Moving to Greece:
The Complete Guide
The year-round fantastic climate, beautiful architecture, unique culture, and what not! We totally get your appeal of moving to Greece and living an idyllic romantic life somewhere on a paradise-like island.
Whether it is a personal choice or a professional obligation, Greece is a great country to relocate to. But of course, moving to a different country, especially to one of the EU nations, comes with its own challenges. You have to follow the entire procedure of getting a visa approved, buying the tickets, and not to mention gathering the stuff you want to take with you.
The process can be a bit tricky and difficult to handle on your own. Therefore, here’s a detailed guide that will answer all your queries, such as:
- How will you find accommodation?
- What is the cost of living there?
- How long does it take for the visa to arrive?
- Is it really beneficial to move to Greece?
Well, it’s a never-ending list of questions. So let’s take you straight to the answers.
Pros and Cons of Moving to Greece
Before planning to relocate, you would want to ensure that there are more pros than cons to moving there. If a country doesn’t have much to offer, this decision may disappoint you for the rest of your life.
So, let’s first have a look at the pros of living in a country like Greece.
Advantages of Moving to Greece
In light of the crisis, Greek has been keen on attracting investors and entrepreneurs to boost its economy. Therefore, it has opened up several opportunities for the willing ex-pats who wish to move to Greece to work or live their retirement life.
So, how does it feel to reside in a country full of tranquility and cozy islands?
- Climate of Greece
The climate becomes one of the crucial factors to choose Greece as your next residence. Situated in Southeast Europe and the Mediterranean sea bordering the South and West, Greece has cozy warm weather most of the year. The country experiences more than 3,000 hours of sunshine in a year, and the temperature seldomly goes below 10°C.
The countryside is mostly dappled with wildflowers in summers, but it’s not surprising to see snowfall during winters in the mainland northern regions. The most happening seasons of the year are spring and fall.
- Live Close to Nature
Greece is home to dramatic mountains and lush green valleys. Staying there means you can take your family for outings to exotic places. Besides, if you plan to work remotely, you can to your favorite beaches or hill stations and work while lying in the laps of nature. Furthermore, the water on the beaches is crystal clear.
- Friendly Locals
There’s no country as friendly and welcoming as Greece, so moving to Greece definitely is everyone’s cup of tea. The restaurants too give a homely vibe as if you are a guest at the home of someone close to you. Besides, the Greeks, also, are warm and gentle in general and always ready to help. They are known for their harmonious lifestyle and stress-free approach to life.
- Greek Cuisine
The greatest challenge faced by anyone who relocates is the change in dietary habits. But, when in Greece, this is not going to be a problem as you will fall in love with Greek food. For instance, the Tzatziki, Gyros, Olives, Souvlaki, and Feta Cheese become the most loved food items of anyone who visits the country or lives there. Also, the restaurants and other eateries are cheap, especially family-owned ones.
- Value For Money
Better quality of life by spending less money… What else do we need? Greece is comparatively cheaper in terms of properties, food, and shopping. To elaborate, you can buy a large house on one of the finest islands of Greece at an affordable price. However, it is difficult to get even a studio apartment in major cities of the world like Stockholm, Paris, Barcelona, or New York at the same rate.
Disadvantages of Moving to Greece
Besides, there are a few drawbacks to moving to Greece. Have a look!
- Limited Employment
If truth be told, there are no large companies in Greece. This means it’s difficult for educated ex-pats to find good jobs. However, the tourism industry is flourishing in the country, so there are a few job opportunities like a tour guide, opening hotels, and operating other small-scale businesses. Moreover, there’s a good career scope for English speakers.
- Traffic Congestion and Pollution
Sometimes the traffic can cause significant trouble, especially during winters. In addition, there is a lack of parking space which makes the roads congested. Moreover, some Greek cities and towns are highly polluted and also often experience water scarcity.
