Immigration and the European Union


Citizens of the European Union enjoy the freedom of movement to all 25 member-states. Free movement is a cornerstone of the EU citizenship.

Citizens of the EU's 15 "old" member states, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom also enjoy the right to work in any other country. This also applies to the citizens of Cyprus and Malta - two of 10 countries that joined the European Union in May 2004.

The terms and conditions under which they joined allowed the existing members to restrict the rights of the EU's newest citizens to work in their countries for up to seven years. to work in Greece, the citizens of the new member states (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) are required to obtain visas and work permits for at least two years. Cyprus and Malta are exempt, so their citizens are free to work in Greece and the other "older" EU member states.

The traditional arrangements only apply to "workers" and not to the free provision of services or to the freedom of establishment, students, pensioners, and tourists.

Residence for EU citizens

Those eligible for residence in another member state include students, pensioners, workers and people married to EU citizens as well as those who can financially support themselves. A residence permit is not required by law for those who wish to stay in Greece up to three months.

Non-Greek EU citizens who wish to live and/or work in Greece require an EU residence permit. Citizens of the eight newest EU member states (the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) who do not yet enjoy full mobility rights, are also eligible for an EU permit after 12 months of legally working in Greece. Similar rules exist in the other fourteen "older" EU member states.

The application procedure for the residence permit is relatively trouble-free. The health certificate requirement has been scrapped. The processing fee is a mere 23 cents - equal to the amount paid by Greeks to be issued an ID card. The permit is issued on the spot. The residence permit also serves as a work permit.

Note: The European Parliament approved new rules to scrap the residence permit requirement for European Union nationals living in another member state. The new directive will be put into force in two years.

When to file

Within three months of one's stay in Greece.

Where to file

Applications for residence permits are submitted to the nearest alien's bureau. In Athens it is located at 99 Antigen St, Colons.

Application requirements for pensioners or those in Greece for work purposes:

• A passport or identification card

• Three passport-size photographs

• A document (utility or telephone bill is accepted) stating their home address

• An official document proving they are receiving a pension. Or a work contract signed by their employer and validated by the local labor inspectorate. Or proof they are self-employed in Greece

Application requirements for students:

• A valid passport or ID

• Three passport-size photographs

• A document verifying the applicant is enrolled at a school recognized by the Greek state

Application requirements for family members of EU citizens:

• A valid passport or ID

• A certificate issued by authorities in the applicant’s home country stating their relation to the EU citizen already in Greece

• Three passport-size photographs

Renewing the residence permit:

The residence permit is valid for up to five years and must be renewed at least two weeks before it expires. The application procedure is the same with the initial permits. Only one passport-size photograph is needed.

Application requirements for new EU Citizens requesting their first permit:

• A valid passport or identification card

• A document issued by the applicant’s local prefecture indicating the duration of his/her legality in Greece (the number of years he/she has held a valid work permit)

• Three passport-size photographs

• A document indicating the applicant’s permanent residence or a statutory declaration (ypefthyni dilosi) signed by the applicant and validated by police

• A statutory declaration (ypefthyni dilosi) signed by the applicant , stating that he/she has medical insurance

• A work contract validated by the labour inspectorate. If self-employed , the applicant must submit a document issued by the tax office stating the launch of his/her business and a photocopy of his/her receipt booklet

The residence permit is issued on the spot, provided that all application requirements are submitted. The application processing fee is 23 cents.

Special cases

• EU Citizens who work in Greece do not need a residence permit if they travel to their home in another member state either on a daily basis or at least once a week

• EU citizens may stay in Greece legally for as long as they wish without a residence permit. There is really no way for authorities to check - as there are no passport controls. But, they are required to hold a residence permit in order to work, study or collect a pension here.

• Authorities may reject an application if they deem the applicant poses a threat to public health or public order. This decision can be appealed.

Note: During the first three months you only need your identity card or passport. If you wish to stay for a longer period, you need a residence card, not as a prerequisite for being able to live in the new country, but as a proof of your rights in this country.


For further information ring police headquarters in Athens on 210 510 2813 or contact your local police station (ask for the ‘tmima allodapom’).

• If you live in western Athens ring 210 531 9315 or go to the police station in Egaleo (21 Marmara)

• If you reside in southeastern Attica (from Ilioupoli to Vari) ring 210 969 0292. The police station is located at the former Athens airport (Anatoliko).

• If you reside in northern Attica ring 210 687 5176. The police station is located in Pallini (14 Athanasiou Diakou St.)


What if ideal work for you is in another European country? One way to a new job in another European country is EURES (the European Job Mobility Portal). It is an on-line system that links job-seekers and employers in the European Union.

