Getting my Visa in Greece it an expedition of epic proportions.
This really should not have been that difficult.
I am an american citizen MARRIED to a Greek citizen. I still cant understand why this is so hard.
Dealing with the Greek Government is frustrating. It is beyond tedious and because there is so much Bureaucracy no one wants to help you. Not because they are grumpy public servants, some are, but because the regulations change so often no one is really sure of what to do, they just know what their step in the process is.
At first Hubby and I were not all that worried, we focused on house hunting and furniture shopping because we were under the impression that as an American I can spend 6 months in Europe before my Visa expires. That is how it always was. Turns out thats NOT exactly accurate. I can spend three months of every six months in the EU. Which means I spent a month this summer and almost two now so on Nov 28th I am an illegal alien.
Not illegal citizen because thats PC nonsense, A-L-I-E-N.
We figure this out start of November.
On the November 27th I would have to exit Greece and spend 3 months some where NOT in the EU. Like Turkey which is dirt cheap we looked into it (dangerous though) or Croatia which is nice I have been. Maybe a bit south Morocco? I mean we always intended to travel around a-lot, two tripes out of greece a month four days in one place etc but with Greece being Home Base. Not country hoping for 3 straight months, I mean what about my Kitty Cat?
Ironically my kitty cat is a legal resident in Greece and I am not, because that is something you CAN research ahead of time.
So then we go see an immigration lawyer they wanted 2,000 euros to get a visa for me. That is ridiculous because the actual fees are under 50€ It is just a tedious process. Like everything in Greece Lawyers themselves are a big hassle.
So start of November when we realize our dead line we take our marriage certificate to the “Mayors Houes” which is where the family registry is kept and updated. (Building number 1) We wait in 3 different lines, with each person sending us to the next line.
The last person sends us to a different Government building across town the “Ministry of internal affairs” which is where we would register our Marriage. We wait in line there and they tell us NO. No helpful suggestions nothing just no because our marriage license is American Not Greek and they don’t recognize that. Get Married again, was thrown out as an option. Like really?
So we go to the American Embassy, 3rd location of the day to figure out what my options are. I am thinking its like the movies we walk in, a pretty office worker come to your aid, and bam Fairy Godmother problem solved. No not so much. They wont even let you INSIDE the embassy with out an appointment.
That whole speech the government tells you when traveling abroad about how the embassy is your biggest resource. It is a Lie in Greece. Americans are not even working the gate. I was a bit annoyed, actually a lot annoyed. In fact a bunch of Americans were in front of the entrance complaining about it. The only reason we got anywhere is because my husband in GREEK sweet talk the guard and she went in and returned with the business card with a number to the American ambassador in charge of immigration that we could CALL. The non greek speaking Americans seeking aid at the American embassy were screwed. The Ambassader dude was not real helpful but he did tell us a place we could go to to get a 1 month extension, maybe.
So we go to yet another government building, apparently its a Police station that deals with Visa issues, (4th location of the day) to see about an extension. They tell us come back end of November with a different set of paper work.
All 4 of these buildings were scattered all over athens with limited hours of operations. We only managed to get to them all because we had a scooter and could zip around threw traffic.
That was day 1. We literally got nothing accomplished.
So we were discussing our options and brainstorming ideas, we got married in the Greek Orthodox Church our priest promised me it would be recognized in Greece. That is 1 reason I agreed to elope in the Greek Orthodox Church. Religion is big in Greece. So we decided that we have to get The greek marriage certificate from our Priest. Took a week and 1/2 for us to track him down back in America and have him email it to us. (Which was ok bc i was on couch reast for a sprained ankle.)
Day 2, November 20th, 7 days to go and we are feeling optimistic. We go back to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where we had gone to the first day.
We get there at 10am. Their is already a two hour Line. 😱 My husband grabs the Greek Church Marraige Document and starts asking random office workers if we have the right documents. He gets sent upstairs to ask around more office workers. Most of the workers brushed him off but he found one lady who gave him the document he needed to fill out and then we were off to go get signatures and stamps.
Our next stop was the “Offices of the Greek Orthodox Church” essentially the Vatican of the Greek Church. I am not sure what was said between Hubby and Priest. However he made 3 copies of our Greek Marriage license, added us to a registrar, made a copy of Hubbies ID, notarized 3 copies of our Marriage licens for us, kept one for him, 5€ fee. Finally we were getting somewhere. This was the easiest stop so fair.
Then we went to a government plaza, our 6th location. Here we paid for an official stamp, literally a stamp you lick and stick on a documents you fill out, weird gov tickets that do who knows what, and 3 signatures from 4 different offices but thankfully they were all in the same building.
Then we went back to the first building we visited that day the, the one where if the stars alline you can maybe register your marriage. Here we were told its hours are 9am to 1pm they stop taking people at noon. Which it was after noon, not deterred my husband started asking random workers and we were told that we needed two more things to complete this step. We needed a copy of hubbies birth certificate and a certified translation of our greek marriage certificate by a Lawyer.
So we go to the Ministry of foreign affairs office which is where the government lawyers office is and its closing for the day. So that means we have at least one more day of government shenanigans. (Delusional more like 15) The positive was we got around quickly on the scooter and my hubby would drop me off right in front of the offices because my ankle is still badly sprained. We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we had to walk.
November 21, 2017 Day 3 on my expedition to legalization.
Were are out of the house at 8am we get hubby’s birth certificate fairly easy because that government building is outside of athens.
Then we head into athens.
The metro workers are on a 24 hour strike. The whole city is in disarray. Cars are stuck in non moving traffic. It took is 2.5 hours to travel what usually takes us 40 min, from our villa in the mountains to the center of athens.
Once we reached the city we parked our car and took the scooter. Which is the only way to get around the athens city center on a normal day. Today it was the ONLY way to travel. Today it was like a roller coster dodging pedestrians, weaving between cars, and over sidewalks. The strike caused many roads to be closed so we may have taken 1 way roads to reach our destination.
Our first stop is the Ministry of foreign affairs, to see a lawyer who will translate our Greek Church Marriage Licenses from Greek into English. The one positive is that the government buildings have 1/10 the traffic they usually do due to the strike.
We have the paper work completed by 11:28am and they tell us that we can pick it up Monday the 27th. Or wait and see if the supervisor will rush it. So we wait. My husband is talking to all the workers seeing what can be done.
They say to pick it up FRIDAY November 24th at Noon then we just might have all we need to Register Our Marriage. Literaly we have run around for 3 full days JUST to register our mirage, that is only step one in establishing residence for my visa!
November 23, Day 4 on our quest.
To get an extension on my Visa, I need to have a document proving I have a Host. My husband apparently doesn’t count. The place we rented that is in MY name does not count. So my FIL had to go to the Government building my husband got his birth certificate at, in Kalivia to get a document saying he was hosting me.
At this point I realizing the Greek Government has so much bureaucracy, that it is illogical, inefficient, and why is it this hard for the wife of a citizen to get a visa when paperless so called “refugees” waltz right in and start nefarious activities? Like really?
November 24, 2017 Friday Day 5 on our quest.
We go back to the Police building arriving at 8:30 am. It is in the Mid 50’s. It is a cold to drive from Kalivia to Athens but we are on a mission. They asked for 2 bills, my passport, letter of hosting, receipts that prove I have money, which was what the asked for the first visit.
However NOW they also wanted to see the paper work proving I was working on registering my marriage. Good thing I had it all with me.
After an hour They asked for proof of our flights into Greece. So we had to look that up on our phones.
Then they asked to see my insurance Card. Which luckily I had.
(None of these three aditional things were on the document that said what was required)
Then they wanted copies of everything but they WONT make the copies. So Hubby had to ran off to get copies from somewhere. 2€
Then they wanted two colored passport pictures. Which I do not have that. This was our mistake because it was on the documents of requirements.
Then they handed us another form to fill out. Its a 3 day extension because I am missing 2 colored passport photos, 2 copies of my Father in laws ID card and a KEP and a 30 euro payment and Travel insurance. None of these requirements were on the original form they gave us with the requirements except for the photos.
Turns out the shack at bus stop around the corner from the police building has a copier and will print 2 colored photos, mind blown. So we did that on the way out. 5€
Nothing dealing with the Greek Government is easy. In fact they make it as tedious as possible, it is almost as if someone is in an office thinking up ways to make it harder.
So then We go to pick up at the marriage certificate translation at the ministry of Foreign affairs. That actually was pretty painless. Parking was a pain, it was so cold we took the car, and not the scooter. So I had to ran in by myself. apparently I can pass as greek because everyone speaks very quickly to me in Greek. However I did manage to communicate well enougb to pick up a translated copy of the marriage certificate. Which is two full pages of text! Just tedious.
So yeah that is where we are in my journey to getting my 5 year Visa. Still stuck at step one! 😂 Lets pray that on Monday I can get a 30 day extention to my tourist visa and manage to register my marriage!!