OPINION

Bureaucracy a nightmare for Greeks and foreigners alike

Your article («Immigrants blamed for State’s failure,» July 9, 2003) addresses the problems of the Albanians getting their permits, but I want to tell you about a Greek’s problems. My wife was born in Athens, of Greek parents. She worked at the Akron department store for several years before she met me. I was in the USAF at Hellenikon, and we were married in 1961. When I left the USAF in 1962 I took my wife to the USA, and there we lived most of our married life. In 1973 my wife became an American citizen, and during that process she changed her first name from «Thomais,» her given name, to «Mitsi,» the name she had always been called. That same year I changed my family name from that of my stepfather, back to my actual family name. All of these changes were done in court, and the proper documents have always been in our hands. After my career in the USA, I retired in December 1989, and we had already bought an apartment in Ano Glyfada. In 1993 my wife officially took up residence in Greece, while I continued to work in the Middle East. The officials in Glyfada reviewed the translations of the two name changes, and granted her a five-year visa. That visa was renewed for another five years, but by that time PASOK had changed the laws, and insisted that former Greeks, living in Greece, must get Greek identity cards, the taftotita. That sounds like no problem, but this is Greece! The Athens office that issues birth certificates has refused to give my wife «her birth certificate,» because the name on her passport, «Mitsi,» does not match the name at birth. In the last four years, using two different lawyers, we have been unable to obtain my wife’s taftotita! We have been told to get «new» court documents, because the Greek officials refuse to recognize a certificate from an US district court, and another from a California court! She was also told she could not apply as an American citizen, because she was in fact «Greek.» This ruling was changed, and now we are applying for one-year visas, even though we have been living here for over seven years! We have all the new documents required, and we hope to get this settled before we have to renew our one-year visas. Our «one-year visas» have not been issued yet, so we are illegal right now. Our Albanian maid, who is applying for permanent residency, is laughing at us! Les Grove, Athens.