Interested in living in Greece for a year, five years or forever?
Anyone with citizenship from the 27 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland has the right to live and work in Greece. Non-EU citizens — without a spouse-child relationship to a Greek/EU citizen and without possibility to acquire dual citizenship with the EU — wishing to retire in Greece or otherwise live in Greece without working can apply for a Greek residence permit based on independent income or funds from outside the country via retirement benefits or a pension, virtual job, business, savings or grants. It is not a work permit.
If this permit does not suit your situation, see “How non-EU citizens can get a visa and permit to live and work in Greece” to learn about other possible options in acquiring a residence and work permit.
Please take the time to read this article, as it is unavailable anywhere else since October 2007.
*Article last updated April 12, 2011. No changes as of April 2013.
Versions of this article appear on websites run by the U.S. Embassy in Athens, three lawyers and two commercial ‘expat’ guides that reused information without permission.
They refuse to abide by copyright law and remove the infringing material or give credit, though many passages were copied verbatim, including first-hand experiences from my readers and my life.
Be careful who you trust.
It used to be that those retiring or residing in Greece without working within the country’s borders could enter without a special visa and simply apply for a residence permit upon arrival. This is no longer true, and any friend, forum, article, lawyer, Greek consulate/embassy or authority in Greece saying otherwise is misinformed.
It is also false that “no permit is needed” and “no one will bother you.” This advice typically comes from Greek citizens who subscribe to decades-old myths or are ashamed to admit they don’t know the law, which applies to all non-EU citizens. Americans, Canadians and Australians do not enjoy special treatment. Look at ‘Comments’ and see a few who got in trouble.
According to the Greek state’s legal council (Nomiko Symboulio tou Kratos), applicants must go to the Greek consulate/embassy in their homeland to secure a special visa, namely a national/Schengen type ‘D’ visa that denotes intention to immigrate. This would then be presented to the local office of your municipality in Greece upon arrival to secure a residence permit based on independent means. There is no such thing as a residence/residential/residency visa or retirement visa for Greece.
The following will prepare you for collecting the correct documents and what you can expect during the process. It is not as simple as getting a visa and showing it to someone in Greece to get a permit.
Homeowners and property owners
Being a homeowner or property owner in Greece is not enough to grant you an residence permit or citizenship. You must meet income requirements that prove you have sufficient funds to cover living expenses in order to be granted residency.
In November 2012, the government discussed the ‘possibility’ of changing these requirements to encourage investment but, as frequently happens in Greece, no laws were passed and nothing was implemented as of last update.
*Lawyers and bloggers have spread misinformation to attract clients and readers, giving the impression this was a done deal. It’s not true.
Start the visa process outside Greece
In order for non-EU citizens to qualify for a Greek visa and residence permit* to retire or otherwise live in Greece without working, these basic requirements must be fulfilled:
– A total of 2,000 euros/month in proven, consistent income; or at least 24,000 euros in a bank account
– Medical coverage
– A passport valid for at least three months past the date of proposed stay in Greece
*If you do not plan on living or staying in Greece for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, you do not need a residence permit, as explained under ‘Entry — Visas to Greece’ in “How non-EU citizens can get a visa and permit to live and work in Greece.”
If you meet those, it’s time to gather the following:
1. Passport with at least three (3) blank pages
– Many countries offer an option to add pages for a fee if your passport is valid
2. Two (2) recent color passport photos
3. Original policy statements or a letter on company letterhead from your medical insurer verifying current and continuous coverage with repatriation and validity for Greece
4. Original bank, social security, pension and/or alimony statements, payment stubs OR a letter on official letterhead with original signatures from financial institutions that confirm you have a liquid income of 2,000 euros/month or at least 24,000 euros in the bank
– Staff usually request at least three months of statements/stubs
– If you are immigrating as a family, they normally ask an additional 20 percent for a spouse (400 euros/month) and 15 percent (300 euros/month) for each unmarried, minor child.
5. Official, printed criminal record
– U.S. citizens must obtain FBI clearance. See “How to get an FBI identification record” to download the form and learn about fingerprints, fees and waiting time
– Citizens of other countries must inquire at the Greek consulate/embassy to learn what security document is required
6. Medical clearance/certificate
– A letter or form obtained from a hospital or doctor that confirms an exam was done within weeks of the Greek consulate/embassy interview
7. Cash/checkbook for fees
– Varies by country, but price is approximately 50 euros
Now contact the Greek consulate/embassy nearest your current residence and see if you need an appointment. See “Greek Consulates/Embassies Worldwide” or look in your phone book to locate one. All candidates will be asked to appear in person.
At the Greek consulate/embassy, staff will give you a visa application to complete and sign. Your documents will be reviewed, fees will be collected, and you (and your family, if applicable) will be interviewed. The Greek consular/embassy staff will keep your passports, then call to notify you if further documents are needed and if you’ve been approved.
When/if your national/Schengen type ‘D’ visa is approved, you’ll be required to choose a definite date of departure and show proof of it (airline tickets, etc.), so they can issue the visa with the correct expiration date. Your passports will then be returned with visas applied, which you can pick up in person or have priority mailed to you for a fee.
Before departing for Greece, be sure that you look at the section “Documents needed” below and secure anything you may need. Requesting them after you’re in Greece will be costly, difficult and often extend beyond the time limit you have to apply for the residence permit.
Family members under the age of 14
Children under 14 who accompany the applicant do not typically need special visas and can apply for a residence permit in Greece based on their parents’ status. However, you will need to bring an original long-form birth certificate for each child and any marriage/divorce certificates, and get an apostille for each document. See, “How to get an apostille” if you need help.
Applying for the residence permit in Greece
You technically have up until the expiration of your visa to apply for this residence permit, but it is recommended you apply within 30 days of arrival in Greece. Why?
a) Because documents you brought to Greece may exceed the period of validity if you wait too long, then they’ll need to be requested again from abroad, which takes time and may delay your application beyond your visa’s validity.
b) Because the process takes time to work, and your visa may expire and leave you in an illegal status that can only be fixed by exiting Greece, applying for another visa in your homeland, and waiting up to 90 days for a new visa to re-enter and try again. This has cost people precious time and money; don’t let it happen to you.
There have been cases when Greece denied residence/work permits to non-EU citizens — including spouses of Greek citizens — because they waited more than 30-60 days to apply, and it was only remedied by filing claims with an ombudsman and/or intervention by a fee-based lawyer.
Where to apply
Your local “dimos” (municipal office) or nomarxeia (prefecture office) accepts applications for residence permits during certain hours, usually early in the morning starting at 7:30 a.m. There is no nationwide standard — some take appointments, some operate on a first-come, first-serve basis on specific days.
If you are uncertain of the location, the mayor’s office (dimarxeio) or city hall in your prefecture should be able to direct you to the correct location. KEP Citizen Service Centres are often not knowledgeable about non-EU issues, but you can inquire by calling ’1500.’
In smaller towns and rural areas, the local police station will have an Allodapon or Foreigner division, where applications are processed. To find a location nearest you, look in a map book available for sale at any kiosk (periptero) or use the List of Greek Police Stations from the Greek Passport Center website, which provides the address, map, phone number and hours of operation for each location:
As mentioned in the Introduction, it’s not as simple as trading your type ‘D’ visa for a permit, even though you were approved. You must submit many of the same documents again. For each applicant:
1. Four (4) photocopies of the main page of the applicant’s passport and the original for verification
– The applicant’s passport must be valid for the duration in which you are applying (1 year)
– The applicant’s passport must have at least one (1) blank page in which to place the permit
– No translation is necessary if the passport has Latin letters. If not in Latin letters, it must be translated to Greek. See “Official translations to Greek” if you need assistance.
– The municipality employee can do the certification of photocopies, no need to go to the police or embassy.
2. Application, given to you at the municipality
– Original must be filled out in Greek, then photocopied once without a signature; both are signed when the municipality employee instructs as such.
– If applying as a family, it only needs to be completed once.
3. Proof of current and continuous medical insurance
– Insurance can be from back home (Tricare, private insurance), which can remain in force or eventually be cut in favor of local private insurance options
– Medicare and Medi-Cal are not acceptable for U.S. citizens since coverage terminates upon leaving U.S. territories
– Must have originals for verification and four (4) photocopies of each document
4. Proof of income
– Bank statements, letters from the source of past/current/future income, past tax statements, etc. that show at least 2,000 euros/month in support for 12 months or 24,000 euros in total liquid assets
– Additional funds if you are supporting a family (20 percent for a spouse; 15 percent for each child)
– Certified originals for verification and four (4) photocopies of each document
4. Deposit of 24,000 euros income (2,000/mo) in a Greek bank account
– Additional funds if you are supporting a family (20 percent for a spouse; 15 percent for each child)
– An AFM (Greek tax number) is not required to open a Greek bank account in all cases, but most banks ask for one
– Original bank register/book/statements and four (4) photocopies of balance within 14 days of application
*I do not quote figures in other currencies because the exchange rate fluctuates daily.
