isa Story


October 2, 2005 - February 7, 2006

Greek flag

I was reading my Lonely Planet Greece Guide and suddenly came upon the bit where it says that Americans and Eurpeans can stay in Greece for three months without a visa. Beyond that they need to register. (That was in Octoberr, a few weeks after we arrived and GOT a Lonely Planet — before we came we didn't do any checking.) I more or less forgot the problem.

A week ago I bought the Insight Guide to Greece and came across the same information. I said to myself (in a whisper) "I'd better do something." However, the Insight Guide was published in 1997 so I said (wishful thinking is sometimes true) "Things will have changed. No need to worry."

But this week we decided to a) check it out and b) register if needed. So we went to the Tourist Bureau on Tuesday and asked what are the current rules. Answer: "We don't know, we just handle tourist questions." The woman who served me did tell me where to go to find out and register, if needed. However her advice was to go to the American Embassy. Somehow that didn't seem too likely.

The same woman had said that we could also go to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since it was a short walk away, why not try there first? They said to go to the Alien's Bureau at an address on the west side of town. We decided to follow Lonely Planet's advice and went to the office it specified for the Alien's Bureau, on the east side of town. There we learned that the Alien's Bureau had moved from the east side of town to the west side of town. That was enough for one day.

This morning I called the Alien's Bureau and got a very friendly fellow. He checked for me and reported back that indeed Americans need to register after three months. No, he didn't know what bus to take to get there. He drove to work. With a little effort and asking questions we got there this morning.

The guard at the gate treated us like no foreigners ever came there. But he did let us inside the gate. We saw a stair and door and went up to it. Clearly inside was a place we probably should be. But the door only opened from the inside. Someone kindly came and opened the door. Later we found that the proper front door was on the back side of the building, away from the street.

Inside the clerks did not speak English. But a young lady, hearing us speak English, offerered to interpret — just as a man came to serve the counter we were waiting at. We told him, through our interpreter, what we wanted. He said that Jan could stay as long as she wanted, no paperwork, since she had a British/EU passport.

As for me, could he see my passport? Sure. I guessed what he wanted and guessed the result, since I had gone through this and then Jan had: He looked for the stamp marking my entry in Greece. I hadn't found it. Jan hadn't found it. He didn't find it.

No entry stamp, no extension. That simple! What could I do about it? Leave the country. He didn't need to explain that if I left and came back in I would get an automatic "extension" of three months.

So we expect to leave the country, about March 1.

November 8, 2005