Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Greek citizenship through naturalization

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 November 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 .

Warning

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 was drafted in November 2014, but nothing has been debated, passed or officially made a law.

Dual Citizenship

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.
OR
3(b). Have custody of a child or children who are Greek citizens, and be legally living in Greece for three (3) years.
OR
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.
OR
9. Completion of at least three (3) years of secondary school education in Greece
OR
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

11. AMKA
— 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) 324-9683
(210) 324-9465 alternate
(210) 324-9314 alternate
www.ypes.gr

KEP (Citizen Services Centres)
www.kep.gov.gr

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

Sources

Greek Citizenship Code prior to 2010” (in English, brief/informal translation)
Greek Citizenship Code from 2010“: ΦΕΚ 49, 3838/2010 (in Greek and ruled unconstitutional)
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

Related posts

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

http://tinyurl.com/GRnaturalizationwebsite metrics

http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_25/08/2012_458259
http://www.naftemporiki.gr/news/cstory.asp?id=2259859
http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=494370
http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=496838
http://www.enet.gr/?i=news.el.article&id=341590
http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/744773

119 Comments

  jakara wrote @ November 27th, 2008 at 03:42

that is a long process from the greeks. is their country heaven or what? i am married to a greek with a child, and i will take the government to any extent to get what am entitled to

  Christopher wrote @ March 11th, 2009 at 15:32

I have a specific question regarding item 3 of the basic criteria for Greek citizenship. It’s stated that you must have no criminal record or deportation order. By the deportation order, is it meant specifically a deportation order from Greece, or any deportation order, regardless of country?

In my case, for example, I was officially deported from ____ 7 years ago. Does this mean that if I ever wanted to apply for Greek Citizenship (have no intention of doing so, I’m asking just for s*its and giggles), I’d be denied? Do you suppose that the Greek government actually would discover a deportation order on its own if you never mentioned it?

Kat Reply:

I don’t know the extent of Russian record keeping, but I assume deportation is attached to your passport number and it will be traced to you somehow. Whether you disclose it or not, Greece will ask U.S. authorities to run a background and criminal check on you, and your passport traces your travel history, visa violations and deportations.

So if you hide the deportation on the application or lie, you’d automatically be disqualified and denied Greek citizenship. And they get to keep your 1500 euros.

  Lukas wrote @ April 13th, 2009 at 21:04

Dear Kat,

Thank you very much for such an informative site. I am a greek american living in the US. I recently submitted all of my paperwork with the Greek Embassy in Washington DC, to attain my dual citizenship with Greece. The Embassy was most helpful. My situation was a bit different. My maternal grandfather is greek, but was born in New York City. We could not trace his exact roots to his father in Greece, so I had to submit my application via my maternal grandmother, via naturalization. My mother also applied for her dual citizenship, but since I am 27, I could not tag directly onto her application. The Embassy has assured me that I will get my dual citizenship because it is very clear that I am of Greek descent. They stated that it should take about 1 year for all of the paperwork to go through and about 6 months for my mothers.

Thanks again for such a great site. It really helped me get all of my paperwork together!

Best,

Lukas

Kat Reply:

Hi Lukas. I’d been looking for someone who took an untraditional path to Greek citizenship under circumstances such as yours, and it means a lot that you would take the time and energy to share your story with us, including details about what happened and how long it will take. It’s my pleasure to help someone like you, someone grateful who gives back to the website and provides insight that I and others wouldn’t otherwise have. I hope you’ll comment and visit again. 🙂

  nasar ali wrote @ June 4th, 2009 at 21:36

i came this country 1992. i like this country, i decide to stay… 1998 i got amnesty from oaed (white/green card systems). from 2002 i change to business with permit for independent economic activity. february 2009 i got my permanent residence permit. and i have submitted already my greek nationality.. im waiting the response from the ministry. i like to ask what countries is possible i can work with my permanent residence permit. beside i have 3 children who born here and go to greek school from child age , i request you please tell me what is the possible for me to work,and stay with my family . i pray for your long happy healthy life

thanks lot

Kat Reply:

The answers are already on this website.

1. Where can you work with a permanent residence permit? Depends. If you have the special EU-wide permit, you can work anywhere in the EU. Any other permit is only for Greece.

2. What is possible for your family? Depends. If you stay in Greece, it’s fine. If you move to another country, you need to research their rules — it’s impossible for me to know about all permits for all countries. If you have the EU-wide permit, it will be easier. If you do not have the EU-wide permit, then you will start from nothing again. If you get Greek citizenship, you and your family can go anywhere. However, if you leave before they process an answer for Greek citizenship, your application will be denied.

  FMS wrote @ June 6th, 2009 at 04:11

Well. According to my reading of European law, anyone with the Greek permanent residence permit can apply to have the EU long-term permit but has to satisfy their stupid requirements about knowing the history and language of Greece.

Most EU countries simply converted their permanent residence permits to the EU long-term permit, but the Greeks had to make life as difficult as possible, of course. Is anyone surprised?

Kat Reply:

Yes, that’s what I’m saying; he must apply for the EU-wide permit if he doesn’t already have it because they are still separate permits with separate requirements and separate bureaucracy. It goes back to one of my first articles written for this website: Think of how the rest of the world works, and the opposite is true in Greece.

  Mari wrote @ July 13th, 2009 at 23:29

Hi,

I’m 21, was born in Central Asia, in 2006 I moved to USA and got my asylee status but it’s not a citizenship, I’m planning to get married and my fiancee lives in Greece and he has a greek citizenship, so I’d like move to Greece before the marriage. Would I be able to do it? Is it possible for me to obtain a Greek citizenship eventually? What would be the process for me to do it? Please advice. And thank you a lot, this is the most helpful website ever.

Kat Reply:

All of the answers are in the article above or in related articles on this website.

You can only move here before the marriage if you:
a) get a visa and get married before it expires (“How non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece“); OR
b) have sufficient financial means coming from outside Greece to get a permit to live here (“How to get a visa and permit to live in Greece based on independent means.“).

The answers to Greek citizenship are in the article above, which I took the time to translate, research, write and update for everyone’s convenience. I suggest you read it again carefully to find the answers you seek, since it does apply to you.

  george wrote @ July 29th, 2009 at 19:12

my mother is nationally greek but citizen of georgia. i have all proved document about this. documents translation from georgian into greek and witness.about citizen i have all documents collect , in my interest is pass this documents and hurry it. i m interesting about your help procedure. . and help to me to get citizen. especially im interesting how long gonna be procedure after i pass this documents. or when i will pass the document did i get the something documents before i get the citizen.? please elucidation this question if you can to help me. course if i pass this documents in georgia its gonna be 3 4 year to waiting. please if something is for help to me.

Kat Reply:

You need to follow the instructions listed above, or those in the other article called “Greek citizenship by claim of Greek origin,” which is a link offered in the third paragraph. All the help and answers I can offer are there already. Thank you.

  STEPHANOS wrote @ October 3rd, 2009 at 13:28

lukas, i have the same story as you. my great grandparents were born in greece. my mother is 100% greek, but she and my grandparents were born in the u.s.a. i do not have any paper from my maternal grandfather because they were lost in war. however i do have papers from my maternal grandmothers parent’s marriage license, and residence in greece. in order for me to start.. would my mother and grandmother have to apply for dual as well? i do not believe they would want to..

Kat Reply:

You can start the process on your own and see where it takes you, since you have some of the documents necessary. If they don’t find them sufficient, they will tell you what more you can do since you are clearly of Greek origin.

  malcolm wrote @ October 23rd, 2009 at 17:45

hi there, i was married to a greek woman for 5 yrs before we divorced, and i have 2 children with her and i have been living in greece for 13 yrs now. my question is, what group are my to apply for greek citizenship? i have a residence permit that is renewed every 5yrs, please kindly tell in group i belong cos you know that the greek government doesnt tell you what your right is, you have to look for it by yourself, so your help and advise will be highly regarded, thanks.

Kat Reply:

It does not matter to what group you belong in your case, the requirements are the same. The requirements for Greek citizenship involve much more than being married or living here for 12 years, including certificates from IDEKE that prove you took their classes and know fluent Greek and Greek history/culture. Please use the article above and look at the section “Additional requirements and process.” Everything is already explained. Good luck.

  layla wrote @ November 6th, 2009 at 20:53

hi, i got married a greek man and we have a child. i have applied greek citizenship.how long will take to get greek citizenship? and i cannot speak greek fluently.this is the matter to get greek citizenship?thanks

Kat Reply:

All answers to your questions are already given in the article above. Please take another look. Thank you.

  reza wrote @ December 23rd, 2009 at 19:50

I m living in Greece almost 9 years.I ve got the resident permit of 5 years which can be renewed.Ive got a travel document as well.I want to know if people like me can apply for greek citizenship or not? also is there any hope for those having Rose card of 6 months permit,to be recognized as political refugees? Sas euxaristo para poli gia tis xrisimes plirofories.Na exete kales giortes.

Kat Reply:

I get the feeling you didn’t read the article at all because your questions about citizenship have already been answered. It takes much more than living here and a permit to get Greek citizenship. Please read the list.

Regarding the pink card, I know nothing about it so you should inquire at the municipality office. Regarding political refugees, Greece accepts very very few after a long process and chances are slim to none.

Follow-up from FMS: The pink card is given to people who applied for political asylum, but it doesn’t grant political asylum. It essentially allows holders to work and reside in Greece for only 6 months. Other EU countries give money, accommodation and food for asylum applicants: Greece gives nothing. There is no hope of getting citizenship from a pink card.

  mary wrote @ March 19th, 2010 at 23:44

i’m a Greek citizen married to an American (non-Greek) man and we have been living in Greece since 2003. My husband has a residency permit, now valid for 10 years. We had a baby, born in Greece, 3 years ago. How easy is it for my husband to gain Greek citizenship and once he does, is he entitled to a Greek/EU passport?
What is the best official/government website for all the steps necessary for this whole process?

Kat Reply:

1) How easy is it for your husband to get Greek citizenship? Depends, did he already meet all the requirements listed above? It takes a lot more than marriage, a permit and a baby. Read the article again (‘Documents, Fee and Fingerprints required’) to see what I mean.

2) Is he entitled to a Greek passport? This question is already answered in the article above also.

3) What’s the best official/gov’t website? In English, there isn’t one containing the info you seek; that’s why I wrote this article. In Greek, I assume you know that as a Greek citizen yourself. All the steps necessary, including the documents and whole process, are listed above for you already. All you need to do is follow them.

Best of luck.

  Lukas wrote @ May 3rd, 2010 at 07:44

Hi Kat,

I wanted to give you an update on my status. It’s been about a year since I applied for my citizenship with Greece via my grandmother. I have been in contact with the Embassy in Washington, DC who continue to be most helpful. My mother’s paperwork is moving through (as expected) but mine has not gone too far as yet. They indicated that since I am a male and going through my grandmother, it will take more time than usual. You warned me (via your site) that it may take a couple years. I am not in any rush, so it really does not bother me!

Again, you’ve got a wonderful website, I frequent it ever few months to see what is going on and to see if the conscription will be changing soon!

Best,

Lukas

Kat Reply:

Hi Lukas, thanks so much for checking in and letting me know how things are progressing. I expect that your paperwork will be easier to process once your mother’s citizenship is granted.

Regarding conscription, I think the Greek government has its hands full at the moment with the economy and other reform. But we’ll see how that impacts military service and the article will be updated accordingly.

I sure appreciate you stopping in and your kind words. See you again.

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.