- Language Barrier
Furthermore, for native English speakers, the language can be a barrier as most people speak only Greek. However, if you are planning to move to one of the main cities, like Athens, you may find a good number of people speaking English. Therefore, do learn some important Greek words before moving to Greece.
- Americans Have To Pay US Taxes
If you are an American ex-pat but working in Greece, you will have to pay income tax in the US. You can avoid this only if you have got your Greek citizenship. Although most people prefer to pay their taxes in both countries as they might return to their homeland in the future.
Visas and Residence Permits
For all those who wish to apply for a visa, the process is quite simplified. If you are already an EU citizen, or even a resident of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, you do not require an entry visa. Just show your passport and government-issued identity, and you have the visiting permit.
People from other countries are supposed to apply for the three-month entry visa, also known as the ‘D’ type visa, which can be used just once. Moreover, it is issued at a Greek consulate to the dependent employees as well as freelancers.
To apply for a Greek Visa, you need to collect the following documents.
- An application form (available in Greek and English)
- A valid passport
- Recent passport size photo (colored)
- A medical certificate signed by a licensed doctor
- Medical insurance valid in Greece (for yourself and all the family members)
- A cover letter detailing the purpose of your visit
- All documents asked by the relevant authorities
Note: Ensure that all your documents are translated into Greek using a translation Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Athens. Also, they must be certified by the nearest Greek Embassy.
EU citizens can apply for a residence permit upon arrival, and the process is easy. However, for non-EU residents, the process is a bit complex. If you are applying for the executive resident permit, you can submit the application upon arrival. However, for a regular staff permit, the process is a bit longer and must be initiated a few months before moving to Greece.
The executive ones may bring their families alone, but the regular staff permits have to wait for two years in Greece before calling their families.
How to apply for the Greek resident permit?
- Completely filled out two application forms
- Original passports with a copy of each page
- Four passport photos with biometrics
- Health certificate issued by a registered Greek Hospital
- Health insurance
- Proof showing you have sufficient funds to survive in Greece for the said period
- Employment contract
- Local accommodation proof (a rental contract will do)
- Proof of fee payment to the national tax office
Now, below are the possible scenarios under which you might apply for visas and resident permits. Let’s go through them in detail.
Anyone across the globe can apply for a Greek visa for visiting purposes. The only condition is that all mandatory requirements must be met by the applicant. As Greece follows the same visa policy as other Schengen countries, you need to make a personal visa appointment at the Greek embassy. If scheduled, bring the complete application and all the essential documents along with you to the interview.
Therefore, anyone who is planning a visit to Greece must apply for a visa at least two weeks before arrival in the country. Depending on your stay’s purpose, you will be issued a single, double, or multiple-entry Greek visa.
If you are moving to Greece for higher education, you have to follow the same visa and resident permit procedure. However, you will be required to submit a few additional documents like proof of enrollment and the No Objection Certificate from the school or university.
Moreover, apply for your student visa 8-12 weeks prior to arrival. Your application form must be fully filled out and have a mention of the duration of your stay. Also, they might ask for your Criminal Record Certificate.
Furthermore, you will have to apply for the resident permit with the Migration Department within 40 days of your arrival in Greece. The permit is renewed annually.
If you already have your employment contract, you just have to attest the same with the other documents. You will also be asked to present your bank statement for the last six months and your Income Tax Return certificate.
If you are an investor, you can invest at least €250,0000 and get a resident permit in Greece.
In 2013, the Greek government introduced the Greece Residency by Investment Program. Under this program, genuine investors can acquire their Greek residency by investing in real estate.
Besides, independent entrepreneurs must prove that they have at least €60,000 to practice their economic activities. These permits are valid for two years and are also issued to the applicant’s family members (if any). You can get it renewed after every two years, provided that your taxes are cleared and business activity is flourishing.
The Golden Visa Programme is the route to permanent residency in some countries of Europe, specifically, Portugal, Greece, and Spain. Therefore, anyone who wishes to live in Greece can apply for a Golden Visa. With your Golden Visa, you can travel across the EU Schengen Area visa-free.
