Holding dual citizenship requires no special application or the hiring of a third party if you wish to be both an American and Greek citizen. The United States and Greece allow you the privilege of holding both citizenships without conflict, as long as you meet the requirements of each country and do not commit the voluntary expatriating acts listed below.
* Article last updated January 2, 2014. There are two updates pending.
Nature of citizenship
Greek citizenship is granted to those who:
1) Are born in Greece to at least one parent of Greek origin;
2) Can stake a claim through a Greek ancestor born in Greece (i.e., If you were born to Greek parents outside Greece, you are considered a ‘Greek national’ but do not assume you have Greek citizenship; you must have a citizenship certificate)
3) Live in Greece for several years as a full-time resident with a permit, meet a number of language/income requirements and go through the naturalization process;
4) Attend school in Greece for many years.*
5) Are born in Greece to non-Greek parents who are legal, long-term residents of Greece.*
To see all requirements and if you qualify, visit “Ways to get Greek citizenship.”
Marrying a Greek citizen does not automatically grant a spouse the privilege of Greek citizenship or a Greek passport. You must be of Greek origin yourself or go through the naturalization process. Articles pertaining to non-EU spouses of Greek citizens are, “Greek citizenship through naturalization” and “Residence/work permits for non-EU family members of Greek citizens.”
If you are not married to a Greek/EU citizen, you can still get a residence/work permit under certain conditions. See, “How Americans and non-EU citizens can get a permit to move, live and work in Greece.”
*The government in power restricted Greek citizenship and rolled back laws for non-Greeks, freezing all applications in November 2012, and has not published a new code. Expected release date is sometime in 2014.
Americans wishing to acquire Greek citizenship
If you are an American citizen wishing to stake a claim to Greek citizenship through an ancestor born in Greece since you yourself were not, or you were born in Greece but never acquired a Greek passport for whatever reason, this is your right. Living in a foreign country does not affect the status of your citizenship, however you are required to report income earned in a foreign country by filing a U.S. tax return as long as you are an American citizen.
Most U.S. and other non-EU citizens exercise the dual citizenship option as a way to live and work in the EU if they have no other alternatives. Greece also grants certain discounts and preferences to its citizens. These are its only benefits.
“Acquiring Greek citizenship by claim of Greek origin” is one-of-a-kind guide to gathering your documents and how the process works, based on official documentation I translated and the first-hand experiences of Greek citizens who shared information with me. Lawyers, other websites and forums have ‘borrowed’ text without my permission and refused to remove it, so you are not necessarily getting confirmation from different sources and should be careful who you trust.
This is the first step toward applying for a Greek passport and Greek national ID (tautotita), though these things carry little or no advantages since a passport from any country is widely accepted for everyday and official transactions.
Greek Military Obligations
Any male between the ages of 19 to 45 should take note that mandatory conscription in the Greek military will be assigned upon acquiring Greek citizenship. Detailed information and website links can be found in the “Military Service” section.
What are the pros and cons of Greek dual citizenship?
Depends on who you are and what you consider pros and cons.
If you’re a male aged 19-45, I suppose the con is a minimum of 3-9 months in the Greek military. However, I know many who don’t mind serving.
If you’re not of Greek descent/origin and need to go through naturalization — such as a non-EU spouse of Greek citizen — the cons are many, including: Taking several months of government-sponsored Greek language and culture classes that may be full or inconvenient; long waiting period to apply (3-7 years); long waiting period for a positive or negative answer after submitting your application (another 1-5 years); non-refundable application fee of 700 euros, which was previously 1,500 euros and one of the highest application fees in the world. But again, many may not see these as cons or may have an inside connection and plenty of money to meet or bypass these requirements.
Americans should also consult an accountant or lawyer to consider their tax obligations, if they plan to live abroad. A record number of U.S. citizens who live and work abroad long term are relinquishing their citizenship and passports because of double taxation and other burdens imposed the government. Inheritance and tax laws are highly complex issues.
The pros are uniquely personal. Some see dual citizenship as a privilege that gives them free movement in the EU, and some universities and institutions grant privileges to Greeks first.
However, many hyphenated Greeks (Greek-Americans, Greek-Australians, Greek-Canadians, etc.) say that having Greek citizenship and a Greek passport does not change the fact they are seen as “not Greek enough,” simply because they have been abroad and are treated accordingly. Unlike other EU countries where those in possession of a national ID gives them special privileges, having a Greek national ID does not hold a higher status than a normal passport from any country.
