Living in Greece

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

I’m a non-EU citizen in Greece, am I allowed to travel whenever I wish?

suitcaseThis post assumes you have a residence/work permit (άδεια διαμονής/adeia diamonis) for Greece or have applied for one. If you do not have one, see “How non-EU citizens can get a permit to live and work in Greece.”

According to Greek immigration law, all non-EU citizens in Greece with only a bebaisoi (blue certificate with photo) are forbidden to travel, while a residence/work permit is being processed as a renewal or a new permit and/or you are waiting to be interviewed.

Only those with an official unexpired permit sticker inside their passport or official residence/work card can travel freely to a country outside Greece and within Schengen without a visa, as I’ve explained previously in 2007 and the EU (finally) confirms on their official website.

If you do not have a permit sticker inside your passport or residence/work card, Greek authorities have been instructed to prevent you from re-entering Greece. The only way you can leave is if your original national or Schengen entry visa is still good for the duration of your trip and does not have entry restrictions, and you come back before it expires and don’t show anyone your bebaiosi.

According to EU law, non-EU spouses and children of Greek or other EU citizens are allowed to travel without restriction. However, this is only in theory in Greece. In reality, they may not. Many Greek authorities will insist you have a permit sticker/card and can refuse re-entry. Others may allow you to pass. There’s no way to predict what will happen due to Greece’s flexible rules, discrimination and lax implementation.

Why is it so strict? Because non-permit holders are technically not approved and therefore do not have legal standing. Also, it is a measure to prevent the movement of potentially illegal immigrants.

*Article last updated on January 2, 2015

Exceptions

In the past, exceptions were made only when the government announced special permission to travel during:
— Summer, usually mid-June to mid-September;
— Easter, varies according to the Orthodox calendar and is usually a six-week period that starts 30 days before Easter Sunday;
— Winter, normally around Christmas, starting anywhere from December 13-20 and ending between January 15-31; and
— Lunar New Year, for Asian citizens in Greece.

This exception only allowed travel to a non-EU citizen’s homeland, and the precise dates were usually announced at the last minute, which meant no one in this category could make travel plans, paid high-season costs and/or faced sold-out bookings. And even during these “free” travel periods, there were cases when Greek authorities prevented people from re-entering Greece and a lawyer or other authority needed to intervene to get proper resolution.

Another issue? The bebaiosi (blue paper with photo) was only in Greek, which violated EU directives and didn’t allow authorities of other countries the ability to read it.

Finally in October 2009, the government began granting permission to foreigners legally living in Greece the right to travel home at will, which has been extended through December 2015 2014 2012 2013. See, “Open travel period announced for non-EU citizens in Greece.” The bebaiosi is also printed in English as of 2011.

Travel to destinations other than the homeland are not allowed with only a bebaiosi. Only those with an unexpired residence permit sticker/card have the right to travel without restriction. If you have a bebaiosi (blue paper with photo) and need to travel to a country that’s not your homeland, you need to apply for a visa at embassy/consulate serving the country you wish to visit.

Have a question?

• Contact the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection

Tel: (210) 6977000
Fax: (210) 6929764
Email: pressoffice@yptp.gr
Website: www.yptp.gr

• Contact Greek authorities that issued your residence/work permit sticker or bebaiosi

• Contact the embassy/consulate of the country you wish to visit to inquire if you need a visa

Related posts

FAQ Greek work and/or residence permits
How non-EU citizens can live and work in Greece
Thanks to Greece, I’ve been reunified with myself

91 Comments

  arammos wrote @ October 16th, 2007 at 21:48

Good evening Kat. In 1999, I traveled to Italy with my ID only. After 9/11, everything changed. Now I have my passport, whether I’m traveling in the EU or not.

  The Scorpion wrote @ October 16th, 2007 at 23:27

What is so difficult about traveling with that paper with the photo on it, along with your passport?

