Living in Greece

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

Acquiring EU citizenship through ancestry or naturalization

Photo from Heathcliff O’Malley via

Are you an American or other non-EU citizen looking for a way to live and work in the EU, but cannot get a residence or work permit?

Because only EU citizens have the right to live and work in Europe without restriction, the easiest path to living and working in the EU is to claim EU citizenship through descent or origin should you have an ancestor born in one of the current European Union member states or non-EU countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway. Many times, there are no language or residency requirements, and applications for repatriation are processed quickly. Citizenship from an EU country would then entitle and allow you to apply for an EU passport and national ID.

There are typically only two ways of getting EU citizenship and an EU passport:
1) Birth in an EU country (yourself or an ancestor);
2) By living in an EU country legally with a residence permit and going through naturalization.

If you are married and/or have a child with an EU citizen, all legitimate non-EU spouses and minors of EU citizens are  entitled a residence/work permit, which essentially grants the same rights and privileges as an EU resident. You may also be eligible for a shortened waiting period for citizenship by naturalization, but there are almost always language and in-country residency requirements. There is no automatic way of getting EU citizenship through marriage due to fake marriages, bribery and fraud. Thus, there is no such thing as marrying for EU citizenship.

Please be aware that all countries still recognize citizens by nationality, i.e., Belgian, Greek, Spanish, British, etc. The EU has not fused into one big country, and there are no one-size-fits-all rules for the whole of Europe. The EU is a collective made up of separate member states (countries) — much like the United States is a country made up of separate states such as California, Florida and New York — with each retaining its unique borders and laws.

If you do not have an ancestor or spouse from the EU, see other options for EU citizenship and living and working in the EU by clicking, “How to get EU citizenship, passports, visas and permits to live and work in the EU” if you have not already read this article.

*Article last updated on October 28, 2014. Waiting for resolution to three plagiarism claims.

Dual citizenship with the EU

It is imperative you consult directly with an official government authority in your homeland regarding your country’s stance on dual nationality or dual citizenship with the target EU country before starting this process. If you do not, you risk getting misleading information and possibly losing your current citizenship. Certain countries allow it, some don’t.

If you are an American citizen, see the U.S. Department of State’s page titled, “Advice about Possible Loss of U.S. Citizenship and Dual Nationality.”

If you are already an EU citizen, seeking dual citizenship with another EU member state is redundant and carries no real benefits in theory. In reality, however, some EU countries do show preference toward its citizens even though it goes against EU directives.

Helpful links to official sites

Should you have questions, you must consult directly with an official government body, such as the consulate or embassy in your homeland, or the appropriate government ministry in the country of concern. Do not consult forums, a friend or relative or lawyers advertising citizenship services on the Internet, or you risk being cheated of time and money, in addition to getting damaging advice as each case is unique.

Be aware that citizenship applications may only be offered in the native language of the country concerned, even if they do not require applicants to be fluent.

Austria Obtaining Austrian citizenship and Applying for Austrian citizenship from abroad

Belgium How to become Belgian, Acquiring Belgian nationality/citizenship via ancestry, naturalization, marriage, adoption, “No one wants to be Belgian? Belgium grants citizenship to no one under new 2013 law” — Telegraph

Bulgaria* Bulgarian Citizenship for Bulgarians and foreigners (new link from Ministry of Justice is broken), Acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship (old link), Contact the Bulgarian embassy nearest you

Croatia** – Acquiring Croatian citizenship via ancestry (origin)/birth/naturalization, 100-Question test added to requirements (as of November 2012), How to apply for Croatian citizenship, Answers to FAQLaw on Croatian citizenship,

Cyprus Cypriot citizenship for Cypriots, foreigners, descendants or Acquisition of Cypriot citizenship by Registration or Naturalization

Czech RepublicHow to get Czech citizenship/dual citizenship, Czech passport and Czech nationality law

DenmarkDeclaration of Danish citizenshipDid you acquire Danish citizenship at birth?Statsborgerskab: How to become a Danish national and Danish Citizenship Act  *Be aware that Denmark has restrictions on dual citizenship

EstoniaEstonian Citizenship, Estonian citizenship for adults, Estonian citizenship for children, Estonian passport and ID card, and Estonia Law on Citizenship

FinlandFinnish Citizenship (new link), Applying for Finnish citizenshipApplications divided into three queues and Nationality Act of Finland as of 2011

FranceFrench nationality (Ministry of Justice), Acquisition of French citizenship by marriage, naturalization or birthWho can be or become a French citizen?French nationality, Acquiring French nationality, and French Citizenship Code

GermanyGerman citizenship and Dual nationality (new link), Application for German citizenship certificate¹, Law on German nationality and FAQ German citizenship. — Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Law on German nationality and FAQ German citizenship
¹Recommended by commentator ‘Chris’ who used it to stake a claim through an ancestor

Greece – “Greek citizenship by claim or Greek origin, ancestry, descent,” and “Ways to get Greek citizenship” and “Greek citizenship by naturalization” (articles based on official documentation/real-life experience). Official site has old and very outdated Greek Citizenship Code (in English).

HungaryHungarian citizenship and passports, Hungarian citizenship by naturalization, ancestry and other casesAbout Hungarian citizenship and Hungary Act of Citizenship. A law passed on May 26, 2010 allows people of Hungarian descent to claim citizenship without living in Hungary, but candidates must speak Hungarian.

IrelandIrish citizenship by birth, descent and naturalisation after marriage, Who can become an Irish citizen? and Entitlement to Irish citizenship (new link) — Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: All about Irish citizenship: Who qualifies, dual citizenship, fees, application, processing time

Italy –  FAQ Italian citizenship (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Italian nationality (Interior Ministry), Ways to become an Italian citizen (Italian Consulate, in Italian/English) and Italian citizenship (City of Torino, Italy),

LatviaWays to acquire Latvian citizenship and Dual citizenship (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Registration of children born abroad to Latvian citizens, Registration of descendents of Latvian citizens (new link)

LithuaniaLithuanian citizenship via ancestry/descent, Information on Lithuanian citizenship (Immigration; new link), Granting Lithuanian citizenship via naturalisation (new link) and Lithuanian Citizenship Law (new link), Dual citizenship with Lithuania (new link)

LuxembourgNationality of Luxembourg (Ministry of Justice), “The Luxembourg Nationality” in PDF (in English) and Luxembourg nationality online (in French), Acquiring Luxembourg nationality. Luxembourg allows dual citizenship

MaltaAcquisition of citizenship from Malta by birth and naturalization. In November 2013, Parliament passed a controversial law that allows non-EU citizens to buy an EU passport for 650,000 euros in Malta

NetherlandsHow to acquire Dutch nationality/citizenshipObtaining Dutch nationality by option or naturalization, Do you want to be Dutch? Info on integration exam (new link),  I want to be Dutch (Currently only in Dutch) *Laws governing Dutch citizenship as of October 10, 2010.

PolandWays of acquiring Polish citizenship (Ministry of Interior), How to apply for Polish citizenship and Polish citizenship by repatriation

PortugalPortuguese nationality (in English), Portuguese citizenship (in Portuguese), Acquisition of Portuguese nationality by children, Nationality acquisition by the Portuguese, Who can acquire Portuguese nationality? Also consult with the Portuguese consulate/embassy in nearest you.

Romania* – Granting Romanian citizenship (new link) and Romanian passport, Law on Romanian Citizenship

SlovakiaGranting Nationality of the Czech Republic, Slovak citizenship for foreigners

SloveniaAcquiring Slovenian citizenship and FAQ

SpainApplication for the granting of Spanish citizenship to descendants, Ways to acquire Spanish citizenship — Old link left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Granting of Spanish citizenship

SwedenBecoming a Swedish citizen and Dual Citizenship with Sweden

United Kingdom
All about British citizenship, Becoming a British Citizen (new link), The British Citizenship Test: How much do you know? (Telegraph)

*There are restrictions on citizens from Romania and Bulgaria in 13 EU member states. The EU will make an official announcement when these restrictions are lifted.
**Croatia joined the EU on July 1, 2013 and there are restrictions on free movement of its citizens in the majority of member states until 2015/2018/2020 (2+3+2 rule).

Non-EU countries with bilateral agreements with the EU

The following countries are technically non-EU countries, however they all have bilateral agreements with the EU that allow their citizens the right of movement, residence and employment in the EU member states.

