times.

Our experiences have made us more sympathetic to all immigrants world-wide.  It isn't easy even when you have the time and money required. We can't imagine how it must be for families uprooted by war, famine or who just hope to make a better life for themselves to set forth seeking a new country.

I read a FB post recently that was a statement about people coming to the United States and an abbreviated version of it was, "if they want to live here, then they need to speak English."

I thought about our efforts and desires to live in Greece. And our lack of ability to speak Greek. Thankfully speaking the language isn't a requirement for residency permits. Our Greek friends cheer us on when we conquer a new word or phrase but no one had demanded we speak the language in order to be allowed to stay here or to be a part of the community.

Road trip in the Peloponnese

Come to think about it, that is a pretty kind way of treating us. It is a good life here, even with rules that we question.  The Scout's been at work with Greek guidebooks and maps for the last couple of days. . ..

Thanks as always for being with us on this journey through our new world.  We appreciate your time and interest.  Your comments and emails are so welcome.  We'll be back next week and hope you will be back as well for another tale from Travelnwrite. Safe travels ~

Linking this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Aw shucks! The American system was quite great for me as an immigrant. But I did comb the country first before going to other places. I wanted to be and feel American. So, you guys are on the right track!

    1. Well, we have been exploring Greece for years - long before we moved here so we are certainly comfortable here. Nice to hear you were treated well by the American system. I trust you weren't told you couldn't leave. . .

  2. Enjoy your explorations of Greece this spring! Living by other nations' petty rules (sometimes even pettier than our own) can definitely be trying at times. But just remember: You could be stuck in Indiana.

    1. Good point! If ya gotta be stuck somewhere, Greece isn't a bad place. For those who like to snap up travel deals however it does crimp our style. . .can't snap up something you may not be able to get to! I'll keep Indiana in mind though as I mark off the calendar days. . . ;-)

  3. I'm always fascinated by your insights into expat life. We who looks from the outside only think of the glamorous aspects. You've really put the immigration issue into perspective. The current administration's position on immigration is so upsetting. When I saw the Statue of Liberty recently, I actually cried. My grandparents were immigrants - they surely didn't speak the language. Enjoy your travels through Greece while you wait for your papers to come through.

    1. Well it is interesting when well-meaning friends back in the States get themselves all fluffed up over immigration and post such derogatory things about immigrants. It does make me wonder how they feel about us these days. . .since we too are 'those people'. My grandparents were the same as yours - thankfully they had the courage to come!

  4. This post made me laugh and brought back memories of me applying for my green card then citizenship in the U.S. You know it's exactly the same right? You can't leave the U.S while your application is being processed. It's considered abandonment and l believe it is the same everywhere. Hopefully, this will be the end of it unless they hit you with the "you can only be out of the country maximum of 2 months per year". I remember my mom's application being denied because my dad got sick back in Nigeria and she was out for a couple of weeks more than allowed. Denial after several thousand dollars worth of paperwork and B.S. and this was 30 years ago. The U.S rules are brutal. Hang in there :-).

    1. Well, Greece is giving the US a run for the money! Everyone it seems who has dealt with immigration - no matter what the country -- has a story of frustration somewhere along the way. This is what we've chosen, so must grin and bear it.

  5. There are so many rules when it comes to travel and immigration. It takes a bit/lot! of the fun out of it. But it’s worth it, isn’t it!?

    1. Check with me in August about the 'is it worth it?' -- my answer may differ depending on whether I have those cards or not. ;-) Thanks for stopping by Doreen!

  6. I enjoyed hearing your insights about the realities and frustrations of life abroad.

  7. How frustrating. At least you'll get to travel afar in late June or early July. Have fun in Greece this spring.

    1. We certainly hope so. . .our friend's are now in their fifth month of waiting and no sign of permits yets. So won't be making travel plans for awhile!

  8. Fingers crossed. . .one couple who applied in late November is still waiting five months later. I am not hopeful we will be any more successful.

  9. Rules can be very inconvenient some times. As a traveler, we have to face wrath of authorities

    1. They can and it is the way it is world wide so yes, if you want to live differently you must abide by a myriad of rules even when they don't make sense!

  10. Now you can travel all around Greece instead!

  11. Beautiful images. I'm glad you've found your happy place.
    Thanks for linking up at

    1. We have -- and it is nice to be here despite the crazy rules and regulations!

  12. I loved reading your post. It is so hopeful and positive. And I am so glad the Greeks don't have the same expectation about the Greek language as Americans in the US have about English! Hope all of your paperwork goes through ok and that you don't overpay!

    With Love,

    1. Thanks for stopping by Mandy. We continue to wait for our cards and are hopeful they arrive before it is time to reapply! ;-)

  13. I've often thought that those narrow minded bigots who say immigrants to the US need to speak English should be required to study a language themselves before passing judgement. After much difficulty acquiring some basic survival Spanish while living and traveling in Latin America and even less success acquiring some Portuguese words and phrases, I also have a lot of empathy for those coming to a new country. And the "because it's the rule" seems to be the mantra spoken by bureaucratic tyrants the world over! (One of these days I'll have to tell you how *fun* it's been to acquire a Portuguese driver's license ... ) However, I see that you've made lemonade from lemons and are entertaining yourselves during the waiting period by discovering more of your newly adopted country. It's been fun to learn more about Greece along with you!


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