The Greek Who Obtains Foreign Citizenship Does Not Lose his Greek One

by Christos Iliopoulos

On many occasions it is very important which citizenship has a person. The citizenship of a person becomes crucial when we deal with inheritance law and with people who have lived and obtained property in more than one countries. These people usually develop legal and personal relations in these countries with which they have been connected during their lives. As a result, when inheritance matters arise, it may be contested which law is applicable in order to ascertain who inherits what.

The Hellenic Republic (as is the official name of Greece) applies the rule of jus sanguinis (the principle of blood), according to which a person obtains the Hellenic citizenship if he/she is born to a Greek parent, irrespective of the place where he/she is born.

This is the rule. The exception is that the Greek citizenship obtains also the person which is born in Greece, (obviously to foreign parents) if that person does not obtain with his/her birth the citizenship of another country. This is the principle of soil (jus soli), which is exceptionally applied by Greek law.

See Also:

Obtaining a Greek Passport

Greek Laws Dealing with Purchase of Property in Greece

How to Become a Greek Citizen

Olympic Games 2004: Spectators' Rights and Duties

The principle of blood, which prevails in Greek law, has been preferred because Greece wants to retain and establish relations with all people who are of Greek origin, even if they are born thousands of miles away of Hellas.

The application of the principle of blood practically means that any person who can prove that one of his/her ancestors was Greek by birth, is entitled to obtain the citizenship (and the passport) of the Hellenic Republic.

According to Greek law, the settlement of an inheritance is governed by the law of the citizenship of the deceased. (Article 28 of the Greek civil code).

If the deceased had not only the Greek, but also another citizenship, then the Greek law is applicable. (Article 31 of the Greek civil code).

However, the Greek law is always applicable even if the deceased did not have the Greek citizenship, if the case involves real estate assets located within the Greek territory. So, a Norwegian who bought a house in the island of Lesbos, will be inherited according to Greek inheritance law, even if both the deceased and his heirs have never been Greek citizens.

Many Greeks, who were born in Greece have emigrated to other countries, where they have established their families for many years. Most of them have obtained the citizenship of their adopted country (America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Germany etc.). These people have never lost their Greek citizenship, even if they have never again visited their birthplace, even if they have lost their Greek identification card or other Greek documents. Provided of course that they have not officially renounced the Greek citizenship.

The Supreme Court of Greece (Arios Pagos) has ruled that a person who was born in Greece by Greek parents does not lose his Greek citizenship even if he voluntarily obtains the citizenship of another country. As a result, his inheritance assets, which are located in Greece, will be settled according to the rules of Greek law. This may be very important, when the law of the other country applies different rules on inheritance matters.

A Greek will lose his Greek citizenship only if he/she officially renounces the Greek citizenship and this is accepted by the Greek state, or if he/she obtains the citizenship of another country after a permit granted by the Hellenic Republic.

The conclusion is that a Greek who obtains the American, Australian, Canadian etc. citizenship, does not lose his Greek citizenship, unless he has received a specific permit by the Greek state, which happens very rarely, if at all.

Christos Iliopoulos is an attorney at law, LL.M., in Athens, Greece, specializing in International and European Business Law. For more information about him, see his brief biographical sketch under the HCS section for Contributing Authors at He has submitted many articles to HCS; readers can browse these in the archives section bearing his name at the URL He can be contacted by e-mail at or by phone (from the US) 011-30-210-6400282; mobile 011-30-693-2775920, fax 011-30-210-6400282, or by postal mail at the address: 105 Alexandras Ave., Athens, 11475, HELLAS

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