Many Greeks of second or third generation wish to obtain Greek citizenship because they want free access to the European Union market, or because they are thrilled by the country of their ancestors and would like the Greek passport to connect with the past of their family. If they have a parent, grandparent, or even great-grandparent born in Greece, they can pursue the goal of Greek citizenship first by searching for and obtaining the birth record of their ancestor from a Greek municipality.
If they find it, they must then obtain his/her marriage certificate, then the birth certificate of his/her child and so on, until they reach their own birth and possibly marriage and birth of their children.
What happens, though, when your Greek ancestor was not born in Greece? You are a member of the Greek community in the country where you were born, you consider yourself a Greek or at least a person of Greek background, and your ancestor was no doubt Greek. But he or she was not born in Greece. He was born in Constantinople or Smyrna (Turkey), or in Lebanon, or in Egypt (Alexandria or Cairo), or in Romania, or in the former Soviet Union. Your ancestor was an ethnic Greek, but born in another country, officially a citizen of that country and migrated to the USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa etc. directly from the country of birth, without ever being registered in Greece as a Greek citizen.
Can you today become a Greek citizen, based on your Greek ancestor, who, however, was not born as a Greek citizen, but was undoubtedly a Greek? Greek law says that you can, if you have kept Greece in your heart, thoughts, mind and everyday life until today.
Article 10 of the Code of Greek Citizenship states that any Greek of the diaspora, born in another country, who feels Greek can apply for the Greek citizenship, despite not having all the documents required to gain citizenship and despite not having a Greek-born ancestor.
So, if the marriage of your Greek-born grandfather to your non-Greek grandmother was not religious (Greek Orthodox), or if you cannot find one of the certificates to complete the chain of documents reaching up to your birth, you still can apply for the citizenship, under Article 10, by submitting an application and all the paperwork to the Greek Consulate closest to your residence.
The same applies for those who have a Greek ancestor, who was not born in Greece. You can apply under Article 10, and request to have an interview with the Consul of Greece. Along with all the paperwork that you can collect which proves that you are of Greek background, and any letter from the Greek Church or any Greek club or organisation proving membership or attendance/participation, you must sit the interview with the Consul and pass the test of ‘Greekness’.
If you speak Greek, you will most likely pass the test of the interview with flying colours. If you speak little Greek, you still have serious chances, provided your overall profile shows participation to the Greek community, the Church or any Greek club, as well as visits to Greece, friends or relatives there and anything else which shows an interest to anything Greek, including history and current politics.
The process of Article 10 application is not simple, because apart from your dossier which you file at the Consulate and the interview with the Consul, your file will be shipped to Athens, where the administration will meticulously examine the case. However, if the Consul’s report is favourable, most likely your application will be accepted and you will be called to give the oath of the Greek citizen, before you are registered in a Greek municipality and, at last, you obtain your Greek passport.
The above process of Article 10 is the last resort for those who can’t trace their ancestor’s birth in Greece, or when a marriage is not of the type the law requires, or when your ancestor was Greek, but not born in Greece.
* Christos Iliopoulos LL.M. is an attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece.