New Greek Passports Now Required

By Stratos Boudourides Special to the National Herald

NEW YORK - The Greek Government has announced that (effective as of January 1, 2007) all Greek passports issued prior to January 1, 2006 will be invalidated, regardless of their printed expiration date.

The holders of the ow invalid old passports, including Greek nationals living abroad, must replace them with new digital passports, issued by the Hellenic police.

Over the next few weeks, Greek citizens traveling or living abroad who have not yet replaced their old passports will not encounter problems returning to Greece - as long as they are traveling on Olympic Airlines and flying directly to Greece.

Greek Consul Veve, left, and Fotis Gounelas, a staff
member of the Greek Conslate of New York, processing
applications and other paperwork for Greeks who are now
required to obtain new biometric passports

In order to procure a new-generation digital passport equipped with state-of-the-art electronic safety features, applicants will need to personally appear at their local passport office to submit their request and present the necessary documentation. There is an estimated five-week waiting period for the required processing of new passports.

Aside from filling out the necessary forms, applicants must submit a photocopy of both sides of their national identification card or a recent birth certificate, along with a color photo of themselves (taken not earlier than one month before), which adheres to the required specifications, in addition to their old passport. Male applicants who have not completed mandatory military service must provide proper documentation on the particulars of this matter.

The passport application fee is 74 euros ($96), and in the event that authorities do not process the application, the fee is refundable.

To date, the Greek Consulate in New York has received 3,050 passport renewal applications, surpassing all other consular offices in the United States.

"We are making every effort to facilitate the local Greek residents as best we can. All staff members at the Consulate are here to help applicants fill out their applications correctly because, in the event that one of the sections has not been properly completed, or if the photos do not match the specified guidelines, the application will be denied, and the applicant will be forced to repeat the process," said Consul General Catherine Boura.

Boura noted that, "Completion and submission of the application takes around 30 to 40 minutes. After that, the waiting period depends on the number of citizens who have come to submit their applications on a particular day."

She also touted the close collaboration between consular authorities and the passport agencies of the Greek Foreign Affairs and Public Order Ministries, citing that "they are making every effort to best serve the needs of the citizenry within their legal power, especially in events of emergencies."

Nicos Papadopoulos, head of the passport department at the Greek Embassy in Washington D.C., discussed circumstances under which someone must make an emergency trip to Greece, without having first secured a new digital passport.

"In those situations, Greek citizens living abroad may visit Greece after being issued a special document - and on condition that, during their stay in Greece, they will request a new passport from the local police precinct in the area they are visiting or living at. If they don't follow this step, they will not be able to return to the U.S.," he said.

The National Herald spoke with applicants who had gone to the Greek Consulate in New York this past Monday, February 5, to submit their applications.

"Im visiting the United States for a little while, and just to be on the safe side, I will file a request for the new passport to avoid any problems during my return to Greece," said George Chochlatsos, a native of Kos.

Brooklyn resident Stavros Fegaros was in the final stage of the application process and said that, "The whole procedure took about three hours, but I have to say that the staff at the Consulate was very helpful."

The Herald contacted the responsible parties from Greek consular offices throughout the U.S. for added insight about the progress of this new mandatory procedure.

"There are about 50,000 Greek citizens living within our jurisdiction, but we have only received about 500 applications until now," according to Greek Consul in Houston Stelios Gabriei.

''The application process is lengthy, but it allows citizens to feel that they possess very secure travel documentation. Now that our country is issuing biometric passports, it will soon be added to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program," he added.

"Eligible Greeks wishing to obtain a new passport must call prior to visiting our offices, because we require an appointment to process applications. With this measure, we hope to avoid congestion in the lobby and reduce unnecessary delays for our citizens," said Elena Meletiou, a staff member at the Greek Consulate in Los Angeles.

"In 2006, our Consulate had only 423 applications for new passports, but all this changed dramatically in January, when we received more than 80 applications in less than 30 days," she added.

Greek Consul in Atlanta Lambros Kakisis said, "Our Consulate has received about 300 applications until now, and aside from some minor problems in the beginning, mostly related to the photo guidelines, the process is now going smoothly, and we're now handling all the applications with great success."

Some 45,000 Greek citizens live within the Greek Consulate in Atlanta's jurisdiction, he said.

There are approximately 160,000 Greek citizens living within the Greek Consulate of Tampa Bay's jurisdiction, according to Nikos Rigas, a consulate employee. "In all of 2006, we received 350 applications. In January 2007 alone, over 60 applications have been filed, and this number is continues to rise," he said.

For more information about the new Greek passports, or for questions about the consular offices nearest you, contact the Greek Embassy in Washington, at 202­ 939-1306, or visit the web at or

(Posting date 15 February 2007)

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