Iceland – Icelandic Nationality Act, How to get Icelandic citizenship, FAQ citizenship with IcelandDual citizenship with Iceland. Is Icelandic citizenship for sale?  — Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Residence Citizenship of IcelandHow to apply for citizenship with Iceland

Liechtenstein Liechtenstein citizenship through birth, residence, naturalization or marriage, Acquisition of Liechtenstein citizenship, Right to Liechtenstein citizenship, — Old links left in place as evidence of plagiarism: Right to Liechtenstein Citizenship(PDF from municipality),  How to obtain citizenship in Liechtenstein

Norway Who can obtain Norwegian citizenship?, Dual citizenship with Norway (new link), Norwegian nationality act

Switzerland Swiss citizenship by naturalization/residency, Acquiring Swiss citizenship after marriageFAQ: Becoming a Swiss citizen and Swiss citizenship overview

* All questions should be directed at the respective consulate or embassy in your homeland, where personnel are authorized to dispense official advice and accept citizenship applications.


Twenty people who switched nationalities” — BBC News
How Many People Live in the EU” —
How Many People Live in the EU” — (old link left in place as evidence of plagiarism)
All websites linked above

Related posts

Ways for American/non-EU citizens to stay legally in Greece
Other related articles, see “EU.”

The Author

Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author who has lived and worked in the EU since 1997. To learn more, see “About Me.”

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


  nataly wrote @ February 8th, 2009 at 10:53

hello : if a daughter of european citizenship of a country of schengen needs to stay in europe with a resident permit cause she didn’t take the citizenship cause of the bureaucracy (changing rule every time unfortunately) what can she do? when applying in the consulate (the consulate said this is not our work, this the work of municipality of our country : then in this schengen country, they said u should took from embassy !!!!!! so is there any rule for daughter of european citizenship (schengen county ) right to took this residence visa !! even she is married and up to 18 years old !!! who and what is the step that should be take it !!!!!

  Kat wrote @ February 8th, 2009 at 22:10

If you do not have EU citizenship, you must get a residence permit. There is no such thing as a residence visa in Greece.

If you would like to apply for EU citizenship through an ancestor/relative born in an EU country, you must apply at the appropriate ancestor’s consulate or embassy in the country you now live. For example, if you live in Greece and your ancestor is from Germany, you apply at the German Consulate/Embassy in Greece for German citizenship.

If applying for EU citizenship is not an option or too difficult for you, you must get a residence permit if you are a non-EU citizen. This is accomplished by going to the municipality office where you live. If you are married to an EU citizen, you still need a residence permit and still need to go to the municipality. If you are the child of an EU citizen, you still need a residence permit if you yourself are a non-EU citizen.

You could have found answers to your questions in articles on the front page:

How non-EU citizens can move, live and work in Greece
FAQ: Greek residence/work permits

Please search more carefully next time, and best of luck to you.

  david wrote @ August 5th, 2010 at 00:20

how to get eu passport if american?

Kat Reply:

As stated above, you need to meet the requirements and be granted citizenship from an EU member state in order to qualify for an EU passport.

  MinistryinBlue wrote @ March 19th, 2011 at 21:38

Was very much enjoying the informative content of your site when I discovered some dead-end links (error 404: file not found). On the portion discussing getting permission to work/live in Greece by acquiring EU citizenship (via ancestral connection to an EU country), I found that the links for the German official sites no longer work. Just wanted to bring that to the attention of your site manager.

Thanks again for such a quality site. It’s the most helpful one I’ve found yet!



Kat Reply:


I last checked links on February 13, 2011, as indicated above. However, “official” websites have a habit of changing, either due to a revamp or a change in government, without leaving old links in place, so I’ll put this on my to-do list and scout out some new ones.

Thank you for letting me know and for your kind words.

  Kat wrote @ August 3rd, 2011 at 20:17

Thanks to this site, I was inspired to acquire my German citizenship so I could come work in beautiful Greece. I hadn’t thought it was an option for me as a U.S. citizen, but I learned that since my mother was a German citizen at the time of my birth, I was indeed eligible.

Kat’s site has been invaluable to me while I have been working and playing in Greece. I really appreciate all the time and care she takes to update and keep information current – it seems like maintaining this site could be a full-time job!

From one Kat to another…. Thanks a million – my time in Greece has been nothing less than life-changing.

Kat Reply:

Hi Kat,

You’re right. This could be a full-time job and I have ideas that can further enrich this project, but I have a career that crosses borders and time zones.