To qualify for this program, you need to invest in real estate. For instance
- Buy a property valued at €250,000 or more
- Sign a 10-year lease agreement with a hotel or tourist establishment
- Make a capital investment minimum of €400,000 in a Greek company registered
- Invest in Greek government bonds
- Deposit €400,000 in a Greek bank.
The Golden Visa is issued for five years but can be renewed again, provided that you are maintaining your investment.
After seven years of continuous residence, you can apply for Greek citizenship if you finally decide to live there for the rest of your life.
Accommodation in Greece
Before planning to move to Greece, settle down in a location you want to stay. Once you know where you want to live, you can look for your accommodation. In Greece, you can arrange for your stay at a budget-friendly property. Hiring a local real estate agent can be beneficial. Since most expats prefer to rent accommodation in Greece, here are the government-issued rules.
A Rental Contract- You need to sign a rental contract that is valid for three years. However, with the tenant and landlord’s mutual agreement, the lease can be negotiated for a shorter duration.
Deposit- At the time of signing the agreement, the tenant has to pay the rent for two months. Moreover, this rent is returned after the lease is expired on the condition that there is no damage caused to the property.
Besides, the Greek government encourages the expats to buy properties in Greece. For EU citizens, the process is easy, and the special committee grants permission. However, the non-EU residents need to seek consent from the Ministry of Interior.
The public healthcare system of Greece provides free or low-cost health care services to expats. However, to redeem these services after moving to Greece, you have to pay taxes and belong to one of the national health care organizations.
For instance, IKA is the largest Social Security Organisation in Greece, which covers medical services for dependent employees and full-time or part-time workers who have not registered themselves with any other insurance agency. Besides, the self-employed residents can approach the OAEE social security fund.
The average healthcare costs in Greece are
- Family doctor regular check-up €40
- Cold medicine for six days €2.80
- Antibiotic prescription €7.40
Although Greece’s public healthcare system is adequate, you might have to wait for long hours due to the rush to receive care.
Private healthcare is considered superior as they have newer equipment and shorter waiting times. The only con of receiving medical care from the private sector is that it is costlier, and the expenses cannot be covered with public insurance. Therefore, numerous companies offer private health care insurance for ex-pats (iPMI). The majority of these clinics and hospitals are situated in Athens.
Education is something we cannot compromise with, at any cost. If you are moving to Greece with your family, you definitely might be concerned about your children’s education and future. The education system of Greece is governed by the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs and is divided into three levels.
The students attend primary school for six years and then go to lower secondary school for three years. Moreover, following the upper secondary school remains optional, which educates them in the academic or technical field. The good part is that no fees are charged for primary education in public schools.
Apart from that, preschools and kindergartens are also available. Furthermore, 13 schools in Greece offer an International Baccalaureate degree, making the students eligible to move abroad for graduation. The language of instruction in these schools is English, French, German, and Japanese.
Public schools are usually not the first preference of ex-pats due to the language barrier.
One of Greece’s most important economic sectors is the service sector, which contributes 82.8% of Greece’s GDP. Therefore, it is the perfect destination if you want to pursue a career in the tourism industry, as it accounts for 18% of its GDP.
Besides, you can work as a freelancer in any industry. There are numerous options to explore if you want to work independently, like a translator, photographer, etc. Furthermore, there is a growing demand for English language teachers in Greece, so you can try your hand at a teaching job at some recognized schools or colleges.
About 13% of people in the country work in the agricultural sector, primarily the fishing industry. There are also a few working options in the textile and chemical industries. If you still cannot find anything for yourself, try the online vacancy search engines, newspaper classified ads, and recruiting agencies.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Greece is significantly more feasible than in many European countries and the USA whether we talk in terms of properties, healthcare, or education. This is one of the main reasons for moving to Greece.
Accommodation: Talking about housing, in Athens, you can find a comfortable one-bedroom apartment on rent for under $650. Moreover, you can rent a similar apartment for almost half the price, $350 in a small town or village.
