You are of Greek origin and you are thinking of pursuing, at some point in time, Greek citizenship. You know that you base your claim on one or more ancestors, such as one parent, or both parents, or one grandparent, or more grandparents, or even a great-grandparent.
You are also aware of name differences which have resulted from the long adventure of your ancestor, starting from Greece and ending up in another country, the US, Canada, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, and so on.
Let’s assume you know, or you suspect, that your mother was born in Greece as Chryssanthi, but she was married in Australia as Chryssa. And when she gave birth to you, her name is registered on your birth certificate as Christine.
Your grandfather may have been born in Greece as Georgios Stasinopoulos, but when he was married in the US, or on his naturalisation certificate his name was recorded as George (which is okay, no problem with Georgios) Stacy.
Stories like that are numerous in the files of the Greek consulates, Greek bureaucracy and in lawyers’ offices in Greece working on citizenship cases.
Before you apply for Greek citizenship, you must know that at some point during the application process, you will have to prove that Chryssanthi, your mother’s name when she was born in Greece, Chryssa, which is her name when she married in Australia, and Christine, which is her name in your birth certificate, all belong to the same person. You will have to prove that Georgios Stasinopoulos, born in Greece, and George Stacy, married in the US, was, or is, the same person.
Proving facts like these is not always easy. In fact, in most cases it may be the single most important problem in the pursuit of Greek citizenship. In many cases, the application can’t progress and the effort essentially is doomed, if we can’t prove that Ioannis Kostopoulos and John Kostas was the same person, despite having a perfect line of marriage and birth certificates.
Greek bureaucracy and consulates require stringent conditions in order to issue the much-wanted Certificate of Identification or Pistopiitiko Taftoprossipias, which clears the path towards citizenship.
The consulates, in similar cases, require that the applicant has photo identification documents with both versions of the name of the same person. For instance, the consulate wants to see documents which have a photo attached to them (old or present passports, identification cards, driver’s licenses, etc) which state all versions of the name. They want the present applicant to have a photo ID document of the ancestor with the name Ioannis Kostopoulos, as it was the official name in Greece (old Greek passport, or army document, always with a photo). And at the same time, to have another photo ID document, which states the other version of the name of the same person, which is John Kostas, in a US passport, or driver’s licence, etc.
It is understood that most applicants can’t find photo ID documents with both versions of the name. They may have a photo ID of the ancestor with his name in the country where the ancestor arrived and lived the rest of his life, (naturalisation certificate, passport, driver’s licence) but it is much more difficult and rare to have similar photo ID documents from Greece, with the name as it was in Greek.
This article aims at alerting would-be applicants for Greek citizenship to better prepare now for the application process and essentially take advantage of conditions in securing evidence and documents which may not be available later.
The ancestor may be alive today, which allows us to get valuable information and possibly documents from them or from sources they may be in a position to point to, while a few years down the road the ancestor may no longer be with us, and finding photo ID of them may be more difficult or even impossible.
So, everyone thinking of filing for Greek citizenship based on a Greek parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent, apart from securing the most important documents, which are the ancestor’s birth certificate from Greece and all marriage and birth certificates from that time until the birth of the applicant, must also have in mind that in many cases the names of the ancestor and their issue are stated in different versions from one certificate to another. In most cases Georgios and George, Ioannis and John, and Vassilios and Basil do not need identification certificates, because an experienced and knowledgeable translator can harmonise the names in the translations which are filed for registration with the Greek administration.
But different versions of the name of the same person may call for the identification certificate so the applicant may succeed in obtaining a Greek passport. And in those cases, securing the right documents and information from our ancestor today may make the difference tomorrow.
* Christos Iliopoulos, is a lawyer in Athens. Visit greekadvocate.eu