Living in Greece

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

Greek citizenship by Greek origin, descent or ancestry

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Foreign nationals of Greek descent not born in the Hellenic Republic are entitled to lawfully stake a claim to Greek citizenship through an ancestor born in Greece.

Most people who exercise this option are non-EU citizens seeking a legal way to live and work in Greece or another country in the EU. It is unnecessary and redundant for non-Greek EU citizens to apply for dual citizenship with Greece, since there is free movement between the majority of the 28 member states (except for citizens from Croatia); it is only beneficial if seeking to acquire special privileges granted to Greek citizens, such as student housing, grants from the government or working in the public sector as a civil servant.

Be aware that males between the ages of 19 and 45 who acquire Greek citizenship will be obligated to do national service. See “Greek Military Service” for details.

*Article last updated January 12, 2015

Author’s note

This article is based on first-hand experience of individuals worldwide — including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Philippines, South Africa, the UK and United States — who got Greek citizenship via ancestry, a Greek-English translation I performed of the most current Citizenship Code in cooperation with a Greek-American lawyer, and the latest news updates.

Be warned that official websites rarely match reality, and many consular/embassy, government and EU websites offer inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information.

Many have copy/pasted sections of my article without permission, including lawyers and the Greek government, so you are not necessarily getting confirmation from different sources.

Be careful who you trust.

Who qualifies?

Who is eligible for Greek citizenship, a Greek passport and Greek national ID via ancestry, origin or descent?

a) A child born in Greece to at least one parent (biological mother/father) of Greek origin, ethnicity or descent.

b) A child born outside Greece to a mother or father born in Greece.

c) A grandchild born outside Greece that can stake a claim to grandfather or grandmother born in Greece.

If you are not of Greek ethnicity, and no one in your biological family is of Greek origin, descent or ancestry, the Greek Citizenship Code in place since March 2010 makes it possible for legal immigrants to acquire Greek citizenship after long-term residency in Greece or by attending school in Greece, in addition to paths via adoption, recognition and naturalization. See, “Ways to get Greek citizenship.”

Marrying a Greek citizen does not automatically grant a spouse the privilege of Greek citizenship/nationality, a Greek passport or a Greek national ID. You must be of Greek origin yourself and stake a claim, or go through the naturalization process described at, “Greek citizenship through naturalization.” Others opt for a residence/work permit at no cost and little bureaucracy, as explained in “Long-term permits for non-EU family members of Greek/EU citizens.”

Children born outside Greece to Greek parents

The act of being born to at least one parent or grandparent of Greek origin does not mean you automatically have Greek citizenship if you were born outside Greece. It means you are lawfully bound by policies and rights conferred by the Greek government as a Greek national but not officially recognized as having Greek citizenship.

Your parents/grandparents must have been born in Greece AND registered you in the Greek registry (dimotologio) AND applied for Greek citizenship on your behalf to acquire a certificate by the Hellenic Republic that confirms as such, if you did not register and apply for it yourself. Being registered in the family’s οικογενειακή μερίδα/oikogeneiaki merida only means that a record of your birth and relationship was established by your parents/grandparents, thus making it easier for you to stake a claim to citizenship later in life if that is your intention. It is not assumed that everyone entitled to Greek citizenship actually wants it.

Children whose parents were born in Greece after a certain date (listed below in #5 under ‘Documents’) will go through an expedited process via simple registration, which — if records are in order — can take as little as three months to complete.

Greek citizenship through a grandmother/grandfather

If your mother or father was not born in Greece, the interior ministry or Greek consulate/embassy may accept a Greek citizenship application through a grandmother or grandfather born in Greece via naturalization. Applicants should still follow the instructions listed below, but you do not qualify for the expedited process. It can take up to 2-3 years.

Greek citizenship through a great-grandfather, great-grandmother, any ancestor

There are some consulates/embassies and lawyers that claim Greek citizenship is possible through a great-grandparent or any ancestor born in Greece if the father, mother, grandmother and grandfather were not, as long as birth records can be found (aka, not destroyed in wars). But there is no law or official documentation stating this, and no one I know has done this successfully. I only know a dozen people who tried and were denied.

People dispensing this information may be misinterpreting the law and/or misleading clients as a way to earn money, which is not refundable.

Dual citizenship with Greece

Many countries allow dual citizenship with Greece, including the United States, Canada and Australia. It is of vital importance to check with authorities at a consulate/embassy or federal government office regarding your country’s stance on dual citizenship before beginning the process and possibly violating laws that will cause your current citizenship to be revoked. Do not take unofficial advice from strangers in a forum, a relative or a friend.

See, “American and Greek dual citizenship” for details specific to Americans and advice to citizens of other countries.

Many Greeks eligible for dual citizenship with a different EU country are exercising that right to simplify their lives, as Greek passports and other bureaucracy are burdensome to process. Others fear that Greece will ultimately exit the eurozone and be dropped from the EU.

Documents needed to apply for Greek citizenship

Keep in mind that each person’s case is unique and special circumstances may demand additional documentation or consultation. But, in general, the following documents are needed to apply for Greek citizenship, regardless of the foreign national’s current citizenship or location:

1. A certified copy of your printed birth certificate

2. A certified copy of your certificate of christening/baptism

3. A certified copy of your marriage certificate (if any)

4. A photocopy of your passport, which must be valid

5. Father’s  and/or mother’s birth certificate
— Outside Greece: Obtained from the city registrar
— In Greece: From the city hall or mayor’s office of the municipality where he was born and registered in the οικογενειακή μερίδα/oikogeneiaki merida (in Greece). May also be requested through any KEP Citizen Service Centre but the information must be completely accurate.

*A child born before July 18, 1982, staking a claim through a Greek father, can go through an expedited process via simple registration.

*A child born before May 8, 1984, staking a claim to citizenship though a Greek mother, can go through an expedited process via simple registration, as long as the mother had Greek citizenship at the time of her marriage or during her pregnancy.

6. Parents’ marriage certificate and marriage registration certificate (ληξιαρχική πράξη γάμου/lixiarchiki praxi gamou)
— Outside Greece: Obtained from the church and/or city registrar*
— In Greece: From the church or city hall/courthouse/mayor’s office of the municipality and/or ληξιαρχείο/lixiarcheio (registry office) where their marriage was registered.

7. A πιστοποιητικού οικογενειακής κατάστασης/pistopoiitiko oikogeneiakis katastasis (certificate of family situation, which verifies your parents are married, divorced, deceased; and you are their child)
— Outside Greece: May be requested by the Greek consulate/embassy nearest your place of residence, but not all offer this assistance.
— In Greece: Obtained from the οικογενειακή μερίδα/oikogeneiaki merida or requested from the same place through any KEP Citizen Service Centre

If your father or mother was not born and registered in Greece, then you will go through a longer naturalization process and also need:

8. Grandfather’s or grandmother’s certificate of registration (pistopoiitiko dimotologiou)
— Obtained from the city hall or mayor’s office in the municipality where his οικογενειακή μερίδα/oikogeneiaki is located and, typically, where he was born and registered
— Can also be requested through a KEP Citizen Service Centre but you must know the correct location to query

9. Grandparents’ marriage certificate and marriage registration certificate
— In Greece: From the church or city hall/courthouse/mayor’s office of the municipality and/or ληξιαρχείο/lixiarcheio (registry office) where their marriage was registered.

10. Death certificates pertaining to the relative through which you are applying for citizenship (mom, dad, grandmother or grandfather), if applicable
— Outside Greece: Obtained from the city or country registrar.
— In Greece: From the city hall or mayor’s office of the municipality where the οικογενειακή μερίδα/oikogeneiaki merida is located and/or the ληξιαρχείο/lixiarcheio (registry office) where the death was registered.

Applicants from the same family are strongly advised to submit their papers together to save time. Parents can register and apply for Greek citizenship for children aged 18 and under. After age 18, they are considered adults and should register and apply themselves in Greece or at the Greek consulate/embassy.

What happens if documents cannot be found?

Depends.
— If outside Greece, take everything that can be found to the Greek consulate/embassy and ask staff for official advice.
— If in Greece, consult with the local mayor’s office (dimarxeio) or a staff member in the interior’s ministry citizenship office. Posting in a forum is not a good idea.

Apostilles and translations

All non-religious documents issued by a country outside of Greece must contain an apostille (i.e., marriage and baptismal certificates from the Greek church do not require apostilles). If you need information about apostilles and where to secure them, please see “How to get an apostille.”

After apostilles have been applied, all documents in a language other than Greek must be translated into Greek. If you are outside Greece, it is recommended that you have as many documents stamped, certified and translated by the nearest Greek consulate/embassy for the sake of communicating in a common language and convenience. See “Official translation of documents to Greek.”

Greek Orthodox marriage/baptismal certificates

When apostilles and translations are done to all possible documents, the marriage and baptismal certificates from Greek churches outside Greece must be recorded in a special Church of Greece registry in Athens, stamped/certified and signed by a Orthodox priest at the Petraki Monastery in Athens.*

  • Ιεράς Μονής Ασωμάτων – Πετράκη/
    Church of Greece — Petraki Monastery
    :
    I. Gennadiou 14, Athens 115 21
    Tel: (210) 7212.402
    Fax: (210) 7218.543
    Email: imap2@otenet.gr
    Website: www.monipetraki.gr

For directions, see “How do I get to the Petraki Monastery?

Greek consulates/embassies cannot help with this; and certification by the Archdiocese in your country is nice but technically unacceptable and may cause you to pay an extra fee for a special stamp. If you have no plans to be in Greece, contact the monastery for alternative methods or consider assigning a relative via dilosi to help you.

*A religious marriage ceremony not recognized by the Greek Orthodox church may require you to provide additional or different documentation and follow an alternative process.

Marriage certificates and divorce decrees

The following documents need to be recognized, stamped and certified by the main Athens courthouse: a) Marriage certificates originating from a civil ceremony outside Greece; b) marriage certificates originating from a wedding ceremony outside the Greek Orthodox Church; c) divorce decrees issued outside Greece.

  • Πρωτοδικείου Αθηνών/Δικαστήρια
    First court of Athens/Dikastiria
    Evelpidon, Athens 10171
    Tel: (210) 8841.618
    Website: www.protodikeio-ath.gr

A majority of Greek consulates/embassies cannot help with this. Readers tell me they came to Athens, had a relative in Greece or hired and authorized a lawyer to take care of it. See a comment by Aris on February 13, 2012.

What you do not need

Unlike individuals of non-Greek origin, you will not need to pass an interview, pay 700 euros or prove:

  • Fluency in the Greek language
  • Residency in Greece for several years
  • Knowledge of ancient Greek history and culture
  • Possession of a suitable home
  • Good moral character
  • Good health by acquiring a health certificate and giving fingerprints

Process of Applying for Greek citizenship

In Greece:

After gathering your documents and having them apostilled in their country of origin, translated by the foreign ministry or consulate/embassy/lawyer and certified by the Church of Greece/courthouse/consulate (if applicable), you need to go in person to the ληξιαρχείο/lixiarcheio (registry office) and register them.

  • Ληξιαρχείο/Lixiarcheio (registry office)
    Mitropoleos 60, Athens 10555
    Tel: (210) 3240737

They will ask some questions, fill out papers and issue you certificates of registration pertaining to your case, which may include: a πράξης γεννήσεως/praxi genniseos (registration of birth) and/or πράξη γάμου/praxi gamou (registration of marriage) and/or πράξη θανάτου/praxi thanatou (registration of death).

Outside Greece:

Applications are provided and accepted at all Greek consulates/embassies, which are authorized by the Hellenic Republic to accept and forward citizenship applications to Greece.

Visit the Greek consulate/embassy website to see if they require you to email information in advance or make an appointment. Many locations ask that you appear in person. Those who cannot appear in person may be offered alternative methods of applying, or can opt to appoint a relative or representative through a power of attorney (dilosi) to submit their Greek citizenship documents in or outside Greece.

At some locations, applications can be expedited for a fee (cost varies) though there is no guarantee.

For males aged 19-45

Male candidates between the ages of 19 and 45, and eligible for draft by the Greek military, may be asked to submit up to four additional documents BEFORE receiving a Greek birth certificate (pistopoiitiko) that certifies Greek citizenship has been granted. *Skip this section if you are not a male aged 19-45.

1. Πράξη καθαρισμό ηλικίας/praxi katharismo ilikias (registration of age clearance)
— Obtained by submitting a copy of your birth certificate and passport to the Greek consulate/embassy nearest your permanent residence outside Greece

2. Υπεύθυνη δήλωση περί μη εγγραφής στα Μητρώα Αρρένων και Δημοτολογίο/Dilosi peri mi eggrafis sta Mitroa Arrenon kai Dimotologio (Statement no previous registration in male registry or municipal record)

3. Πιστοποιητικό μονίμου κατοικίας/Pistopoiitiko monimou katoikias (Certificate of permanent residence)
— See an example of documents required at “Certificate of permanent residence” from the Greek Embassy in Washington DC. Be aware there are two different ones — one for military use, one for regular use.

4. Αίτηση για εγγραφή στο Δημοτολόγιο η Μητρώα Αρρένων/Aitisi gia eggrafi sto Dimotologio i Mitroa Arrenon (Application to register in the municipal record or male registry)

If you are outside Greece: Everything can be done at the Greek consulate/embassy, then bundled with your other papers.

If you intend to be in Greece: These documents can be done at the Greek consulate/embassy prior to arrival in Greece or, in some but not all cases, completed while in Greece via email, fax, mail or transmission via a public sector office or KEP Citizen Service Centre. The consulate/embassy will forward the πράξη καθαρισμό ηλιακίας/praxi katharismo ilikias to the mayor’s office (dimarxeio) you listed as your place of registration.

When you’re notified of its arrival, take two passport photos and all the documents in your possession to the local municipality’s city hall or mayor’s office. Your documents will be checked and approved to go to the next step if everything is in order.

What happens next?

— The Greek consulate/embassy (if outside Greece) or local municipality (in Greece) forwards the application to the prefecture (nomarxeio) or regional general secretary (perifereia). If you are in Greece, you have the option to drop off everything yourself at the interior ministry’s citizenship office, which will issue a receipt containing a protocol number that you must keep.

— A copy of the applicant’s Type A criminal record may be requested from the justice ministry. Criminal records from your homeland and Greece have bearing, and you may be asked to provide records if for some reason they cannot be found.

— The application is then passed to the citizenship committee for review.

— You will be notified of the decision via the location you applied — the mayor’s office (dimarxeio)/city hall in Greece or Greek consulate/embassy outside Greece — at the address or phone number you listed in your contact information, or you can check on the status yourself using the protocol number. If citizenship is granted, the decision will be published in the Government Gazette and you will be invited to sign papers and take an oath within one (1) year of the publication date.

* Conflicting information: I know several people who have never taken an oath.

