The recent years it seems more and more people are interested in moving to or working in Greece. Also during the “corona-summer” I have met several persons that wanted to stay longer in Greece, or work from Greece, now that they also could do their jobs online.
We are not specialists on this subject, and anybody interested to moving or working in Greece, needs to get advice from the Greek Ministry or a good lawyer. The laws also constantly change.
However, out of interest, here some general information for you.
How to Become Greek?
Being born to Greek parents is one way to acquire Greek citizenship. In this article, we’ll look into different ways to acquire Greek citizenship, learn what a ‘honorary Greek citizenship’ (and who are the famous celebrities that have acquired) as well as explore how Greek citizenship relates to the history of some of the Greek communities around the world. Are you ready?
Citizenship vs. Residency
Firstly, let’s shed some light on the differences between Greek citizenship and residency, as they can often be confusing. The most obvious difference between citizenship and residency is that once you become a citizen of a country, you can then apply for a passport, whereas residency status is usually conditional. Residency in an EU country will enable you to travel more freely, a little like a Schengen visa, but you only have the right to reside in that specific country. Citizenship in an EU country means you have the right to live, work, and study in any other EU member country, which opens up access to 44 other EU countries. In short, Greek Citizenship means more benefits and rights 😊
Greek citizenship may be acquired by descent or through naturalization. A child of a Greek citizen acquires Greek citizenship automatically at birth. The same applies for children who were born in Greece and whose parents have lived in Greece legally for at least five years.
Someone who was born abroad can also submit an application to claim Greek origin. They will need to provide evidence, though, that either their mother and/or their father is a Greek national. Grandparents are also considered but the process usually takes longer.
The process of naturalization
Greek citizenship can also be acquired through the process of naturalization. This applies to foreigners that do not have Greek origin but have lived in Greece for a long time. Applicants need to prove that they have been living in Greece legally for at least seven years prior to their application, pass a test to prove that they can speak Greek fluently and earn a certificate in Greek history and culture.
Greek law permits dual citizenship, so a Greek national does not lose their Greek citizenship if they acquire the citizenship of another country. However, children born to double citizenship, e.g. Greek and Japanese, might need to ‘denounce’ one of the two if it’s requested by the legislation of the other country.
Greek means being European as well!
A Greek national is a citizen of the European Union, and therefore enjoys the same rights as other EU citizens. Having said that, as the popular comics creator Arkas suggests in the sketch below, “it’s a good luck to be born a Greek and to die a Greek – the in-between though is bad luck!” He is of course referring to the complicated economico-political situation (and history) of Greece.
Honorary Greek citizenship
According to Greek law, honorary Greek citizenship can be bestowed upon people “who have provided exceptional services to the country or whose naturalization serves the public interest”.
In July 2020, Victoria Hislop was granted honorary Greek citizenship for promoting modern Greek history and culture through her bestselling literary work. The majority of her books are based in Greece and are set against the backdrop of the Greek historical events, including the novels The Island, The Thread, Cartes Postales from Greece, Those Who Are Loved, One August Night, and the essay collection One Cretan Evening and Other Stories.
Click here to read more about one of Hislop most famous books, which also became a very popular TV series.
Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson also became honorary citizens of Greece earlier this year, for their help to the victims of the wildfires that hit Mati, a resort town very close to Athens, in July 2018.
Even since he got married to Wilson, who is half Greek, Hanks is a big admirer of everything Greece-related and has been visiting the country for years. The couple even has a house on the Cycladic island of Antiparos, Hanks and Wilson also co-produced the big cinema hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which introduced international audiences to the peculiarities of growing up in a Greek-American family in the USA.
Having Greek roots
A brief history of Greek Americans!
Even though Greeks have accounted for a small percentage of the overall immigrants in the US, they have formed strong local communities wherever they settled down to preserve their language, culture and religious faith. The US is home to the largest Greek community outside of Greece, ahead of Australia, Cyprus, Canada, Germany, and the UK.
Greek migration to the States started in the late 1800’s and intensified during the first half of the 20th century, as it was tied to the political upheaval and economic hardship caused by the Ottoman rule, the Balkan Wars and WWI.
Greek immigration at this time was over 90% male, contrasted with most other European immigration to the US. These men were expected to work to send money back to their families and, eventually, to return to their homeland.
However, the loss of their homeland due to the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey, which displaced 1,5 mil Greeks from Anatolia, Eastern Thrace, and Pontus caused some of the initial economic immigrants to remain in America as their families were made refugees.
Moreover, in 1924, the US started the wider implementation of immigration limits against non-Western European immigrants, which encouraged a lot of Greek immigrants to apply for citizenship, bring their families and permanently settle in the U.S.
Most Greek Americans born in the USA have an American passport but can apply easily for Greek citizenship as well.
The list of famous Greek-Americans is very extensive but some of the most well-known include
Friends actress Jennifer Aniston,
Academy Award-winner Olympia Dukakis,
actor and screenwriter John Cassavetes,
director and producer Elia Kazan,
comedians Tina Fey,
Nia Vardalos (Movie :My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and Zack Galifianakis,
TV-presenter Maria Menounos,
journalist and founder of The Huffington Post Arianna Huffington,
novelists Jeffrey Eugenides and George Pelekanos.
And the list goes on…
…and of Greek Australians!
Australia is home to another one of the largest Greek communities in the world. Greek immigration to Australia has been one of the largest migratory flows in the history of Australia. It intensified after World War II and the Greek Civil War and it was renewed recently in the last couple of decades, due to the economic crisis in Greece. Melbourne is where the Greek Australian community is most established, but there are significant populations in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth as well.
A fun fact about Maria Callas…
Did you know that Maria Callas, one of the most renowned and influential opera singers of the 20th century, gave up her US citizenship in the 60s to acquire the Greek one? Callas was born in Manhattan, New York, to Greek American parents but moved to Greece at an early age, where she received her musical education until she left to perform in La Scala di Milan, establishing her career in Italy. She had an affair with another internationally well-known Greek, the shipping magnate and one of the world’s richest men Aristotle Onassis. He is yet another example of a Greek from Smyrna (modern-day İzmir in Turkey) who fled the city in 1922 in the wake of its catastrophe by the Turks as mentioned also here above.
Are you also dreaming of moving to Greece? Then inform yourself well and make sure you get the correct information about Greek legislations as well as the legislations in your home country.
It is a great adventure to move to another country, but unfortunately, there is a lot of administration involved, usually resulting in many visits to local authorities and having to deal with Greek bureaucracy,
I never regretted my move to Greece, and continue to be happy to live in this beautiful country. However, the bureaucracy and endless papers I needed to be OK with both countries, was many times nerve breaking. But be patient, it is possible:)