Photo from thaivisarun.com
Whether you are a non-EU citizen with a Schengen or national visa for Greece, you are expected to:
a) leave the country before it expires;
b) secure a visa extension under special circumstances, if you are staying temporarily as a tourist or business traveler (directions below); or
c) apply for the proper Greek permit within 30 days of arrival or apply for Greek citizenship if you are staying permanently.
A non-EU citizen with plans to immigrate and/or be resident in Greece (stay past 90 days) should not be looking at this post. The proper post is, “How non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece.” This also applies if you are a non-EU citizen of Greek origin/descent without dual citizenship with the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
This article is updated regularly to reflect new laws and regulations. I encourage everyone to be patient in reading this article and its comments, as they offer answers and suggestions to common questions and a full explanation not available anywhere else.
*Article last updated January 2, 2014
There are only two classes of visas currently being issued by Greece. It’s important to know which one you have to understand its privileges and possible penalties.
American, Australian, Canadian and other non-EU citizens from countries in which Greece and other Schengen countries signed a visa waiver agreement can stay up to 90 days within the Schengen zone in any 180-day period as a tourist. See,”Countries that enjoy visa-free travel to Greece” to see if your country is on the list.
The countdown starts from the date of entry to the Schengen zone, which is marked by a stamp in your passport, or a scan and record kept by the computer and/or Schengen Information System (SIS). For example, if you entered through Paris 20 days prior coming to Athens, the 90 days starts from that date in France, not the date you arrived in Greece.
Dual citizens of any country with two passports are not entitled to twice the time, and it has nothing to do with the person to whom you are married. It only matters which passport you used to enter the country. If you try to enter with one passport and exit with another, passport control will question why you have no entry/exit stamp or why it doesn’t show in the computer.
*Overstaying in the EU/Schengen region does not have a one-size-fits-all set of rules. Each country has unique fines, penalties and enforcement standards, and some do not allow visa extensions. If you are exiting a Schengen country other than Greece, you are free to read the remainder this article for informational purposes, but you should stop here and consult local authorities in the country concerned.
A national visa is good only for Greece and no other country, whether it is a visa for tourist, student or work purposes.
Although there are national visas with validity up to one year, those living and intending to work in Greece must normally apply for a permit within 90 days of arrival as explained in, “How a non-EU citizen can get a permit to move, live or work in Greece.”
*There is no such thing as an “overstaying visa.” Overstaying is something you do, not a type of visa.
How to apply for a visa extension in Greece
Visitors who plan to stay longer than the expiration date of a Schengen or national visa while in Greece as a tourist, student or temporary business consultant should apply for a visa extension at the Alien’s Bureau Office or police station nearest their legal or temporary residence. It is not a temporary residence permit, as the American Embassy in Athens incorrectly states.
Note that visa extensions are only granted under special extenuating circumstances, such as being in the hospital, having a serious car accident or a relative passing away. Visa extensions are not granted because of ignorance regarding visas and permits, careless planning, unexpectedly falling in love, taking illegal work and just because you want to travel more.
1. Apply between 7 to 25 days in advance of your visa’s expiration
2. Fill out the one-page Greek/English/French visa extension form provided to you by the alien’s bureau or police station (Greece does not typically offer any forms online)
3. Provide any supporting evidence for needing an extension to the person in charge, who will give you a verbal answer
If you are approved, you will need to provide:
1. Four (4) passport-size color photos
2. Proof of residence while in Greece
– Letter from the person with whom you’re staying and a copy of their ID/passport, your hotel bill, a statement of facts; or the person in charge will request what is specifically needed for your case.
3. Proof of minimum financial means
– Bank statement showing you have at least 15-50 euros/day for the length of your extension. Note the phrase ‘at least’ means they could ask for proof of a greater amount.
*Some readers report that they were required to open a bank account in Greece, which also meant applying for an AFM (Greek tax number) and supplying a number of other documents.
4. A passport that is valid for the period in which you are requesting an extension
– If you’re asking for a 3-month extension, your passport must be valid for at least 3 months)
5. Two (2) copies of the main page of your passport
6. Two (2) copies of the entry stamp to the Schengen zone or visa sticker in your passport
– Should you not have a stamp, authorities may bar you from applying unless a printout from the Schengen computer can assist
7. A flat fee of 464 euros
– All visa extensions cost the same, whether for a minimum of one (1) day or a maximum of six (6) months
The Alien’s Bureau or Greek police station will give you a paper to put in your passport to show authorities when exiting Greece to avoid being stopped and fined.
