There are thousands of people who have Greek parents or grandparents (even great grandparents) who wish to obtain a Greek passport (Greek citizenship). The potential applicants for Greek citizenship were born in a country other than Greece, have Greek ancestors and seek advice on what documents they need to obtain in order to successfully apply for the citizenship of their ancestors.

The starting point is, most of the time, the birth certificate of their closest ancestor who was born in Greece. If we can locate and obtain a fresh certified copy of the birth certificate of the Greek-born parent or grandparent from a municipality in Greece, we may have done the most important step in the process. However, this is not enough. We must also obtain the marriage certificate of that parent or grandparent born in Greece, and then all birth and marriage certificates until we reach the birth certificate of the present applicant.

So, does the marriage certificate of my parent, or my grandparent, or even my own marriage certificate, have to have specific content in order to be accepted by the Greek administration? The answer is yes. A marriage certificate which simply states the name of the groom and the name of the bride, without indication of the names of their parents, most likely will not do, unless we have official information from other certificates regarding the names of the parents of the groom and bride. For example, if the marriage certificate states only the names of the groom and bride, we may also need the birth certificate of the bride, which must state her parents’ names, assuming we already have the birth certificate of the groom, who is our Greek ancestor.
This happens because the Greek municipality will require full information on the names of the parents of the groom and bride in order to set up their complete family status page in their books, irrespective of whether all of them are considered Greek citizens or not.

Another piece of information which is required in a marriage certificate from another country so that it is accepted by the Greek authorities is the degree of marriage for the bride and the groom. In other words, it must state if this recorded marriage was a first or second etc. for either of the two persons who were married. Another way to state it in the marriage certificate (older certificates) is the mention of whether the bride is, until this marriage a ‘spinster’ and the groom a ‘bachelor’.

In some marriage certificates there is a point where a blank is filled out after the phrase ‘previous marriages’ and it may state ‘none’, or ‘one’ or ‘two’, etc. In whatever official form it is stated, the Greek administration will require official proof of the decree of marriage and if this information is not included in the marriage certificate itself, it will have to be derived from another official document, or an affidavit by either the groom or the bride or both. This affidavit option is the last resort for the applicant who wants to obtain Greek citizenship, if the related information can’t be found in any other official document. The applicant will sign a simple affidavit at the Greek Consulate, stating that the degree of marriage in this case was for the bride ‘first’ and for the groom ‘first’, or whatever is the case.

If the degree of marriage for the groom or bride who is the Greek ancestor was not a first, the Greek administration will require that we initially find the first marriage certificate, then the divorce decree or court decision from the foreign country, then we make a court hearing to recognise it in the Greek legal order and then we can proceed with the finalisation of the Greek citizenship.

In simple words, if your father is Greek and, prior to his marriage to your mother, he had a previous marriage and divorce, we must recognise this divorce decree in Greece with a court petition. If your father is Greek and your non-Greek mother had a prior divorce, we do not have to do this court case for the recognition of her prior divorce. If your grandmother is your Greek ancestor and she had a prior divorce, we have to recognise her prior divorce in Greece, while if the prior divorce belongs to your non-Greek grandfather, we don’t have to do this process.

A divorce decree or court ruling after the marriage of your parents is not relevant and the Greek administration will not make you do the court case in Greece to have it recognised. In other words, a divorce of your parents after your birth is not a problem, nor a delaying factor in the process of your Greek citizenship.

Another piece of information which must be part of the marriage certificate is the clear indication of the authority which solemnised the marriage to know whether the authority is civil or ecclesiastical. If it can’t be fully proven that the authority was ecclesiastical, the Greek administration will accept the marriage as only civil.

This is very important, since for the citizenship process, we may need a certain type of marriage in order to be successful. If you are over 18 years old and want to obtain Greek citizenship based on your Greek-born grandmother, her marriage to your non-Greek grandfather must be proven civil and not religious − Greek Orthodox. On the contrary, if you are basing your citizenship application on your Greek-born grandfather, his marriage to your non-Greek grandmother must be proven religious − Greek Orthodox (or whatever other denomination or religion your grandfather was a follower of).

* Christos Iliopoulos, attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M. e-mail: