Immigration to Greece

Introducing Greece which can be described as one of the most popular European countries. Located at the crossroads of Europe and considered the cradle of Western civilisation, Greece shares land borders with North Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, Albania to the northwest and Turkey to the northeast. Its population is currently estimated at about 11 420 163. The official language is Greek.

The official currency is the euro (EUR). Greece is a core member state of the European Union and the Schengen area, which provides many benefits for its residents. It is possible to acquire a residence permit in Greece. For short stays of up to 90 days, a visa will be required.

Immigration services

The central government or more specifically the Ministry of Interior (General Secretariat for Population and Social Cohesion), particularly its Departments of Migration Policy and Social Integration, are responsible for immigration and integration policy in Greece (https://portal.cor.europa.eu/).

The Ministry of Public Order and Citizens Protection and the Greek police are responsible for the return of third-country nationals illegally residing in the country. The Asylum Service is the country's primary autonomous structure dealing with the examination of claims for asylum and international protection. This service contributes to policymaking at the national level. It ensures cooperation with the EU and international organisations by providing administrative support to the new Refugees Authority in cases where requests for international protection are rejected at the first instance.

If a non-EU citizen wishes to stay in Greece for more than three months, he or she needs a temporary residence permit, residence card or retired residence permit. Therefore, anyone entering Greece with the intention to stay for longer than 90 days and intending to work or study in the country must hold a long-term visa or entry permit issued by the Greek authorities.

Immigration service providers

Despite the fact that Greek law specifies certain exceptions to visa and entry permit requirements, the generally applied rule is that an applicant cannot be granted a residence permit until he or she has been evaluated and approved by the Greek consulate. So, any person seeking entry to Greece must start out by drafting and submitting an application to the consular authority responsible for his or her country of residence. Submitting an application to the wrong authority will most likely result in a refusal. Such services are usually best provided by law firms and immigration agencies.

Here are three email address of companies which offer immigration services in Greece:

  • E-mail: residency@baltic-legal.com
  • E-mail: europe@forsetico.com
  • E-mail: info@lawyersgreece.com

Lawful immigration

In order to reside in Greece legally, immigrants need to follow all requirements set out in Greek law. The main law regulating the immigration of non-EU citizens in Greece provides for access to the territory, residence, establishment and the removal of those found to be in the country illegally. There are several options, depending on the purpose of the visit.

The Greek government has introduced new rules allowing three generations of family members to benefit from the ‘visa by investment’ programme. For example, an investment in real estate of just EUR 250 000 will provide you with a five-year renewable residence visa as part of the Greek Permanent Residence Programme. There is also no minimum stay requirement for permanent residence applicants. In addition, Greece is a member of the EU Schengen visa zone. Therefore, holders of a Greek permanent residence permit, called the ‘Greek Golden Visa’, are permitted to travel freely throughout the European Union.

Obtaining a Greek permanent residence permit usually takes around two months, and the permit can be renewed every five years.

The Greek State Legal Council, Nomiko Symvoulio tou Kratos, is responsible for receiving and hearing visa applications and issuing approvals. However, in order to successfully apply for a visa, you may need to apply to the specific consular authority in your country of residence.

Immigration law

The Ministry of Interior and the General Directorate of Citizenship and Migration Affairs are the main legal/ regulatory bodies for immigration to Greece from various other states.

Immigration statistics

According to official immigration statistics, 9–11% of the registered Greek labour force of 4.4 million people were born elsewhere, making up 25% of wage earners. In 2017, there were a great many applications from citizens of Syria (16,396), Pakistan (8,923), Iraq (7,924), Afghanistan (7,567) and Albania (2,450). Most applicants were male.

Below you can find information regarding the largest ethnic groups among immigrants in Greece as of last year:

# Group % of the total number of immigrants
1 Syria 8%
2 Pakistan 5%
3 Iraq 4%
4 Afghanistan 3%
5 Albania 2%

Most popular cities by population

The most popular city for immigrants is Athens, the capital city of Greece, well known for its cultural heritage and museums. Other options include Mykonos, Agios Nikolaos (on Crete, Greece’s largest island) and Thessaloniki. Around 66% of the Greek population lives in urban areas. Athens and Thessaloniki have a combined population of around four million and are Greece's largest metropolitan centres and most influential urban areas. Patras has a population of 167 466, Larissa 144 651, Heraklion 140 651, Volos 86 046 and Ioannina 65 574.

Migration in and out of the Schengen area

Greece is a member state of the Schengen area and the European Union. Member states of the Schengen Agreement have successfully abolished passport and immigration controls at their internal borders. Member states of the Schengen Agreement have abolished passport control as well as any immigration restricting procedures at their internal borders, therefore, travellers may move freely within the territory of the EU. Passport controls and immigration checks are still in place at external borders. Member states also recognise Schengen visas issued by other Schengen states. At the external border or upon first entry to a Schengen area member state, normal immigration control procedures still apply; however, admission to any Schengen country is generally recognised as admission to the entire Schengen area, without the need for any further passport or visa controls.

Nationals of other countries holding a residence permit or residence card may stay in Greece for a period in excess of 90 days. Because of the strict immigration policy, it may be difficult to acquire a residence permit or any other long-stay immigration document. A list of permissible grounds for applying for a residence permit is available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Types of visa in Greece

If staying in Greece for a period of fewer than 90 days, non-EEA nationals must apply for one of several types of visa in order to make their visit legal. In Greek immigration policy there are several different types of visa which must be acquired depending on the case and its circumstances:

National work visa Stay of more than 90 days in Greece Travel health insurance, documents showing sufficient funds and proof of accommodation required.
Short-stay national Types A 1,2 & 3-1 visas Stay of up to 90 days in Greece Travel health insurance, documents showing sufficient funds and proof of accommodation required.
Greece Airport transit visa Airport transit visa Airport ticket required

Residence permit

If you plan to stay for longer than 90 days, you will have to register and obtain a Certificate of Registration or Residence Certificate (Βεβαίωση Eγγραφής Πολιτών Ευρωπαϊκης Ενοσης/Veveosi Egrafis Politon Evropaikis Enoseis). This can be done at the nearest police station or Aliens’ Bureau. Depending on your circumstances and the details of your case, you can apply for and acquire one of the following residence permit types:

Stay Document (Residence Certificate) — This document is essentially a residence permit for immigrants visiting Greece on a long-stay visa and who plan on staying for a longer period of time. In order to acquire a stay document, applicants must complete the following steps:

  • validate their visa, which will then serve as a residence permit; or
  • apply for a residence permit during the initial three months of their stay in Greece.

The Greek immigration system offers two types of stay document:

  • Permanent Residence Certificate — allowing holders to stay in Greece indefinitely, working or otherwise, under similar conditions and enjoying similar rights and benefits as Greek nationals;
  • Residence Permit — issued for a fixed period of time and renewable upon expiration.

Residence visa types 1, 2 and 3-1 are for all other categories of applicants mentioned above.

Depending on your circumstances and the details of your case, you might be able to apply for another kind of immigration document: an authorisation of stay. This document is valid for one, three or six months. It is usually issued in exceptional situations when the presence of the applicant in Greece is required; this would apply, for example, to the parent of a sick child in Greece or a volunteer on a mission.

It is worth underlining that, according to the provisions of the recently introduced immigration law, aimed at attracting highly skilled workers, the application procedure has been simplified for certain categories of applicants, including:

  • executives working for multinational companies with gross monthly earnings of a certain amount;
  • scientists;
  • those working in the entertainment industry;
  • seasonal workers;
  • members of licensed professions (healthcare professionals, architects, lawyers, teachers, etc.).

Residence permits in Greece can be acquired by international investors through several routes:

1. legal ownership of a real estate property in Greece with a minimum value of EUR 250 000, or a ten-year timeshare contract in Greece with a minimum value of EUR 250 000, or a ten-year lease of hotel accommodation or furnished tourist housing with a minimum value of EUR 250 000.

2. a position as a board member, shareholder, administrator, legal representative or chief executive of a company or branch of a foreign company in Greece.

History

Throughout history, Greek colonies and communities have been established on the shores of the Black and Mediterranean Seas. There, the Greek language has been spoken since the Bronze Age. Most Greeks clustered around the Greek peninsula until the early twentieth century. Many of these regions largely coincided with the borders of the late eleventh-century Byzantine Empire and Greek colonies in the eastern Mediterranean.

By the twentieth century, over 50% of the overall Greek-speaking population was settled in Asia Minor. There was a huge wave of migration to Australia, the United States, Canada and elsewhere at that time. These events created the modern Greek diaspora.

If you have any questions or if you need a free consultation regarding immigration opportunities in Greece, feel free to contact us: