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 27 member states; 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 March 16, 2013.
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websites rarely match reality, and many consular/embassy, government and EU websites offer inaccurate, incomplete or outdated information.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, so you are not necessarily getting confirmation from different sources.
Be careful who you trust.
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 of Greece. It means you are a Greek national by law and are bound by policies and rights conferred by the Greek government 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
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
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
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).
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 how Greece is.
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 incompetence, along with 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 14 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.
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.
Interior Ministry Citizenship Office
31 Stadiou Street
(210) 324-9465 alternate
(210) 324-9314 alternate
Foreign Ministry Citizen Information Office
3 Akadimias Street
KEP Citizen Services Centres
Mayor’s Office (Dimarxeio) or City Hall
Each municipality has its own
Find one by calling KEP at ’1500′, consulting a map or 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
* 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.
Old Greek Citizenship Code (Informal translation in English)
New Greek Citizenship Code (in Greek)
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.
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
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