The bureaucracy required to renew Greek passports is also burdensome and far more complicated than countries such as the United States, UK, Canada and Australia.
Ways you could lose American citizenship
– Officially stating your desire to have your American citizenship revoked. It is otherwise assumed you wish to retain it.
– Taking an official oath of allegiance to a foreign state. Taking a routine oath of allegiance, such as the one requested during the Greek citizenship process, is not considered such an act.
– Serving as an officer in a foreign army or serving in any army hostile to the USA. Serving mandatory conscription in the Greek military as part of a Greek citizen’s duty is not considered such an act.
– Serving as a high official in a foreign government. Accepting non-policy type employment is not considered such an act.
– Making a formal renunciation of U.S. citizenship.
– Working to overthrow the U.S. government.
You can read about it at, “Possible loss of U.S. citizenship and dual nationality” on the U.S Department of State website.
Image from istockphoto.com
Greeks wishing to acquire American citizenship
Many Greek citizens who can stake a claim to U.S. citizenship usually exercise this option as the first step to securing a U.S. passport. I know several Greek-Americans who choose not to hold a Greek passport if they already have an American passport, which they consider to carry more weight in the world in general. Some countries also allow Americans, Canadians and Australians to speed through long lines on occasion, including Greece.
Please visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, which details immigration, years of residence, green card and citizenship requirements.
If you are a Greek-American in Greece who would like to stake a claim of American citizenship for your child, the U.S. Embassy in Athens and American Consulate in Thessaloniki can assist you with the application. It is straightforward process and can be completed in less than a half hour. See, “Report Birth Abroad.”
Which passport should I use?
The American Embassy and U.S. Department of State say that American citizens must use their U.S. passports to enter and exit the United States.
There is no equivalent Greek law, but the Greek government’s Attica’s Citizen Centre states that dual nationals with a Greek passport use their Greek passport to both enter and exit Greece. And, if applicable, Greek citizens can use their Greek national ID or ταυτότητα/tautotita if only traveling within the Schengen zone.
So if you’re a Greek-American citizen with both U.S. and Greek passports, you’d use your U.S. passport to exit the United States, then your Greek passport to enter Greece. When going back, you’d show your Greek passport to exit Greece, then your U.S. passport to re-enter the United States. The same for Greek-Americans in Greece. You’d show your Greek passport to exit Greece, your U.S. passport to enter the United States, then your U.S. passport to leave the United States and your Greek passport to enter Greece. Use of a foreign passport does not endanger citizenship.
It means shorter lines, less fuss, no U.S. visa and speedier repatriation.
However, some Greek-American men report that Greek authorities (inconsistently) request that they still use their U.S. passports to exit or enter Greece.
*Nod to CO, SA. AR, LT for sharing first-hand information and official documentation.
For other countries
The information provided above applies specifically to American-Greek citizens.
Greece is part of the EU, but each member state has different requirements and a different view on dual citizenship — it is wrong to assume all countries have the same requirements and same policy. Further, you also need to verify that the policy of your current home country allows it; for example, the United States may have a different view on dual citizenship with Syria.
It is imperative to seek official printed literature or advice of authorized representatives of your country who are experts (not a forum, not a friend, not a lawyer who posts articles on the Internet and is attempting to charge money for things that normally cost nothing) before jeopardizing your current citizenship. Each case is unique, and what applies to one person may not apply to another.
Note: It is redundant for citizens from other EU countries to seek dual citizenship with Greece since they are already authorized to live and work in any of the 27 member states according to each states’ freedom of movement laws detailed by the EC. However, some people go through the trouble because Greek citizens are given preference for student housing and can also work as civil servants.
Expat forums/websites and lawyers have plagiarized this article without permission or attribution, which violates copyright and the law. Therefore, you are not necessarily getting confirmation from different sources.
Be careful who you trust.
“ΕΚΔΟΣΗ – ΑΝΑΝΕΩΣΗ ΔΙΑΒΑΤΗΡΙΟΥ” — nomkek.gr
“US State Department Services Dual Nationality” — travel.state.gov
“Advice about possible loss of dual nationality” — travel.state.gov
“Why are Americans giving up their citizenship?” — BBC News
“Why Americans working abroad are ditching U.S. citizenship and passports” — TIME
“U.S. expat taxes drive Americans to give up citizenship” — TIME
“Traveling to Greece?” — U.S. Embassy in Athens
– Greek-Americans and parents of Greek-American children who agreed to share first-hand experience with me for this article (CO, SA, NK, AR, DN)
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
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