It aims to provide a user-friendly means of accessing the information needed for those contemplating a move for career or for learning purposes.

The EURES databank includes thousands of vacancies. Open posts include positions in management and administration as well as chefs in France, pig stock persons in Ireland and registered nurses in the UK. There are also thousands of curricula vitae (CV’s) of EU citizens posted on its web site for employers to scan. EURES is a free service to both job seekers and employers, subject to the preconditions set down by individual EURES members.

The objective of the EURES network is to facilitate the free movement of workers within the European Area (the 25 members of the European Union, plus Norway and Iceland) and Switzerland. It was created by the European commission a decade ago to make the single labour market for millions of EU citizens a reality. Today it covers 28 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands,

Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

EURES in Greece

EURES in Greece operates under the labour ministry’s Organization for the Employment of Human Resources (OAED). EURES advisors answer questions on EU labour laws, healthcare and taxation rules as well as about cost of living and accommodations. The advisors in Greece are based in OAED offices across the county. Contact OAED headquarters in Athens (tel 210 998 9131) for a EURES advisor near you.

Fast EURES facts

• Job-seekers can access the job vacancies database by clicking on “jobsearch” in the EURES website (

•Job-seekers may also post their CVs on the EURES CV-search website – a meeting place for employers and job-seekers created by the European Commission. The CV can be in English, French or German. It is free. Job-seekers simply register to receive a user ID and password. They their own page and can design their CV as they wish. Job-seekers do not need to name their current employers and can withhold their address details as employers may contact them through the website.

•Only citizens of the EU and Iceland and Norway are eligible to seek employment through EURES. Non-nationals who are married to an EU citizen also have the same rights regarding employment. Under EEC Regulation 1612/68 on Freedom Movement for Workers within the Community stipulates that “where a national of a member state is pursuing an activity as an employed or self-employed person in the territory of another member state, his spouse and the children who are under the age of 21 years or dependent on him shall have the right to take up any activity as an employed person throughout the territory of that same state, even if they are not nationals of any member state”.

Working in Greece

• Minimum wage: It is set through collective bargaining between the General Confederation of Workers in Greece (GSEE) and the employer’ Association. At present the minimum wage per month is estimated at 600 euros.

• Right of association: The Greek Constitution provides for the right of association. All workers have the right to join or form a union.

• Social security: The Greek social security system is split into a number of different funds for employed or self-employed persons. Each is governed by separate legislation. Insurance under these funds is compulsory.

The majority of employed people belong to the Social Insurance Foundation (IKA). The two other big insurance foundations include the one for those self-employed (TEVE) and the Farmer’s Pension Fund (OGA).


In a time of flux, ensuring you get the pension and benefits you’ve paid for all these years is becoming harder. Things get even more complex when you work and contribute in one country and then decide to retire somewhere else. What happens then?

The Athens News, bearing in mind the complexity of social security legislation, is merely attempting to provide an overview of the situation rather than explain all the conditions and peculiarities pertaining to a great variety of specific cases.

Binding agreements: Greece is bound by bilateral social insurance agreements with a number of countries outside the European Union, such as Argentina (since 1998), Brazil (1988), Canada (1983 – including the City of Quebec, which has it’s own, separate pension scheme), Cyprus (1991), Egypt (1986), Libya (1991), New Zealand (1994), Poland (1986), Romania (1997), Switzerland (1975), Syria (2001), the United States (1994), Uruguay (1997) and Venezuela (1995).

An EU regulation coordinates systems in all member states.

An example: The agreement on social insurance between Canada and Greece, for instance, was signed in May 1981 and came into force in 1983. This accord, however, was replaced by another social insurance treaty signed in November 1995, which came into force in 1997. Based on this agreement, those who have contributed to both the Canadian and Greek social security systems may receive benefits from both countries based on periods they have lived or worked in Canada and Greece. Social security agreements with other countries are based on similar principles.

Coordinating EU systems

European Council regulation 1408/71 coordinates the national social security insurance legislation of EU member states. It outlines “social security schemes to employed persons, to self-employed persons and to members and their families moving within the community”.

Council regulation 574/72 lays down the framework for the implementation of the above regulation.

Regulation 1408/71, passed by the European Council in June 1971, ensures that people moving within the union do not lose their social security contributions. It also makes certain that people are not doubly liable for contributions.

This regulation applies to the sick, maternity, invalidity, old age and survivor’s benefits as well as benefits with respect to accident at work and occupational diseases, unemployment and family benefits and death grants.

