Greek Citizenship and a prior …divorce.
By Christos ILIOPOULOS*
Thousands of people of Greek descend from all over the world wish to obtain the Greek citizenship and passport. Some of them base their claim to the Greek citizenship of one or both of their parents, who were born in Greece as Greek citizens. In other cases, the ancestor born in Greece is not a parent, but a grandparent of the present applicant. And there are cases where the applicant has a great grandparent born in Greece.
In all these cases, the starting point for every application is the search for the birth record or birth certificate of the ancestor who was born in Greece. The person who is going to make the search in Greece, preferably a specialized lawyer, or someone else who has experience in cases of Greek citizenship, will need the basic data of the ancestor who was born in Greece, which are his/her first name, last name (maiden name for a woman), his/her father’s first name, place of birth in Greece as close as possible and year of birth, as accurate as possible.
If the birth record or birth certificate of the ancestor born in Greece is located, either at the Municipality registry (Demotologion, for men and women), or at the Male Registry (Mitroo Arrenon, for men only, connected to the army), the case will look promising. The next documents required are the marriage certificate of the Greek ancestor who was born in Greece, and then the birth certificate of his child, until we reach the birth certificate of the present applicant.
One common problem is the modification of the name of a person in the family tree. In other words, if the same person appears in more than one certificate (birth or marriage) with different names, the dossier of the citizenship application will have to be enriched with evidence that name A and name B belong to the same person.
Another question which must be asked at the beginning of the process of the citizenship application is whether the Greek parent or grandparent of the applicant had a prior marriage and a prior divorce. For example, we take the imaginary case of the present applicant who is named James Panegyris, who was born in the USA, where he lives now. His father, Apostolos Panegyris, was born in Greece, as a Greek citizen. He moved to the USA and married there his non-Greek wife. After their marriage, James (the present applicant for the citizenship) was born. James’ father, Apostolos, did not have any prior marriage. In that case we move forward, since the case seems to be straightforward.
If, however, in another hypothetical scenario, James’ father, Apostolos, was initially married to another woman, then he got divorced and then he married for the second time, the mother of James, who is now interested in the Greek citizenship, we will need additional documents. And apart from additional documents, the citizenship case will take more time and it will require more expenses. This is because under Greek law, we must first register in Greece the first marriage of James’ father, Apostolos. Then, we must find his divorce decree, or court decision, in its detailed form, which we will present to the Greek court in order to have it recognized in the Greek legal order. Once the Greek court issues its decision, recognizing the US divorce decree or decision, we will register the divorce in Greece, and then we will register the second marriage of Apostolos, from which James was born.
That is why we have to ask the potential applicant for the Greek citizenship, among other questions, whether his or her Greek ancestor had a prior marriage and divorce, before he/she was married for a second (or even third) time, to the mother or father of the present applicant for the Greek citizenship.
*Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at
the Supreme Court of Greece , LL.M.