Legal Correspondent Christos Kiosses specializes in assisting Greek Americans with legal issues in Greece. Here he discusses how to obtain Greek citizenship.
Strong ties with the Motherland
Throughout history, Greeks have been the travelling kind of people. In some cases, our ancestors ventured out to conquer foreign lands and spread our culture and language. In most cases, though, they traveled far and wide to settle on every corner of the world and start anew in hopes of a better future. No matter the reason, the era, the way, or the destination, all Greek immigrants seem to have one thing in common: love for our homeland.
These strong ties with our Motherland appear to stand the test of time, and even become stronger, as time goes by. They also wonderfully transfer from one generation to the next. Thus, you end up with second and third generation Greek-Americans, who speak the language, uphold the values, follow the traditions, listen to the news, visit the old village, worry about Greece.
Many foreign nationals of Greek decent, or with a Greek psyche, wish to obtain the strongest of all ties to our country of origin – they wish to become Greek citizens. There are a few ways to achieve this, depending on the status, place of birth, timing, origins, and so on. Brace yourselves, since the options are many and convoluted. Let’s explore them.
Greek citizenship by birth
A child born in Greece does not automatically obtain Greek citizenship, unless:
- the mother was a Greek citizen during her pregnancy and at the time of her/his birth; or
- the father was a Greek citizen at the time of her/his birth; or
- both parents were non-Greek immigrants living in Greece with a valid resident’s permit for at least five (5) consecutive years prior to her/his birth
If one of these requirements is met, the child can obtain Greek citizenship by birth. The parents, of course, can opt out and declare another country’s citizenship (according to that country’s laws).
Becoming a Greek citizen by going to school
A child not fulfilling any of the prerequisites mentioned above, can still obtain a Greek citizenship, if:
- she/he enrolls in first grade at a primary Greek school and is still attending, when the application is filed; and
- at least one of her/his parents has/have been living in Greece legally with a valid permit for at least 5 years prior to the child’s birth (if less than 5 years, then they have to wait until the parents’ legal residency surpasses the 10 year mark); and
- at least one of the parents is holder of a legal resident’s card, as described in the new statute; and
- she/he has not reached the age of 18 years
Alternatively, a non-Greek minor legally residing in Greece can still obtain Greek citizenship, if she/he has attended at least 9 years of primary/secondary Greek school or 6 years of secondary Greek school; whereas a non-Greek adult legally residing in Greece can obtain Greek citizenship if she/he has obtained a high school diploma in Greece and then graduated from a Higher Education Institution (University or Technical Education Institution). Furthermore, as soon as these Greek educated people obtain their Greek citizenship, their underage and unmarried children automatically become Greek citizens, as well.
Claiming your Greek citizenship through your ancestors
Those, who are born outside of Greece to either one or both Greek parents, or even one or more Greek grandparents, are entitled to stake a claim to their right to a Greek citizenship through their ancestor(s) born in Greece.
Other ways to obtain a Greek citizenship
There are a few other clearly defined ways to obtain a Greek citizenship, which are relevant to specific situations:
- Minors under the age of 18 years, who were born out of wedlock, can be legally recognized by their Greek father, who was born in Greece, and thus acquire a Greek citizenship.
- Minors under the age of 18 years can be legally adopted by a Greek national born in Greece, and thus acquire a Greek citizenship.
- Aliens of Greek ethnic origin admitted to military academies as officers, or enlisted in the armed forces as volunteers, or promoted to officers of the military forces, can lawfully acquire s Greek citizenship.
- Foreigners, who do not have any Greek origin or ancestry, but have a long-term and permanent residency in Greece, can go through the naturalization process after three (3) to seven (7) years of consecutive legal residence in Greece, provided that they are fluent in Greek, and they earn a certificate in Greek ancient history and culture.
Marriage to a Greek citizen will not give you automatically a claim to a Greek citizenship, it will merely shorten the times required for a naturalization procedure.
What do you do, if you fall into one of these categories and you want to pursue your Greek citizenship? The procedures are different, depending on which category one falls into. The most common one is the situation, where someone has a Greek parent or grandparent. Here are the prerequisites for obtaining Greek citizenship by a person of Greek descent, who lives outside of Greece:
- Application (provided by the consulate). The application is in Greek and should be filled out in Greek. An attorney can help with that. It must be completed, signed, and submitted to the Greek Consul General closest to the Applicant’s residency. The signing of the application will be witnessed by two (2) Greek citizens, who will prove their citizenship (passport, Greek ID etc). Oftentimes, Consulate employees act as witnesses.
- Copy of a valid passport or other travel document. The original document must also be presented.
- Birth Certificate of Applicant.
- Marriage Certificate of Applicant’s parents AND Birth Certificates of parents (if they were born in Greece or are Greek citizens). If they were/are not, then (in addition to the prior) Marriage Certificate of grandparents AND their Birth Certificates … and so on and so forth, until we reach an ancestor, who is/was a Greek citizen.
- Applicant’s Criminal Record.
- Recent, colored, passport-size pictures.
All documents must be translated to Greek by a lawyer, the consulate, or a registered translator.
Why pursue a Greek citizenship?
There are a lot of advantages to acquiring a Greek citizenship, like the ability to travel and work within the EU, but there is a catch: all male Greek citizens between the ages of 19 and 45 are required by law to join the military and serve for at least nine (9) months.
It’s often a long and cumbersome process with a lot of red tape and sometimes frustration, but I believe it’s certainly worth it. Every time time I help someone through this process, to a successful completion, I feel a special sense of achievement. It is an uplifting and proud feeling to be a citizen of our Hellas.
Other articles by Christos Kiosses:
He is a Foreign Legal Consultant within the Law Offices of George C. Xamplas, serving the needs of Greeks living in the larger Chicago area and beyond with any legal issues they might have in Greece.
Prior to moving to the US, Christos practiced law for 20 years in Greece. A member of the Thessaloniki Bar Association since 1996, he has extensive experience in litigation, counseling, legal practice and negotiations. He is licensed to practice in Illinois, in Greece, and the European Union.
He specializes in the fields of Real Estate Law, Inheritance and Tax Law, Commercial and Civil Law, as well as Intellectual Property Law and Family Law. He also has experience litigating a variety of commercial and business-related claims and liability matters.
Christos has handled successfully a wide variety of cornerstone cases, creating in the process legal precedent in the Greek Legal System. Some examples include: battling fraudulent companies in a nationwide time-sharing scheme scandal, saving countless individuals in the process; achieving a landmark case against the Hellenic Mapping and Cadastral Organization, paving the way for hundreds of homeowners to reclaim their properties.
He is also an accredited US and EU civil and commercial mediator. In that capacity, he was involved in numerous successful courtside mediations.
Christos blogs on legal topics of interest to Greek Americans, at kiossesblog.com, and discusses these topics on a weekly radio show, The Chicago Greek Hours with Sotiris Rekoumis, which airs on Thursdays at 9:00 am (CST).
Latest posts by Christos Kiosses (see all)
- Greek-American Legal Topics: Judicial Guardianship - August 24, 2016
- Greek-American Legal Topics: Getting a Greek Divorce - June 20, 2016
- Greek-American Legal Topics: Greek Citizenship - May 12, 2016