Regulation 1408/71 in practice

• A Greek citizens who works in France and wants to retire in Spain will be covered by the French social insurance system.

• A Greek citizen living in Germany and receiving unemployment benefits under German law wants to move back to Greece and work here but cannot afford to do so without receiving his unemployment benefits while he is looking for a job. According to regulation 1408/71, he may continue to draw benefits from one member state (in this case Germany) for up to three months after he had moved back to another EU country.

• A Greek citizen who has worked in Italy for 10 years and wants to retire in Greece is entitled, according to regulation 1408/71, to have that period of insurance or employment in Italy (and any other EU country) taken into account in Greece.

Retiring abroad

Of interest to a large number of Greek pensioners (including non-Greek legal residents) who wish to retire abroad is whether the Greek pensions are payable in their countries of origin or in the country they wish to settle down in. According to labour ministry officials, this is only possible for those wishing to retire in an EU member state or in countries bound by a bilateral social insurance agreement with Greece.

There are four ways people in these specified countries may collect their Greek pensions:

• Monthly cheques (in the currency of that country) issued by the corresponding bank abroad and mailed to the pensioner’s home.

• Monthly payments directly deposited in a bank account opened by the pensioners in the country where they are currently residing.

• Pensioners may officially appoint someone in Greece to collect their pension.

• Monthly payments may be deposited in a special savings account at the National Bank branch located at 3 Agorakritou St., Victoria Square. In this case, pensioners are required by law to submit an annual “certificate of life”, ie a signed statement stating that they are alive.

For more information

• Labour ministry’s general secretariat for social insurance policy: contact the department for bilateral agreements (29 Stadiou St) tel: 210 322 5876

• Central Pension Payment Office: (48 Agisilaou St.) tel: 210 527 9842

• Visit the general secretariat’s website


Greek law 2910/2001 forms the corner stone of the country’s immigration policy. It outlines the procedure migrants must follow when seeking to enter the country for work purposes. Here are the answers to the most common questions about the process.

How foreigners can enter Greece?

Foreigners who wish to enter Greece must have a passport or other valid travel documents and an entry visa, where this is required. Visas are issued by Greek consular authorities in their country of origin. Foreigners who do not require a visa to enter the country can stay in Greece for up to three months. An amendment to immigration Law 2910 (passed in May 2003) outlines the procedure for foreigners – those who can financially support themselves without having to work in Greece – to apply for a one-year renewable residence permits. This applies to foreigners who can financially support themselves without having to work in Greece, such as pensioners from affluent non-European Union countries.

Consular authorities may deny a foreigner permission to enter the country without having to justify their decision. But they must give a reason if the foreigner in question is the spouse or child of a Greek citizen or a citizen of an EU member-state who is living in Greece.

Greek border control authorities may also deny a foreigner entry if that person’s name is on the public order ministry’s so-called list of undesirables or if there is reason to believe that the person could pose a threat to public health or security.

How to apply for a residence permit?

Foreigners who enter Greece legally and hope to gain residency will have to submit an application for a residence permit two months before their entry visa expires. The application should be submitted to the municipality or village council where they are staying. The foreigner must clearly state on the application form the reason why he or she is seeking a residence permit. They should also submit a photocopy of their passport or other travel document.

Officials have one month in which to examine it and arrange a personal interview with the applicant. If the application for the permit is approved, the district general secretary will issue the permit.

What is the procedure for the issuing of a work permit?

Based on law 2910, the Organization for the Employment of Human Resources (OAED) records the country’s manpower needs and outlines the types of jobs available to migrants each year.

This list takes into account the needs of the economy and is approved by the labour ministry. It is then forwarded tot he Greek consular authorities abroad as well as to prefectures around the country. Greek authorities abroad then publicize the list and register those who are interested in working in Greece. The names of these foreigners are then sent to OAED and to prefectures around the country. Employers in Greece wishing to hire migrant workers contact their prefectural authority. If OAED determines that the job openings cannot be filled by Greeks or immigrants already in Greece, the employer chooses from the list of foreigners and request work permits for them. If the application is approved, the work permit will be issued by the perfect and the foreigner will then be able to enter the country.

How can foreigners come to Greece for seasonal work?

Based on the law 2910, seasonal work refers to employment of up to six months in one calendar year. Only foreigners outside the country can apply for seasonal work. Employers who wish to engage foreigners for seasonal employment will have to submit an application to their local prefecture, clearly stating the number of workers needed , the type of work involved and its duration. Employers will also be required to submit bank statements indicating they are able to pay workers’ wages for at least three months, as well as cover the cost of their return to their country of origin or deportation. The seasonal work permit, which is valid for up to six months, is issued by the local perfect.

