How to move to Greece from USA?

Greece has become one of the most popular destinations among many US citizens seeking to settle in another country. Emigration requires a lot of preparation, and one should also learn something about the target country and its migration laws before moving there.

Here, we shall explain the easiest ways of relocating to Greece and answer some of the most frequently asked questions concerning job opportunities, required paperwork, and locations most favored by expatriates in Greece. Our intention in this article is to help you make your move from the USA to Greece as smooth as possible.

Why Greece?

Before we delve deeper into the subject, though, we would like to mention the most common reasons why many people choose Greece for their new home. You may find this section interesting if you are still in the process of deciding where to relocate.

Quality of Life

Greece is famous for its beautiful cities and landscapes, comfortable living conditions, healthy cuisine, and laid-back lifestyle. The sun shines most of the time throughout the year. It seldom rains or snows in winter, and the summer is not scorching hot either.

The country's geography is as diverse as its cityscapes, and you may be sure to find an ideal place to live, whatever your tastes might be. Whether you like snowy mountains or white-sand beaches, stone deserts, or vineyard countryside, you will find it all within a day's drive from home.

Likewise, whether you prefer to live in a small quiet village, surround yourself with antique architecture, museums and theaters, or plunge into the ultramodern nightlife, Greece has it all laid out on a plate for you.

Moreover, Greece scores relatively high on the Human Development Index. The country provides excellent medical and educational services by all international standards, and its population enjoys a comparatively low crime rate, good health, and high life expectancy and literacy rate.

Cost of Living

Life in Greece is 20-50% cheaper than in the States, and it costs about 30% less than in other European countries. The local real estate market, in particular, compares favorably with other countries worldwide, in rental rates and purchase prices alike. You can rent a decent three-bedroom apartment in the centre of Athens for $650-700 or buy a big house in Crete for only $250K.

EU Residency

Greece provides the most convenient terms for acquiring a residence permit in the EU. It entitles you and your family to stay there beyond the 90 visa-free days, with free access to some schools and clinics and certain public funds, having minimal restrictions on the number of days spent in the country.

Permanent Residence in Greece

Unless you are of Greek origin, married to a Greek citizen, or have family in the country, there are four most efficient ways to obtain a Greek residence permit:

  • Official employment;

  • Retirement visa;

  • Self-employment;

  • Private property acquisition.

1. Employment in Greece

Unless you teach English or work in the IT industry, your job opportunities in Greece will be limited, and the wages might not be that good either. Still, finding a decent job in Greece is not impossible, and you will find many employment agencies on the internet, which you can browse even before relocating.

However, you will have to master Greek, at the intermediate level at least, before you can find a job, so you may as well start learning it while you are still in the States. And if you want to do it in Greece, there are plenty of good language schools there, but prepare to stay unemployed in the meantime.

The income tax you have to pay will depend on your wages, as the table below shows:

Monthly wages

Under €12K

€12-16K

€16-22K

€22-26K

€26-32K

€32-40K

€40-60K

€60-100K

Above €100K

Income tax

N/A

18%

24%

26%

32%

36%

38%

40%

45%

Required Documents

Besides your application for an employment visa, you will have to submit the following documents, translated into Greek and certified by a notary:

  • Your work contract;

  • Your employer's invitation letter;

  • All your qualifications to prove that you may seek work in the specified field in the EU.

You will also have to open a local bank account when you come to Greece. But you will need it in any case, which is why we will discuss it in a separate section below.

2. Financial Independence

Another way to obtain a Greek residence permit, commonly known as a retirement visa, is to confirm the required stable income outside the country. It does not have to be some formal employment, though, and even your pension or investments will serve the purpose too. Your income must be high enough to convince the government officials that you will not depend on the federal budget or look for a job in Greece.

The required monthly income is €2K, rental expenses and medical insurance excluded, plus €360 per child. All basic privileges of a permanent resident will apply to you and your family members in that case, like the access to public schools and polyclinics, freedom of movement within the EU, and Greek citizenship in a few years. You will also be entitled to run a private enterprise in Greece, provided you do not employ anybody formally.

3. Self-Employment

Alternatively, you can prove a stable income as a freelancer, self-employed, or remote employee, provided you do not earn money in the country. The terms will be slightly different in this case, though. For example, the required monthly income for the self-employed amounts to €3.5K, taxes excluded, plus €700 for your spouse and €525 per child.

