Those born outside Greece to at least one Greek-born parent or grandparent can obtain a Greek passport.
The Visa Restrictions Index (Business Insider, UK, 29 Feb. 2016) ‘evaluates’ the strength of passports of most countries in the world. The main criterion is in how many countries the holder of a certain passport can enter without having to issue a specific visa. According to this survey, the more visa-free access you have in countries all over the world, the more valuable your passport is.
The recently issued Henley & Partners’ Visa Restrictions Index concludes that the strongest passport is the German one, since it gives access to 177 countries without the need of a visa for its holder. The Greek passport ranks in seventh spot, along with that of New Zealand, as it gives visa-free access to 171 countries.
Those born outside Greece to at least one Greek-born parent or grandparent can obtain a Greek passport, provided certain documents are filed and processed by the Greek administration. If all birth and marriage certificates are in good order, there is no need for the applicant to speak Greek. The application is filed either at the Consulate of Greece at the country of residence of the applicant, or directly in Greece, with a proxy, or a combination of the above.
To apply and obtain your Greek passport, which is a European Union (EU) passport and allows you free entry, residence, work and status equal to local citizens in every EU member state, you have to first locate the birth certificate (birth record is not enough) of your parent or grandparent, who was born in Greece. Then, you must obtain the marriage certificate of that person, and then the birth of the next in line ancestor, until we reach your birth certificate.
If you have only one Greek grandparent, and you are now above 18 years old, the type of marriage of your grandparents is of significance. If you have only a Greek-born grandfather, you must obtain a religious marriage certificate of your grandparents. If, on the other hand, you only have a Greek-born grandmother, you must have a civil (not religious) marriage certificate of your grandparents. If you have only one Greek-born parent, the type of marriage of your parents (civil or religious) will not be an obstacle to your Greek citizenship.
The names of each ancestor must be consistent from one public document to the other. If a person is named Stathopoulos in his Greek birth certificate, being named Stathes in his foreign marriage certificate may create the need to identify that Stathopoulos, who was born in Greece, and Stathes, who was married in the USA/Canada/Australia etc. is one and the same person.
Males born outside of Greece to Greek parents or grandparents can obtain their Greek passport without having to serve in the Greek army, as long as they do not reside in Greece more than six months within the same calendar year, while they can reside the whole year long in any other EU country.
* Christos Iliopoulos is attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M.