Greece has two naturalization processes by which eligible persons can acquire Greek citizenship and Greek passport.
The first is a shorter naturalization process for people of Greek origin, descent or ancestry with a grandmother, grandfather or great-grandparent born in Greece, currently explained in “Greek citizenship by claim of Greek origin.”
The second is a longer and expensive naturalization process described below for EU and non-EU citizens of no Greek descent who are interested in acquiring Greek citizenship after marriage to a Greek citizen and/or several years residence in Greece via a permit to live in Greece. Though known as having the most stringent citizenship requirements in the world on par with Switzerland, the new Greek Citizenship Code passed in 2010 lowered the application fee from 1500 euros to 700 euros and the required years of residency in Greece from 10 of 12 years to seven (7) years.
However, be aware that the Greek government froze all applications for foreigners of no Greek origin as of November 2012, and only persons of Greek blood can obtain citizenship at this time.
*Article last updated August 14, 2014. Answers in ‘Comments’ reflect a specific case or whatever laws were in effect at the time, and the government is still debating revisions to Greek citizenship rules .
Some “official” sites still display the old code or an incomplete translation of the new code, which is why I did my own translation in cooperation with a Greek-American lawyer.
Greek, American, Russian, Cypriot and UK lawyers, plus expat websites and Turkish bloggers, have reused portions of my article without permission and refuse to honor copyright, so you are not necessarily getting confirmation from different sources.
Be careful who you trust.
Challenge to New Greek Citizenship Code 3838/2010
Certain sections of the new Greek Citizenship Code were challenged, and a supreme court ruled them ‘unconstitutional’ in February 2011.
The court was scheduled to issue a final decision at the end of 2011, but ex-PM George Papandreou — the man who ordered overhaul of Greek citizenship laws — stepped down November 2011, and the Council of State upheld “some sections” were unconstitutional in November 2012. Even before this latest ruling, the new government that took power in June 2012 said they would change them again. We are (still) waiting for those amendments to be officially published.
Many municipalities refuse to accept applications, though they are lawfully required to keep taking them under the current law. If this happens to you, contact the Greek ombudsman.
On November 30, 2012, the government froze all procedures pertaining to granting Greek citizenship, passports and national IDs to persons of non-Greek origin. On February 5, 2013, it was announced that all non-Greek foreigners granted Greek citizenship under the 2010 reform may lose voting rights and, possibly, their Greek passports and Greek IDs.
On October 15, 2013, the Ministry of Interior announced that a new Immigration Code had been drafted and would impact citizenship. However, it has not been debated in Parliament or officially published (expected date is sometime in 2014).
On February 14, 2014, Greece announced that the new immigration bill does not and will not address Greek citizenship for foreigners, and all non-Greeks and the Greek diaspora can no longer vote in elections. The official revision to the citizenship code promised by early 2014 has been postponed indefinitely.
Before starting the process of acquiring dual citizenship with Greece, it is imperative you research the relevant country’s stance before committing unintentional acts that may risk your current citizenship. Some countries allow it; some do not. Inquire at consulate/embassy or your homeland’s federal government office, not a friend, relative or forum.
Benefits of dual citizenship with Greece
Non-EU citizens typically seek dual citizenship with Greece or another EU member state as a path to living and working in a European country without restriction. Others have uniquely personal reasons. If you have an ancestor born in an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, it may be easier and faster to stake a claim to EU citizenship via ancestry. See, “Acquiring EU citizenship through an ancestor.”
Non-Greek EU citizens often seek dual citizenship with Greece because the Hellenic Republic shows preference toward its own citizens, even though all EU citizens should lawfully enjoy equal rights and treatment in all member states.
Marrying for Greek citizenship
Marrying for Greek citizenship is not automatic or easy, as citizenship is not transferable by marriage alone. All EU and non-EU citizens interested in Greek citizenship must prove fluency in Greek, fulfill long-term residency requirements by living in Greece for many years and go through the naturalization process described below.
Marrying a Greek citizen also does not mean you qualify for a Greek passport or Greek national ID. It only shortens residency requirement to apply for Greek citizenship to three (3) years if a child or children are produced from the union. Nothing more. A less bureaucratic process for non-EU family members is to obtain a residence/work permit based on marriage to a Greek or other EU citizen, which grants rights on par with EU residents and involves no fee and no language requirements. See, “Residence/work permits for non-EU family members of Greek/EU citizens.”
