Who is eligible for Greek citizenship? With the 52-page Greek Citizenship Code passed March 2010, there are eight ways to acquire Greek citizenship, which is the first step to applying for a Greek passport and Greek national ID/tautotita.
However, the Greek government froze all applications for foreigners of no Greek origin as of November 2012. An official revision promised by early 2014 has been postponed indefinitely.
Only persons of Greek blood (jus sanguinis) can obtain citizenship at this time, as it had been previous to 2010. Read the section “Challenge to the New Greek Citizenship Code,” which follows the bulleted list.
- By Birth in Greece to a Greek mother and/or father: A child born in Greece to at least one parent who was a Greek citizen at the time of the child’s birth acquires Greek citizenship.
- By Birth to Non-Greek Parents who are Long-Term Residents of Greece: A child born in Greece to two non-Greek parents acquires Greek citizenship, if both parents are legally living in Greece with the proper residence/work permits for a minimum of five (5) consecutive years. Deadline to apply is within three (3) years of a child reaching age 18. *Frozen
- By Attending School in Greece: A child of long-term residents living in Greece can obtain Greek citizenship if he/she lives legally with the proper residence permit and has attended primary/secondary school in Greece for at least six (6) years before age 18, approximately. Deadline to apply is within three (3) years of a child finishing his/her six (6) years of schooling. *Frozen
- By Claim of Greek Origin through an Ancestor: For those born outside Greece, but have a Greek father and/or Greek mother born in Greece. Grandmothers and grandfathers are also considered, but the process is longer. See “Acquiring Greek citizenship by claim of Greek origin,” which I’ve provided as a step-by-step guide to gathering your documents and where to apply, plus the personal experiences of those who successfully did it.
- By Recognition: For minors under the age of 18 born out of wedlock, then legally recognized by a Greek national born in Greece.
- By Adoption: For minors under the age of 18 who were legally adopted by Greek nationals/citizens.
- By Naturalization: For foreigners of no Greek origin who have long-term residency in Greece. *Marriage to a Greek citizen does not automatically grant citizenship or a Greek passport to a non-Greek spouse; he/she must go through the naturalization process after three (3) to seven (7) consecutive years legal residence in Greece, proving fluency in Greek and earning a certificate in ancient Greek history/culture. Click the link to see all of the requirements. *Frozen
Laws are not retroactive. You cannot apply for Greek citizenship under today’s laws based on birth to immigrant parents or a period of schooling/residence that occurred in the past if you no longer live in Greece.
There are no other ways of getting Greek citizenship unless the government bestows an honorary citizenship. This is usually reserved for humanitarian reasons or for athletes, artists or other world citizens who are Philhellenes that have done extraordinary things to promote Greece.
* Article last updated February 14, 2014, but answers in ‘Comments’ reflect a specific case or whatever laws were in effect at the time.
Embassies have posted outdated English-language versions of the Greek citizenship code, which is why I did my own translation and update this website on a rolling basis.
Also note that official websites, expat forums/websites, lawyers and government sources in different countries have plagiarized my articles without permission, which violates copyright and the law. Therefore, you are not necessarily getting confirmation from different sources.
Be careful who you trust.
Challenge to New Greek Citizenship Code 3838/2010
A supreme court ruled certain sections of the new Greek Citizenship Code ‘unconstitutional’ in February 2011, namely those that grant Greek citizenship via attending school in Greece and birth in Greece to non-Greek parents with long-term residency, plus lowering the residence requirement for Greek citizenship via naturalization from 10 of 12 years to only seven (7) years and lowering the fee from 1500 euros to 700 euros.
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 ruling, the government that took power in June 2012 said they would change them again. This is not surprising since nationalists and fascists were elected to Parliament. We are 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 minister of interior froze all procedures pertaining to granting Greek citizenship to persons of non-Greek origin. Therefore, until the ban is lifted, it is not possible for anyone to acquire Greek citizenship, a Greek passport or Greek ID unless they are of Greek descent/origin/blood.
On February 5, 2013, Greece announced that all non-Greek foreigners granted Greek citizenship under the 2010 reform may lose their voting rights and, possibly, their Greek passports and Greek IDs.
On October 15, the Ministry of Interior announced that a new Immigration Code (Κώδικα Μετανάστευσης) under 4151/2013 had been drafted and would impact citizenship to foreigners, but this has not been debated in Parliament or officially published into law.
On February 14, 2014, the government stated 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.
Only 1,358 non-Greek children have secured Greek citizenship as second-generation immigrants born in Greece and 1,295 by attending school as of end of December 2011; another 7,700 applications are pending or have already been rejected. Fears of 200,000 to a half million non-Greeks “becoming Greek” and impacting elections are fictional.
A majority 90 percent, or 200,000 applications in the queue, belong to foreign-born Greeks staking a claim via ancestry or descent.
Acquiring Greek citizenship as an investor
Citizenship cannot be acquired by simply being an investor, only through the methods listed above. Residence permits are granted for a duration of three years should a business be approved by the Ministry of Interior and started in Greece. However, citizenship would still require a non-EU citizen to go through naturalization.
Special visas and residency permits were discussed November 2012 and circulars published in May 2013 for certain categories of homeowners. See “How to get a visa and permit for residency in Greece.”
The prime minister mentioned the possibility of offering Greek citizenship to an elite class of millionaire investors during his May 2013 trip to China, but similar promises have been made in the past and never kept.
Beware of lawyers using misleading information to promote services and lure clients.
Marrying for Greek citizenship
Citizenship is not transferable, so it is not possible to acquire Greek nationality/citizenship and a Greek passport by marriage alone to a Greek citizen. The wife or husband must claim Greek citizenship by being of Greek origin or live in Greece for many years and go through the naturalization process described in ‘By Naturalization’ from the first section above.
Important note for men
Men who are under the age of 45 and interested in acquiring Greek citizenship should see the category “Military service” to determine their lawful, mandatory obligations.
Many countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia, allow dual citizenship under the right circumstances. Americans can see, “American and Greek dual citizenship” for details. Other nationalities should consult directly with governmental authorities or officials, not forums, lawyers advertising on the Internet, friends or relatives.
“Old Greek Citizenship Code” (in English, brief/informal translation)
“New Greek Citizenship Code“: ΦΕΚ 49, 3838/2010 (in Greek)
English translation of the new Greek Citizenship Code (created on my own time, not available to the public)
“Court questions legality of new Greek citizenship code” — Kathimerini
“Ιθαγένεια στους μετανάΣτΕς με…ελληνόμετρο” — Eleftherotypia
“Η απόδοση ιθαγένειας και ο όρος του αίματος” — Kathimerini
“Greek citizens in Turkey expelled in 1962” — Queens Gazette
“Greek citizenship up, ruling looms” — Athens News
“New Greek citizenship law has little impact” — Kathimerini
Discussed but not implemented