I appreciate you taking the time to seek me out on Twitter and come back to the website to tell me how it helped you. In “Should I move to Greece?“, I say that I and this website can assist in making dreams come true and I’m glad to hear it’s happening. Most of the time people accuse me of being negative or having an ulterior agenda, but my work has always been out of love for Greece.

It’s very easy to help people like you, not to mention a pleasure to meet you.

  ann wrote @ August 19th, 2011 at 19:35

I am a US citizen and want to live permanently in Spain, my great grandfather emigrated from Italy to the US around 1900 could i Claim EU citizenship through this link. Also my father, now deceased had permanent leave to stay in England, married an English woman and lived there for 40years, his wife is still alive and living in the Uk

Kat Reply:

If you click the link I provide for Italy and switch to English, it says you can automatically be an Italian citizen if your parents were born in Italy or you can stake a claim through a second-generation ancestor under certain conditions, which would be your grandparents. It says nothing about great grandparents. You are free to verify my answer at the Italian embassy/consulate nearest your residence.

If your father was born in the UK and had UK citizenship, you could stake a claim through him. I’m guessing he didn’t since you say he had a permanent stay permit; that’s not even close to being the same thing. As you are not related by blood to his last wife, she is not your ancestor and you cannot stake a claim to anything through her. Again, you are free to verify my answer at the UK embassy/consulate nearest your residence or read through the ample resources via links I provided above for the UK.

  Chris wrote @ November 1st, 2011 at 16:05


My girlfriends grandfather was born in Germany and moved to Australia where he married her grandmother (an Australian woman). Their son, my girlfriends dad, and mum were both born in Australia, and so was my girlfriend. Her German born grandfather has now passed away. Would their be any possibility of obtaining a German passport through this link?

Kat Reply:

I get the feeling you didn’t read the article or click the links.

— As I say in the article above, you need to have citizenship from an EU country before applying for a passport. Can you get a passport through the link? No.
— If you had clicked either of the links for Germany and read the documentation, it says that having a German ancestor in itself is not enough to qualify, plus Germany only recognizes citizenship through ancestry via parents born in Germany, not grandparents.

The information cannot help you unless you help yourself.

  Luisa wrote @ November 21st, 2011 at 11:55

Hi there, I am an Australian citizen living in Victoria in Australia. I live with my two grandparents and hope to move to Europe either in 2012 or 2013. Although my mother was born in Australia, my grandmother was born in the Czech Republic in 1927 and my grandfather in Austria in 1932. Although they are my grandparents not my direct parents, am I eligible for dual citizenship? Or if my mother gets a dual citizenship with Austria or Czechoslovakia, am I able to apply for dual citizenship? Regards Luisa

Kat Reply:

There’s no way I or anyone can answer your question based on the little information you gave.

The procedure in claiming citizenship in Austria is very different than the Czech Republic and involves a lot of documentation. You need to follow the links I gave above to learn more and contact the Austrian and Czech embassies/consulates closest to your current place of residence if you have questions.

  Simone wrote @ January 6th, 2012 at 17:33

To whom it may concern,

I am looking at applying for an EU visa through my maternal grandfather, unfortunately his birth and death certificates have been lost so I am unsure how to go about obtaining this information so I am able to apply for the visa. What are the exact requirements for this visa so that I may start the process of obtaining necessary records and paperwork as soon as possible?

Kat Reply:

There is no such thing as an EU visa. As it says above, each country retains its separate borders and laws on what’s required in granting visas and citizenship, since Europe is a continent and has not fused into a single entity. This is why the list is organized by country.

Explore the links or call the relevant consulate/embassy handling matters pertaining to your grandfather’s country of origin. The information cannot help you if you do not help yourself.

  Chris wrote @ January 10th, 2012 at 13:25

Hi There

I am writing in reply to Kat’s reply who said she was inspired to apply for her German Citizenship to work in Greece?

I have applied for my German Citizenship through the process of staatsangehoerigkeit and have lodged it at my German Consulate here in Sydney Australia.

The Consular official was, as far as i can tell, satisfied with the documentation I lodged but as he said and I have read, he did not give me a timeline as to how long it will take- “It will be ready when we contact you.”

I was wondering Kat if you knew how long this would take or how long yours took as it has been 4months and I am getting ‘itchy feet’ now waiting to go!

Kind Regards


Kat Reply:

I asked Kat to check in, which she kindly obliged below, but I want to mention separately that a person’s processing time is unique to their case, so whatever happened in Kat’s case doesn’t necessarily apply to you. You applied in different countries at different consulates, and there was likely a different number of staff and applications in the queue, and there is not generally anything you can do to make the process go faster. Just something to keep in mind.

  Kat wrote @ January 10th, 2012 at 18:26

Hi Chris! I paid extra to have the passport expedited, so from beginning to end it was less than a month for me. This also included having to battle a bit with what was “satisfactory” to them (but only for a few days).

Are you expecting them to ship the passport to you, or are you picking it up at the consulate? From what I understood (but I could have been given the wrong information), the passport comes from Germany and the consulate in the US couldn’t give me the exact time it would arrive.

Not sure why you are having to wait so long! Have you tried to contact them again to see if you are missing a piece of information?

  Chris wrote @ January 11th, 2012 at 03:17

Hi Kat & Kat, thanks for your speedy replies! How efficient you all are!

Yes what I am expecting them to provide me with is a German Citizenship Certificate which they have said that I will be able to pick up at the Sydney Consulate.

How do you mean you had it expedited? What were the costs involved with this? I have been told that there “is no way to speed up the process” in those words from the German Consulate.

Yes all the processing is taking place in Cologne in Germany and I have to sit and wait apparently? I have received a confirmation of receipt for my Application in Cologne and asked is there any furthering I can do on my part but again been told to just wait.


  Kat wrote @ January 11th, 2012 at 14:52

I guess I am not sure what you mean by “German Citizenship Certificate” – what I applied for was a passport. I used the links Kat has provided above for basic information and also corresponded with the German consulate in my state before I applied.

I think the costs for me would be irrelevant for you since you are in a different country. If you click through the links on the pages above to find info about the Australian German consulate, you can find information about the price and process of getting a German passport.

I don’t recall getting any confirmation from Cologne, or even from the consulate itself. I called and they said yes, the information you gave us was enough, and then I had to wait. I think I did call and find out that the passport had been processed, but they couldn’t give me any tracking information. From what I understood, they were waiting for other documents/passports from Germany to arrive – they didn’t send out the passports one by one.

Good luck!

Kat Reply:

Hi Kat,

Before applying for a German passport, were you required to go through a process to claim German citizenship via your mother? Or were you considered to already have it. I think what Chris was required to do was stake a formal claim through an ancestor, though he does not say which one, and get a certificate; and he’s under the impression you did the same thing.

  Chris wrote @ January 12th, 2012 at 06:48

Hi Kat and Kat

Yes maybe we have applied similarly but different none the same unfortunately!?

Yes I was under the impression you did the same thing. I am claiming through my German Grandfather as pre 1975 only the male bloodline counts in German Law. My Mother inherited German Ancestry through being born through her German Parents. They were not Naturalized Australians till 6years after her birth.

My Mother never acquired German Citizenship, thus I am inherently claiming through my German Grandfather. This obviously is different but I knew a German family friend who did the same who said it didn’t take long yet 4months later I am still waiting.

I guess I will just have to sit and wait or simply just visit for a short amount of time. Anyway thankyou all for your help hopefully my posts will help someone else enquiring?

Kat if you wish to put some good info up on your website for German Citizenship by Decent check out something called “staatsangehoerigkeit”, the best English translation of this process can be found on the London German Consulate website.

Kind Regards

Kat Reply:

Hi again Chris,

As I said in my original comment, each case is unique and should be treated that way. I don’t have specific experience with German citizenship, but Greek citizenship cases that typically extend processing time are: a) claiming through a grandparent; b) parent was not born in the relevant country either and did not stake a claim; c) submitting papers through a consulate/embassy. All three of those things apply in your case.

Not saying it will make you feel better, but a man I know claimed through a Greek grandparent and had to wait 2 years and 8 months before his citizenship was processed. There were no problems with his papers; that’s just how long it took. Germany is far more efficient, so be patient. Four months is not a long time.

Thank you for the tip. I’ll check it out.

  Kat wrote @ January 12th, 2012 at 17:29

Ah, I see – my mother was a German citizen at the time of my birth, so I think it was easier for me to make my claim. I didn’t have to go through any process before my appointment at the consulate, I just had to provide her birth certificate and marriage certificate, as well as my birth certificate. With that, it was fairly straightforward to get a passport, but your situation sounds a bit different.

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