5. Proof of residence in Greece
– Signed lease stamped by the eforia (Greek tax office), OR mortgage papers, OR a letter from the landlord/owner if the rental/home is not in your name that confirms you live there paying rent or not, OR a dilosi (statement of facts) certifying your legal residence address. See “How to certify a dilosi, photocopy or other document in Greece.”
– Usually another document such as a utility bill in your name (OTE, DEH, EYDAP or cell phone)
– Original and photocopies of each document
6. Clean criminal record (Optional)
– Most municipalities present you with an application, which essentially requests your type A criminal record. It must be filled out in Greek, then it’s certified by the public official
– A few municipalities ask that you get your own criminal record from the Ministry of Justice
7. Health certificate (Optional)
– Authorities will almost always want it for a first-time applicant or if some time has passed since you last submitted one
– Secured by getting a chest X-ray and a TB (madou) test at a state/public hospital in Greece. You will need two (2) passport photos and your passport. See “How to get a health certificate”
– Original and three (3) photocopies
8. Original receipt of “Parabolo” (fee) of 150 euros
– Paid at either Greek tax office/eforia/DOY or mayor’s office (dimarxeio)
– Location varies according to municipality; you must ask, if they do not tell you
9. Four (4) recent color passport photos
– Some offices/sources say only three (3), but I’ve shown up with only three and been asked for four
– Colored folder with bands at the corners, purchased from any bookstore or school supply store
– They know what you mean if you use the word I’ve given
Any documents not in Greek must be first translated to Greek at the Translation Department or by a lawyer. The Translation Department requires that all documents/statements/certificates be originals with original signatures. Lawyers can translate e-statements from banks, Internet copies and non-originals within reason.
If you are a family, you must apply at the same time, though not all members need to be present and children under 14 do not need special visas.
*I make a copy of my entire file before handing it in because my papers have been inexplicably lost several times. However, this is a personal choice.
What happens next?
After your papers are verified and accepted, you will be issued a bebaiosi (certificate of receipt; blue paper with photo). It is not a permit. It acknowledges papers have been received and you have temporary permission to stay past the validity of your visa, while higher authorities examine your documents. You must carry this bebaiosi with your passport for public and private transactions, as well as legal purposes should a policeman or other authority ask you to present it. Keep a photocopy in a safe place in case the original is lost.
The bebaiosi does not necessarily grant you the right to travel outside of Greece. You must remain within the borders until an official permit sticker has been issued and placed in your passport or until you are in possession of an official residence card. See, “I’m a non-EU citizen in Greece, may I travel whenever I wish?”
There is no interview or other requirement, but it is your responsibility to go in person to follow up on its status since no one will call or otherwise contact you except in rare instances. If your application is successful, a permit will be issued in the form of a sticker placed in your passport or you will be given a card.
The official permit is good for one year.
Renewal of the Greek permit
Must be renewed at least 60 days in advance of the expiration date, and most of the same documents listed above will be necessary.
Traveling to all countries is allowed with an unexpired permit sticker/card. Traveling with only a bebaiosi (blue certificate with photo) is still only allowed to your homeland during pre-approved Easter, summer, Christmas or open periods announced by the Ministry of Citizen Protection. See “I’m a non-EU citizen in Greece, may I travel whenever I wish?”
Residence permits in this category can be renewed as long as the applicant qualifies, and the maximum period of validity is one year. There are no two-year, five-year or 10-year permits for this type because verification of income must be done annually.
Other residence/work permits
If this option doesn’t quite suit your situation, I recommend reading, “How Americans/non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece” to familiarize yourself with the most common Greek permits.
– First-hand notes and experience of reader ‘Deli,’ who was kind enough to share his experience both below in comments and via email
– Documentation given to me by the municipality office when I held this residence permit, translated from Greek to English
– Answers given by public sector employees when interviewed
– First-hand experiences of people who hold/held this type of permit in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and wished to be anonymous
– Comments/feedback from readers who successfully used this article to get and renew a Greek permit
– Greek consulate/embassy in the United States (I agreed to not disclose which one)
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
- Livingingreece.gr was created in 2007 to present meticulously researched original articles that fill a gap left by traditional media, government portals and commercial websites/forums run by people without credentials.
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