— You will be issued two (2) Greek pistopoiitiko gennisis (birth certificates), one of which is specifically used to apply for a Greek ID. If you are in Greece, apply right away using instructions at “Greek national ID/tautotita” then use the Greek ID to apply for a Greek passport at the same police station or at home at the Greek consulate/embassy.

— The other pistopoiitiko (birth certificate) must be filed with your family’s οικογενειακή μερίδα/oikogeneiaki merida, normally wherever their πολιτικά δικαιώματα/politika dikaiomata (voting rights) are officially registered in Greece. If your family does not have one set up, you can set one up after the process has ended. Greeks abroad can do it through their Greek consulate/embassy; those in Greece can do this through their municipality’s city hall or mayor’s office (dimarxeio), which can also be accomplished via any KEP Citizen Service Centre.

Processing time for Greek citizenship

Assuming all papers are in order and there are no complications in your oikogeneiaki merida (family records), the entire citizenship process from submitting your application to receiving an answer (approval or denial) could be:

  • From 3-9 months for the expedited process via simple registration if you qualify through a mother or father born in Greece and meet age limits specified in #5 under ‘Documents’ above; or
  • Up to 2-3 years for the longer naturalization process for everyone else.

This is an improvement compared to a waiting time of 4-9 years for persons of no Greek descent, who also had their applications frozen on November 30, 2012.

As of February 2011, there were 180,000 pending applications in the queue for foreign-born Greeks staking a claim to Greek citizenship via ancestry or descent. Approximately 10,000 cases are reviewed each year, though recent stats show significantly less for 2011 due to a number of factors that include the reorganization of municipalities

In 2012, Greece had five different governments in seven months, during which very little got done.

Each case is unique.

Three elements that will make the process go faster

a) You do as much as you can yourself: Greek consulates/embassies and lawyers/consultants have other cases and clients, and relatives may not want to be burdened with bureaucracy during transport and public sector strikes. It gets done faster if there is no middleman and you put yourself first.

b) You speak/understand Greek or bring someone with you who does: Not necessary if you plan on applying through a Greek consulate/embassy, but essential if thinking of (c) and coming to Greece.

c) You can complete the process in Greece: After gathering your documents and having them stamped and translated at the Greek consulate/embassy nearest your residence, the citizenship process will go faster if you’re in Greece. However, I only recommend this option if it’s not August when most of Greece is on vacation and (b) is true, as language barriers and unfamiliarity with Greece, transport and bureaucracy could slow you down.

Please note that none of these things are required for you to apply for Greek citizenship, so do not feel pressed or discouraged if money, language and/or knowledge of Greece are issues.

Aside from these things, there is no fee you can pay and nothing you can do to simplify the process or make it go faster. Bureaucracy takes time, it’s complicated, and everyone’s experience will vary. That’s Greece.

What if I’m denied Greek citizenship?

The applicant will be told on what grounds the decision was made to deny Greek citizenship. If the applicant has proof to the contrary, the Interior Ministry or Greek consulate/embassy will advise you about how to proceed. Otherwise, the decision stands.

If the passage of time helps you meet requirements that were previously grounds for denial, reapplying is allowed and you should consult with municipality or consular officials.

If the passage of time does not change anything (i.e. you were rejected based on criminal record or the absence of a close Greek ancestor), applying again is unlikely to change anything and hiring a lawyer may be a waste of time and money.

Do I need to hire a Greek lawyer or consultant?

Those who completed the Greek citizenship process say ‘no’ (see Comments). Many who did hire a lawyer report significant delays from procrastination and/or no positive results due to incompetence in exchange for exorbitant fees ranging from 50 dollars/hour or 600-2000 euros per citizenship. Seriously, that’s ridiculous.

Readers also report that Greek consulates/embassies have been telling them to not go through the citizenship process themselves, as it will “never be granted” under certain circumstances (untrue), after which they are recommended a lawyer in Greece. Using scare tactics, then referring a specific person that may be a friend or relative is highly unethical.

My experience over 17 years is to hire a lawyer if there is a threat of going to jail, to court or highly complicated matters such as property and inheritance. Citizenship is a straightforward process that only requires some patience and perseverance.

Retaining a lawyer or consultant is likely a waste of money for four reasons:

a) This is Greece — If you follow the instructions and provide all the necessary documents, all you can do is wait. This country has its own schedule and personality, which means two people can get vastly different results under the same circumstances.

b) How can you verify that a lawyer achieved something you couldn’t have gotten on your own for free? — There’s no guarantee a person has genuine influence or knowledge, and your money will not be refunded if you’re dissatisfied.

c) There are lawyers/attorneys who take advantage of citizens abroad by claiming they specialize in citizenship issues and charge higher than average fees. If they’re writing articles, distributing brochures and advertising themselves in the newspaper and on the Internet, how good could they be? The best attorneys are busy practicing law.

d) Lawyers do not have access to special registries, as some readers have been told. This is a lie being told to hook clients and charge higher fees.

If hiring a lawyer makes you feel better, or patience and perseverance are issues, then this is a personal choice. Ask a trusted friend or colleague for a recommendation — not a stranger or forum — or select one from a consular/embassy list, which gives you a choice and the right to complain should something go wrong.

