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Legalizing Your Stay

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Saved by Philip
on July 14, 2009 at 9:07:04 pm
 

This information applies only to American citizens. We are happy to add material regarding other English-speaking countries, if someone with experience writes it up. Also, please see our Important Disclaimer.

 

Tourists and pilgrims

 

If you're an American coming here as a pilgrim or tourist; if this is your first trip to Europe in a while (a half-year or more); if you're visiting Europe for ninety (90) days or fewerand if you won't be making a second trip to Europe within a half-year of leaving for your present trip — you can stop reading. You're fine: all you need for your travels is a valid American passport.

 

Otherwise, or for an explanation, read on:

 

  • Greece is a member of the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone is a collection of European countries with certain shared immigration rules. The membership is basically — but not entirely — the same as the membership of the EU. Unlike most Non-European tourists, American tourists do not need a visa to enter Schengen Zone countries. All you need is a valid American passport.
  • There are, however, limitations on the length of one's stay. First, a tourist may only travel within the Schengen Zone for ninety (90) days at a time. You may go in and out as many times as you like during that ninety-day period — but on Day Ninety after your arrival, if you are still in the Schengen Zone, you must leave. Second, once that ninety-day period has finished, you may not return to the Schengen Zone until another ninety-days have passed.
    • Remember that the ninety days starts when you enter any country in the Schengen Zone, even if it is only a layover on your way to Greece. So if you have a day or two in Germany between flights, your ninety days will start when you first set foot in Germany.

 

Other types of travelers

 

What if you are not in Greece to be a tourist or pilgrim? What if you are coming for a long stay, to attend the university or to work? In that case, you will need a visa appropriate to your purpose. You can apply for one from the Greek Consulate nearest to your permanent residence in America. You cannot get a visa in Greece. You must get it before you leave America. Really: you cannot work it out when you get here. (In particular, no matter what anyone may confidently tell you, no one from the University can arrange such a thing.)

 

A visa lasts for ninety (90) days. Once you are in Greece, you use the visa to apply for a residence permit, which lasts for a year or more. Thus, it is a two-step process. One step — the visa — is completed in America, while the other — the residence permit — is completed in Greece.

 

While in America

 

  • Make your application for whatever background check (sheriff, FBI, etc) the consulate requires early. FBI checks, for example, can take up to four weeks and as of this writing could not be expedited.

 

  • Stay in regular contact with the consulate, because it's not over until you have the visa pasted onto your passport. Their requirements can and likely will change without warning, depending on the day of the week, who you are speaking with, and how that person's favorite Greek football team is doing.

 

After arriving in Greece

 

  • If you think you know something about the law that the people behind the desks do not, you may very well be correct. Don't be afraid to stick to your guns, particularly if you are following a path already trodden by others.

 

Getting your Residence Permit (Άδεια Διαμονής)

 

  • If you live in Thessaloniki proper, the address of the Τμήμα Αλλοδαπών, the office where you apply for a residence permit, is Οδυσσέως 19. Go to Πλατεία Δημοκρατίας, then head north-west on Λαγγαδά. When you see a Champion grocery store on your left, go behind it and look for number 19. It's on the left. The stairway is hidden (yes) down a passageway, toward the back-left; and the office is on the second or third floor.
  • There seems to be a convenient recent change in the requirements for proving that you have the financial means to support your stay here: it used to be required to prove that you had 6000 euro in a Greek bank. In 2008, we discovered that you could merely declare, with an υπέυθυνη δήλωση, that you will have the ability to put 500 euro in the bank each month.
    • An υπέυθυνη δήλωση is a sworn statement, the form for which is available at street-side kiosks. It is also available at ΚΕΠ, a service that assists the public with various official needs, where you can also go to get the official stamp that the document requires. There is a ΚΕΠ office on Aristotle Square, on your right as you face the water.

 

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