Showing posts with label Greek residency visa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek residency visa. Show all posts

Friday, April 15, 2022

Road to Residency ~ Land of Limbo

Here we are. . .back on the Road to Residency! And once again it is leading us through the Land of Limbo.

The Road to Residency always something new along the way

As our regular readers know, we are American expats who've now been living almost full-time in Greece for the better part of five years.  For that reason, our rural slice of the Greek Peloponnese feels like home. We have our routines and chores, we have our friends and social life. We  have our doctors and dentists. When you are recognized at regulars at a beauty shop, you know you've settled in. 

The Scout and The Scribe on an ancient kalderimi (road)

Our rhythm of life is so set that it now seems a jolt, a major disruption in our norm, to go through the motions of reapplying for permission to continue living here, but that is one of the rules of the game when you lead an expat life.  

This residency renewal comes at a time when just a couple countries away from us, people who had a rhythm of life and a norm, are fleeing their country to stay alive. It is a stark contrast and one that puts the hurdles of the renewal process in perspective, but yet, doesn't make the process any easier or less stressful.


Photo credit: Onet Wiadomosci

Road to Residency Route Changes

No trip on the Road to Residency has been the same. There has always been just a 'little something' that needs tweaking or clarification or additional information so we are embarking on this journey alert for possible road blocks and detours. 

Greek detour notice - Stoupa village


One of the first changes we've encountered was the length of time for which the permit is valid. When we initially applied back in 2017, it was offered in a two-year increment, with a three-year renewal option followed by a five year permit.  By the time we applied for our three-year permit, the five-year renewal had been discontinued. Now the three-year permit is also history and we are back to a two-year permit.

However, the application fee which was 300 euros ($324US) per person back in 2017 went up to a 1000 euros ($1,081US) per person three years ago and remains that now.

No need or desire to work in Greece

We know of a number of you who reading this are contemplating a move to Greece and without Greek heritage, which takes you down a different path, you will all be expected to travel a road to residency; each route slightly different depending on the type of residency you are seeking.  We have the retired-don't-want-or-need-to-work version, which is called the Financially Independent residency permit.

Road to Residency in Greece - always an adventure

While the cost of application can take your breath away, one major money- and time-saving change is that we no longer needed to travel back to Washington State to gather and then get documents apostilled. Apostilles are like notary stamps, but at the government level certifying the document. In recent years a number of agencies in the US have developed a process of obtaining apostilles for those who are overseas and find themselves in need of such documents. It is still costly at $150 per page, yet far less than a trip back to the States.

Apostilled documents are part of residency permit process


And while on the topic of technology, a huge change is that the residency permit process has all gone on-line in Greece. No more trips to the Immigration Office where we sat in a stark waiting room for our turn to present our packet of papers to an official.

What hasn't changed, is the requirement for each applicant to provide documentation showing: a monthly income of 2,000 euros ($2,163US), have proof of medical insurance (the amount is determined by the Greek government), proof of residency (house purchase contract or rental agreement) and copies of each page of our passports.

Land of Limbo - Lockdown


Bologna at Night


Once the application process starts, which happens when our documents are submitted, as ours has now, we are no longer able to leave the country (except back to the US).

Authorities construe any travel outside Greece as abandonment of our application and our permit renewal could be denied.  At least three US friends who have been summoned to the Immigration office to pick up their residency cards have had their passports scrutinized by officials there before being finally issued their new cards. That is one of the reasons for our whirlwind trip to Italy two weeks ago (which I will tell you more about in a future post) - it will be the last of such getaways for many months. 

No cruises anytime soon while application process is active


It appears the computerization of the application process hasn't made it any faster.  Several Americans in our area are still awaiting permanent permit cards now many months into the application process.  One was summoned for an interview before a panel of six. Others have been asked for additional documentation. Two finally received their cards last month only to realize they expire again this coming November!

Our world. Agios Nikolaos.


As I said in the opening it is not a journey to be taken lightly - there is no fast-lane, direct route.  But we all agree, the destination, Greece and the life we have created here makes it worth taking.

That's it for this week. Our wishes for safe travels to you and yours. And good luck if you are among those of us in the Land of Limbo awaiting residency permits.  Welcome to our new readers, it is great to have you with us!

Linking soon:






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








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




























Friday, March 1, 2019

Greece ~ We are back on the Road to Residency

If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey,
most of us would never start out at all.
                    -- William Buckley Jr.

That Road to Residency was a trip to be sure. We were determined to live full-time in Greece and the twists and turns it held didn't deter us from setting forth two years ago.


