Thursday, 22 June 2023

Pursuant to Law 5038/2023 (the "Immigration Code"), significant changes were brought to legislation concerning the codification and amendment of existing provisions, as well as the introduction of new ones. The codification of the existing legislation was deemed necessary, as after the enactment of Law 4251/2014, a series of amendments to individual provisions and the adoption of regulatory acts followed.

The new Immigration Code will enter into force as of 1 January 2024, except for certain provisions concerning the issuance of a copy of the decision which rejects or revokes a residence permit (par. 5, article 17), the submission of false or misleading documents by applicants (par. 4, article 20), and the granting of a ten-year residence permit to adult citizens who entered Greece as unaccompanied minors and have successfully completed at least three (3) classes of secondary education (par. 1, article 161).

At the same time, the deadline for investment – by way of advance payment – in real estate (“Golden Visa”) with a minimum investment value of 250,000 Euros, is extended until 31 July 31 2023. At the same time, the submission deadline for applications by employers wishing to employ third-country nationals who are exempt from the visa requirement under par. 4 of art. 5 of Law No. 4251/2014 (Government Gazette A' 80), is extended to 31 December 2023.

The major amendments of the new Immigration Code are as follows:

Ability to change the category of residence permit

Article 12 provides the possibility to change the residence permit category. The application is examined when the applicant/third-country citizen is already residing in Greece, as a holder of a valid residence permit or long-stay visa, unless the change of category is not allowed under more specific provisions of the Law.

Period of validity of residence permits

Article 13 increases the duration of the initial residence permit from two (2) to three (3) years, with the possibility of renewal for the same period.

Procedure for determining the number of admissions of third-country nationals for the purpose of dependent employment (type "E" residence permit)

Article 26 reforms the procedure of recruitment of third-country nationals, by introducing the adoption of an Act of the Ministerial Council annually, instead of issuing a Joint Ministerial Decision every two years, as was the case until now. Said Act of the Ministerial Council will determine the workforce needs at a territory level, rather than by regional unit. This change focuses on determining the number of posts per sector of the economy, rather than on narrowly described specialties.

Conditions and procedure for the employment of third-country nationals

Pursuant to Article 27, employers who wish to hire third-country nationals for dependent work, based on the posts included in the Act of the Ministerial Council, as per above, shall submit, through the electronic platform of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, an application to the Decentralized Administration of Immigration. Said application must specify the number of posts, the details and nationality of the third-country nationals to be employed, the specialty, as well as the duration of employment, and must be accompanied by a valid employment contract for at least one (1) year in Greece. Following the application, the competent authority issues a decision approving the employment of the third country citizen with the specific employer, and the approval is transmitted by e-mail, along with the employment contract, to the competent Greek Consular Office, which issues a National Entry Visa.

"EU Blue Card"

Article 28 incorporates Directive 2021/1883 on the "EU Blue Card" for highly qualified employees, and updates provisions which incorporate EU Law.  This provision applies to third-country nationals who apply for admission or have been admitted to the Greek territory for the purpose of highly qualified employment. A third-country national who applies for an EU Blue Card is required to present a valid employment contract relating to highly qualified employment for a period of at least six (6) months in Greece, proving that his/her gross salary is not less than the national minimum wage for highly qualified employment. In addition, a third-country national, after twelve (12) months of legal residence as an EU Blue Card holder in a Member State other than Greece, may enter, reside and work in Greece for the purpose of highly qualified employment based on the EU Blue Card, while having a valid travel document.

Residence permit for seasonal workers (residence permit type "E6")

Article 66 provides for the granting of an E6 residence permit. The E6 permit is a new type of residence permit, aimed at attracting seasonal workers for five (5) years, up to nine (9) months of residence per year. Such permit is granted if a national visa for seasonal employment has been already granted, and there is a specific post for which the worker has already signed an employment contract in Greece.

Digital nomads (residence title "Z1")

According to Article 68, the competent Consular Office shall issue a National Visa for a period of up to twelve (12) months to self-employed, freelance or employed third-country nationals who may provide their work from a distance, under a dependent employment agreement or a services agreement or contracting agreement with employers or customers outside Greece, using Information and Communication Technologies (digital nomads). The above third-country nationals may be accompanied by their family members, who are granted, upon their application, an individual visa which has the same duration as the visa of the digital nomad.

Managerial personnel (residence permit type "B3")

Article 98 provides for the granting of a residence permit to third-country nationals, members of Boards of Directors, legal representatives and managers of domestic companies, who do not receive remuneration, as well as legal representatives of branches of foreign companies that legally carry out commercial activity in Greece and have assets or turnover of the last closed financial period of at least four million euros (€4.000.000,00).

Financial and real estate investments ("Golden Visa" - residence permit type "B4" and "B5")

Articles 99 and 100 grant a residence permit to third-country nationals who have made a financial or real estate investment in Greece. In fact, as of 1 January 2024, for the Regional Units of the North, Central and South Sectors of Athens and the Municipality of Vari-Voula-Vouliagmeni of the Region of Attica, the Municipality of Thessaloniki of the Region of Central Macedonia and the Regional Units of Mykonos and Santorini of the Region of South Aegean, the minimum value of the real estate at the time of its acquisition is set at five hundred thousand euros (€500.000,00) and must have been paid in full, before applying for the granting of the investor's permanent residence permit.

Long-term resident permit ("M1" residence permit)

Article 144, crystalizing EU Directive 2003/109, provides for the M1 long-term resident permit. Specifically, third-country nationals who have been residing for five (5) years in Greece are granted long-term resident status, subject to income and integration conditions, with the right to relocate to another Member State.

Ten-year residence permit (residence permit type "M2")

Article 161 establishes the National Long Stay Permit, the so-called M2, which has a duration of ten (10) years. This permit applies to those who have completed ten (10) years of legal residence in Greece on the date of submission of the application, and who meet the requirements of the Code of Greek Citizenship. In fact, the M2 permit is an alternative to those third-country nationals who are entitled to apply for Greek citizenship. 

Further to the above, the same permit is granted to third-country nationals who were born in Greece or have successfully completed six (6) grades of a Greek school in Greece, before reaching the age of twenty-three (23), as well as to adult citizens of third countries, who entered Greece as unaccompanied minors and have completed at least three (3) classes of secondary education at a Greek school in Greece, before reaching the age of twenty-three (23), or are members of a Greek family who have been legally residing in the country with the Greek citizen for a continuous period of five (5) years. Upon its expiry, the M2 permit is automatically converted into a long-term resident's residence permit (M1 type residence permit), upon presentation of the previous residence permit without further documentation.

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