Are you a UK citizen planning on retiring to Greece?
If so, you’ve come to the right place!
In this comprehensive guide, I will ensure that you have all the information you need to make informed decisions and smoothly transition into your Greek retirement.
Benefits of retiring in Greece
Retiring in Greece offers a multitude of benefits that make it an attractive destination for UK expats.
Firstly, Greece boasts a Mediterranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers, making it an ideal place to enjoy a relaxed and comfortable retirement.
The country is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, including picturesque islands, crystal-clear waters, and breath-taking landscapes.
Whether you prefer to spend your days lounging on a sandy beach, exploring ancient ruins, or immersing yourself in local culture, Greece offers a diverse range of experiences to suit every retiree’s interests.
Moreover, Greece is known for its warm and welcoming culture. The Greek people are renowned for their hospitality, ensuring that you will feel right at home in your new retirement destination.
The cost of living in Greece is generally lower compared to many other European countries, allowing you to stretch your pension further and enjoy a high quality of life without breaking the bank.
Lastly, Greece is well-connected to the rest of Europe, making it easy to maintain close ties with family and friends back in the UK.
With numerous flight options and affordable travel opportunities, you can easily visit your loved ones or have them come and experience the beauty of Greece with you.
These benefits, combined with the relaxed pace of life and the opportunity to immerse yourself in a different culture, make retiring in Greece an enticing choice for UK citizens.
Requirements and eligibility for retiring in Greece
Before you pack your bags and head to Greece, it’s important to understand the requirements and eligibility criteria for retiring in the country.
With the UK’s departure from the EU, things have obviously changed.
To retire in Greece now, you will need to apply for the appropriate residence permit.
The Greek residence permit is known as the “Άδεια Διαμονής” or “Adia Diamonis.”
To be eligible for this permit, you must meet certain criteria, including having sufficient financial means to support yourself without becoming a burden on the Greek social security system.
You will also need to provide proof of health insurance coverage, as well as a clean criminal record.
The process of obtaining a residence permit can be complex, so it is advisable to seek professional guidance to ensure a smooth and successful application.
It is worth noting that Greece also offers a special retiree visa program called the “Golden Visa.”
This program allows non-EU citizens, including UK citizens, to obtain a residence permit by making an investment of at least EUR250,000 in Greek real estate.
The Golden Visa program offers an attractive option for those looking to retire in Greece and enjoy the benefits of residency without the need for employment or starting a business.
Residence is applicable to the whole family (married spouse, children under 21 years old, and parents of the main applicant and spouse).
In addition, it allows holders to apply for citizenship after seven years of residence.
Finally, it confers the right of free movement not only in Greece but also in Europe’s Schengen Area.
Financial planning for retirement in Greece
When it comes to retiring in Greece, proper financial planning is crucial to ensure a comfortable and stress-free retirement.
Start by assessing your current financial situation and determining your retirement budget.
Consider factors such as housing costs, healthcare expenses, daily living expenses, and any additional costs associated with your chosen retirement destination.
Consulting with a financial adviser who specialises in international retirement planning can be highly beneficial.
They can provide guidance on managing your UK pension, accessing your retirement funds, and any tax implications you may face as a UK citizen retiring in Greece.
They can also help you navigate the complexities of currency exchange and ensure that your finances are structured in a way that maximises your retirement income.
It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of living in Greece may vary depending on the location.
While some areas, particularly popular tourist destinations, may have higher living costs, there are also more affordable options available.
Consider your lifestyle preferences and budget carefully to find a balance that allows you to enjoy your retirement without compromising your financial stability.
How to draw your UK Pensions in Greece
If you retire in Greece, you can qualify for a flat 7% tax on your overseas pension income for the first 15 years of living there.
It applies to UK pension (including State Pension) and QROPS income.
This is known as the Greek Non-Dom Regime for Retirees, and to qualify, you must:
- Earn a pension or pension-like income from a foreign source. This may include public or private pension scheme payments.
- Not have been considered a Greek tax resident for 5 out of the 6 years prior to taking up tax residence in Greece.
- Have transferred from a country that has an active tax administrative cooperation agreement or double tax treaty with Greece.
It is worth noting that this tax applies to ALL pension income.
Therefore, if you are planning to take your Pension Commencement Lump Sum, you probably want to do so before retiring to Greece, so that it remains tax-free.
In addition, you will want to apply for a No-Tax code in the UK to make sure that HMRC does not deduct tax from your pension at source.
UK State Pension
The good news is that Greece is one of the countries where UK State Pension income continues to increase with inflation (in many countries it does not).
Given that UK State Pension payments went up by 10.1% in 2023, this is a valuable benefit to retain.
Managing your finances and taxes as a retired expat in Greece
Managing your finances and taxes as a retired expat in Greece requires careful planning and understanding of the local regulations.
As a UK citizen, you will need to inform the relevant UK authorities, such as HMRC, about your change in residency status.
This will ensure that you comply with any tax obligations in both the UK and Greece.
It is advisable to seek professional advice from a tax specialist who has expertise in international taxation.
They can guide you on how to structure your finances and ensure that you take advantage of any tax treaties or exemptions available between the UK and Greece.
They can also help you navigate the complexities of double taxation and ensure that you optimise your tax situation.
Managing your finances effectively also includes ensuring that you have access to your funds and can efficiently transfer money between the UK and Greece.
Consider opening a local bank account in Greece to facilitate day-to-day transactions and minimise currency exchange fees.
Many international banks operate in Greece, making it easy to maintain your UK accounts while also having a local presence.
