ATHENS – Exempting rich foreigners who can acquire residency permits and passports without any knowledge of Greek history or language skills, others who want Greek citizenship will have to sit for written exams and demonstrate at least semi-fluency in Greek.
Other subjects that must be passed include Greek history, geography, culture and politics, the language bar set at the B1 level as a minimum, even for Greeks in the Diaspora who don't speak Greek but will have to learn despite heritage ties.
The written exams outlined in draft legislation submitted by the New Democracy government will replace oral tests, which will now be possible only in special cases, including if the candidate has a physical or learning disability like dyslexia, or is aged above 67 years old.
Graduates of a Greek high school or university will also be exempt from the written exams, said Kathimerini, adding that the topics will be selected from a list of subjects that will be available to candidates online so they can prepare.
Those who fail to pass the first time will have the option of re-sitting the exam, for an additional fee.
Exams will be carried out twice a year for a fee of 250 euros ($292.93) per person and candidates will need to get a score of 80% or above to pass.
According to official figures there are more than 30,000 citizenship applications still pending, many of which were submitted several years ago.
It can take years to get Greek citizenship, even if you have all the papers you need proving your family's ties to the homeland.
The final decision on whether citizenship is granted will be made following an interview with two officials from the ministry’s General Secretariat for Citizenship, and will be subject to an additional administrative fee of 550 euros ($644.45) as well.
Rich foreigners can get around it by buying so-called Golden Visas that give them residency permits and an EU passport, most of them being scooped up by Chinese applicants in a program much criticized for improperly vetting for criminals and money laundering in some countries with the scheme.
Greece has a low bar, requiring only that they invest at least 250,000 Euros ($292,920_ in purchasing real estate or other methods like stocks and bonds.
Going past the sale of Golden Visas that come with a residency permit, Greece’s new ruling New Democracy said in September 2019 it wanted to lure rich foreigners by offering them citizenship if they invest at least 2 million euros ($2.34 million) for permanent residence in the country.