The word ‘extension’ implies there is something valid to prolong, which means this is no longer the case if your visa has already expired.
*Special thanks to KEB, a reader who provided first-hand experience on securing an extension.
What if I’m denied an extension?
If you have the possibility to visit another station within your municipality, a different person may give you a different answer. However, there is no guarantee and you will be sent away if you cannot prove legal or temporary residence within the jurisdiction of the police station in which you are requesting an extension.
Should you be denied an extension, you are expected to leave Greece and the Schengen zone before the original visa expires, as scheduled.
Frequently asked questions
This section was compiled based on common predicaments and questions posed by commentators.
I have a Greek boyfriend, how do I extend my visa?
It makes no difference if your boyfriend/girlfriend is a Greek/EU citizen. An extension is normally only granted for compelling reasons, such as being in the hospital. No one cares if you fell in love and don’t want to leave; it has nothing to do with the law.
If I get engaged to a Greek, can I extend my visa and stay past 90 days?
Being engaged to a Greek/EU citizen is treated as if you’re still single. It does not entitle you to further rights or a Greek residence/work permit. You must be married and apply for a permit before the expiration of your visa or go home.
Even in the rare case a police station allows you a visa extension, you still cannot stay indefinitely; you still need a permit to stay in Greece as stated in “How non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece.” The longer you stay in Greece, the longer you must delay returning to Greece according to Schengen rules of “90 days within any 180-day period.”
*Some EU countries grant residence permits to engaged partners and fiance(e)s. Greece does not.
Can I get a visa extension to get married?
Depends. If you scheduled a date at the mayor’s office/city hall to get married during the validity of your visa and there was an unforeseen event — such as the prospective groom/bride being in a serious accident or the municipality keeps rescheduling your date after you filed the proper documents — there may be reason to extend it.
If you need an extension because of your poor planning, ignorance and procrastination, or you and your fiance(e) decided to get married so one of you could get a permit to stay/live/work in Greece, then authorities will deny an extension. The reason should be obvious.
If I overstayed my visa, and my Greek fiance and I get married in another country and come back, is that OK?
No, because it doesn’t change the fact you violated the law of maximum 90 days stay within any 180-day period. When you apply for a permit as the non-EU spouse of a Greek citizen to stay in Greece legally, authorities will see you don’t have a valid visa and deny you from applying. If they mistakenly allow it, the eight-member panel will catch this during your interview and deny issuance of your permit.
Can I get a permit or get married if I overstay my visa or am an illegal resident?
No. Once your visa has expired, you enter an illegal status and are therefore ineligible to be hired legally, apply for a residence/work permit, conduct official transactions and get married in Greece. Why? In short, because you must be legal to do something legal.
Application for a residence/work permit requires you be in a legitimate status, as does applying for a marriage license. If you somehow slip through the cracks, higher authorities will eventually cancel or revoke it later. Likewise, if your marriage is suspicious, a board of eight people will make that determination during the interview process, withhold issuing your permit and request that you leave the country, and upon leaving you will be fined and possibly blacklisted.
Why doesn’t the embassy/consulate intervene on my behalf?
The embassy/consulate is a diplomatic mission that serves citizens and non-citizens regarding issues with the homeland, not the host country of Greece where it is a guest. It cannot override another country’s rules and regulations, nor intervene when a citizen has broken local laws. Visitors to this country are responsible for their actions, and ignorance is not a legitimate defense.
What about overstaying student and work visas?
– Work visas on the whole cannot be renewed, converted or extended because they are for temporary stays (conference, consultation) or must be exchanged for a work permit before expiration.
– Student visas on the whole have entry limitations and are for temporary stays (semester abroad) or must be exchanged for a residence/work permit if intending to work in Greece.
The correct visa and length of validity should have been sorted back in your homeland before arrival in Greece. There should be no need for an extension or reason for overstay. Period.
Why Greece is more strict with overstays
Many Schengen countries are lenient with certain tourists when it comes to staying longer than the 90 days because it is good for the economy, but Greece is strict because it is the gateway for 75 percent of the EU’s total illegal border crossings. Enforcement of the 90-day Schengen rule has been well documented in travel guides, such as the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides. The EU border-monitoring agency Frontex opened its first European regional office in Athens, Greece in October 2010 and sent 175 specialized guards to fight alongside local authorities.
