How to get Greek citizenship by descent?

There are several ways of getting a Greek passport. One of them is to apply for Greek citizenship by descent. In simple terms, this option means that if at least one of your ancestors is or was Greek, you are eligible for Greek citizenship as well. In this article, we shall describe the most common reasons for seeking to obtain legal status in this country and explain how to use your Greek ancestry for this purpose.

Eligibility Criteria

The basic principle underlying all these criteria is that a descendant of a Greek national is automatically considered a Greek citizen at birth. This principle applies whether the ancestor in question is still alive or not.

Moreover, since Greek laws do not stipulate the number of generations permitted, it could, in theory, even be your great-great-grandparent. Bear in mind, though, that the process becomes really complicated and lengthy past the third generation, so you might consider taking an alternative route to citizenship in that case.

1. First of all, if you were born in Greece, you are entitled to Greek citizenship, even if your parents are not of Greek origin, provided that they had resided permanently and legally in the country for at least five years prior to the event.

2. In fact, if your parents had lived here permanently for five years, you could obtain a Greek passport even if you were born outside the country, provided that you completed your primary education in Greece.

3. If only your mother is Greek, you have the right to citizenship by descent, provided that you were born:

  • Out of wedlock before August 5, 1984;

  • In or out of wedlock after August 5, 1984.

4. If only your father is Greek, you have the right to citizenship by descent, provided that:

  • The results of the formally required DNA test are positive;

  • You are still younger than 18;

  • You were born in wedlock before June 16, 1982;

  • You were born in or out of wedlock after June 16, 1982.

If only your father is Greek, and you meet the conditions above, except that you are older than 18, you will have to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, unless you can prove a national connection between your father and one of his ancestors.

5. Alternatively, if one of your grandparents, great-grandparents, et cetera, is or was Greek, you can apply for citizenship by descent, even if neither of your parents is a Greek national.

Note: in case your links to the ancestor in question are still alive, they might have to become citizens first, before you may apply for the status; otherwise, they will be accepted as such automatically.

EU Citizenship by Descent

The most common motive for applying for a Greek passport by descent is, probably, to obtain legal status in the European Union. An EU passport will give you numerous advantages, the most significant of which are the following:

  • Possibility to legally reside, travel and look for a job in any member state of the EU;

  • High standard and quality of living;

  • Opportunity to earn a comparatively high salary in a stable economy;

  • Legal right to open accounts and apply for loans in European banks, which rank high in the reliability index;

  • Access to European medical and educational institutions at a reduced price or even free of charge, depending on the country;

  • Legal status in the EU for one's family members as well.

Migration to Greece

However, some people would like to obtain a Greek passport specifically and migrate to this country, not just to any EU state, for the following reasons:

  1. Greece offers comfortable living conditions at low cost, a relatively laid-back and calm lifestyle, good weather, beautiful scenery, healthy food and a low crime rate.

  2. In addition, this country provides fairly easy terms and conditions for obtaining citizenship compared with many other states in the European Union.

  3. The Greek passport allows visa-free entry to more than 180 countries, ranking 6th in the world in the Visa Restrictions Index.

  4. Greek nationality also gives you all the privileges of a citizen of any EU state, including the right to reside, travel, seek employment and vote. Furthermore, if there is no Greek embassy near you, you can seek protection, guidance and support from any European embassy in the area.

  5. Unlike some other countries in the EU, Greece allows dual citizenship, so you will not have to give up your current one.

Drawbacks of Greek Citizenship

  1. The Greek nationality you have acquired will automatically pass to your descendants, but not to your spouse.

  2. Military service in Greece is compulsory for all male citizens between the ages of 19 and 45.

Reconnecting with Your Roots

Apart from that, you may also want to obtain Greek citizenship if you are Greek and would like to move to this country and live with your people. If this is your motive, you must bear in mind that it is not your Greek origin that matters. What counts is whether one of your ancestors is or was a Greek citizen.

In fact, whether the person in question is an ethnic Greek is irrelevant for the purpose. In other words, in the case of Greek citizenship by descent, we are talking about Greek nationality, not ethnic identity.

Note: if you are Greek ethnically, although none of your ancestors is or was a Greek national, you can still obtain legal status in this country, but you will have to apply for citizenship by naturalisation, and the terms and conditions described in this article will not apply to you in this case.

Necessary Documents

If you meet at least one of the conditions described in the section on eligibility criteria, you can proceed to the next step, which is collecting the required documentation. In a typical case, you will need the following papers, if applicable:

  • Your passport and birth certificate;

  • Your marriage and baptism certificates;

  • Your parents' marriage certificate;

  • Birth and baptism certificates of your spouse and children;

  • Birth, marriage and death certificates of all the ancestors your application is based on, as well as their registration records in the relevant municipalities in Greece;

  • Your police clearance;

  • Receipt of the €150 application fee.

Note: all the documents will have to be translated into Greek, certified by a notary, and, ideally, come with an apostille as well.

Application Procedure

1. Submit the documents in your local Municipal Registry in the country or any Greek embassy abroad, or you can even apply online. However, if you choose the last option, you will still have to make an appointment with the embassy in the end.

2. Wait for the response from the relevant government department, which can take:

  • Up to 3 months if both of your parents were born in the country;

  • Between 2 and 3 years in all other cases if the ancestor in question is a parent or grandparent;

  • Significantly longer if the ancestor is past the third generation.

3. If your application is denied, you will have the right to appeal, unless the rejection was based on your bad criminal record or insufficient proof of your Greek ancestry.

4. If your application is accepted, you will receive two Greek birth certificates: one for applying for your national ID, the other — for your entry in the country's Municipal Registry.

Note: your spouse will have to apply for permanent residence through marriage to a Greek national, and then for citizenship by naturalisation after residing in the country legally and permanently for a sufficient number of years.

Conclusion

Even though you may have to wait 2–3 years, it is still a relatively short route compared to nine years for applicants in some other categories. Besides, you can try to find some way to stay in the country and prepare for the citizenship test by learning Greek language and culture in the meantime. There is no hurry in Greece, after all.

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