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After a two-year-long delay, the interior ministry has issued a circular outlining the residence rights and obligations of non-European Union citizens who are the spouses, children or other dependent family members of EU citizens living in Greece

Date: 2008-04-04

The 33-page circular is aimed at bringing
order to the chaos that for years has hounded these immigrants' residence
application and renewal process.

The rules are based on a European Union directive (2004/38/EC) that came
into force across the EU in April 2006. As outlined in the circular, these
family members may include the spouses and children under 21 and/or other
dependent relatives of all EU citizens, including citizens of Norway,
Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Any other dependants or members of the household, such as grandparents, are
subject to the residence application requirements that apply to other non-EU
nationals outlined in Greece's immigration law 3386/2005.

The only difference is that their application for a residence permit will be
given special priority. According to the circular, "partners" with whom the
EU citizen has a proven relationship that can be duly attested may also
benefit from this "facilitated" route to residence.

Same-sex partners who are registered as such in other EU member states like
the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain, however, are not
considered family under the provisions outlined in the circular. This means
that gay and lesbian couples legally recognised as such in other EU member
states, despite pressure from Brussels, have no rights as a family in

In 2006, European Commission Vice-President Franco Frattini warned EU member
states about discriminating against same-sex couples. He even threatened to
subject 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 - to sanctions and eventual
expulsion from the EU.

As outlined in the circular, non-EU nationals married to European Union
nationals residing in Greece are eligible for permanent residence after five
years of legal stay in Greece. This is good news for thousands of American,
Australian, Canadian, Russian, Albanian and other non-EU expats married to
Britons, Germans and other EU citizens residing in Greece. This also applies
to the children of the non-EU spouse.

The non-EU family members who wish to secure permanent residence must show
they are employed, self-employed or that they have sufficient resources for
themselves and their family members not to become a burden on Greece's
welfare system. They should also have health insurance coverage.

The application requirements for permanent residence include a photocopy of
the non-EU national's residence permit, a certified photocopy of the EU
family member's permanent residence permit or his/her death certificate, and
a recent document verifying the non-EU family member's relation to the EU
national. The application must be filed three months before the expiration
of the initial five-year permit. If it is not, the applicant may be subject
to a 150 euro fine.

The permanent residence is renewable automatically every 10 years. All that
is needed is an application. It is also free. Other non-EU immigrants are
required to pay a non-refundable application fee of 900 euros.

Rights and obligations

Non-EU immigrant family members of EU citizens residing in Greece have the
right to work or create their own employment here. They also have the same
rights as EU citizens.

These non-EU family members, however, are obliged to notify the authorities
within one month if they move or if there is any change in their personal or
family situation (marriage, divorce, birth) and if they lose or renew their
passport or their residence permit.

The following are examples of the rights of non-EU immigrants married to
non-Greek EU immigrants residing in Greece.

Coming to stay

The Russian spouse of a French citizen residing in Greece may enter the
country without a visa if she travels from another EU country and/or if she
has been issued a residence permit from another EU member state. A visa will
be required if she does not hold a marriage certificate or a residence
permit issued by another EU country.

However, an American spouse does not need one because US citizens enjoy
visa-free travel to Greece.

Getting sick

Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos (L) and the head of the minstry's
Migration Policy Institute, Alexandros Zavos - the two men responsible for
immigration policy

An Albanian holds a residence permit that was issued to him on the grounds
he is a dependent adult child (over age 21) of an Albanian married to an EU
citizen residing in Greece. After one year in Greece, the Albanian is
hospitalised. He does not, however, have health insurance or enough money to
cover the cost of his treatment. The question arises whether Greek
authorities have the right to revoke his residence permit. According to the
circular, this is not out of line because one of the prerequisites of the
issuing of a residence permit is that the applicant has health insurance and
sufficient resources so he does not become a burden on Greece's welfare

Getting married

A Pakistani national who has been residing in Greece legally for five years
marries an Italian citizen. When the time comes for the Pakistani to renew
his residence permit, he will be issued one that is valid for five years.
The five years the Pakistani migrant was residing in Greece prior to being
married do not count towards the acquisition of a permanent residence
permit. He will be eligible for the permanent residence permit once his new,
five-year permit expires.

Staying away

Non-EU immigrant relatives may lose their right to residence if they remain
outside Greece for more than two consecutive years. Their residence will not
be revoked if they remain outside Greece to serve in the military abroad.

They may also remain outside Greece for serious reasons like pregnancy,
illness, studies or vocational training in another EU country or anywhere
else in the world.

Dearly departed

The Canadian wife of an Italian citizen and her two children from a previous
marriage move to Athens from Toronto. Three years later, the Italian husband
dies. The widow and her children are eligible to obtain permanent residence
because they had been residing here with the Italian national for at least
two years. However, if the Italian spouse had died in a work-related
accident, his non-EU family members would have been eligible to acquire
permanent residence immediately - no matter how many years the Italian had
been living in Greece.

'Til divorce do us part

The Filipino spouse of a French citizen residing in Greece files for divorce
after two years. There are also two Filipino children from a previous
marriage residing here. The Filipina and her Filipino children will not lose
their right to continue residing in Greece while the divorce case is
pending. After one year, when the divorce is final, the Filipina and her
children may continue to reside in Greece legally, provided she has stable
employment or sufficient resources to support herself and her two children.

Greek citizens' non-EU family members

The EU directive deals only with non-EU immigrant family members of EU
citizens. The new interior ministry circular, however, also addresses the
residence rights and obligations of non-EU immigrant family members of Greek
citizens. This is based on Greek legislation (law 3386/2005). According to
the interior ministry circular, they have the same rights as natives,
including access to the labour market.

Their residence permit applications are examined by the regional (periferia)
general secretary.

The application requirements for a permanent residence permit include a
photocopy of the five-year-duration residence permit, a certified photocopy
of the Greek spouse's ID card and a copy of their marriage certificate or
other official document verifying their relationship.

Authorities are required to examine the application and, if approved, to
issue the permanent residence permit within six months.

The immigrant and his/her children from a previous marriage are eligible to
continue residing legally in Greece if their Greek spouse dies or if they
divorce. In the case of divorce, the wedding should have lasted for at least
three years and one of these years in Greece. The immigrant is also entitled
to continue residing in Greece if he/she has been awarded primary custody of
the children, regardless of when they tied the knot.

It is also worth noting that the immigrant parent of a Greek citizen has the
right to remain in Greece legally once their child has come of age. The
residence permit is issued to them as a close relative of a Greek citizen.


A Russian woman and her 17-year-old son have been residing in Greece legally
for four years. Just before renewing her residence permit, she marries a
Greek. The application for the renewal of her residence permit is cancelled
so that she may be issued a five-year residence permit for immigrants
married to Greeks. The Russian woman will become eligible for a permanent
residence permit after five years.

EU citizens simply register

EU citizens who wish to remain in Greece for longer than three consecutive
months are required to apply for a registration certificate (veveosi
eggrafis) at their local aliens' bureau. The registration certificate, which
does not have to be renewed because there is no expiry date, may be issued
to those who have come to Greece for employment purposes or if they have
sufficient resources for themselves and their family members so they do not
become a burden on Greece's welfare system. Also, EU citizens registered at
a private or public school recognised by the Greek state may also apply for
a registration certificate.

After five years, EU citizens residing and working in Greece may obtain
permanent residence (dikaioma monimis diamonis). If they have reached
retirement age (including early retirement), they may obtain this after
three years, provided they have worked in Greece for at least 12 months. If
they are self-employed, they may obtain this status after their 60th

They may also obtain this permanent resident status after two years if they
become ill or are disabled in a work-related accident and can no longer
work. This status is also available to those who, after three years, take up
employment in another EU member state, but they return to Greece on a daily
or at least a weekly basis.


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