Case studies

Examples of people who claimed Greek citizenship through a mother, father, grandfather and grandmother were moved to a dedicated article at “Greek citizenship case studies.” (coming soon)

If you would like to add your story, please leave a comment. I am particularly interested in someone who was successful in staking a claim through a great-grandmother or great-grandfather.

Contact Information

Interior Ministry Citizenship Office
31 Stadiou Street
(210) 324-9683
(210) 324-9465 alternate
(210) 324-9314 alternate
www.ypes.gr

Foreign Ministry Citizen Information Office
3 Akadimias Street
(210) 368-2700
www.mfa.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 doing a Google search
(I’m waiting for municipalities to finish reorganization before compiling a list)

Greek Embassies and Consulates
Choose the one nearest your current country of residence
www.mfa.gr/greekmissionsabroad

* Be aware that websites are primarily in Greek and often not dependable, since information is incomplete and not updated on a continuing basis. It is advised that you visit the office in person or call.

Sources

Greek Citizenship Code prior to 2010 (Informal translation in English, but very outdated)
Greek Citizenship Code from 2010 (in Greek): Ruled unconstitutional
English translation of new Greek Citizenship Code (done in my private time, not available to the public)
Greek Consulate General, San Francisco
— Detailed, first-hand experiences of commentators and friends: Nestor, Manolis, Emmanuel, Matina, CO, DN, NK and PM
Greeks opt for UK citizenship over EU exit fears” — FT

*I did not use the English translations available from “official” embassy/consular, government and EU sources because they were inaccurate, incomplete or outdated.

Related posts

Ways to acquire Greek citizenship
EU citizenship via ancestry or naturalization
Mandatory military obligations for males of Greek descent

The Author

Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”

  • Livingingreece.gr was created in 2007 to present meticulously researched original articles that fill a gap left by traditional media, government portals and commercial websites/forums run by people without credentials.
  • @LivinginGreece is a Twitter feed curated from recognized Greek and international news agencies to provide breaking news about Greece, plus real-time updates and insider tips mined from 17 years experience.

Note: Please note my copyright policy and be aware that violations will be pursued.

http://tinyurl.com/GRorigin

Update pending
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/b86d74d6-a691-11e1-968b-00144feabdc0.html

168 Comments

  NJ Greek wrote @ June 12th, 2007 at 20:29

Do you know what the rules are about getting drafted?

I’m similar to Michalis: I was born & raised in the U.S., but now that I’ve graduated college, my parents (who were both born & raised in Greece) moved back there.

I’ve heard that, even on a short visit, the local authorities can draft you against your will, even though you were neither born nor raised in Greece, and there’s nothing the U.S. embassy can do on your behalf.

I’ve heard anecdotes (nightmares, really) about it happening to other Greek Americans, and I want to make sure I can avoid a fate like that if I go visit my parents.

Kat Reply:

Yes, I do know. The draft rules are covered in my article “Mandatory military service in Greece,” which was provided as a link in this post.

I included Michalis’ case so people can see it is absolutely true that police will come to your house and draft you into the army. Michalis had a pistopoiitiko monimou katoikou exoterikou allowing him to stay under 6 months. He exceeded the 6 months to help his father with something, and this is why they came to draft him a few days later. And just to be clear, Michalis blames himself.

If you don’t have the certificate, you can only visit 30 days in a 1-year period, though I know people who have visited for up to 90 days or later with no problem. Authorities are lax with people of Greek origin. I know of no one who was drafted in under 30 days or even 90 days.

As mentioned in the military article, where you were born, raised or domiciled makes no difference; it doesn’t matter if you have Greek citizenship or a Greek passport or not. It only matters if authorities determine you to be Greek. And anyone calling themselves Greek-Americans are also admitting they are Greek.

Many people are not well-informed and for some reason don’t take the time to find the truth before putting themselves at risk. Others think they are above the law or won’t get caught, and suffer the consequences as a result. Don’t be one of those people and have a nice visit!

  NJ Greek wrote @ June 13th, 2007 at 14:25

FWIW, in all the stories I heard about people getting drafted against their will, the future draftee had offended one or more of the locals during his stay, and so in revenge, they reported him to the authorities.

Kat Reply:

Funny you should mention this. I maintain that shutting one’s mouth and listening is ultimately more wise, but too often people are full of ego and let it get the best (and worst) of them.

People also don’t mind their own business here and feel it necessary to tear down someone out of envy or jealousy, instead of using the same time and energy to improve and invest in themselves. It’s sad…and petty.

  Ted wrote @ June 15th, 2007 at 06:36

Kat: An excellent article! I am confronted often with people of Greek descent who wish to claim citizenship because, for some unknown reason, I have acquired the reputation of the “man who knows” when, actually, I know very little out of practical experience.

Two things to reinforce points you’ve already made: (1) if you are male, military conscription is a real possibility unless you’re past 50; however, this is not / not a cast iron rule. There have been cases where the persons involved were let off the hook for a fee and provided they’re of an older age (40 plus). (2) Never trust the civil servant who says “now your papers are complete;” go back 2 or 3 times to double check and also see whether a new rule has surfaced somewhere while you were preparing your application. This is very pertinent. I had two recent cases — both US citizens — who were claiming via long-departed Greek mothers and were running into a dead end … when …. suddenly, BINGO, they went back again and were informed that Article so and so had been “amended” and that from now on sworn statements of witnesses could be accepted in lieu of the mother’s birth certificate (long lost in the death and destruction of wars and other calamities).

Finally, while obtaining a Greek passport requires patience, getting one is a key to the European Union for people who might be thinking a career move to Western European countries. In this respect, it might worth all the trouble.

Again, Kat, kudos for a very informative article.

Kat Reply:

Thanks for your compliment, Ted! 🙂

To address the points you made:

1. As I’m not a representative of the Hellenic Republic, I stress that results may vary by case and to not assume what is true for one person is also true for another. I give the rules as written or list the exceptions, so people can understand there is variation, but not to expect it.

There is a way to legally buy oneself out of the military, as covered in my Mandatory Military Service in Greece article, which I provided as a link in this post. I’m not sure if anyone uses links based on what I’ve seen.

I know people in their mid-30s who are being chased down right now to enlist, and others who claimed an exemption, as well. They’re getting more aggressive.

2. The only amendment I saw was one that alluded (not clearly stated) to a person born after 1983 could claim through a Greek mother. But I know many other people who were denied after going through the process, and those told they couldn’t apply through only the mother from the start.

It does pay to be persistent (maybe even stubborn) and ask several public servants at different locations, without crossing the line of making someone hate you. I asked several people at several places, then had my fiance do the same thing, and we got different answers. No consensus.

As a result, I published and clearly stated that the article was guidance to assist people in their quest, not an official statement on my behalf. I avoided writing this post for months, but kept getting questions (which is ironic since I don’t have Greek citizenship and am not Greek).

  Jack wrote @ June 23rd, 2007 at 11:49

I’m 46 years old I have waited till compulsary draft age up to 45 years. I am of Greek heritage background, born overseas and am wanting to claim Greek citizenship What are my chances of getting drafted now since Greek law/rules changes quicker than a game of tennis.

Kat Reply:

I’m not a Greek man and everyone I know served their army (no dodgers in my life), so I would say if you are past the age limit and apply under the rules that exist currently, you can save yourself whatever changes come your way. The basic requirements for citizenship have not changed in decades to reflect modern times (which in many ways is unfortunate).

I would move quickly. If the rules happen to change after you apply, they cannot backdate the law to your application. And if they try, you can dispute it.

  Kris Mammas wrote @ September 10th, 2007 at 16:43

Hi and thank you for you website. It has been very helpful to me.

  F. Anna wrote @ October 26th, 2007 at 17:08

I’m a Greek-American who wants desperately to get Greek citizenship. I can verify that everything you say here is true as I was ripped off very badly by a lawyer in Athens who was a “friend” of my family and comes from the same place in Greece my grandparents came from. My problem was that I couldn’t get a birth certificate for my grandfather (my dad was U.S. born) because it was destroyed in a war. I had a document from the civil registry on the island testifying that my grandfather was known there and he was in fact a native. I still had to go through the interview process in which i was asked my religion. When I told the truth, that I wasn’t Orthodox, they were prejudiced against me and denied citizenship. This was 10 years ago.

  Xelidonaki wrote @ October 27th, 2007 at 21:08

I think you have been misinformed about the Greek citizenship processing duration. It’s not normally 2-3 years! Mine took about 3 months to complete, in all. I think what you are referring to is an exceptional case. Trust me, it’s not that hard to get a Greek citizenship if at least one of your parents is Greek (once you get past the appalling attitude displayed at the consulate office by bored civil servants that is).

Kat Reply:

I respectfully disagree. I said “up to 2-3 years,” and in fact I know people who have waited/are waiting much longer than that. Did you stop to think that perhaps you are the exceptional case? Many are staking a claim through a grandfather and great grandfather, not just parents. Since your father lives here, that may have also played a part. As I say in the post, each case is highly unique and conditions are subjective.

I base articles on dozens of peoples’ real-life experiences, not just myself or a few people. If someone has a problem-free speedy process, take joy in it instead of assuming I’m misinformed.

  F. Anna wrote @ October 29th, 2007 at 17:28

I would agree with you, Kat. I know many cases of people who tried to get their citizenship who also just gave up for that reason. The consulates here in the States ARE WORSE in my opinion than any of the registries in Greece. I have often heard many Greek Americans complain that they feel there is prejudice against them because they are Greek-“American” as opposed to just Greek.

Then again, my cousin whose father (my uncle) was born in Greece went over there and managed to get hers in a week. You are right nonetheless in what you said; my cousin’s case is also EXTREMELY EXCEPTIONAL. I’m very disappointed about my situation and don’t know whether I should try again.

  dimitri wrote @ December 11th, 2007 at 03:48

can anyone send me (or direct me to the link of) a citizenship application (Aitisi Politografisis)? i cant read the Ministries page in Greek!

Kat Reply:

The answer is in this article, which I already took hours to research, translate and write; you could have used the ’search’ or ‘categories’ option if you missed it.

I didn’t list other options or give a link because there isn’t one. If you’re looking for an online form, dream on. This is Greece, darlings, not the USA or a proper EU country.

The answer to the question you asked about military is on the military post, not the Greek passport page.

  Natasha wrote @ February 3rd, 2008 at 13:02

do you know how I could go about finding out if I have dual citizenship?

my father has been telling me my whole life that I have dual citizenship but I don’t understand how…and when I ask him I don’t really understand what he means…he tells me that I’m registered in Crete

anyway he was born and raised in Greece…and he’s never become a US citizen if that makes any difference…
he says that because he’s a Greek citizen and I’m registered (whatever that means) that I am one too despite having been born in the US…
do you know if it works that way?

I’ve read many things on many websites and haven’t really found an answer…perhaps I’m missing it, some of these things are worded in a way that I only vaguely understand

I want to go to school in Athens and I read that if you’re not a citizen you have to live at the school for 1 year before you’re allowed to find other housing…I had planned to stay with relatives which would be a lot cheaper/better but upon reading that I figured this would be a really good time to find out my standing

Kat Reply:

N – I mean no disrespect to your father, however what he’s telling you is incorrect. This is common because Greece operates a lot on rumor and hearsay because of the lack of transparency, and many times the rules on Ministry websites and KEP are incorrect/outdated/badly translated. Please see the section above entitled, “Children born outside Greece to Greek parents/ancestors.”

The nature of citizenship in Greece works differently than most countries because it is by origin, not birth (as I explain in the article). So yes, he’s right in that you have a right to claim it as a foreign born child of a Greek citizen, but it doesn’t mean you have it unless someone completed the application process and got your Greek citizenship certificate as proof; and using the word “automatically” is a very dangerous thing in Greece because one can never assume. If you were born in Greece, a birth certificate or baptism certificate would be your proof of citizenship (which is what he has). If your father doesn’t believe me, he is free to call the Greek Consulate and they will tell him the same thing.

In the USA and most countries in the world, people get citizenship by birth (not origin), which is the reason illegal immigrants are able to stay in the country by simply having a baby (“anchor babies”).

  Ginger wrote @ February 29th, 2008 at 22:50

I have a question. My mother is of greek decent, but born here in the US, both of my great grandparents on her side were born in greece and I have all their documents. I am now interested in getting my greek citizenship but want to know whether I can since it would be through my mother and not my dad who isn’t of greek decent.

Thanks

Kat Reply:

The answer is already stated in the article; please take another look. Descent is also spelled with an ‘s.’

  sweet wrote @ September 11th, 2008 at 04:37

Hi Kat,
I have been devouring your website for the last 2 weeks or so. I have some questions for your vast knowledge of immigration issues, or rather would like to see if you have any suggestions.

I had been planning to stay in Greece with my kids for 10 months with my father, who is a Greek national starting in November. I expected to repatriate, but was surprised to learn at the consulate today that I was never registered as a Greek citizen. I was told by the consulate that the only way to come over for that length of time is to show I have $1M in the bank or to repatriate, and, that since I am not registered, I would have to go through the process which would take a year.

You may find this shocking, but my Greek dad blew a gasket while talking to the nice lady at the consulate on my cell phone because he is so used to the old way of doing things where no one follows the rules that he became totally belligerent and they refused to talk to me anymore. He apparently registered my birth certificate but didn’t compete the registration re me being Greek, as you had explained in previous posts, and so I am not eligible to repatriate at this time.

I know in the U.S., I could have him fill out an “affidavit of support” saying he would take care of me financially, but I couldn’t talk to them about that at the consulate because of the aforementioned loss of gasket.

What I take away from this is that there is no way for me and my family to stay 10 months in Greece starting in November, despite my family’s enthusiasm about it.

I am a divorce lawyer and could probably figure out an essential employee thing except that my degrees would have to go through the authentication process which I guess takes about a year.

I tried to review your article re residence/work permit for family members of Greek citizens, but I don’t have the password. Can you email me the password?

All the best and thank you in advance.

Kat Reply:

S – If you read the #1 post for non-EU citizens attempting to live in Greece — “How Americans/non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece” — nearly all of your questions are answered there. I recommend reading it now.

a) You do not qualify for a permit as a family member of a Greek citizen unless you are under 21.

b) Even if you were registered, repatriation takes longer than 1.5 months (even with connections).

c) You wouldn’t need $1M in a bank account; it’s an exaggeration. However, you do need to show 2,000 euros a month per family member and complete a process taking several months (again, it’s detailed in the article I mentioned)

d) There is no ‘affidavit of support’ option in GR because too many people lie and the justice system does not work swiftly or efficiently. It’s also wrong to apply what happens in the USA to another country.

e) Two months is not enough time to complete any bureaucratic process having to do with Greece, unless you are well connected. Even in very organized countries where people are accountable and the process very clear, immigration or repatriation can take several months to a year.

f) Enthusiasm for living in a country does not bypass bureaucracy. If it was, immigration would be lawless and border control simply chaos.

g) Last option is detailed in “Overstaying your visa in Greece.” aka, You could still come here and stay “freely” as long as you pay a fine when you leave.