DSCF8121
Roadway in the Greek Peloponnese


P1030082Over the months that journey spanned, we went from being tourists who owned a home in Greece to card-carrying full time residents here. Our Road to Residency led us on a winding route from the Greek Consulate in San Francisco, California . . .to  the Secretary of State in Olympia, Washington . . ..and then to immigration offices in Kalamata, Greece.

As result of that journey, we are now live in the Land of Kalamata olives. 

And we aren't the only Americans to have taken the journey. We  have three other couples from the United States among our friends here who've all traveled their own Roads to Residency in recent years and are full-time residents in our area.


How quickly the two years granted us in that first journey have passed; our
permits are set to expire in April. Many of you have been with us and recall that at the time of issue we said two years was a good test. We'd give it a try and decide at the end of that time if we wanted to live here longer. However, the time has gone so quickly the decision was simple: we are back on that Road to Residency again. 

If our permits are granted, we will be allowed to stay for another three years.


P1040541
The initial journey's end - a day of celebration



I am writing this post on February 28th. It was exactly two years ago today that we appeared at the Greek Consulate in San Francisco to make a case for why we should be allowed the opportunity to apply for residency. After gaining the much needed 'Entry Visa,'  that only the San Francisco office could issue, we were off on our  journey. 


P1040523
Like passports, no smiling allowed!

So many of  you reading this were with us back then and cheered us on as we dodged potholes on that zig-zag road to full-time life in Greece. And to all of you who encouraged us, we still thank you. 

'But, why Greece?

We are often asked that question by Greeks and American's alike.  And we have a list of reasons why with which we respond.

I think the only time we ask ourselves, "Why Greece?" is when we are embarking on this application process.  It is not for the weak of heart or the impatient.

It isn't an easy process. It is an expensive endeavor. And I've said before it is very humbling to be trying to convince someone of your worth; why you should be allowed to live in their country.  Making an application for residency in Greece as an American requires proving your worth as a human being both literally and figuratively. 




P1030135
Apostille - a worldwide outcome of the Hague Convention, Oct. 1961


The Renewal Application Packet

The amount of documents we needed to provide for a renewal has - thankfully - decreased from that initial application when we had to have everything from our US doctors' certifying  that we were healthy to  FBI fingerprint checks to assure we weren't criminals.

Those two items weren't required this time around but this time we did have to include proof of our births and that we had married.

As we are considered 'financially independent' immigrants, we must make an application for residency. We are retired and not seeking a work permit, so must prove we have an income. We are old, so must have proof of health insurance.


P1030134
The Apostilled documents must be translated into Greek


Our renewal application packet contents:

Documents from the United States that had been Notarized and then Apostilled by the Secretary of State's office in our home state, Washington.  All of these documents are then translated into Greek.

* Birth certificate - This document is a new requirement.

* Marriage certificate -  This document is a new requirement.

* Proof of income - Bank statements that show a monthly income of 2,000 euros per month per individual 

* U.S. Tax return for previous year.

* A photocopy of our U.S. Passport (every page must be copied).

P1030030
The initial application required an enormous amount of documents

Greek documents included:

* Proof of residence (the contract for the purchase of our house. Those who rent need to provide a rental agreement.)

* Proof of insurance (we have purchased Greek health insurance with coverage to match the thresholds set out by the Greek government).

* Our current permit cards. 

*Other documents we choose to submit. We added proof of the property tax we pay each year.

We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey
that no one can take for us or spare us.

                                              -- Marcel Proust

The Costs of the Journey

The application process is 1,000 euros per person, plus 16 euros per person for the cost of the identity card itself.

Attorney and translation fees can fluxuate, but are around 500 - 600 euros.

The Secretary of State's office charged $20US for each document apostilled, plus an additional $50 because we walked up to the window and had it done in person (would have been less had we mailed them in.)

Cost of notary work and copying costs about $50 US.

On the Road Again. . .

The new journey began again - not by design, but coincidence - on February 28, exactly two years to the day that we met with Dimitri in the Greek Consulate, San Francisco. This time it began in a village up the road when we handed over the packets to our attorney who will represent us in this process. 

I might add our Greek attorney, Voula, who kept us on a steady course the first time, has become a friend since that first journey of ours. So, our appointment with her was at 6 pm at a local cafĂ© in the village of Kardamyli. She outlined our road map and timeline and reviewed our packets. We sipped wine as we reviewed the process. When business was completed, we dined together as good friends do. 

It was the most pleasant start to the journey.

And it provided yet another answer to that question of, 'But, why Greece?'


IMG_0215 [716250]
The Stone House on the Hill - the place we call home

As always we thank you for being here and the time you spend with us on our journeys. While in the U.S. we were asked many questions about our life in Greece so next week we hope you'll return for a report about what is new at the Stone House on the Hill in the Greek Peloponnese.

Until then, our wishes for safe travels to you and yours.


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