Showing posts with label Road to Residency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Road to Residency. Show all posts

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Got a Bee in my bonnet!

It seemed odd that during the first week of February my garden would be buzzing with a swarm of bees. One or two maybe, this time of year but certainly not a swarm. Actually, there's seldom more than a couple zipping between blooms any time of year.

February blooms at the Stone House on the Hill

But at least a couple dozen of the winged critters were hovering around a water bucket I use in the side garden. I went to the front door and another dozen or so were swarming around another water bucket I keep there. When I picked it up, they swarmed around it AND my hand.

As with all mysteries about life in Greece - the place we live as expats - it took a while, but today the mystery of the bees was solved: 

The new neighbors

They are our new neighbors! And quite a subdivision of them is in the previously vacant lot between six houses in our neighborhood.  Not only have they settled in for a long stay, but it appears more of them are coming! And Google tells me that bees are social little creatures and that thousands could inhabit a hive. Lucky us! The new neighbors are many and sociable!

The bees live above our Stone House on the Hill

We've seen plenty of beehives in our slice of the Peloponnese. We are among the many who brag about some of Greece's best honey being produced right here. 

But none of the hives we've seen before were sitting among and this close to residential houses.  You better believe we expat neighbors have discussed the newcomers. We've speculated about probable regulations, and the unlikelihood of there being any about bee hives. But who would one even contact at the Municipality to ask, we chuckled. And what if they aren't allowed? Then what? More laughs.

The two police officers who patrol a wide swath of our area would surely get a laugh out of it as well if we were to contact them. 

View from our 'hood to the neighboring village

The bees' sociable ways could be considered 'pestering', but they certainly aren't classified as 'pests', so the private pest control service would get a laugh out of it as well. 

And really, no one wants to hurt them, we'd just like them to move a few miles into the wilderness. Perhaps a relocation service? More laughs.

Home of the bee hives, our home lower right corner

The lot is for sale, asking price is 350,000 euros - thus, buying the lot and moving the bees is not an option. 

So, like with many things that don't quite compute in the expat mind, we will file this away as another one of 'those' experiences that serves to remind us we are living on foreign soil. It simply can't be treated as it would be 'back home'.  

And the bees are a good segue into another topic of expat living we are currently focused upon and that is the quest for the residency permit.

On the Road to Residency Again

Those residency permits - a reason to rejoice!

Long time readers probably just rolled their eyes, and said, "Oh, not that again already!!' But yes, with a permit that requires renewal every two years, one must start gathering documents, dotting 'i's' and crossing 't's' several months in advance of 'expiring' as we call it. We've started the' pre-app' preparation.

The good news is there has been no change in the required amount of income, health insurance or documentation required to make us eligible to continue living here.  We gather it, submit it and wait for it to be reviewed, and that is where the bad news comes in. . .

The traveling life brought us to Greece. . .

Note to new readers: it is during the review process that we are not allowed to leave Greece, other than for trips as might be necessary back to our home country.  The reasons for not being allowed outside we are told, is that our temporary residency paper only signifies we've applied to continue to be residents.  It doesn't guarantee we will be granted a renewal.

With it, we are basically just like non-visa travelers who visit countries in the Schengen Zone. There is a 90-days-in and 90-days-out rule which travelers, and apparently, we, must abide by.  Because we have been living here, we've technically already exceeded those 90 days. So, if we leave Greece, we could be barred from returning because we'd overstayed your 90 days.  

No welcome after 90 days

Staying longer than 90 days in the Schengen Zone is considered a serious offense and could result in fines, penalties, deportation or forced exit and being blacklisted for future travels.

After having the Immigration officer taking our fingerprints in Kalamata two years ago say in a no-nonsense voice, "You cannot travel out of Greece until you have your permit.' (The Scout had asked if a week getaway to Italy was allowed - it clearly wasn't.) we aren't going to travel outside Greece while waiting our permit.

A Lengthy Lockdown Ahead

Greek islands beacon during lock down

Fully prepared to spend a few months 'locked down' in Greece we were lining up destinations to see in the coming months. It took 4.5 months to get that bit of plastic two years ago, so perhaps it would be six months this time, we speculated.

Staycations ahead

Last week we came close to booking a cruise for January 2025. Just before we did, we learned Greek Immigration is understaffed and backlogged. Seriously backlogged. They are currently reviewing applications submitted last April 2023.  A ten-plus-month wait. We may not have our permits by next January! We didn't book the cruise or anything else.

Too Old to Be an Expat?

Petra, Jordan

A few posts back I took a light-hearted look at when one might consider oneself too old to be an expat. This backlog in Immigration has prompted us to think about the question again in a more serious vein.  While the years go quickly here, the years are going quickly, period. We aren't getting any younger and we ask ourselves how many of the years left before us do we want to spend locked down and unable to travel?  It is a question being asked by many expats right now. 

For now, we will continue gathering our documents for Immigration and prepare road trip plans for Greece in 2024! 

As always thanks for being with us and wishes to you for safe travels.  Where are you traveling this year? Let us know in the comments below or by email - we may just be traveling vicariously with you!!


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

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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).

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 café 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.

Linking this week with:


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