The laws have not changed, they’re just being enforced now. Greece chose to be a member of the EU, chose to take millions in EU subsidies and chose to be a part of the euro single currency. Therefore, telling the EU to ‘F’ off is unjustified.

Please use the Search option, Categories option or Links list to search for future answers before asking a question, as I detailed in “Comments, Questions and Contacting Me.”

** Do not listen to “Endaxi’ about exiting to Turkey and crossing back into Schengen. It does not work and accomplishes nothing.

  endaxi wrote @ September 13th, 2008 at 14:23

Hi Sweet,

Why don’t you go w/ the 3month visa and before it expires go on one of those day cruises to Turkey? You could do that a few times. … I did that a few years ago – that still should be doable. It may seemlike a hassle w/ kids but I think that would be easiest. … Of course it depends I guess where u are in Greece. I was staying on Rhodes at the time, so it was, if I remember correctly, only like 45 min. ride on the Hydrofoil. When u enter Greece & they if ask you any questions ( no one asked me any) just say your visiting family for a bit — lie! Don’t tell them how long you plan on really staying!

Turkey is GREAT! The people were so friendly … and cheap! Eh, if your father has an ‘issue’ with you going to Turkey though ….

Good Luck

P.S. I was in Greece for the first time from March – October. I only went to Turkey once, so when I left in October for Israel my visa was expired ( I actually let my visa expire the first time I left Greece, my visa expire in Isreal– and then again let it expire in Greece; I returned to Rhodes from Hafia. I was never fined! No stamp/mark in my passport. … Though I wouldn’t advise doing that. In Greece I didn’t get to much of a hassle leaving, I aruged w/ them for about 10 min. & the guy just let me go. In Israel it was a lil bit more of a hassle and they guy threated to take my luggage of the ship etc., but after about 45 min. he let me go as well ( eh didn’t hurt I was a “hot’ tomale 🙂

Kat – I just found this site a few days ago — love it! Brings back memories … I am suppose to return to Rhodes at the end of January to visit an ex. I am excited but at the same time, finding your site is bringing back a lot of not to nice memories as well!

Wish you success wherever you end up!

Kat Reply:

E – Exiting and re-entering worked many years ago, but Greece entered Schengen and is enforcing it, so your advice is moot. One should never assume that what worked years ago or even last month is still relevant. In the future, please read up on rules and regulations before dispensing advice that can be damaging to others.

The rule is a maximum of 90 days in any 180-day period, therefore exiting and re-entering only works if you are in Greece for 90 days, exit and stay out of the entire Schengen area for 90 days and then re-enter. You can read all about it by using the link for “Overstaying a visa in Greece” listed above. The assessment of fines is at the discretion of whoever is passing judgment at the border. Just because you weren’t fined doesn’t mean other people won’t be, and it has nothing to do with the hot tamale factor. In fact, the latter could work against you.

Cheers

  sweet wrote @ September 13th, 2008 at 19:10

Kat,

Thanks for all your insight. I read all of those posts, but I suppose my sophistication in these matters has increased in this last week.

I am looking into getting a lawyer to try to ram something through with connections, but their charges seem really outlandish. Lawyers have also told me the 2K/mo, so I am surprised the consulate asked for $1M, although not really so surprised.

Thank you again for taking the time to elaborate, and I have really enjoyed your site. I haven’t seen a lot of good expat resources. You do us a great service. I also read your history of apartments. You deserve a break!

  Jay (Jennifer) wrote @ September 14th, 2008 at 09:14

Kali Mera Kat!

Your site is impressive! Thanks for posting all this information.

This is not a response to this post, rather a request for clarification on a couple of things related to naturalization through ancestors and work permits through EU/Greek spouse. I read your instructions on comments and questions twice, so here goes!

Briefly here’s my story: I am Greek-American, married to a Greek national. We want to move to Greece. My mother’s father was born in Athens so my mother could claim citizenship (if she can locate all the right paperwork in Greece, which is another story, and NOT part of the question for you). My parents were married in the US in a civil wedding — not in the church.

My question: In your post called “FAQ: Greek work and/or residence permits” you offer a question “Can I get a residence/work permit as the non-EU spouse of my Greek/EU wife?” and your answer says “The residence/work permit granted to non-EU spouses and children (under 21) of Greek/EU citizens is only for pure non-EU citizens of no Greek origin” however, in your post about gaining citizenship through a grandfather born in Greece, you state that the church marriage license for the parents is a requirement.

If I read this correctly I may be out of luck on both counts, because of my parents’ decision 36 years ago (not to mention that I think it’s somewhat unlikely we can locate my Grandfather’s certificate of registration from the municipality, where he was born and registered).

Do you have any insight on this situaton?

Thanks so much!
Jay (Jennifer)

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