Is there a logistic reason that wouldn’t work for them? Or is it just typical “Greek scratching the left ear with right hand” bureaucracy?

  gia1 wrote @ October 17th, 2007 at 15:50

It does seem to be a matter of bureaucracy and national safety. We live in a country that is currently attractive to citizens from non-EU countries. Since 9/11 there has been a crackdown on all activities that have to do with immigration.

  graffic wrote @ October 21st, 2007 at 12:31

I guess one day I’ll be waking in the street and the police will arrest me, hitting me because I forgot to fill-up the AX3244234FF form. And after that they will discover that I don’t need it.

Welcome to chaos, welcome to Greece.

  hony wrote @ October 21st, 2008 at 00:59

i am filipino nationality 4 years working in greece ,i have a permit for employment,service or project type of permit my question is can i go in other europe country for visit a family freind for at least 30 day?and my permit also will expired by january 16 2009,what shoul i do first i am planning to go on dec to january 10,thanks alot

  Kat wrote @ October 21st, 2008 at 11:14

The answers to your questions are already on site; please search/read more carefully next time or your questions won’t be published. As I say in the Related Post listed above “FAQ: Greek residence/work permits,” you should renew before you leave. You are required to start renewal at least 60 days previous, which you should know if you’ve held the permit for 4 years.

As I say in the article above, there will likely be a Christmas travel period, so as long as you renew before you leave, you should be fine. If you have further questions, call your municipality office.

  Singh wrote @ October 27th, 2008 at 22:51

I need Urgent help. I have my Adia Diamonis and it is going to be finished in mid of march. I am working as a Full time Employee in a IT company in greece as Programmer and my Tax is fully paid of 2007 and 2008. Now I want to open my own small freelance work also.

My lawyer told me that I must change my status to Work permit of Employment to work permit of Independent and work permit.

I want to ask , Is it ture?
1. He told me that changing status of permit is 300 Euro
2. Renewals fees is 300 euro.
3, I decide to pay him because in most of Dimos it is full of uneducated department.

Do u guys think I am doing correct? or I am totally wrong.

what I want to do is work for my employer also and run a small freelance work too and give one slip. should I need to change my work permit / adia diamonis status to Work permit + Independent worker?

Waiting for your reply.

Note from Kat: First of all, I do not see the urgency of your request. You still have several months before renewal, are not in any immediate danger and have not been fined or deported.

Second, you need to either trust your lawyer OR push to see documentation of what (s)he is telling you if you don’t believe it. In either case, I find it improper that you are asking me for free advice to help your lawyer do a job you paid him/her to do. If you don’t trust your lawyer, this is an entirely different matter that has nothing to do with me.

Please also note that I have never used a lawyer to do any of my papers in Greece for 11 years and am not a lawyer myself, which proves it is possible for anyone to do it no matter what the challenges.

  cristina wrote @ January 20th, 2009 at 17:37

hi,i live in greece ,have a working permit that expires next year.but because i’m a fyr macedonia citizen they won’t stick the working permit inside my passport.i wanna travel in italy with my boyfriend this march.i wanted to know if they are gonna make me a problem if i try to travel.answer as soon as possible,as i need it to travel.

Kat Reply:

Hi Cristina. Yes, it’s true that Greece does not recognize the name ‘Macedonia’ for your country, and as a result does not recognize your passport as being valid. Therefore, even though you have a valid work/residence permit, it is very possible that Greek authorities will not allow you back into Greece if you leave, unless the name dispute is resolved before March. Whether you want to take this risk is up to you.

* Hat tip to MBE for sharing his stats and information.

  Panagiotis wrote @ January 27th, 2009 at 06:18

Hello Kat,

I just felt obliged to congratulate you on your excellent reporting – not to mention for providing the ultimate resource for expat issues in Greece.

I bumped into your December article in UK media that was simply a revelation for me; even though I’ve been living in France for five years and consider myself a sceptical observer I hadn’t been able to distance myself enough from my origins so as to see into the malaise of the Greek society as you clearly did.

My girlfriend is Senegalese and we want to move to Greece; She has a long-term residence/work permit which is transferable among EU countries (which I know, thanks to your site!) so it should be easier for her to move than it was for you.

