By Christos ILIOPOULOS* Special to the Hellenic News of America
2 January 2017
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 the Greek citizenship were born in a country other than Greece, they 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 times, 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 a 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 info from other certificates, on 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 info 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. This type of info sometimes is stated with a mention that this marriage is a 1st or 2nd etc. for each of the bride and groom. Another way to state it in the marriage certificate is the mention that the bride is until this marriage “a spinster” (older certificates) 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 degree of marriage and if this info 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 the Greek citizenship, if the related info 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 of this marriage 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 first find the first marriage certificate, then the divorce decree or court decision from the foreign country, then we make a court hearing to recognize it in the Greek legal order and then we can proceed with the finalization 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 recognize 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 recognize 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 recognized. 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 solemnized the marriage, basically If this authority is a civil one or an ecclesiastical one. 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 above 18 y.o. and want to obtain the 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, Catholic, Protestant, or other religion, Jewish etc.).
*Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at
the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M.