Expat Life in Greece

The loneliness of the expatriate is of an odd and complicated kind for it is inseparable from the feeling of being free, of having escaped.
                                                   --Adam Copnick, Paris to the Moon

On Being an American Expat in Greece

American expats in Greece

The questions have come frequently in recent months. More and more of you fellow Americans are telling us that you are considering Greece as a new home or a second home. Some who've written are looking to buy, others want to find rental properties.  

While those who are living vicariously through our tales ask 'why?' Those who yearn for the experience, the life of an expat, don't ask us 'why? ' but 'how?" 

Spetses Island, Greece


Why? was best answered in an article I wrote a couple years ago for a Canadian publication,
Travel with a Challenge.  That article - one of the most popular pieces, that I've ever written -- remains relevant today can be reached by clicking this link: Expats in Greece


The Stone House on the Hill is ours

It began with the idea that buying a house to use as a European base for travel might be fun. There were no plans at the time for moving, for becoming expats. . .we'd have laughed at the thought. It was crazy enough to consider buying a house. I called it 'chasing daydreams' and then just like that we caught the daydream and began a new adventure: The Stone House on the Hill

Now or Never - Becoming an Expat

It quickly became clear that 90 days in Greece - as allowed by the Schengen Treaty of participating nations -- just wasn't enough time. And to stay longer we had to obtain residency permits from the Greek government.  As Americans that wasn't - and still isn't -- an easy or inexpensive process. But there are now dozens of us who've tackled the process of applying for and then renewing those precious permits and will tell you that it can be done! Just be aware it is not easy and not for the impatient or faint-of-heart.  I have written of our experiences in the posts below:

Card-carrying Greek residents

We began the process in January 2017, an effort I linked to travel by naming it: On the Road to Residency  (This link contains details of the process and documents required by the Greek government at the time we applied.  Requirements change rapidly here.)

Our olive harvest - a high point in this new  life of ours

Our first permit granted residency for two years. In 2019 we experienced another road trip, this one on the way to renewing that residency: Back On the Road to Residency   

We were reminded during this renewal that nothing remains the same. New documents were required and the review process took 4.5 months to complete.  It is important to note:  During that review we were not allowed to leave Greece (other than necessary trips back to our U.S.) as travel to other countries would have been considered abandoning our application. 

As of 2024, the backlog of renewals and applications has slowed the review even more, now taking up to 10 months.  It is a serious consideration for anyone wanting to live or purchase property here.

Greece implemented an on-line application process.  No more trips for us to the immigration office here. But the process now takes far longer than it once did.  

Suggestions for Americans seeking Greek residency.

Crete - beach scene

1. Visit Greece! 
We are serious - come get a feel for the country. You'd be surprised how many people announce they want to live in/retire to Greece who have never visited the country.  Visit places where you think you might want to live.  If you plan to live here full time, then spend time here in the summer, when water supplies could be short, the number of tourists high and come back in the dead of winter to see if the season's change is what you had expected.

Athens Syntagma Square in December

2. Contact the Greek Consulate serving your area of the United States.  
This office will advise you of the types of visas available, the requirements for each and the steps you need to take.  

Fishing boats Elounda, Crete

3. Consider the costs of the application process.
Face-to-face interviews at the Consulate's office serving your area may be required. (In our case we had to travel from Washington State to San Francisco, California) for the interview and to present our documentation.  Travel costs, the cost of notarizing documents and then getting the documents apostilled will need to be included in your budget.  You may need to hire an attorney to help you through the immigration application maze once in Greece.  Include attorney fees and translation fees (documents must be translated into Greek) in your calculations. And don't forget the cost of the application review, which was 1,000 euros per person in 2024.

Kalderimi - ancient roads of Greece, photo, The Mani

4. You don't need to be a Greek resident to purchase property in Greece nor is property purchase a requirement for obtaining a residency permit.
Much publicity has been given the Golden Visa, a five-year residency permit issued to those who invest 250,000 euros or more in Greece.  You need not do that to obtain one the other residency permits available.

Taygetos Mountains - the Peloponnese

5. Residency doesn't mean Greek citizenship, Greek voting rights or relinquishing your U.S. citizenship and voting rights.
A residency permit is just that -  permission to reside in Greece for longer than 90 days. It certainly means you can live here.

For those who have questions we may be able to answer, don't hesitate to contact us at: travelnwrite@msn.com


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