I’d like to tell you that I’ve enjoyed a lot reading your posts: your objectivity is of scientific standards – a valuable and rare attribute; your articles and comment replies are rigorous, admirable..!

I hope you keep writing

cheers

Kat Reply:

Ela Panagioti. I’m sorry I didn’t answer right away; sometimes I don’t know what to say, and sometimes life moves too fast. Apo tin kardia mou, thank you for your kind words and encouragement. It is my pleasure to write, serve and invest in people like you. Hope to see you again!

  Krista wrote @ April 12th, 2009 at 17:26

Thanks for the information regarding travel with only a bebaiosi. Has the government announced the pre-approved travel period for Easter 2009?

And does the Easter travel exception still apply if the first point-of-entry back into the EU is through a country other than Greece? For example, travel to a Non-Schengen country (Wales), and a return flight back to Greece via Amsterdam. Will the customs officials in Amsterdam recognize the bebaiosi and the accompanying press release, both of which are printed in the Greek language?

Or will they simply issue a transit visa and leave it for the Greek authorities to deal with upon return back into Greece?

Thanks again for all of your help.

Kat Reply:

That’s a good question, and I did not post anything last month. For those who missed it, the Easter period is from March 14 to May 3, 2009, see the Press Release in Greek only. The Easter period is not widely publicized because it’s assumed everyone wants to stay here for Greek Pascha. People should keep in mind that a passport or other valid travel document and the original bebaiosi (blue certificate with photo) are necessary. Those with a special certificate of legal residence that bans the holder from leaving are not eligible.

Another good question. You’re right. Greek authorities, for some reason, will not let go of the age-old practice of issuing a bebaiosi in only Greek. Therefore, officials from other countries cannot read them. When you get to passport control of any point of entry and officials see your visa has expired, give them the bebaiosi and press release. They’ll see it’s in Greek, shake their head or roll their eyes and make a comment/complaint that it’s not in English, then let you go (sometimes they’ll ask you what it says or why Greece doesn’t do this or that, but most EU countries are familiar with Greece’s ancient practices). They figure it’s not their problem, and Greece will deal with you. I’ve never been refused passage. Carrying the press release is primarily recommended to deal with uninformed Greek authorities, who should know better.

Thank you for being someone who took the time to read through the information I provide, then asks a legitimate question that helps everyone and is grateful for the assistance. Really it’s a pleasure, and have a nice trip! 🙂

  Leigh wrote @ August 4th, 2009 at 16:56

Does anybody know what is the difference between the sticker residence permit and the card residence permit? I received the card permit valid for 5 years (I am a non-EU married to an EU Citizen) but I was expecting a sticker to be placed in my passport.

Kat Reply:

They’re both permits and accomplish the same thing. Why would you want a sticker when the card is better? The card is evidence that the permit process is evolving — it used to be a paper, then it was a poor quality card in Greek only, and now there are bilingual stickers and cards with improved security.

  Sanjay wrote @ August 31st, 2009 at 14:19

Hi ,
I am a Indian Passport holder and came to Greece on Visitor visa which is valid for 3 months. After i came here my company applied for my Residence Permit which is yet to come ( almost 1 month since we applied for it ) .. Now the Visitor visa is expired and i am having Blue paper and i want to visit other EU countries (Swiss and Italy for tourism ) . what should i do if i dont get Residence Permit by then ?

Kat Reply:

Please read the above post. I also suggest reading the post “FAQ: Greek work/residence permits.” Waiting one month for a permit is NOT a long time; I and several of my friends have waited up to a year.

You and your company have given Greek authorities two reasons to delay and/or not issue your permit:
1) to enter Greece for the purpose of work and immigration, you should have been issued a Schengen type ‘D’ visa through the proper channels, not a visitor visa;
2) the law says that applicants must apply for permits within 30 days of arrival in Greece.

Also note that Switzerland is not an EU country. It is, however, in Schengen.

