Applying for an EU Residence Permit

Updated 2010-01-08 08:00

European Union regulations say that a citizen of one EU country living in another country for more than six months should apply for a residence permit.

In Greece this is honoured in the breach. If you apply to the Police for a residence permit (βεβαίÏÏη εγγÏαÏήÏ), they will ask you why you want one. The police don't require you to have one. In fact you only need a residence permit for a few transactions: e.g. buying a car or motorbike. You don't need one to buy a house.

Generally speaking, as an EU citizen you can live in Greece indefinitely without a residence permit. You probably will need an ÎΦΠ('a-fee-mee', i.e. tax number) for a telephone or electricity contract, but that's another story.

My partner and I wanted to buy a Greek car however, so we needed residence permits. After convincing the officer on reception at our local police station that we really did need one, we were shown upstairs to see the nomatarchis (sergeant) who dealt with such matters.

No-one in our police station speaks English, so if your Greek wasn't up to it, you would need to take a Greek-speaking friend to interpret. My Greek was just about adequate.

Prepare yourself for a long session. To get just one of the residence permits took over two hours! The bureaucracy involved is impressive: forms in quadruplicate, a plethora of rubber stamps, and everything seemed to have to be both typed into the computer and completed in long hand! You need to answer a lot of questions.

The only question which briefly foxed me was what my religion was. It's not a question you get asked in Britain these days. Like a lot of Brits I'm pretty much an agnostic (although baptised into the Church of England as a baby), but I had a feeling this might not go down well in a religious country like Greece. My considered response, 'Ekklisia tis Anglias', got no recognition from the sergeant, however. I then said 'protestant' which got a better response: 'Ah, protestantis!' although my dictionary which I consulted later says 'diamartiromenos' is a more correct translation.

Fortunately I had with me all the necessary documents, which were:

- my passport;

- my EHIC card (which counts as medical insurance);

- a certified translation of a letter from my pension provider (if I had been employed, it would have been from my employer) setting out my annual income;

- four passport-size photographs.

I was directed to the bookshop next door which had a photocopier, to get the requisite number of copies of each document. Either the police station doesn't have a photocopier, or they have a limited budget!

The sergeant then disappeared for half an hour to put the permit together (this apparently required a stapler and more rubber stamps and signatures). The permit itself is a cardboard affair, a bit like the old British Visitor's Passport, if you remember them.

At the end of this process both we and the sergeant were exhausted. I asked about the permit for my partner (she had patiently sat there while I was being dealt with) but the nomatarchis was dismayed at the prospect of doing another one. Anyway, it was lunchtime. 'Avrio, avrio!' he insisted.

So we went back the next day for hers. Despite the fact that we took all the necessary copies of the documents with us, it still took two hours!

Fortunately residence permits last for five years, so we won't have to go through all that again for a long time!

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