This type of visa is valid for a year, but it entitles you and your family to apply for a two-year residence permit when your self-employment visa expires. And all resident privileges and requirements will apply to this visa just as well.

Required Documents

To apply for both self-employment and retirement visas, you will need, besides the Greek tax number and an account in a local bank:

  • Your identity document;

  • Confirmation of a stable income outside the country;

  • A Greek telephone number;

  • Proof of a local residential address.

4. Golden Visa

The most convenient and efficient way to obtain the status of a permanent resident in virtually any European state is to purchase private property in the country, and Greece provides the best terms for this option in the EU. In simple terms, all you do is invest at least €250K in the Greek private real estate sector and for two months to receive your permanent residence permit.

You must renew your golden visa every five years, and you can hold it indefinitely, provided you still own the property. All privileges of a permanent resident will apply to you and your family members, and you will be entitled to apply for citizenship in seven years. The only documents required for the golden visa, besides the proof of property acquisition, are:

  • Your identity document;

  • An account in a Greek bank;

  • A Greek tax number;

  • Medical insurance.

You will also be allowed to seek employment in the country, in which case you will have to meet the requirements for a work permit and pay income taxes (see the section on Employment in Greece above). Plus, your foreign income will also be subject to taxation if you reside in Greece for more than 183 days per year.

Private Property Acquisition

The Greek government sets minimal restrictions for the private property acquisition by foreigners. Effectively, you may not buy property near national borders and specified military bases, which is something you will, most probably, not want to do anyway. You will have to pay the property tax, though, and its amount depends on the total value of your property, as the following table shows:

Property value

€200K

€300K

€400K

€500K

€2 million

Above €2 million

Tax rate

0.10%

0.15%

0.25%

0.35%

1.10%

1.15%

Best Places to Live in Greece

Tastes and budgets differ, and you will decide for yourself which place in Greece suits you best. The following are the most popular locations among US expatriates to buy private property and settle down:

  • Athens;

  • Santorini;

  • Chania;

  • Crete;

  • Thessaloniki;

  • .Corfu. 

Visa Requirements

Whichever way to obtain a residence permit in Greece you choose, you will first have to visit the country to complete some steps, like opening an account in a Greek bank or submitting some documents in the government offices. Fortunately, you can do it all in one day if you prepare for the visit properly and, ideally, hire a lawyer. In any case, you will need an interpreter unless you can speak Greek very well.

If you are a US citizen, you can stay in Greece without a visa for three months, so you may as well take your time, if you can afford it financially, to become acquainted with the country, visit the most popular places to see which one you like best, and perhaps even make some friends. It always helps to know somebody in a new country before moving there.

Even though you have 90 visa-free days in Greece, you will still need:

  • Your passport to be valid for at least 90 days past your departure date;

  • Proof of €50 per day for the duration of your stay in Greece and at least €300 in total;

  • An onward or return ticket.

If you are a US resident, you must apply for a Schengen visa, in which case you will have to submit:

  • Your travel document;

  • Copies of your accommodation arrangements and return or onward tickets;

  • Medical insurance of €30K;

  • Proof of €50 per day for the duration of your stay in Greece and at least €300 in total;

  • Bank statements for the last six months;

  • Proof of your marital status even if you will travel alone;

  • Two 35X45 colour photos, taken within six months before the application.

Opening a Bank Account

Whether you want to sign a work contract, buy a property or apply for a residence permit in Greece, you will have to open an account in a Greek bank. You will need the following documents for the purpose:

  • An identity document;

  • Greek phone number;

  • Proof of income, local or foreign;

  • A Greek tax number;

  • Confirmation of a residential address in the country.

The procedure is quick and easy, and you can complete it in a couple of hours, provided you can speak Greek or come with an interpreter.

Final Word

You can address the nearest Greek Consulate with more specific questions before deciding how to move to Greece from the USA in the best way under your particular circumstances. And if you have any questions or find yourself in trouble when you are in Greece, feel free to contact the US Embassy in Athens or the US Consulate in Thessaloniki.

Alternatively, you can find lots of emergency numbers and assistance services for different types of issues on the official webpage of the US Embassy & Consulate in Greece: www.gr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services. We hope our article will help you with the first steps on your smooth transition across the Atlantic to your new home in Greece.

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