The Military Service of Greeks Who Live Abroad

by Christos Iliopoulos, Esq.

People of Greek origin have been showing lately an unprecedented interest on the acquisition of the Greek citizenship. A large number of citizens of other countries, who happen to have a Greek b ackground, express their desire to ‘solemnize’ their ties with the Hellenic Republic by registering with a municipality in Greece, which usually is the municipality of the place of origin of their parents or grandparents. By registering their birth and their family history with such a Greek municipality, they obtain a Greek passport, which is also a European passport.

Such a Greek/European passport offers them the right not only to visit, but also to establish themselves and live permanently in another European Union (EU) country, apart from Greece , where they can study, work, enjoy all the basic rights of the citizens of the host country, and not be discriminated against, compared to the local citizens. Most EU countries offer to their citizens a high standard of living, easily comparable to that of north America, Australia or Japan , plus sometimes a more secure environment with an added touch of cultural insights. And all that only with your Greek passport, without the need of a visa, with an automatically issued residence and work permit, with equal social security rights and even with the right to vote to elections for local government.
One of the main concerns of those relatively young males of Greek b ackground, who are trying to obtain their Greek passport is, of course, what happens with their military service. The basic rule on this issue remains the same. Those males who are permanent foreign residents are allowed to obtain the Greek citizenship, without having to serve to the Greek army for ever, provided that they never reside in Greece for more than six months within the same calendar year.

This means that the person who officially becomes Greek b y registering with a Greek municipality and by obtaining his Greek passport can legally visit and reside in Greece for up to six months from the 1st of January to the 31st of December of any given year. So, a foreign resident who stays in Greece from the 1st of July 2006 until the 31st of January 2007 has not lost his status as foreign resident, because he did not stay for more than six months within the same calendar year. He stayed six months (but not one day more than six months) within 2006 and another month within 2007. So, he is still considered a foreign resident, as far as the legislation of the army is concerned, and he does not have to serve.

It is easily understood that if, on the other hand, the same person stayed in Greece from, say, 28 June 2006 until 31 December 2006, he would have lost his status as foreign resident and would be obliged to serve in the army for at least 12 months, just like every other Greek male who lives in Greece.

The Greek male who obtained his Greek passport and has applied and received from the Greek Consulate of his residence a certificate which confirms that he is a foreign resident, can subsequently obtain from the Greek army the certificate Type B’, which says that he has not served to the Greek army, but he is legally out of the army as long as he remains a foreign resident (which means, for as long as he does not reside in Greece for more than six months in the same calendar year). He can, however, indefinitely reside, work and enjoy all the above described rights in any other EU member state, without the six-month limitation.

It must be underlined that a Greek who is foreign resident, can reside in Greece for up to 12 years without losing his status as foreign resident, if he studies at a recognized Greek school or university.

The foreign resident with a Greek citizenship can decide to voluntarily serve to the Greek army. In that case his military service will be six months. While, if, in addition, he was born outside of Greece, he will serve only three months. This last option was granted with Law No. 3421/2005. According to the interpretation of article 6 par. 5 of this law given by some military offices in Greece , at the time which the foreign resident submits his application for military service, he must reside outside of Greece.

So, very generally, the foreign residents who were born in Greece and want to voluntarily serve to the Greek army, will serve six months.

The foreign residents who a) were born outside of Greece and b) are residing outside of Greece at the time they submit their application, will serve three months.

A person who is more than 45 years old does not have to serve to the Greek army.

*Christos ILIOPOULOS, attorney at the Supreme Court of Greece, LL.M.

(Posting date 6 February 2007

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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