Warning to men
All men with Greek citizenship and/or of Greek descent between the ages of 19-45 must perform national service, unless an exemption applies. Men who become naturalized Greek citizens typically serve six (6) months. See “Mandatory Greek military service” for more information.
Basic criteria for Greek citizenship
1. Be aged 18 or over.
2. No criminal record or outstanding deportation order
– No pending judgments of deportation
– In 10 years prior to date of application for citizenship, must not have been sentenced to six (6) months to up to one (1) year for dangerous crime, such as homicide, rape, physical violence, drug dealing, money laundering, child abduction, etc.
3(a). Be married and have a child or children with a Greek citizen, and be legally living in Greece for 3 years
– Must be married three (3) full years from the wedding date; and
– Must be legally living in Greece for three (3) full, consecutive years with a long-term residence permit/card; and
– Must have a child or children with his/her Greek spouse
*It does not matter if the marriage is civil or religious. All that matters is the marriage is legal, registered and still valid.
3(b). Have custody of a child or children who are Greek citizens, and be legally living in Greece for three (3) years.
3(c). You are single/divorced, married to a non-Greek, or married to a Greek with no children and have seven (7) years legal residence in Greece
– Must be legally living in Greece with a long-term residence permit/card for seven (7) consecutive years prior to the date of application.
– Must not have an absence of 10 continuous months in the last five (5) years before application.
Refugees are recognized under the 1951 Geneva Convention and must have a total of five (5) years residency in Greece.
If you do not meet the three basic criteria, you may qualify for Greek citizenship another way. See “Ways to acquire Greek citizenship.”
Documents, fee and fingerprints required
If the applicant meets the three basic criteria listed above, the following documents must be gathered, a fee paid and fingerprints given.
1. An application completed in Greek
– Where to get a Greek citizenship application or an Aitisi Politografisis:
a) the Interior Ministry at 31 Stadiou Street in person or by calling the citizenship office at (210) 324-9683 or alternative numbers of (210) 324-9465 or (210) 324-9314 to request one be sent somewhere within Greece
b) the mayor’s office (dimarxeio) or city hall of your municipality
c) the Greek consulate/embassy nearest your residence, if outside Greece.
* Note: There are no online Greek citizenship forms available. I recommend making a photocopy and using it as a test-run, then fill out the original later. Liquid paper or blanco is frowned upon.
2. A formal statement of naturalization in Greek
– Certified statement (dilosi), signed in the presence of the mayor or the head of the village council or Greek consulate/embassy and two witnesses who are Greek citizens
3. A photocopy of the applicant’s passport or valid travel document
– A translation to Greek is only necessary if the information on this document is not written in Latin characters. See, “Official translations to Greek” if you need assistance.
4. A photocopy of the applicant’s current Greek residence permit
5. Applicant’s birth certificate from his/her homeland with apostille attached
– An official long-form birth certificate must be issued from applicant’s birth city, then affixed with apostille from the same place. See “How to get an apostille” if you need assistance.
– Birth certificate with apostille attached must be translated to Greek. See, “Official translations to Greek” if you need assistance.
– The original and one (1) photocopy
6. Applicant’s most recent printed income tax return (ekkatharistiko) from the Greek tax office/eforia/DOY
– If you are unemployed, a copy of your spouse’s tax return from the Greek tax office/eforia/DOY is required or a statement of income from outside the country, which has been translated into Greek and certified by police
– If you are single/divorced, you must provide evidence of sufficient funds to support yourself
– One photocopy and the original for inspection
7. Applicant’s fingerprints
– Taken at his/her local police station, which includes verification with the application.
– See a map book or call information to find a police station nearest your residence
8. Parabolo (certified receipt of deposit) for 700 euros
– Paid at the Greek tax office/eforia/DOY under applicant’s AFM (Greek tax number)
– Fee is non-refundable
– Original and one (1) photocopy
9. A2 certificate issued by IDEKE that applicant has sufficient knowledge of Greek
– Obtained by taking 100 hours of free Greek language classes and/or passing a test.
– See, “Free Greek language lessons” to sign up for classes or take the examination.
9. Completion of at least three (3) years of secondary school education in Greece
9. Certificate/diploma from any high school in Greece.
– Two (2) photocopies, plus original for inspection
10. A2 certificate issued by IDEKE that applicant has sufficient knowledge of Greek history/culture
– Obtained by taking 25 hours of ancient Greek history and culture classes and/or passing a test.