Navigating the Greek healthcare system
Understanding the Greek healthcare system is essential for a smooth transition into your Greek retirement.
Greece has a comprehensive healthcare system with both public and private options. As a retiree, you will have access to the public healthcare system, which offers high-quality care at a fraction of the cost compared to many other countries.
To access healthcare in Greece, you will need to obtain an AMKA (Social Security Number) and register with the National Organization for Healthcare Services Provision (EOPYY).
This registration will ensure that you are eligible for healthcare services and have access to doctors, specialists, hospitals, and pharmacies.
While the public healthcare system in Greece is generally excellent, it is advisable to have private health insurance as well.
Private insurance can provide additional coverage, shorter waiting times, and access to a wider network of healthcare providers.
It is essential to carefully review the terms and conditions of any insurance policy to ensure that it meets your specific needs and covers any pre-existing conditions you may have.
3 Tips for Retiring in Greece
I asked a client who recenty retired to Greece about the 3 things he knows now that he wished he had known before he started the process.
Here are his answers:
- The bureaucracy. The Greeks love stamping documents. Get all possible documents you’ll need like birth certificates, marriage certificates etc., apostilled before you arrive. Even then you’ll probably still need to use an apostle service.
- Get a good lawyer but make sure they’re experienced in whatever discipline you’re asking. Some lawyers you’d use for real estate are not that experienced in applying for the Golden Visa or Financially Independent visa.
- Same story with your accountant. You need your annual tax return, you need advice on the DTA and how it works, and also expertise in applying for special tax regimes like the 7% expat pension and offshore income rate.
Finding a place to live in Greece
Finding the perfect place to live in Greece is an exciting part of retiring in this beautiful country.
Whether you dream of a cozy beachside cottage, a modern apartment in the heart of Athens, or a traditional village house nestled in the mountains, Greece offers a wide range of housing options to suit every taste and budget.
Start by considering your preferred retirement destination and researching the local real estate market.
Engage the services of a reputable local real estate agent who can guide you through the process and help you find properties that meet your criteria.
It’s important to visit potential properties in person to assess their condition, location, and suitability for your retirement lifestyle.
Renting a property before committing to a purchase can be a wise option, as it allows you to experience the local community and ensure that the location meets your expectations.
Renting also provides you with flexibility should you decide to explore different areas of Greece or change your retirement plans in the future.
When purchasing property in Greece, it is essential to engage the services of a lawyer who specialises in Greek real estate law.
They will ensure that all necessary legal checks are carried out, and the purchase process is smooth and transparent.
It’s also advisable to have a good understanding of the associated costs, such as property taxes, maintenance fees, and utilities, to accurately budget for your retirement expenses.
Embracing the Greek lifestyle and culture
Retiring in Greece is not just about finding the perfect retirement destination; it’s also about immersing yourself in the vibrant Greek lifestyle and culture.
Greece offers a rich tapestry of traditions, customs, and cultural events that will enrich your retirement years and provide you with unique experiences.
Take the time to learn the Greek language, as it will greatly enhance your ability to connect with the local community and fully embrace the Greek way of life.
Join local clubs or organisations that align with your interests, whether it’s a cooking class, a dance group, or a book club.
Engaging with the local community will help you build lasting friendships and create a support network that will enrich your retirement experience.
Attend local festivals and cultural events to witness traditional dances, music performances, and celebrations that showcase Greece’s rich cultural heritage.
Lastly, take the time to travel and explore Greece beyond your retirement destination.
The country is home to countless historical sites, stunning landscapes, and hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s a day trip to a neighbouring island or a road trip across the mainland, Greece offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure.
Common challenges when retiring in Greece and how to overcome them
While retiring in Greece offers numerous benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the common challenges that UK citizens may face and how to overcome them.
Language barriers can be a potential hurdle, particularly in more rural areas where English may not be widely spoken.
Learning the basics of the Greek language can help you navigate everyday situations and connect with the locals on a deeper level
Then there is the bureaucracy. Administrative issues will likely take way longer and require much more paperwork to resolve than you could ever imagine.
Be prepared to wait and be prepared to be frustrated.
The Greek approach to these matters is, well, Greek.
Cultural differences and adjusting to a different way of life can also pose challenges.
Embracing the Greek lifestyle with an open mind and a willingness to learn and adapt will help you overcome these hurdles.
Engage with the local community, participate in cultural activities, and be open to new experiences.
Building relationships and connections with locals will provide you with a support network and help you feel more at home in your new retirement destination.
Resources and support for UK citizens retiring in Greece
If you’re considering retiring in Greece, there are several resources and support networks available to assist you throughout the process.
The UK government provides information and guidance on retiring abroad, including specific advice for UK citizens retiring in Greece.
The British Embassy in Athens and the Consular Network in Greece can also provide valuable assistance and support.
Additionally, there are various online communities and forums where UK expats share their experiences and offer advice on retiring in Greece.
These communities can be an excellent source of information, allowing you to connect with like-minded individuals who have already made the move and can provide insights based on their first-hand experiences.
Local expat associations and organisations can also be valuable resources, offering support, social events, and networking opportunities.
These communities can help you navigate the challenges of retiring in Greece and provide a sense of camaraderie as you embark on this exciting new chapter in your life.
Retiring in Greece is a dream for many UK citizens, and with proper planning and preparation, it can become a reality.
From the stunning natural beauty and warm hospitality to the affordable cost of living and rich cultural experiences, Greece offers a retirement destination that is both idyllic and rewarding.
By understanding the requirements and eligibility criteria, conducting thorough research, and seeking professional guidance, you can unlock the Greek retirement you’ve always envisioned.
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