Situated at the junction of Asia, Europe and Africa, Greece comprises thousands of small and large islands. Home to more than ten million people, Greece is renowned for its stunning scenery and pleasant climate and is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
As Greece is both a Schengen and European Union member state, Europeans need no special documentation or visa to visit Greece. This is also the case for British citizens and nationals of around sixty other countries who have a visa-exemption agreement with Greek authorities although this situation will probably change in 2024 when ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) comes into effect.
Citizens of other countries who are not part of the EU, Schengen Area or on the visa-liberalisation list are deemed to be “world citizens” and, as such, must possess a Schengen Visa for Greece (or other Schengen country if Greece is only part of an itinerary) to enter the country for a short stay regardless of the purpose of the visit.
Three Types of Schengen Visa
There are three types of Schengen Visa but of these only two really apply to third country nationals wishing to visit a Schengen member state as the third one is reserved for long term stays for the purpose of study, work or residency. Categories are:
- Uniform Schengen Visa or USV
- Limited Territorial Validity Visa or LTV
- National Visa
Most intending visitors will require a Uniform Schengen Visa which is valid for short stays but the USV can be further sub-divided into three categories:
This visa only covers third country nationals who are transiting through a Schengen country airport but holders cannot leave the confines of the airport.
Another transit visa but allows the holder to travel through one or more Schengen countries by car, bus, rail or plane but only for a maximum of five days.
This is the most commonly used for short-term visits by business people or airline personnel and can be obtained in single-entry, double-entry and multiple-entry formats.
There is a fourth type of Schengen Visa which is the Category D National Visa. This is a long-term visa specifically for visitors who wish to remain in Greece, or any Schengen member state, for a prolonged period of time. This includes students, those taking up employment or professionals relocating for a number of years.
Purpose of the Visa
Although the vast majority of Schengen Visa applicants will be seeking a short-stay Tourist Visa this is just one of more than ten types of visa available. Before making any application it is crucial to decide which type of visa is most appropriate and this will depend on the main purpose of the visit to Greece. The most commonly sought Schengen Visas for Greece are:
Also called a Type C visa, a Tourism Visa permits the holder to enter and remain in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days in a given 180 day time frame. This 90/180 rule is also usually applicable to all types of Schengen Visa.
Similar to the Tourism Visa but aimed specifically at business people wishing to visit Greece for commerce or trade purposes. Business details such as a company trading license will be required as part of the application process.
Family or Friends Visa
Visitors to Greece intending to stay with family members or friends can avail of the Family or Friends Visa. Applicants will need to show documentary proof of any relationship or an invitation letter from the host.
Medical Reasons Visa
Visitors wishing to undergo medical treatment or care in a Greek medical facility require a Medical Visa which will only be granted upon receipt of a recent medical report and a letter from the medical centre or clinic where the treatment will take place.
Airport Transit Visa
Even if all time spent in Greece is within the confines of an airport, world citizens will require an Airport Transit Visa in order to connect with an onward flight.
Cultural events including the arts, film and theatre fall under the remit of a Cultural Visa. Documentation pertaining to the event and the applicant’s status in this regard will form part of the application process as does a written guarantee the applicant will not look for any form of employment while in Greece or within the Schengen Area.
Visiting Greece for study purposes, even short courses, requires a Student Visa. The 90 day maximum period of stay applies to the basic student visa. For longer courses lasting months or years it is necessary to apply for a long-term Student Visa.
Third country nationals visiting Greece for sports competitions, training purposes or other sports-related events require a Sports Visa to cover the stay which should satisfy the 90/180 Schengen rule.
Official Visit Visa
Official visits from political delegations are subject to the rules governing the Official Visit Visa.
There are a few other types of Schengen Visa available but these are really targetted at very specific groups of people and include visas for European spouses, film crews and visiting for religious reasons.
Application Process and Interview
Applying for any Schengen Visa involves a lot of preparation and the collection of a number of supporting documents and certificates. Failure to supply any requested documentation or incorrectly completed Schengen Visa application forms can not only result in delay but often in refusal so great care and attention should be paid throughout the entire process.
In the majority of cases an applicant will be seeking a Tourism Visa for holiday purposes and the following will be required to complete the application process:
- Correct Schengen Visa application form
- Valid current passport
- Two identical passport photographs
- Proof of medical insurance
- Acceptable method of payment
Medical insurance must have a minimum value of €30,000 to cover accidents or illness while in Greece and is a compulsory requirement. A passport must be valid for a period of three months beyond the last intended day of stay and also contain at least two blank pages where the visa can be affixed.
Letter of invitation
In addition, applicants mat also need to produce an invitation letter stating the main purpose of the visit.
It is also necessary to show sufficient funding to cover the entire stay and this will usually involve producing bank or financial statements for the preceding six months.
Schengen Visa Interview
Once all the required documentation has been submitted and accepted it will be necessary to attend a personal interview at a Greek embassy, consulate or approved third-party visa centre. This must be arranged by the applicant and not the embassy. The interview is an opportunity for the official to asses an applicant’s demeanour and suitability.
Questions will be asked regarding the applicants reason for travel and plans for the duration of the stay. Applicants will be fingerprinted as an additional security measure and, once everything is in order, payment in full must be made.