Moving to Greece
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A comprehensive guide to moving to Greece
Will you be moving to Greece as an expat soon? With its rich cultural history, friendly, hospitable locals, and more than 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, this country has a lot to offer! You should, however, take the economic climate into account, which makes it hard for regular employees to find jobs. Read the InterNations GO! Guide for information on your move to Greece, including entry visas, residence permits, and more.
Relocating to Greece
At a Glance:
Greece is currently experiencing the worst financial and sovereign debt crisis in 21st-century Europe.
The government is encouraging expats to buy property in Greece and to invest in the tourism industry.
Every foreigner needs to get a residence permit. However, EU citizens do not need a visa to enter the country and stay for less than three months.
The Current Economic Climate in Greece
Greece joined the European Communities (EC), the forerunner of the European Union, in 1981. In 2001 it became the twelfth member of the European Economic and Monetary Union and in 2002 the euro became the official currency of Greece. From 2003 to 2007 the Greek economy enjoyed a healthy growth rate of 4% per annum, largely due to the projects undertaken in preparation for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.
The ongoing, infamous financial crisis began in 2009, when the then prime minister, Georges Papandreou, announced that the real budget deficit, as compared to the GDP, was 12.7%. The news created a panic on the financial markets and the credit rating of Greece began to fall to an all-time low of CCC+. Treasury bonds detained by private creditors were rapidly losing value, and in April 2010 Greece admitted that it couldn’t pay its expenses, asking for international help.
From 2010 to 2014, the International Monetary Fund and the EU decided to shoulder two multi-billion euro bailout packages. Owing to that, the Greek debt changed its structure: it switched from private market hands to public hands, as more than 80% of the debt was bought by the IMF and the EU. Since the financial markets did not own the debt anymore, there was no risk of a global crash in case Greece went bankrupt, but the creditors have been, from then on, the Eurozone taxpayers. However, the situation in Greece was not recovering: according to the World Bank, the GDP shrunk from 355 billion EUR in 2008 to 235 billion EUR in 2015, and the government had to implement austerity measures (higher taxes and less government spending) at the demand of their creditors.
The Tumultuous Year of 2015
This situation — especially the austerity measures that hit an already struggling population — resulted in the major political and financial crisis of the year 2015. In fact, the Greek government, led by the liberal-conservative New Democracy party, demanded a third bailout program from the EU. However, the opposition (led by the left-wing Syriza party and its chairman Alexis Tsipras) was against it, fearing that this would bind the Greek people even more strongly to their creditors and the unpopular austerity measures.
As a result of this political deadlock, the Greek parliament could not elect a new president: it had to be dissolved and a call was issued for new elections. In January 2015, Syriza won a historic victory, and Tsipras was sworn in as prime minister. After this change of government, the EU creditors decided to grant a four-month extension for loan repayments. In the meantime, Tsipras asked for a bailout referendum to be held in June 2015: over 61% of Greeks voted against the bailout. This meant that the Greek and Eurozone governments had to meet again for more negotiations in order to avoid a “Grexit”.
After a very difficult negotiation round, the third bailout package was accepted by both parties in August 2015 after all. Tsipras, however, paid a high price for the deal: due to dissent within his own party, he lost his majority in parliament. He thus decided to resign and call for new elections in September 2015. Surprisingly enough, Syriza was reelected, and Tsipras was reappointed prime minister, with a new parliamentary majority.
After that, the economic and political situation seems to have been slowly stabilizing. In the last quarter of 2015, the GDP rose by 0.1%, and the European Commission forecasts a GDP growth of 2.7% for 2017. Furthermore, international credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s upgraded Greece’s rating to B- in January 2016. The unemployment rate is still at an alarming 24%, though, and the general population has been affected greatly by the crisis. The situation as of April 2016 unfortunately remains unstable and subject to change.
Incentives for Expats to Move to Greece
In light of the current crisis, the Greek government is keen to attract investors and entrepreneurs who will give the economy a much-needed boost. To that end, they have opened up several opportunities for prospective expats who want to move to Greece and establish a life there. Third-country nationals, i.e. non-EU citizens, who buy property in Greece valued at 250,000 EUR or higher will be granted a five-year residence permit to move to Greece and may also bring their families with them.
In addition, Greece offers many opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs contemplating moving to Greece to live and work, especially in the tourism industry. There is room for expansion in this sector infrastructure to make Greece a more popular year-round destination for tourists. Areas of interest include developing integrated resorts and residential real estate, upgraded and new marinas, conference centers, etc., as well as infrastructure developing tourism in many areas, such as the wellness and health industry. Another law to stimulate investment and incentives in the tourism sector was passed in January 2016. For instance, it offers a fixed taxation of investments exceeding twenty million EUR for a period of seven years and simplifies the licensing procedures for tourist facilities.
For more information on moving to Greece as an investor or entrepreneur, please visit the website of the Greek government’s Invest in Greece Agency.
Entry Visas for Greece
EU citizens, as well as citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, do not require an entry visa. They just need to present their passport or identity card when entering the country. Citizens of all other countries must apply for a three-month entry visa at a Greek consulate prior to moving to Greece for employment purposes. This is a “D” type one-entry visa issued for either dependent employment or freelance work.
The following documents are necessary when you apply for a “D” type visa:
- application form completed either in English or Greek
- passport (valid for at least three months after expiration of visa)
- one biometric passport photo
- medical certificate filled out by a licensed doctor
- proof of medical insurance valid in Greece
- excerpt from the penal register issued by your country of origin or current residence
The third-country national must be present in person at the Greek consulate or embassy when submitting their application, and they may also be invited for an interview. Biometric data will be taken from the applicant during their visit. All documents must be in English or Greek. is the visa is valid for three months from the date of entry.
Residence Permits for Greece
Residence Permits for Employment Purposes
EU citizens moving to Greece for employment purposes must apply for a residence permit upon arrival. This is a relatively simple procedure. For non-EU citizens, the process is a bit more involved. Different residence permits are issued depending on if one is classed as an “executive” or “regular staff”.
Residence permits for executives are usually issued within one month of filing, and applications can be submitted upon arrival in Greece. Those for regular staff take considerably longer, and the process should be started well in advance of moving to Greece, even before applying for an entry visa. The need for the applicant’s specific specialization must be approved by the competent Greek authorities.
Those in possession of executive residence permits may bring their families with them. Those holding regular staff residence permits must wait two years before their families can follow them to Greece.
Applying for a Residence Permit
The following documents are necessary to obtain a residence permit at the Ministry of Interior after moving to Greece:
- two completed application forms (to be obtained at the Ministry of Interior office)
- original passport and a copy of each page
- three biometric passport photos
- health certificate filled out by a Greek hospital
- proof of health insurance
- proof of sufficient funds to finance your stay
- employment contract (if applicable)
- proof of local accommodation (e.g. rental contract)
- proof of payment of EUR150 application fee to national tax office (Eforia)
The medical examination includes a chest x-ray and a test for tuberculosis. The test results can be picked up two days after the examination. The examination should be completed as soon as possible after you arrive in Greece.
Residence permits for employment purposes are initially issued for one year. They must be renewed within two months of expiration. The renewed residence permit must be prolonged every two years. For more information on the difference between “executive” and “regular staff” residence permits, please consult the How to Work and Live in Greece brochure, published by the Greek government’s Invest in Greece Agency.
Residence Permits for Investors and Entrepreneurs
Those seeking to obtain a residence permit for Greece as an investor or entrepreneur need to complete a similar procedure to the one outlined above. Investors are issued a residence permit for the development of investment activity. Applicants in this case agree to invest at least 300,000 EUR in activities that will benefit the Greek economy. Entrepreneurs should apply for a residence permit for practicing independent economic activity. In this case, you must prove that you have at least 60,000 EUR at your disposal.
For both types of permits, residence permits will also be issued to family members (spouse and minor children). The permit is valid for two years and can then be prolonged every two years, provided the economic activity continues and all taxes have been paid.
As of early 2014, the Greek government has also started offering five-year residence permits to third-country nationals and their families who buy property valued at a minimum of 250,000 EUR. These residence permits can be renewed as long as the property remains in the permit holder’s possession.
Greece: Accommodation and Education
Accommodation in Greece
A lot of expats decide to rent in Greece. Greek law requires a rental contract to be valid for a minimum of three years. Rental prices vary in Greece, but are often highest in Athens. A deposit of two months’ rent is usually due upon signing, and one month’s notice must be given before moving out.
Expats are generally allowed to buy property anywhere in Greece (in fact it is actively encouraged by the government) except for in designated ‘border areas’. To buy property in these areas, non-EU citizens need special permission from the Ministry of Interior. The process is easier for EU citizens and permission is granted by a special committee.
If you are buying property valued at over EUR 104,700, you must hire a lawyer, who will help guide you through the process of purchasing property in Greece. This usually ends up costing 1-1.5% of the value of the property.
The following websites are useful for searching for property either to buy or to rent:
Education in Greece
Education is compulsory in Greece from ages 6 to 15. The school system is comprised of a six-year primary school (Dimotiko) and a three-year lower secondary school (Gymnasio), followed by a non-compulsory upper secondary school. The upper secondary schools can be either academic or technical in nature. Most Greek children attend public schools.
Plenty of non-compulsory private and public preschools and kindergartens are also available in Greece. Children can start attending preschool (Vrefonipiakoi Paidikoi Stathmi) at the age of 2 ½ and then continue on to kindergarten (Nipiagogeia)before starting primary school.
Greece also has many good international schools. Thirteen schools in Greece offer an International Baccalaureate degree, which makes it easier to study at universities outside of Greece after graduation. Most of the international schools are located in Athens, but there are a few in Thessaloniki. Several languages of instruction are offered, including English, French, German and Japanese.
The selection of international schools offers an English-language education, mostly in Athens:
- International School Athens
- Saint Catherine’s British School
- Campion School
- American Community School Athens
Top Expat Destinations in Greece
Athens has a population of just nearly four million. It has a long history, stretching back thousands of years through antiquity to the Neolithic Age. It is located eight kilometers from the Bay of Phaleron on the Aegean Sea, the site of Athens’ port, Piraeus. This bustling port helps to make Athens the most important manufacturing city in Greece. Athens accounts for about half of the jobs in Greece in handicrafts and industry. Average salaries are higher here than elsewhere in Greece, though the city has also been affected by the ongoing crisis.
Thessaloniki is the second-largest city in Greece with a population of around 800,000. Named after a sister of Alexander the Great, the city was founded in 315 BCE. Thessaloniki emerged as a major industrial center in the 1960s, with the opening of steel mills, oil refineries, and petrochemical plants. The city is also a major exporter of raw and processed agricultural products, chrome, and manganese. Much of the city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1978. During the current economic crisis, the unemployment rate in Thessaloniki has risen dramatically, especially due to the high number of young people who live here.