Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

What is a non-EU citizen?

All individuals not holding citizenship from one of the 28 EU member states listed below is a non-EU citizen.

Croatia as of July 1, 2013
Czech Republic
United Kingdom


Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein are non-EU countries.

However, citizens of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have the right of free movement within the EU because their countries signed the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement; and Swiss nationals enjoy certain rights and privileges through a bilateral agreement with the EU.

Being a non-EU citizen in Greece

Many authorities and ordinary people believe that Americans, Australians and Canadians are not non-EU citizens on par with Russian, Albanian, Pakistani and Moroccan citizens, when in fact they are. Greece classifies all non-EU citizens the same, regardless of nationality.

Therefore, all must abide by the same laws and regulations and navigate the same bureaucratic channels.

In theory, Greek and non-Greek EU citizens are the same, though in the majority of cases even native Greeks have the advantage over Greeks from abroad.

Non-EU citizens — no matter how educated, skilled or fluent in several languages — are lowest in the hierarchy of competitiveness on the (legal) job market purely because of laws governing residence/work permits. This is understandable since Greece and the entire EU must look after its citizens first.

Preferential treatment?

The only indication of preferential treatment I’ve witnessed on a consistent basis is when passport control allows Americans, Canadians and Australians to pass with barely a glance if plagued by long lines at the airport.

At the municipality and other public sector offices, I’m treated the same despite having friendly long-term relationships with officials who know my name, history and friends. Bureaucracy is bureaucracy, and I’d expect nothing less.

Related posts

Non-EU travelers need 50 euros a day in Greece
I’m a non-EU citizen in Greece, am I allowed to travel whenever I want?
Thanks for Greece, I’ve been reunified with myself
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  Cheryl wrote @ September 7th, 2007 at 01:17

I was in a Gov’t office earlier this week extending my stay and also starting the process toward acquiring citizenship. MIL came with me and I have to say…even she was horrified by the way that I was treated. I just quietly took my papers back and told MIL that we were leaving…and that I would go to another office with my husband on another day. The woman that was supposed to help me was a complete nightmare. The process is confusing enough without all of the crap that was thrown at me. I am sure that it might be easier in the city…we were in a village. So my point is…absolutely no preferential treatment for me!

  PIC wrote @ September 7th, 2007 at 07:39

I’ve never had too many problems dealing with Greek dimosio. Granted, they are not the most friendly, but I actually think that being American has helped me. Initially, when they don’t know where I’m from they seem cold and distant, but when they see I’m American, they are at least cordial. Plus, I always try to make little jokes and keep the mood pleasant.

Also, I believe in walking in like I just bought the place, and leaving like I just sold it. Being confident and acting like you know what you are doing really helps (even if you don’t)

  Cheryl wrote @ September 7th, 2007 at 10:10

PIC- I think that we made the mistake of smiling. We should have walked in as you mentioned…like we owned the place. Actually, as I cut off the process by asking for my paperwork back…the woman backed down a bit because she realized that I wasn’t going to put up with what she was handing out. That was my way of handling her, by leaving and I did tell her in a civil manner, that I would just wait until my husband could accompany me.

  Kat wrote @ September 8th, 2007 at 11:15

In the nine years I did bureaucracy alone, I’ve never found that acting like I own the place gets me anywhere, in fact it’s detrimental (back of the line, being ignored) and only furthers the world’s view that Americans are arrogant. Being polite, carrying every paper imaginable (and spare photocopies), following protocol, smiling and being empathetic with employees as human beings carried me much further. (Cheryl – I don’t see smiling as a bad thing; some people enjoy looking at a nice face in comparison to the dour, grumpy ones; PIC – being American hasn’t helped me).

In the last year my fiance has accompanied me, it’s the same, except now they don’t speak to me, they speak to him and ask things such as, “oh, you’re going to marry that?” He’s offended, but he ignores it for the sake of getting things done and usually pretends to be from their village or some other method that gets us the help we need.

Every person and situation is different. The point is, there aren’t different rules in Greece for Americans, Australians and Canadians. They’re the same. The only thing that makes a dramatic difference is connections.

  PIC wrote @ September 8th, 2007 at 13:13

When I say I walk in like I own the place, I don’t mean that I’m rude or aggressive, I mean I just act like I know what I’m doing and have done it before. You won’t find a “deer in the headlights” look from me when I navigate the dimosio. And as I said, I try to make little jokes and keep the mood pleasant, but being confident and showing I am willing to speak to the supervisor if needed (which I did on one occasion).

  greekamericaningreece wrote @ September 8th, 2007 at 16:39

I want to add that Greeks also hate to have to deal with state employees. What is to your advantage (or not) as an American is the smile and innocence they see in your face, something highly unusual for a Greek in a state office visit. Once the employee notices that you are a foreigner and realizes that you are not a “financial” immigrant (Albanian etc), they might make an extra effort to help you, something that he/she will not do for a Greek unless he/she thinks will get something out of it….

I am sure you will face this every day of your life in Greece (and not only in the public sector), so if everything else works for you here and you can put up with the Greek rudeness, it looks like you’ve got it made in Greece. I just could not.

  Kat wrote @ September 8th, 2007 at 17:01

PIC – OK, I feel you. But everyone has to start somewhere. I certainly looked like a deer in headlights the first year because the only info I had was from the Athens News (which was wrong), Greeks (also wrong) and there wasn’t an info source like this site to give me the confidence to walk in, knowing what I was doing.

Again, the point of the post was that Americans, Canadians and Australians follow the same rules as other non-EU citizens.

GA – PIC has experienced an advantage. I never have. The reason behind why is purely speculative.

As I said before, every person and every situation is different.

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