  3rd wrote @ December 28th, 2009 at 00:53

im a filipino working here in greece in almost 2 yrs. i have a working permit of employment and services or project. my problem is that my company is not giving me a write salary on me, my salary is not in minimum wages here in greece. what can i do on this? even my personal passport is on them.. i say to the company that this is my personal property. they just tell they will sent me back to my country if i insist getting it on it, even do that my permit is not expire until 2011 will expire, can i possible to find new employer?

  nana wrote @ February 6th, 2010 at 03:01

can somebody answer me..i am non-eu citizen, i have greek residence permit sticker in my passport, it’s expiry date is 30.06.2010, only in greek language, so can i travel to poland up to 90 days with my greek permit sticker?

where can i find same information on an official site?

thank you.

Kat Reply:

Answer is in the first paragraph of the article above.

You can find the same information in Greek on the Ministry of Citizen Protection’s official website, which is also listed in the above article.

Note: Because you asked two redundant questions, future ones were deleted per my policy.

  Peter wrote @ February 8th, 2010 at 23:22

Hi Kat,
I am non EU citizen and when i came to Greece i sought asylum and was given a pink card that is renewable every six months. I was born in Gambia in the western part of Africa, but Mali is my country. My father is from Gambia, and my mother is from Mali. Since i was born in Gambia, i was issued with Gambian birth certificate and passport. I have gone to Mali just twice with my mother since I was young. My mother died about 8 years ago. On my pink card they wrote Gambia as the place i was born and Mali as my national country.

I have Gambian passport and birth certificate but i have nothing from Mali that shows that i am from there. However on my AFM they wrote Mali as my country and this is a problem for me because i am using a Gambian passport.

So what should i do now? Can they change the country on my AFM and make it Gambia for me since i have all my documents from Gambia. I cant go to Mali again because i don’t have any family there. All my sisters are in Gambia, though my father too is dead.

Please help me so that i can change the country on my AFM and the Work permit. Thank you.

Kat Reply:

Hi Peter,

I’m not sure how to answer this question because I don’t understand why they listed Mali as your country for your AFM and work permit, especially since your passport is from Gambia and this is the only passport you’ve ever had and have no documents from Mali. The only thing you can do is ask the eforia and the dimos office to make the change and see what they demand from you.

  lizzie wrote @ November 19th, 2010 at 01:53

hello, Kat!

Need ur advice, can u pls help me.

I’m citizen of Kazakhstan, I have 1-year national visa and applied for a residence permit (they gave me blue paper, but it seems it means that i just applied and waiting for residence permit). I want to go to Italy. Could i go there without italian visa with greek national visa? or with this paper that states that i’ve already applied for residence permit?

Any suggestions? I’ve tried to communicate with italian embassy and no results.

thanks very much

Kat Reply:

A national visa for Greece is only good for Greece, as I explained in Visas for Greece in “How Americans and other non-EU citizens can get a permit to live/work in Greece.” Therefore, you cannot travel to Italy or anywhere else with this visa.

The bebaiosi (blue certificate with photo) is not a Greek residence permit. With this paper, you are allowed to travel to your homeland of Kazakhstan and nowhere else.

To travel to Italy, you need to apply for a Italian visa. The Italian embassy is only an authority on issues pertaining to Italy, so asking them to answer questions about a Greek bebaiosi and Greek residence permit is not their job.

  Joyce wrote @ December 3rd, 2010 at 00:46

Dear Kat,

Thank you for all the information you have put into this site. They have helped me a lot in dealing with the Greek bureaucracy!!! And I hope you can give me your insight to my situation.

I am Non-EU spouse to a Greek national and am holding the bebaiosi (still waiting for the immigration department to issue the permanent permit). I am planning for a holiday to Turkey in January, which my Singapore passport doesn’t require me to take out a visa for the visit.

You mentioned previously that people with bebaiosi are allowed to travel to their home country only. My questions are:
1. Since I don’t need a visa to travel to Turkey, will I have problems when clearing customs in Greece when I return from the trip.
2. Will the Greek customs officers stop me from entering because the flight is not from my home country? How do they make sure that I do travel to and back to my home country?

Thank you very much for your help!

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