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Friday, March 31, 2006 

Learning to Get a Long-Term Resident Permit

For once, I think the Greek government has gotten it right.

Almost a year ago to the day, I blogged about the need for culture immersion courses for all new immigrants in their new country. I felt (and still feel) that courses teaching immigrants the law, language and culture of their host country will benefit not only them but their new country as well. In order to get the coveted long-term resident status, the interior ministry has issued a presidential decree requiring immigrants to complete 125 hours of formal instruction in the Greek language and culture.

The decree was drafted in response to an EU directive compelling member states to outline the procedure necessary to obtain long term resident status to immigrants. Even though the deadline for implementation was three months ago, it is nonetheless welcome news to know that it has finally been completed.

The lessons will cost 900€ and will probably take about 3 months to pass and obtain the certificate needed to apply for the resident permit. The money is non-refundable. I'm sure many people will complain about the price and the time needed to complete the courses but I think their complaints are unfounded for several reasons. The benefits outweigh the cost and time factor.

Knowing the language will do a lot to ensure their integration into the new society. It will become easier for them to get employment, navigate through the endless channels of Greek bureacracy and most of all...allow them to communicate with everyone around them--not just immediate family members. Social isolation will be reduced and they will be better equipped to help their children once they enroll in school. At my son's school, foreign children often lag behind their classmates to the point where not only do they receive failing grades but they become socially excluded.

Knowing the culture will further advance their integration because it enables them to find common ground with the rest of the population and understand and possibly appreciate Greek customs which seem so foreign to them.

I wish this law was in effect when I received my long-term resident status in Greece. I wouldn't have felt like a fish out of water at the supermarket, social events and at my son's school. Knowing English further hampered my efforts in Greek because I could still watch movies, listen to songs and read my newspapers in my native language. I became lazy when it came to integration much to my own detriment. I did learn to write the language on my own but if you can't speak the language, it's pointless. I ended up paying 900€ for a 3 month introductory course to Greek over 7 years ago and immediately, I didn't feel like an outsider anymore. I didn't avoid answering the phone. I could go to the doctor by myself and accomplish dozens of routine tasks outside the house without a Greek babysitter. I could hold my ground with civil servants at government offices.

Learning the language was independence to me. Learning the culture meant I no longer sent my son to school on national holidays because I didn't know any better. It meant remembering friends' Name Days, buying red eggs and lambadas (candles) for easter and saying phone numbers the Greek way (55-55-123 and not 555-5123) and to stop waiting for cabs on the wrong side of the road. I'm sure these all sound like trivial things but if only I could tell you how much time was wasted and the embarrassment and frustration I felt for not knowing them...that would be a book unto itself.

This law is a necessity and I can only hope that immigrants will not try to circumvent it by bribing corrupt officials as has been the case with past resident/work permits and driving licences. They will do a great disservice to themselves and their new country. Considering the benefits and increased opportunities for immigrants, 900€ and 125 hours is a small price to pay for them.

Hello !!

It's funy to read you.

I think this is definately a good idea although due to the cost, I think there will be a lot of people who don't attend. Although if they don't then it's their loss and they don't get their papers.

The only possible downside will be if members of the civil service read this blog. If they knew who you were, they'd definately not encourage foreigners to learn Greek. Look at all the headaches your ability to speak Greek has given them! :-)

I agree. It sounds like a very beneficial program. The benefits will be more than the cost, but I too fear with such an expensive pricetag masny immigrants won't go to it. I don't know about Greece, but in Italy immigrants are often the world's poorests citizens.

Poll...I think it's 'funny' to be living here sometimes. LOL

ellas & J. Doe...The program is going to be cost prohibitive for a lot of immigrants but right now, immigrants are paying several hundred euros a year just to get a one year work and residence permit. By the time they actually receive the permits, they have about another 3 months before they have to reapply again because of the bureacracy here. It is a lot of money but since they're already paying that much if not more over the span of 5 years for their one-year permits, I think they'll do what it takes to get the 5 year permit. At least I'm hoping they will.

Ellas, are you even sure the civil service is literate? I'm not convinced. If you saw my latest TEBE papers, you'd see I have no worries about them reading my blog. LOL

I'm all for programs like this. They've been doing something similar in Germany since 2005 to facilitate the integration of foreigners (something that Germany has been awfully bad at in the past) and I REALLY wish they'd done it when I moved here almost 16 years ago. I had to organize everything myself and pay full price for a couple of years worth of German classes. The cultural stuff would have been nice to have too.

Now, in order to keep the residence permit, new immigrants have to prove a certain level of competancy in German and obtain a "German as a Foreign Language" certificate showing they've done the required number of courses. I'm not sure how many hours of language intstruction it is but it's a bargain at EUR 1 an hour.

The program has been attacked by many leftwingers and the usual "human rights" types... It goes to show how they understand illegal immigration, the need to control immigrants already here, and the need to impose minimum requirements for residence. All this of course is too little too late. The dam has been breached and we're just swimming desperately before we drown.

Greece is not an immigration country. There is no need for programs to stimulate or encourage integration or assimilation where none is possible. The government does not know what is going on, the last thing one wants is to transform Greece into a multicultural volcanoe with a thirld world hue and tinge. Greece does not need to become carbon copies of social cesspools like the USA and Canada. Already we have drastic discord on account of the Mosque project in and around Athens. A growing muslim migrant community is anathema to Greece. The immigrant or " vagrant straggler" that roams the land of Greece is an excess that ought and must be shown the exit doors.

I'm delurking to say hello and this:

I'm totally FOR programs that make life easier for immigrants. The expense seems prohibitive for some, it's a big wad of dough and could keep them away, no matter HOW required it is. It would be nice to see it backed with some sort of subsidy or refund. Yeah, yeah, I know. It's just what j.doe said, immigrants are often really poor - those who'd benefit the most are those who might not be able to afford it.

Also, I would hope that the gov't would back it up with legislation making it easier for folks who can afford to attend to do so. In my Deutsch fur Auslanders, a lot of the students show up every other week because their employers won't allow them the free time they need to attend. It's shortsighted - they would be much more effective employees if they had the local language. Two hours a week to make a better employee? Like it's not worth it.

(I read often, thanks for the insight from a neighbor to the south!)

Pam...Good to see you 'delurked' and posting. LOL Of course, it's obvious I agree with you. As for the Greek govt. subsidizing the cost of the lessons, I doubt it will happen since I believe the reason the courses cost so much in the first place is because the govt. is cash-strapped. If there are a million foreigners in Greece as has been mentioned in the media, then the govt. stands to make almost a billion non-refundable euros off the resident permit application costs. I really doubt they'll subsidize anything. I'll be even more surprised if half of those applying actually get their permits.

Hello! I would like to talk with Christine. About the things in Germany. I'm an albanian emmigrant, living in Italy. I'm waiting to know something about "the long term resident" in Germany. I would like to live in Germany, but I cann't find anything, what's happening there? Is the government there doing something about this directive "2003/109/CE"? Could you gently (if you read this) help me with some news or any link about it?
Thank you in advance. Sincerely Denada
P.S. Sorry for my english

Hmmm... Why not, but its gonna be problematic. First of all, the cost seems prohibitiv. Second, among people applying, they may be huge differences. Some people will already master greek to a near nativ level, and on the other extreme some people may be illeterate, thus needing specialised training. It seems it would be more reasonable to require people to take a test to ensure a minimal level. Those already fluent will not need to take lessons, others may need indeed the 125 hours or so...

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