Family reunification

Immigrants living legally in Greece for at least two years may apply to bring their spouse and children to Greece. They will have to submit an application to their municipality or village council accompanied by a photocopy of their residence permit, a photocopy of their income tax declaration, a certificate verifying their relation to the individuals with whom they wish to be reunited and a statutory declaration confirming these individuals will be living with them.

In July 2004, the government increased the income levels for immigrants hoping to bring family members from other countries. According to an interior ministry circular, immigrants must demonstrate an annual 15 percent increase in their income to be eligible to send for their spouse and a 10 percent increase for each child. If the application is approved, Greek consular authorities abroad will facilitate the family members’ entry to the country. Once in Greece, family members must apply for a residence permit. Children aged between 14 and 18 are issued their own residence permit which expires when their parents’ residence permit expires. These residence permits will be valid for one year and can be renewed on the condition that the migrant who sought reunification possesses a valid residence permit. Family members can apply for their own residence permit when they turn 18, in the case of divorce or if the migrant who had sought reunification passes away. Again, this residence permit is valid for one year and can be renewed annually.

Can immigrants living in Greece legally leave the country and return?

Yes, as long as their residence permit is valid.

What happens if the residence permit expires and it is not renewed?

Immigrants who do not renew their residence permit or have their application for renewal rejected will have to leave the country or will be deported if caught by the police.


Acquiring Greek citizenship through naturalization is a long , expensive and rather complicated process. Applications take several years to be reviewed and many are rejected. To be eligible for citizenship through naturalization, foreigners (both EU and non-EU citizens) must be over 18 and not have a criminal record or deportation order issued against them. Applicants also have to fulfil certain statutory conditions, including having a total of 10 years residency in Greece in the 12 years preceding the date of the application. Refugees (those who are recognized under the 1951 Geneva Convention of Refugees) should have a total of five years residency. The only exception to the residency requirements are foreigners who were born and raised in Greece as well as those who are married to Greeks and have children with their Greek spouses. The second main condition to acquiring citizenship through naturalization, is a Greek language requirement. Applicants must be fluent in Greek.

The process

The application for Greek citizenship through naturalization is submitted to the applicant’s local municipality or village council. It must be accompanied by the following documents.

• A statement of naturalization signed in the presence of the mayor or head of the village council and two witnesses (Greek citizens)

• A photocopy of the applicant’s passport or valid travel documents. A translation is required if the information on this document is not written in Latin characters

• A photocopy of the applicant’s residence permit

• A photocopy of the applicant’s birth certificate

NOTE: This is not required for refugees

• A photocopy of the applicant’s most recent income tax return

• Applicants must also have their fingerprints taken at their local police station and include verification with their application

• A non-refundable processing fee (1,470 euros) must be paid at the time of the application

The application and all the required documents are examined by the local prefecture. If the prefecture officials find all the requirements in order, the application is forwarded to the regional general secretary for approval. If this application is approved, officials at the regional office request a copy of the applicant’s Type A criminal record certificate from the justice ministry. The application is then forwarded to the interior ministry, where officials request a personal interview with the applicant to determine his/her proficiency level in the Greek language, character and personality. If the applicant does not show up at this interview, his/her request for citizenship is rejected.

If the application for citizenship is rejected, the foreigner may apply again after one year. The fee to do so is 734 euros.

If an application is approved, this decision is published in the Government Gazette.

The next step is for the applicant to take an oath that they become Greek citizens. The oath must be taken within one year of the date the decision is published in the Gazette.

The oath: “I swear to be true to my homeland, to obey the constitution and the laws of this country and to consciously fulfil my duties as a Greek citizen."

People of Greek descent who live abroad

Non-nationals of Greek descent who reside abroad may also acquire Greek citizenship. They must submit an application to their local Greek consular office. Here are the application requirements.

• A statement of naturalization signed in the presence of the consul and two Greeks citizens, who serve as witnesses

• A photocopy of his/her passport or valid travel document. A translation is also required if the information on this document is not in Latin letters.

• His/her birth certificate

• A Type A criminal record certificate

The application is forwarded to the Greek interior ministry, where officials review it and render a decision

Info box

• Interior ministry’s citizens’ information 1564

• Interior ministry’s citizenship office

31 Stadiou St, Tel 210 324 9683

• Foreign ministry’s citizens’ information office

3 Akadimias St, Tel 210 368 2700

For more information about Greek laws and procedures, we invite HCS readers to view other articles in our extensive archives at Laws and Procedures

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