– See “IDEKE Greek history/culture lessons” to sign up for classes or take the examination.
– Two (2) photocopies, plus original for inspection
– See “AMKA: Greek social security number” if you need assistance.
– Two (2) copies of your card or a printout from your insurance fund/KEP verifying your number, plus original for inspection.
What happens next?
* The application and accompanying documents should be taken and submitted to the mayor’s office (dimarxeio), city hall or village council (koinotita) in your local municipality
* The municipality forwards the application to the local prefecture, where officials will forward it to the regional general secretary for approval if everything is in order.
* If approved, a copy of the applicant’s Type ‘A’ criminal record certificate is requested from the Ministry of Citizen Protection.
* The application is then forwarded to the interior ministry, where the naturalization committee will request a personal interview within six (6) months that assesses:
– Your fluency in Greek;
– Your knowledge of Greek culture and ancient history;
– “High moral standards, strong character and personality” (all subjective);
– Possession of “stable and regular resources,” medical insurance and a home that “meets the required specifications for hygiene” (subjective, no guidelines given)
Note: If the applicant does not show up at this interview, his/her request for Greek citizenship is automatically rejected.
* Within four (4) months of the interview, the interior ministry’s naturalization committee is obligated to render a decision in writing and provide the applicant with a copy.
* If approved, the decision will be published in the Government Gazette and the applicant will be notified by phone/letter and invited to the mayor’s office (dimarxeio), city hall or village council (koinotita) to take a citizenship oath within one (1) year of the decision’s publication date and pick up their papers.
How long does the Greek citizenship process take?
The Greek citizenship process via naturalization from submitting your application to receiving an answer (approval or denial) should only be one (1) year under the new law, which improves previous waiting times of 2-10 years. However, based on the first-hand experience of readers and people I know, it still takes between 3-5 years.
The Greek Ombudsman can intervene on your behalf at no cost, if you have been waiting an excessive amount of time. It is not necessary to get a lawyer.
There were 180,000 pending applications in the queue for foreign-born Greeks staking a claim to Greek citizenship via ancestry or descent as of February 2011, and 7,700 citizenship applications from non-Greeks as of December 2011. Approximately 10,000 cases are reviewed each year.
As you should know from living here several years, there is nothing you can do to speed the process. Greece is a ‘results may vary’ country and things get done (or not) in time.
Once the citizenship certificate is issued, the new Greek citizen can apply for a Greek passport and Greek national ID (tautotita). See, “How to get a Greek passport” and “How to get a Greek national ID.”
What if I’m denied?
If Greek citizenship is denied, the applicant will be given the reason(s) in writing. He/she has the right to challenge the decision in writing within 15 days and submit any supporting evidence to the naturalization committee.
If the decision is final and Greek citizenship is not granted, the applicant can apply again one (1) year from the date of the committee’s decision (not the date you originally submitted your application), using the same process outlined above. The fee to reapply is 200 euros.
* Please see other options for EU citizenship and permits at the end of this post in, “Related posts.”
Contact information in Greece
Interior Ministry Citizenship Office
31 Stadiou Street
(210) 324-9465 alternate
(210) 324-9314 alternate
KEP (Citizen Services Centres)
Mayor’s Office (Dimarxeio) or City Hall
Each municipality has its own; find one by calling KEP at ‘1500′, consulting a map or accessing directory assistance
In the news
“French citizen waits 10 years for application to be examined” (link broken) — Athens News
“Vast majority of new Greeks are Orthodox Christian and ethnic Greeks” (link broken) – Athens News
“Old Greek Citizenship Code” (in English, brief/informal translation)
“New Greek Citizenship Code“: ΦΕΚ 49, 3838/2010 (in Greek)
“Court questions legality of new Greek citizenship code” — Kathimerini
“Greek citizenship up, ruling looms” — Athens News
“New Greek citizenship law has little impact” — Kathimerini
“Fake marriage ring busted in Thessaloniki” — Kathimerini
“Non-EU foreigner born in Greece is illegal in Greece but legal in other EU countries” — To Vima
Official documentation and application given to me by the interior ministry
Interviews with Greek embassies and consulates in the United States
Personal experience; experience of readers who were generous in sharing their experience with me
“Acquiring EU citizenship through ancestry or naturalization”
“How to get EU citizenship, driver’s licenses, national IDs, visas, residence/work permits”
“How non-EU citizens can get a permit to live and work in Greece”