Greece introduces compulsory exam on knowledge of the country’s history and culture before issuing citizenship
On 16 May 2021, the first written exam for those wishing to obtain Greek citizenship by naturalisation will take place. The exam tests the level of Greek language skills, knowledge of the country’s history, culture, geography and system of government. We tell you about the new rules for obtaining a Greek passport.
Previously, foreigners took only an oral examination for citizenship. It was received by the naturalization committees. The interview lasted about half an hour. The examiners assessed how well the candidate speaks Greek and understands the history and culture of the country. They also checked the fulfillment of the conditions for naturalization.
Under the new rules, a foreigner takes two exams: first a written one, and then an oral interview. The written exam will allow for a more objective assessment of applicants for citizenship. The approach to assessment will be uniform — in accordance with the standards of the Panhellenic examinations.
The new naturalization procedure will also allow the Ministry of the Interior to shorten the waiting list for Greek citizenship.
The changes are confirmed by the updated Law on Citizenship No. 4735/2020.
How the Greek citizenship exams will be held in 2021
The written exam will take place twice a year. The date is set by the Greek Ministry of the Interior. The exam takes place at special examination centres, simultaneously throughout the country.
On 16 May 2021, the first written exam of the year will take place. Those wishing to take the exam to pay a fee of €150. It is possible to sign up for the exam online: a special portal will be launched shortly.
The written exam consists of 20 questions in thematic blocks:
4 questions on geography. For example: "Mark on a map the four highest mountains in Greece".
4 questions on culture. For example: "Give the name of the Greek actress who played in the film 'Guns of Navarone Island'.
6 questions on history. For example: "Arrange the regions in the order of their incorporation into the Greek state".
6 questions on the political system For example: "How many times was the 1975 Constitution revised?
Proficiency in Greek is also tested in the exam. The candidate must prove that written and oral skills are at the B1 level. The written part consists of 20 questions and an essay. During the oral part, the candidate will be asked to answer 10 questions and cover three different topics.
All topics and questions are publicly available on the website of the General Secretariat for Greek Citizenship.
A candidate passes the exam if there is 70% of the maximum mark for both parts of the exam. The pass rate for the thematic units is 50%, the pass rate for the language unit is 66%.
The answers are checked by two examiners independently from each other. The final grade is the average of both examiners' grades.
Passing the exam is confirmed by a certificate. Its availability is checked during the interview at the MIA in Greece.
The interview is conducted by a committee of three members of the Directorate of Citizenship at the MIA in Greece. They assess how well the person has integrated into society during their time living in Greece — socially and economically.
Applicants for citizenship receive an invitation for an interview a few months after the written exam. The date of the interview is set by the General Secretariat for Greek Citizenship.
Who is exempt from taking the examination
The changes to the Citizenship Act come into force on 1 April 2021. Therefore they will not affect all applicants for citizenship. The amendments themselves also provide for exceptions to the general rules.
Foreigners waiting for a decision on their citizenship application. Under the old rules, applicants for citizenship are interviewed by the naturalisation committee.
If the interview is scheduled before 31 March, the foreigner does not have to obtain a certificate of passing the written test. If the interview is scheduled for a date after 1 April 2021, the foreigner will have to take the exam. But in that case, they will be exempted from paying the fee for the first attempt to take the exam.
Graduates of Greek schools and universities are exempt from the exam but are interviewed. Instead of a certificate, they provide:
a certificate of a Greek school, gymnasium or lyceum;
a diploma from a Greek university;
a document confirming the completion of postgraduate education at a Greek university;
document on the completion of postgraduate studies related to the study of the Greek language. Postgraduate studies must be completed at a university in Greece.
Applicants over the age of 62 and people with disabilities. Persons with a medical certificate stating that they cannot take part in written examinations are also exempt from the examination. For applicants in these categories, the written examination is replaced by an oral interview.
Who is eligible to apply for Greek citizenship
The Greek government grants citizenship only by naturalisation. Foreigners can apply for citizenship if they have:
Have lived in Greece for at least 7 years;
Do not have a criminal record and are not under investigation;
Have knowledge of Greek at level B1;
understand the history, culture and political system of the country;
have become part of Greek society — socially and economically.
Foreigners with a Greek residence permit are entitled to live permanently and legally in Greece. This can be obtained by getting a job in a Greek company, by enrolling in an educational institution in Greece or by marrying a Greek citizen.
Wealthy people can obtain a so-called golden visa — a residence permit in Greece by investment. The minimum investment amount depends on the option chosen:
from €250,000 — purchase of real estate;
from 400 000 € — making a deposit in a Greek bank, buying government bonds, buying shares in Greek companies or units in local investment funds.
Since 1 March 2021, there is a special department at the Greek Ministry of Immigration and Asylum, which issues “golden visas” to investors from third countries. The residence permit by investment is granted for a period of 5 years. After that, the residency status can be extended or a permanent residence permit can be applied for.
Permanent residence is only granted to investors who have spent no more than 10 months outside Greece in the last 5 years. It is possible to apply for citizenship after 7 years of obtaining the residence permit.
A residence permit allows not only to move to Greece but also to travel freely in Schengen countries. Greece is a member of the European Union, so citizens of the country have the right to live, work, do business and study in any country in the region without restrictions. A Greek passport also allows visa-free entry to 184 countries, including most countries in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Immigrant Invest is a licensed agent of the Greek residence permit programme by investment. If you want to become a resident of an EU member state, seek advice from experts in investment programmes.