Greek citizenship applications at Greece’s embassies in the United States and other countries have increased at an unprecedented rate. We gathered all the information to explain the process and prerequisites to obtain Greek citizenship.
The much-criticized citizenship process in Greece has come under much scrutiny for the difficulties involved in its procedures, which at times have proved so daunting that applicants have given up altogether.
However, there may be hope on the horizon, as the Immigration Ministry has proposed that written tests be instituted for all applicants as a way to hopefully streamline the cumbersome process..
New legislation has been proposed and submitted for public comment until September 10 which requires that foreign persons in Greece must sit for and complete written examinations.
The New Panhellenic Examinations
The new examinations, called the “Panhellenics,” which will be held twice a year, will test the knowledge of Greek citizenship hopefuls — including those from the Diaspora — in the areas of the Greek language as well as the geography of the nation and its history.
Greece’s Secretary General of Citizenship, Athanasios Balerbas, stated to interviewers from Ta Nea that it was of extreme importance to change how individuals acquire Greek citizenship.
“When we took over the Ministry,” he relates, “we noticed the extremely long delays in the naturalization of foreigners, who have the legal conditions to acquire citizenship, if, of course, they wish to do so.”
According to the proposed legislation, foreigners wishing to obtain Greek citizenship must pass the exams with a score of 80% before they receive a “Certificate of Adequacy of Knowledge for naturalization” and only then will they be eligible to apply for citizenship.
However, final decisions on exactly who is granted citizenship will rest on the results of an interview with two officials from the General Secretariat for Citizenship, at which time a fee of 550 euros must be paid.
Stories have long abounded of how difficult it can be to obtain Greek citizenship from abroad — and sometimes even after pulling up stakes and going to reside in the country. Sometimes it feels to applicants that others are granted a Greek passport while they themselves are repeatedly passed over.
Beginning the Process of Obtaining Greek Citizenship
A closer look at the other details involved in the process — apart from the new written examination — can assuage some of this anxiety and hopefully point Greek citizen hopefuls in the right direction.
Of course, United States citizens do not have to obtain a visa for stays of up to 90 days to vacation in the summer paradise of Greece. If you would like to stay longer, however, you must apply for a short-term “Schengen visa,” or long-term “National Visa.”
In contrast to applying for a passport, all visa applicants must appear in person after making an appointment at a consulate in their country of residence.
Just as in the US, Greece grants a person citizenship at the time of birth as long as one parent is a Greek citizen. That parent must, however, already be registered in the records of a municipality in Greece, in a book called the “Demotologion.”
If that proves problematic, one can try the records of the Greek Army for proof of Greek citizenship of male ancestors. Also called the “Male Registry,” its records can date back as far as the 1870’s in some cases.
The “Certificate of Registration” one receives as proof of this serves as evidence that one indeed is a Greek citizen. Again, one must seek out the nearest consulate to apply for this all-important document. It is recommended to email the consular office first and then set up an appointment at the consulate subsequently by telephone.
In order to apply for this Registration, several documents are needed, including the registration of your parents’ marriage and the applicant’s birth certificate. You must determine what kind of marriage this was, i.e., a civil or a religious marriage. If the latter, you must be able to state which denomination. Of course, any divorces that have taken place must also be proven by the appropriate paperwork.
Any marriages which took place in the US, the UK and most other countries must be proven by marriage certificates which have an “Apostille” stamp. This is not true, however, of Canadian and some other marriage certificates, which will need to be notarized by the Greek consulate in those countries.
These foreign marriages will then need to be listed in the “Special Registry” in Athens. Any foreign marriages of applicants’ grandparents which occurred before 1983 will come under special scrutiny for whether or not they were religious or civil ceremonies.
You must bring all these papers with you to your interview at your Consulate.
The application will then be sent to the appropriate municipal authorities in Greece, who are under the jurisdiction of the General Districts and the Greek Ministry of Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization. The municipal officials will then issue the papers.
Since Greek law deems that Greek citizenship is an inherent right of anyone born to a parent who is a Greek citizen, Greek Consular authorities do not “grant Greek citizenship.” The Consular officials will simply guide you through the process in order to obtain what is rightfully yours under Greek law.
Just be aware that major spelling deviations in names can pose an issue when applying for citizenship. Any serious discrepancies can, however, be ironed out by showing passports or other photo ID with both of the different spellings there.
In general, all those who wish to become Greek citizens must:
- Be an adult (above 18 years of age), at the time of the application.
- Not have been irrevocably convicted of a crime/offense committed intentionally, during the last decade before the application for Greek citizenship.
- Not be under a deportation order.
- Have resided in Greece legally for seven consecutive years before the application. However, those who are a) EU nationals, or b) married to a Greek citizen and having a child with that person, or c) those who have parental responsibility (custody) of a Greek citizen, or d) political refugees, are required to reside in Greece legally for at least three (3) consecutive years.
- Possess a legal permit of residence.
However, unlike many countries, Greece lays down some important conditions to getting citizenship in the country, including that the applicant must:
- Have an adequate knowledge of the Greek language.
- Be integrated in the economic and social life of the country. However, just the fact itself that you are married to a Greek citizen is a significant factor in this evaluation. Other factors may include attending a Greek university, owning real estate in Greece, paying taxes, and so on.
The Cadastre System
Americans, however, may want to look into the possibility of declaring ownership of their land in Greece through the Cadastre system, or “Ktimatologio.” The Hellenic Cadastre is a listing of properties. including all the relevant legal details and the rights to them, which you can explore here.
The authorities explain on the Cadastre website that “the law introducing “Ktimatologio” switched the previous name-based registers to a property-based Land Registry system. As this conversion has not yet taken place throughout Greece, this means that in some regions the Land Registers continue to be kept according to person (Ipothikofilakio).”
Unlike the situation in many other countries, there is a strict deadline involving the registration of properties in Greece. If you have any questions about the process at all, it might be best to hire a Greek lawyer to handle the particulars towards Greek citizenship for you.
They can draw up, sign and file the statement for you. Just come in your nearest Greek consulate to have your signature verified in front of officials there.
If you are unsure about other aspects of the property ownership, you can also hire another third party who has a special or general power of attorney to manage your real estate affairs there. Just contact your Consulate and make an appointment to sign the Power of Attorney forms there.
You can also see this helpful list put together by Greece’s Embassy in Japan but applies worldwide for all Greek citizenship applications.