New Residence Permit Rules for EU Citizens inGreece

byKathy Tzilivakis
Athens News

Britons, Germans, Italians and tens of thousands of other European Unioncitizens living and working in Greece can forget about renewing theirresidence permits thanks to a new decree signed by the president.

A much-delayed law that eliminates the residence permit requirement for non-Greek, European Union citizens living and working in Greece has finally come into force.

The decree, which makes life easier for tens of thousands of European expats residing in Greece, was signed by President Karolos Papoulias and published in the Government Gazette on June 21. It replaces a presidential decree enacted 20 years ago.

The new presidential decree is based on a European Union directive (2004/38/EC) that was supposed to be implemented by April 2006. The new rules affect an estimated 65,000 non-Greek EU citizens, plus their spouses and children.

The government, however, looks as though it wants to keep the new decree a secret. Aliens bureaux have yet to be informed by the public order ministry (responsible for issuing residence permits to EU citizens) about the new rules, which means that officials across the country are continuing to issue residence permits to EU citizens.

Officials at the public order ministry told the Athens News on July 3 that they are still working on the ministerial circular (an information guide for aliens bureaux staff) and that the new application forms and registration certificates have to be printed. This will probably take a week or two, if not longer due to the summer holiday season.

The Athens News presents the most important stipulations of the new presidential decree concerning the right of EU citizens and their family members to move and reside in Greece. The aim is to answer most of the questions on the minds of EU citizens living in Greece or those planning to move here.

Simply register

Under article 8 of the new presidential decree and article 8 of the EU directive, EU citizens who wish to stay in another member state for more than three months are required to apply for a registration certificate (veveosi eggrafis) at their local aliens bureau. The registration certificate does not have to be renewed.

Previous legislation required non-Greek EU citizens to obtain a residence permit that had to be renewed every five years.

To register, EU citizens are required to submit the following documents: a valid identity card or passport; confirmation of engagement from the applicant's employer or a certificate of employment or proof that they are self-employed. Those who are not active in the labour market will only need to submit proof of medical insurance and that they have sufficient monetary resources for themselves and their family.

The registration certificate should be issued on the spot. It is also free of charge.

EU citizens who do not register will be subject to a fine of at least 59 euros, based on articles 8 and 27 of the new decree and article 458 of the Greek Penal Code.

Family members

The new decree also addresses the American, Canadian, Albanian, Pakistani and other non-EU family members (spouse and/or children under age 21) of a Greek or other EU citizen. As is the case today, the family members are eligible for a five-year-duration residence permit. It is called a Deltio Diamonis Melous Oikogeneias Politi Tis Enosis in Greek.

The application requirements remain the same and include a valid passport or other travel document and an official document like a marriage or birth certificate that shows the applicant's relationship with the EU citizen. A health certificate is not mandatory, but may be requested "if there are relevant serious indications... to certify the fact that he/she is not affected by any [contagious] disease". Based on immigration law 3386/2005 (article 61), the family members also have the right to work in Greece.

The application is free of charge.

What is more, the spouse and children of a Greek or other EU national are personally eligible for residence if the Greek or EU national dies and the family members have resided in Greece for at least one year. The same applies in the case of divorce, provided the marriage lasted for at least three years or if the family member was a victim of domestic violence during the marriage.

After five years of continuous residence in Greece, the family members are eligible for permanent residence (Deltio Monimis Diamonis).

Gay and lesbian partnerships

Not so good news for gay and lesbian couples: same-sex partners who are registered as such in other EU member states like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain are not recognised in Greece.

This means that common-law spouses and gay and lesbian couples legally recognised as such in other EU member states have no rights as a family in Greece. It means that if one of these partners is not an EU citizen, he or she will not be allowed to join his/her other half because the Greek legal definition of marriage is restricted to the union of a man and a woman.

It means that Britain's most famous gay couple - Sir Elton John and Canadian (non-EU) David Furnish - will not be treated as a couple if they decide to move to Greece, for example. Furnish would have to apply for a residence permit as a non-EU citizen without any family ties in Greece.

The EU directive defines "family member" as a spouse, direct descendants who are under the age of 21, dependent direct relatives in the ascending line and the "partner with whom the EU citizen has contracted a registered partnership, on the basis of the legislation of a member state, if the legislation of the host member state treats registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage and in accordance with the conditions laid down in the relevant legislation of the host member state".

Last year, European Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini warned EU member states about discriminating against same-sex couples. He had told the Eurodeputies in the parliament that EU member states that do not eliminate all forms of discrimination against homosexuals, including the refusal to approve marriage and unions/partnerships between same-sex couples, would be subject to sanctions and eventual expulsion from the EU.


EU directive 2004/38/EC in action: 5 examples

1. John from the UK has a problem. He started to work in Germany after ten years of residence in France, and now he must apply for a residence permit. He is worried about all the queues, extensive paperwork and an extra visit to the appropriate government office just to collect the permit. He is surprised to learn that the residence permits were abolished by the new directive. He was issued a registration certificate immediately on the spot. The registration certificate does not have to be renewed.

2. Nina is a successful entrepreneur from the Netherlands who managed to expand her business in the Belgian market. She would like Karin, her Brazilian registered partner, to join her in Leuven. When Karin arrived, she visited the local municipality and wanted to know what kind of paperwork she should prepare. Belgian officials pointed her to the new directive and advised her to apply for a registration certificate on the grounds of her registered partnership with an EU citizen. Belgium treats registered partnership as equivalent to marriage, so she will be treated as a spouse with all the rights. Note: Greece does not treat registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage.

3. Helmut from Austria is a pensioner. He discovered the beauty of Hungary a few years ago, has resided in Hungary for six years already and has decided to spend the rest of his life there. His Austrian old-age pension is more than enough to live on without any restrictions in Hungary, but he is slightly worried about his residence right in Hungary. However, the new directive gives all EU citizens the right to reside permanently in another member state where they have already lived for at least five years.

4. Albert from the United States, an ex-inventor and househusband, is recently widowed. His French wife Patricia, who worked for a multinational company in Athens for three years, has died, and he is concerned about his right of residence in Greece. His wife was the only economically active person in the family, and John resided in Greece as her family member. The only income left is from the royalties he receives regularly for his inventions. However, thanks to directive 2004/38/EC, he can retain an autonomous right to reside in Greece even in the case of death of (or departure of or divorce from) the EU citizen he was dependent on. As the royalties are sufficient, he can stay in Greece without any problems. In two more years he will even acquire the right of permanent residence.

5. Noura of Moroccan origin and her Latvian husband Ivars just landed in Lisbon where they will spend their holidays. But when passing through border control she discovers that someone has stolen her passport. However, on the basis of the new directive, Noura is entitled to enter Portugal even without a passport. All she needs to do is to present documents attesting to her identity and family link with Ivars. She checked her luggage and found her driver's licence. She was also listed as Ivar's wife on his Latvian ID card. After a few phone calls, her right to move and reside freely as Ivar's wife was confirmed and she was let in.

(European Commission, May 2006)

(Posting date 17 July 2007; originally published as "New Rules for EU Citizens" in
Athens News.)

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