It’s no secret that Greece is an incredibly popular tourist destination. But what are the opportunities for people looking to move there permanently?
Like many European countries, Greece offers a wide range of destinations, but all benefit from amazing weather and great food. Read on to find out more about what you can expect from living in Greece and how to get settled in this amazing country.
Can foreigners move to Greece?
Foreign citizens can move to Greece to live permanently. EU citizens must apply for a residence permit after three months, which is more of a formality. Non-EU citizens must go through a more thorough immigration process.
For UK citizens planning to relocate to Greece, it can make sense to take advantage of the three-month visa-free travel period to visit different areas of the country. This will hopefully give you time to work out where would be best for you to settle down. Of course, after that, you will have to apply for a residence permit to stay in Greece, as all non-EU citizens do.
Residency in Greece for non-EU citizens
Non-EU citizens do not have automatic rights to settle down in the EU.
You have to follow non-EU application procedures. Many non-EU citizens, including Brits, USA citizens, etc., can stay in Greece for up to 3 months without a visa. After this, you will need to apply for permanent residency. Generally, this must be completed at the Greek consulate in your home country.
How to obtain residency in Greece
Non-EU residents must have a type D visa for working in Greece before applying for permanent residency. UK citizens can travel to Greece for up to 3 months without a visa.
After these three months are up, you must apply for a Registration Certificate (Veveosi Engrafis). Once granted, you only need to renew it if your circumstances change, and you must fill out versions for both you and your children (if applicable).
These documents must be submitted to your local police station or the Aliens Police if you’re based in Athens.
To count as a permanent resident of Greece, you must have an address you live at for at least 183 days of the year. After five years of this, you’ll be able to apply for full, permanent residency.
There are different kinds of residency permits available depending on your purpose for moving to Greece. The most popular are financially independent persons (FIP), Golden Visa, and digital nomad visa.
You can find all the details in our guide Greece: Visa & Residency Options for non-EU Nationals.
Golden Visa program
There is a shortcut to residency in Greece known as the Golden Visa program. Simply put, you invest €250,000 in property in Greece (or €500,000 if you are buying in Athens, Thessaloniki, Mykonos, and Santorini) and receive residency in 60 days. During this time, you must also get a Greek tax number and a Greek bank account.
Doing this provides you with a 5-year renewable residency permit that also covers spouses and children. It also provides you with access to national healthcare and schooling.
The advantage to this over standard citizenship application is that it’s generally quicker and saves a lot of paperwork.
Is Greece a safe country for expats?
Greece currently has an overall falling crime rate when charted over the last ten years, with levels sitting lower than the UK or the USA. Both violent crime and drug-related crime rates are considerably lower in Greece.
What is living in Greece like?
When it comes to the Greek lifestyle, there are many aspects worth praising. Along with the glorious weather and amazing food, the pace of life is something many expats dream of in their retirement. It’s not surprising that Greece is one of the best places in the world to retire indeed.
As with many European countries, Greece enjoys a relaxed way of life that might take some getting used to. Although major cities and tourist hubs generally work on a more “British” pattern of standardized hours, more rural areas often march to the beat of their own drum.
Greece puts a lot of emphasis on family, spending time outdoors, and tradition. This shouldn’t be a problem for expats looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, but if speed and efficiency are your top priorities, it’ll be worth relocating to a larger city like Athens.
Because tourism is a major source of income in the country, English is fairly widely spoken. As with other countries, this is less true in more rural areas, but either way, some knowledge of Greek would be very useful.
Providing you’re willing to adjust to a Greek’s pace of life and aren’t in a rush to get anything done, you’ll be pleasantly surprised about how good this actually feels. The food and weather lead to a healthier lifestyle than you might enjoy now, so complement this by taking things a bit more slowly.
Is living in Greece expensive?
Greece uses the Euro, but living here is generally cheaper than in other European nations such as France or Germany. However, the cost of living is definitely higher in cities, particularly ones with a lot of tourism.
For example, rent on an inner-city apartment in Greece will set you back about €335 (£300), while rural rent on an apartment of the same size will be around €280 (£250).
Similarly, food is generally less expensive. A loaf of bread in Greece will set you back around £0.80. Eating out in a restaurant will also be cheaper.
Utility bills are also lower in Greece. While you have to pay for refuse collection, your basic monthly outgoings for water, electricity, and such will be around €150 (£130) a month.
Generally speaking, an expat with a monthly income of €2,000 will be able to live very comfortably almost anywhere in Greece.
The pros and cons of living in Greece
Although no simple list of pros and cons will ever be enough for making a decision about something like residency, it at least helps you get an idea of what it’s like to live in the country. Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of living in Greece, many of which will be expanded upon below.
