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13.6.2014

Migration Management: Regularization Programs and Residence Permit Issuing and Renewal

Greece has implemented a series of regularization programs: the first regularization program was enacted in 1998, followed by a second program in 2001 and a third program in 2005-06.

Collector of scrap metal in Athens. In order to renew a residence permit once it expires, Greek authorities demand proof of employment. (© picture alliance / Robert Geiss)


The first regularization program was enacted in 1998 and there were 370,000 applicants during the first phase, and 212,000 in the second phase of the program. The second regularization program took place in 2001 with 362,000 applicants; the third one was carried out in 2005-06 with approximately 200,000 applicants. The applicants in each program partly overlapped since several who failed to legalize their status under one of the programs reapplied under a following one. The need for periodical regularization programs in Greece is closely related not only to the continuing illegal immigration to the country but also, and to a large extent, to the frequent shifts between legal and illegal status that many immigrants experience. This happens for two main reasons: first, because the procedures provisioned by law to issue or renew a residence permit are complicated and cumbersome, and second, because in Greece there has as yet not been a proper policy for managing legal economic immigration.

The Procedure of Inviting a Foreign Worker (metaklisi)



According to Law 3386/2005 on the ‘entrance, settlement and social integration of citizens of third countries in the Greek State’, there are seven types of residence permits: for work, for independent economic activity, for special reasons such as studying, for exceptional reasons, mostly humanitarian ones, for family reunification, of indefinite duration and of long-term residence.

Since the enactment of the first Greek law that intended to regulate immigration, and more specifically to counteract irregular migration (Law 1975/1991) in 1991, the only way for a third country national to acquire a residence permit with the purpose of employment is through invitation by an employer.[1] The Greek policy for labor migration (metaklisi), which involves a rather complex procedure, allows immigrants to work in Greece, for a specific employer and for a specific type of work, but only if there is an available position for them which cannot be filled by either a Greek national or an immigrant who already resides in Greece.

Law 3386/2005 seeks to rationalize the system of inviting foreign workers to Greece (article 14). The system is based on the preparation of an annual review regarding the domestic labor market needs in specific sectors of work. On the basis of this report, the Ministry of Employment, determines ‘the highest number of residence permits for work purposes that can be issued each year to third country nationals, per prefecture, per nationality, per type and length of employment, and all related details’ (Article 14). Employers who wish to invite an immigrant worker need to apply to their municipality by the 30th of June of every year, informing the authorities of the number and the specialization of the employees they need for the following year as well as of the envisaged duration of the employment. There is a long bureaucratic process that involves different ministries (Ministry of Employment and Social Protection, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and several levels of administration (local, regional, national). It takes approximately 18 months until the employer’s request is approved and the foreign national is provided with a visa to enter Greece for the purpose of employment.

The invitation procedure is ill-crafted and takes much too long to be able to respond to the needs of the labor market, especially considering that immigrants are predominantly employed in sectors - such as construction, catering or retail – which are dominated by small businesses that have to adapt flexibly and quickly to the swings of the market.

Securing a Permit and a Legal Job



In order to renew a residence permit once it expires, it is necessary to give proof of employment. There are two kinds of problems here. First, the problem of securing a legal job and, second, the immense delays in the issuing/renewing of residence permits that has marked Greek policy since the late 1990s when the first attempts to manage immigration started.

Migrants face important difficulties in securing a contract and welfare payments, given that they are employed in sectors where informal work is the norm even for natives. Sectors such as construction, private services within families (caring and cleaning) and catering (e.g., as waiters or cleaners in family restaurants, small pensions, small cafés) belong to the secondary job market. Employees in these sectors often work without a proper contract or welfare contributions. Nonetheless, the issuing and renewal of residence permits for work purposes in Greece is totally conditioned upon providing proof of legal employment. Since immigrants may have been employed at different jobs during a calendar year, the law specifies that employment is proven by their contributions to the welfare system, by the famous ‘welfare stamps’ (ensima) that provide proof of their days of work. Law 3386/2005 has actually simplified the matter. It allows immigrants who work in construction or domestic services to register on their own with the National Insurance Institute (IKA) in order to be eligible for a lower level of contributions (those envisaged for part-time dependent employees). Hence, they may prove their employment autonomously, without the need for producing a contract with a specific employer. Immigrants have to collect 200 daily welfare stamps in each calendar year to have their permit renewed. In 2011, the required number of welfare stamps was reduced to 120 per year (equivalent to 120 working days per year) or 240 in two years, acknowledging the rising unemployment caused by the economic crisis.

In short, it is particularly difficult for migrants, especially under the current economic crisis, to obtain and maintain a legal job with welfare contributions. Yet, these contributions are vital for the renewal of residence permits. Things are rendered worse by the short duration of the residence permits and the lengthy process required for their renewal (which can take up to twelve months each time). Permits are issued for a maximum two-year duration until the migrant completes a ten-year legal residence in Greece after which s/he may apply for a ten-year or indefinite duration permit.

This text is part of the country profile "Greece".
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Fußnoten

1.
Emke-Poulopoulou (2007).

Anna Triandafyllidou

Anna Triandafyllidou

Anna Triandafyllidou is professor at the European University Institute in Florence and Fiesole, Italy. She is Director of the Global Governance Programme’s research area on Cultural Pluralism at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. Her main areas of research and teaching are the governance of cultural diversity, migration, and nationalism from a European and international perspective.
anna.triandafyllidou@eui.eu


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