In the past: It used to be that one could get around the 90-day rule and renew a visa by crossing any country’s border and re-entering, but those days ended March 26, 2000 when Greece — a member of the common area since 1992 — began implementing Schengen.
Today: Crossing to a non-Schengen, non-EU country and re-entering is pointless with the current law in place. Attempting it will accomplish nothing, even if border patrol does not enforce the law and turn you away.
There are no tricks to extending, resetting or renewing a visa. Anyone who tells you they went over the border to a non-EU, non-Schengen country to restart or reset their visa for another 90 days anytime after March 26, 2000 is ill-informed and accomplished nothing but wasting time and money. If they didn’t get in trouble, it’s because they got lucky and encountered equally ignorant Greek authorities, not because the crossing actually worked.
What is the law?
Schengen allows a maximum of 90 days within any 180-day period in the entire Schengen zone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a continuous 90 days or 30 days this month, 30 days two months from now and another 30 days four months from now.
– Example 1: If you have already been in the Schengen zone for 90 days, it means you need to get out and stay out for 90 days before coming back.
– Example 2: If you arrived in the Schengen zone on May 1, used 60 days, exited for 30 days to the Czech Republic , and came back to Schengen, you still have only 30 days left of your 90 days maximum. The only way the Schengen clock resets to the entire 90 days is when your 180 days expires end of November.
Anyone who tells you it is 180 days in the Schengen zone or 90 days per Schengen country is not informed of the law.
*Special thanks to Frank, who provided first-hand experience to revise this section.
The best advice
a) Be sensible, plan ahead, educate yourself before departing your homeland, get the right visa and don’t even think about overstaying
b) If you are planning to stay in Greece past the validity of any visa offered and find no legal way to secure a Greek work/residence permit, go ahead and overstay as long as you wish without exiting, consciously accept the consequences and pay the fine when you leave.
Overstaying without an visa extension
Anyone who stays beyond a visa’s validity without an extension and without a residence/work permit is illegal, subject to interrogation by airport officials, and must pay a fine upon exiting. Those caught working illegally or engaging in criminal activity in addition to being illegal are subject to deportation. Minors under the age of 18 accompanied by an adult are not fined, as they are considered an innocent party to their parents’ irresponsible decisions.
If you cannot or choose not to pay the fine of 600 to 1,200 euros, officials will stamp your passport with the outstanding amount and a code number, which will be referenced in a computer each time you cross a border for up to five (5) years. You may be questioned at border crossings and can be barred from entering other Schengen countries.
Paying the fine at a later date clears your outstanding balance, but the mark in your passport remains until its next renewal, and your travel record remains in the computer for a long time no matter what passport you use because new passports are cross referenced with former ones. I was questioned in Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Italy, in addition to being pulled out of line and temporarily detained in Greece, each time I crossed even though my fine was paid years before and I presented the original receipt every single time.
If you have a layover and are exiting via another Schengen country on your flight home, it is possible that Greece will allow you to pass without penalty and assume the layover Schengen country will deal with you. This could work in your favor if authorities in that country ignore the overstay, but it could also work against you in that authorities may bar you from entering or assess you a penalty greater than what Greece may have.*
There have been claims that those who overstay a visa “can never come back to Greece,” but there is no written law to support this statement.
*Nod to Brady for contributing this information.
Is there a grace period for Schengen?
A lot of rumors on the Internet and forums have people believing there is a 10, 14 or 21 day grace period. However, there is no documented legal grace period.
What if I don’t have a stamp in my passport?
Passports are scanned by border control upon entering and exiting a country, though most people are not paying attention when it happens. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what stamps you have or don’t have in your passport.
If the country is connected to the Schengen Information System (SIS), your passport will be scanned as it was when you entered, and anyone in violation of a visa will be automatically flagged. If the border crossing is not connected to the Schengen computer, guards can question you, ask for proof of entry and (s)he can very easily do the math. Or they may ask nothing and let you pass.
How is an overstay fine or penalty calculated?
Whether or not you’re even looked at or how much you’re fined (600-1200 euros) is purely the discretion of the person passing judgment; it doesn’t matter how long ago you passed the deadline. Articles written by people who do not live in Greece and the American Embassy in Athens wrongly state that the penalty assessed is determined by the length of overstay. How do I know they’re wrong? I know people who overstayed one day and were fined 600 euros, and people who overstayed four months and were fined exactly the same thing.
The immigration official can decide to do something…or not. If you’re let go, nothing is recorded in the computer or your passport, and you should be grateful and be on your way. If you are not let go, he will enter you in the computer and assess a fine. You will then have the choice of paying the fine or not.
- If you pay, you will still be entered in the computer but your passport won’t be marked and there is no risk of being blacklisted.
- If you do not pay, the fine stays with you and your computer record until you do, and you risk being blacklisted for up to five (5) years. If you try and enter the Schengen zone before the blacklist period expires, whoever you get upon entering the Schengen zone will again have the choice of letting you pay the fine and allow you passage, or turn you away. If you’re turned away, you’ll be responsible for any lost flight and hotel reservations, plus the cost of transporting yourself to another country or back home.
Crackdowns are more likely for repeat violators of visas, scruffy tourists and backpackers, football hooligans, people pretending to be tourists but are trying to flee their country and work illegally, not well-to-do tourists. Greek authorities are also seeking to crack down on Americans, Australians, Canadians and other non-EU citizens who come to Greece each summer to work illegally and party, as they account for the greatest number of year-round overstays.
Can I pay my overstay fine/penalty in another EU or Schengen country?
No, you must pay your fine/penalty in the country where it happened, or it won’t be cleared. If you overstayed in Greece, had a penalty assessed in Greece and didn’t pay, the only way it can be recorded as satisfied is if you or someone you appoint pays that fine and is given a receipt by Greek authorities. You can also pay the fine at any Greek consulate/embassy, and make sure to get a receipt as proof.
Keep the payment receipt for as long as you hold this “marked” passport or until there is a pattern of people not requesting to see it.
I cannot pay 1200 euros. Is there a way to get my fine reduced?
Do they accept credit cards or only cash?
Cash is king in Greece, and everyone I know paid cash. However, that’s not to say they don’t have a swipe machine to process credit and debit cards. If they do not have one, you will be permitted to visit an ATM/cash machine or call someone.
In the Athens airport, passengers in danger of being fined are detained in an office near passport control. That means it is quite easy to cross over to the non-passenger side of the terminal to find a currency exchange, bank, cash machine or friend/relative.
A mark in your passport and paying a fine does not mean you have been deported. Deportation usually occurs after police have detained you, you go to a Greek court of justice and legal judgment has been officially rendered.
Laws state that those who are deported by police or a court of justice cannot return for a minimum of three (3) years, and an official government circular says the deportation fine is up to 3000 euros and a minimum of three (3) months imprisonment.
Additionally, you may be barred from entering all countries in the Schengen zone.
You cannot be jailed for overstaying a visa. But if you committed a crime and authorities happen to find you fleeing the country while fining you for overstaying your visa, then you will be detained for that particular offense.
The rules and regulations that govern applying for an extension, and the penalties for overstaying a visa are different for every Schengen country. It is wrong to think that all Schengen countries are the same.
Many of the facts relayed in this article do apply to other Schengen countries. However, you must check with authorities in the country of concern if you are not living, working or studying in Greece and not planning to exit Schengen via Greece.
173 Alexandras Avenue
18 Iroon Polytechneiou
Proin Anatolikos Aerolimenas Athinon
73 D. Gounari
14 Athanasiou Diakou
37 Iroon Polytechniou
24 Petrou Ralli
Additional phone number from the Kathimerini: (210) 750-5711/17
(List is incomplete)
In many non-urban areas, the local police station serves as the Alien’s Bureau.
*Note: Police and bureau staff are not guaranteed to speak English, so it may be necessary to bring a Greek-speaking companion or show additional patience with the process.
– Greek Consulate in Washington DC
– Ministry of Justice, Greece
– Friends now working at Eleftheriou Venizelou Airport and local police stations
– Friend who worked for the Alien’s Bureau on Alexandras in 2003
– Personal experience; experiences of Americans and Canadians from 1997-2009
– Specific experiences of non-EU citizens KEB and Frank, August-November 2007
– Article from Athens News, for comparison purposes only
In the News
“Deported family may be barred from Schengen area” — The Foreigner