Note: Some buildings in Greece are historical, so you might have to spend some money on the renovation, which again, will not cost you much.
Grocery Shopping: If you go to the supermarkets, the groceries can be expensive and almost equivalent to that in the US. However, a wiser way to save and buy quality food is by going to laiki (Greek for “people’s market”). You will find fresh, locally grown eggs, nuts, rice, beans, and veggies like olives, tomatoes, eggplants, legumes, and everything else in these markets.
Electricity: The cost of electricity is 65% higher than in other countries. This is because of the hot weather most of the year as you will have to use the AC, sometimes without turning it off even once during the whole day. The average bill for a two-bedroom apartment is estimated at €40 to $150 per month.
Restaurants and Tavernas: The cost of dining out is reasonable. Tavernas offer basic Greek food like grilled fish, dolmas, tzatziki, Greek salads, etc., at a lower price. Moreover, the house wines too are cheap. You can fill your appetite for under €30 and still eat the best quality food.
Do not forget to try Greek street food, though, which will cost you less than €5!
Transport and Conveyance: The public transport system like buses, trains, and subway networks connect all the small and big towns. The taxis, too, run at a minimum fare of under €4, or a rate of about €1.30 per mile.
Banking & Taxes
Banking and taxation are always sensitive matters for expats, so after moving to Greece, financial issues can be a little tricky if you do not have sufficient knowledge.
Banking in Greece
There are many reputable local as well as international banks in Greece like the Alpha Bank, Eurobank Ergasias, National Bank of Greece, and Piraeus Bank. Expats prefer to open a bank account for local use and a foreign bank account to manage international transactions.
Opening a Bank Account:
To open a bank account, you need to apply for the Greek Tax Number, also known as the AFM (Arithmo Forologiko Mitro). Here’s how you can apply for it.
- Firstly, bring your passport to a nearby tax office
- Then, fill out the form provided to you
- As your application will be approved, the tax office will hand over the document with the nine-digit AFM number.
AFM number must be obtained as soon as you enter Greece, as it is needed to get jobs.
After this, you will be required to show the
- Identity card (issued by the government)
- An address proof (utility, electricity bill)
- Proof of income (paychecks, Income Tax Returns)
Lastly, just deposit the said amount, and they will open your account shortly.
You can also apply for Credit cards and ATMs.
Taxes in Greece
If you are moving to Greece, you will have to pay taxes to the Greek government, depending on your income. Besides, the ones who are buying properties also need to pay Greek real estate taxes.
The income tax rates for employment, pensions, business and professional income are as follows:
|Up to €10,000||9%|
|€10,000 – €20,000||22%|
|€20,000 – €30,000||28% on band over €30,000|
|€30,000 – €40,000||36% on band over €30,000|
|Over €40,000||44% on all income over €40,000|
Moreover, income tax rates on real estate investments are as follows:
|Up to €12,000||15%|
|€12,000 – €35,000||35% on band over €12,000|
|Over €35,000||45% on all income over €35,000|
Since the tax structure of Greece is a little complex to understand. Therefore, it is wise to consult a trustworthy tax advisor to help you in all these matters.
Besides, the US and Greece have a tax treaty that can help you eliminate dual taxation.
Things To Know Before Moving to Greece
Apart from the details mentioned above, you need to know a few more essential things before moving to Greece. Have a look at these pointers:
- Firstly, decide where you want to live in Greece and start looking for accommodations. Also, do a little research about the neighborhood in the chosen city/town
- Apply for a Greek sim card to stay connected
- Make sure to get your public or private health insurance, whatever is convenient for you
- Moreover, learn a little about the culture of the new country where you will be spending another vital phase of your life
- Besides, try to build professional contacts before leaving
- Lastly, enquire whether you will be allowed to take your pets along (if you have any)
On a parting note: When in Greece, do what Greeks do: Enjoy life!
Get in touch