General Entry Information
U.S. citizens are generally allowed to travel to Greece without a visa if they are coming for tourism for a short time. However, the decision on admission to Greece is made by Greek immigration authorities in accordance with Greek law. The most common reason for denial of entry is the U.S. citizen attempted to travel on a passport he or she previously reported lost or stolen. Such passports, even if found later, are invalid for travel. The airlines only verify that your citizenship may allow you to enter your final destination; they do not necessarily know that your passport was reported lost or stolen – it is your responsibility to initiate travel with a valid passport.
Additionally, under Greek law, some common activities may not be considered “tourism.” Religious volunteers, charity workers, interns, prospective students and others pursuing special programs may need to get a visa before traveling to Greece You can find more information on Greek visas and application procedures on the Greek Embassy’s website. You can also find information about traveling to Greece on the Department of State’s Country Specific Information page.
Although the vast majority of U.S citizens who travel to Greece for tourism are admitted without incident, Greek authorities have the right and responsibility for enforcing their laws, and as a result, not everyone who arrives at a Greek port of entry is permitted to enter. When travelers are refused entry, Greek authorities usually order them returned to the airport from which they last departed, regardless of nationality or place of residence. Neither the U.S. government nor the U.S. Embassy in Athens can intervene on your behalf if you are denied entry into Greece, nor can we attempt to influence Greek government’s decision.
What to Expect If You Are Denied Entry to Greece
Being denied entry to Greece can be upsetting for travelers and their loved ones. It helps to know what to expect, and what you can do to make the experience less stressful.
If you are denied entry into Greece, you will be held at the airport until you can be returned to the location from which you departed. You are not under arrest and no criminal charges will be filed, you are simply not eligible to enter Greece on this visit. Because you are not under arrest, and because the U.S. Embassy is prohibited from interfering in decisions by Greek border officials, you may not be asked whether you would like to contact your Embassy.
You will generally be returned to your departure location on the next available flight offered by your carrier. However, in cases where you would have a long wait for your return flight, the airport authorities may put you in a temporary detention center until your flight departs. Conditions in the detention center are communal, and you will be given access to food and water, a telephone and medical treatment if necessary. In some cases, the Greek authorities may allow you to enter under specific conditions, such as you must apply for an emergency passport at the U.S. Embassy in Athens and return to the airport to receive an entry stamp. The Embassy has no influence over this decision by the Greek authorities. If they permit you to enter to apply for a new passport, be advised that that you must appear at the U.S. Embassy on a regular business day between 8:30 am and 11:30 am. See Emergency Passport information.
What You Should Do If You Are Denied Entry to Greece
- Stay calm. Do not attempt to dispute the Greek official’s decision. Once you have been found inadmissible, you will not be permitted to enter.
- Inform Greek authorities if you have a medical condition, are taking medication, or are in need of medical treatment. Also inform them if you have special dietary needs.
- Listen, and ask why you were not admitted. Be sure you clearly understand what you will need to do the next time you intend to travel to Greece – i.e. will you need a visa? Is there a waiting period before you can apply to re-enter?
- Ask for documentation of the refusal as you may need to show it to Greek officials at a consulate in the United States. if you require a visa.
- Contact your airline if you are not being returned to the United States, as you will be responsible for re-booking or purchasing a new flight home from your last port of departure.
What You Should Do Upon Your Return to the United States
If you intend to apply for a Greek visa, you can find information about application procedures on the Greek Embassy’s website. If you have questions about future travel to Greece, or other general questions, you should contact your nearest Greek Consulate.