April 23, 2012

The Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOIA) recently announced new immigration reforms intended to move the filing of combined work/residence permit applications from local Town Halls or the Ministry of Interior Affair to new, “One-Stop” service centers in various Greek cities. Reforms also include the replacement of traditional residence permits or “blue receipts” with “Type A” permits. These reforms are expected to take place between now and September 2012. During this period, it is expected that there may be significant delays in processing times and ability to honor appointments to file immigration paperwork.

Current Work/Residence Permit Application Process

Please note that the majority of these changes do not affect nationals from member countries of the European Economic Area/European Union or nationals of Switzerland (non-EEA/EU/Swiss nationals).

Currently, a non/EEA/EU/Swiss national applies for a long-stay Schengen “D” visa with a Greek consular post. Upon entry to Greece with a “D” visa, the foreign worker must apply for a combined work/residence permit (?δεια Παραμον?ς / Adia Paramonis) with either the Municipality Office in the host city of residence or with the MOIA.

Processing times for obtaining an approved “D” visa is currently taking between three to five weeks. Estimated time prepare and register the combined work/residence permit application with the either the Municipality Office or the MOIA is currently taking between five to ten weeks. Current, estimated processing times to receive a combined work/residence permit application once it is filed in Greece can take up to 12 months. To provide proof of registration, a “blue receipt” (bebaiosi) will be issued by the local office until the combined permit is issued.

What’s Changed?

In October 2011, the Greek Government passed a new immigration law. On March 28, 2012, the MOIA distributed its circular to all government ministries and authorities that deal with immigration issues that are occurring as a result of intended reforms and to warn of possible, significant delays in the immigration process.

General changes are as follows:

  • As Greece restructures its government to meet new national austerity requirements, the circular has indicated that immigration processes may be delayed due to a combination of implementing new immigration reforms and the reduction of government staffing;
  • Over the next few months, cuts in staff may result in no or reduced government cashier services. Depending on the Municipality Office or MOIA processing an applicant’s combined work/residence permit applications, applicants may be unable to purchase relevant duty stamps at the conclusion of their first appointment and may be required to revisit the authority again within 10 days of their initial appointment in order to purchase the appropriate duty stamp;
  • Renewing one’s work/residence permit must be done prior to the expiration of status. However, according to the circular, applicant’s appearing with their renewal applications may be refused service by the local authority if there is deemed to be too many applications pending approval. Provided the applicant’s status remains valid, authorities may assign a new appointment date to submit the renewal application.
  • The circular indicates that by September 2012 all “blue receipts” are to be replaced with new “Type A” permits. The process of replacing the existing “blue receipts” is to take place by August 2012.
  • Once established, “One-Stop” service centers will replace the Municipality Office/MOIA protocol for filing initial and renewal applications. These new services centers will also be authorized to revoke a residence permit or refuse a combined work/residence permit application. Notice of rejected applications or revoked permits will be communicated to the concerned foreign national and the Greek Police.
  • Foreign nationals receiving notice of revoked work/residence permit will be required to immediately return his or her permit to the local “One-Stop” service center versus the local Municipal Office or the MOIA.

ACTION ITEMS FOR EMPLOYERS

Given the new immigration reforms and the anticipated introduction of “One-Stop” service centers, companies considering new assignments to Greece should expect significant changes in application protocols and possible, lengthier times to process initial work and residence permit and renewal applications. Greek assignment planning should be initiated at least three to four months in advance of the intended assignment start date.

It is not yet determined as to when the new “One-Stop” service centers will be established and operating throughout Greece. Given the uncertain nature of when processes and requirements may change, companies should consult with their global immigration supplier regarding how best to plan initiating the immigration process and to also review any renewal of an assignee’s and family member’s work/residence permits.

Please be advised that as the Greek Government implements these reforms, companies and assignees should exercise flexibility and patience when planning assignments or renewals.

This news alert was provided in coordination with our Greek ISP-Corporate Relocations Greece Ltd.

Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader

This content is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or final guidance for any immigration matter. Readers are reminded that a country’s immigration laws and requirements may change with little to no advance public notice. Questions regarding specific immigration matters should be addressed to your Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist.