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 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 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 w