The pros of living in Greece
1. Good weather
Whether you’ve visited Greece or not, the country is well known for its glorious weather. Although it varies by geography, average temperatures are around 30 degrees in the summer and 10 degrees in the winter.
In the height of summer, you can enjoy upwards of 12 hours of glorious sun each day and average sea temperatures of 25 degrees. The rainiest month of the year is December, when, on average, it rains for 11 days of the month.
2. An abundance of historic sites
Obviously, Greece has plenty of ancient historic monuments if that’s your thing. Whether it’s the Acropolis in Athens or the spiritual center of Delphi, you’ll have plenty of fascinating ancient sites to discover around the country. While you have to pay for entry, none of them is very expensive.
3. Amazing food
Greece has some pretty amazing food. What’s more, it prides itself on its local culture, meaning almost every restaurant is a local affair with good quality, locally sourced produce. This is something you’d pay top dollar for in countries like the UK.
It’s a dream for lovers of seafood, but you also can’t overlook things like gyros or souvlakis, two national delicacies. That said, there are plenty of opportunities for vegetarians too, although Greece hasn’t been subject to the same surge in vegetarianism as more cosmopolitan countries.
4. Good healthcare
Generally speaking, the quality of healthcare in Greece is quite high. There is a robust public healthcare system, but many expats opt for local private healthcare or for international health insurance simply to guarantee a higher standard.
International health insurance can be quite expensive. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal.
5. The low cost of living in Greece
Greece enjoys a lower cost of living than some other countries, such as the UK. For example, utilities cost around 30% less, internet is 20% less, and renting an apartment in central Athens will set you back at around £670 compared to £3,150 in central London.
The cons of living in Greece
1. Unequal distribution of facilities
If you’re looking for all the amenities you currently enjoy in life, then you’ll need to live in or near a major city, which also means the cost of living will be higher. However, if you’re happy with more rural life, then living will be cheaper, but you’ll have to acclimatize to a more laid-back lifestyle.
2. Few employment opportunities
Unless you’re retiring to Greece, setting up your own business, or have disposable income, you might find employment challenging. Speaking Greek will definitely make this easier, but don’t move to Greece assuming you’ll easily find a job.
3. Complicated taxes
Greece has a more complicated tax system than you might be used to. To avoid this, it’s best to hire an accountant to take care of your annual tax returns. Not only will this help from the language side, but they will also ensure you don’t overpay.
Renting a property in Greece
If you’re thinking of moving to Greece, then renting a property can be a good idea before settling down permanently. This gives you a chance to familiarise yourself with the area and with local regulations.
That said, the standard minimum rental contract is three years. You might be able to arrange a shorter let, but this will be on a case-by-case basis. However, monthly payments will often be lower if you commit to a longer contract.
As with anywhere else, rental prices vary massively depending on the area. In Athens, you can expect to pay around €9.50 per square meter, but only €5.25 per square meter in somewhere like rural Thessaloniki. The average rental price is around €7.40 per square meter.
Most rental agreements require a deposit equivalent to two month’s rent, and utility bills may or may not be included in the rental price.
It’s safest to deal through an estate agent, as private rentals can often be a minefield for anyone not fluent in Greek. Either way, it’ll help to bring a translator along just to ensure there are no snags.
Rent increases must be stated in the contract, so be sure to read the fine print. Similarly, you can only be evicted for not paying rent, so renters generally have more rights in Greece than in countries like the UK or the USA.
Buying a property in Greece
Once you’ve found an area that is right for your needs, the next logical step is to buy a property. The best way to do this is with the Golden Visa, as it brings a lot of advantages, but not everyone has the spare cash to invest.
When buying a property, you must declare whether it’s for residence or investment purposes. This doesn’t make a difference to your eligibility, though. Greece charges an annual property tax that’s determined by the property’s purpose and must be declared on your annual tax returns. As a result, you must have a Greek bank account and tax number to purchase a property.
In border areas, such as Rhodes and Crete, properties are restricted, and your application must go through a committee. EU residents will generally face little difficulty with this process, but the same isn’t always true for non-EU residents.
Again, an estate agent can help ensure everything is above board. When working out your budget, be sure to factor in legal, surveyor, and notary fees, plus a minimum of 10% deposit.
You’ll probably find it difficult to get a mortgage through a Greek bank, so many expats do so through international lenders. However, this requires more documentation, including proof of funds and their source.
Are utilities, mobile, and internet connections reliable in Greece?
Generally speaking, Greece has an acceptable infrastructure for things like power and communications. This will, of course, be better in cities, but even rural areas have access to the internet.
Mobile connections are mostly fine, although there may be connectivity issues in most rural areas. While you might not have the data speeds you’re used to, you’ll still have a mobile signal regardless.
How much will I pay in taxes in Greece?
Greece has no lower income tax threshold, meaning you pay tax on everything you earn. Up to €20,000, you’ll pay 22% tax. Up to €30,000, you’ll pay 29% tax, and up to €40,000, you’ll pay 37% tax. Anything over €40,001 is counted as the highest bracket of 45%.
Anyone working self-employed in Greece must pay their taxes up front, but these are then offset against your annual tax returns. This can prove difficult in the first year because you need extra money available, but it gets easier once you’re generating income.
How much tax will I pay if I retire to Greece?
Greece has introduced a retirement income tax of 7%. To qualify, applicants must not have been tax resident for at least 5 of the previous six financial years. Also, applicants must receive their pension from a country in a double taxation agreement with Greece.
After you have applied for the alternative tax regime, the 7% tax rate will become effective the following tax year and will last for 15 years. After that, you will pay normal Greece tax rates on your income.
If you come from the UK, you can sometimes choose whether to pay your taxes in Greece or your original country. This will depend on which country has the lower tax rate, but be aware that you’ll be subject to the tax laws of the country in which your tax is paid.
Business taxes in Greece
Greece’s current corporate tax rate is 24%, which has been reduced from 28%. So if you’re thinking of setting up a business in Greece, it only makes sense if their corporation tax rate is lower. For comparison, corporate tax is currently 19% in the UK and 28% in the USA.
How to open a bank account in Greece
To open a standard bank account while you’re living in Greece, you’ll need several documents from your home country, including:
- Birth certificate
- Recent utility bill
- Salary evidence
- Tax residency certificate
- At least 12 months of bank statements
Standard bank accounts are needed to become a Greek tax resident and will come with a debit card for payments.
An alternative is to open an international bank account with a company like Barclays. Doing so can make sense if you’re planning on splitting money between countries, but you’ll still need a specifically Greek account for things like paying taxes and purchasing property.
Healthcare and health insurance in Greece
Greece has a fairly good national healthcare system, which you can enter after three months of residency. If you’re from the UK and can apply for an S1 form, this will entitle you to state healthcare paid by the British government.
To be eligible for state healthcare, you must be a taxpayer and belong to a national healthcare organization. An example is IKA, which is the largest social security organization in Greece and is for those in standard employment. You’ll make social security contributions, usually around 10% of your declared income.
However, many expats opt for private or international health insurance because the private healthcare sector is much better. You’ll find more private options available in urban areas, but there are still private hospitals in rural areas, too.
To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal.
It’s fairly standard for expats to switch to a local private health insurance plan once their residency is confirmed. You can expect to pay upwards of €130 per person per year, but this will depend on your age and any existing health conditions.
Medication and pharmacies are fairly standard across the country, although you may have to visit a hospital for more specialized medication.
If you’re retiring to Greece, you should take healthcare into consideration. For example, you’ll have much better facilities (both public and private) in urban areas, so if you already have health issues, this can be an important factor. Specifically, you’ll need to live near a hospital if you want a full range of services available.
To register with a doctor in Greece, you’ll need to complete a form with your insurance information (if applicable), your personal details, and your tax information. Once completed, you’ll be given a list of available local doctors. You simply make your choice and proceed from there.
Where are the best places to live in Greece?
Greece offers many different atmospheres for living, and which is best will depend on your personal needs and goals. Here is a quick rundown of the best places to live in Greece.
The most vibrant – Athens
As the capital city, Athens has everything you could need. It’s in close proximity to the Greek islands and has good international connections. Add in the historical interest and bustling nightlife, and it’s got the potential to be at the top of most people’s lists.
The cheapest – Sparta and Poligiros
House prices are surprisingly low in Sparta, but this is mainly because of its remote location. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Taygetos, residents can enjoy the lush countryside, quiet living, and close proximity to the sea.
Similarly, Poligiros sits about an hour’s drive from Thessaloniki, which has an international airport with good connections. The town also has an annual carnival in August that shouldn’t be missed.
Greek islands popular with expats:
The quietest – Ampelakia
Ampelakia is located in Thessaly, and this mountainous region means it’s fairly quiet with little tourism. The closest airport is in Volos, around 90 minutes away, meaning you still have good international connections but can enjoy some peace and quiet, too.
Living in Greece – summary
Although making the jump to living in a new country can be daunting, it’s worth taking the chance if you can. Greece offers everything you could want from a new life abroad, including great weather and lower living costs.
Completing the paperwork on your own is possible, but remember that you can hire legal help to make things quicker and easier. Either way, it’s worth it for the new life you’ll end up living.
You might find useful:
- The Best Places To Live In Greece For Expats – a detailed overview of the most popular expat locations in Greece.
- The Expat Guide To UK Pensions Abroad: Understand Your Options
- The Essential Guide To Cost-Effective International Removals – read about international removals options and how to keep costs down while getting a quality service.
- Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Contact us with your question, and we will do our best to help.