Foreign Assistance in Greece

 Information on Greek Military Service for Greek Nationals Living Abroad

There is a saying: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing could be more true than the issue of army obligations for Greek nationals living abroad; The laws, if we can call them that, are as ambiguous and arbitrary as when I was drafted 18 years ago. Then I got off because of a loophole in the law. There are more loopholes than Swiss cheese. I am a third generation Greek which means my father and I were born and raised in the States; that was an advantage then but not now. Whether you are 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generation it’s the same. Before I start deciphering the complicated laws, I want to say that all people born outside of Greece who have Greek background up to the 3rd generation are Greek nationals whether they like it or not.

All the information below is taken from personal experience , helping others, and quoting the latest written laws. Believe me they are as confusing to the army as they are to me. Why is it that two people the same age, education, generation Greek  that one serves or has reduced time and the other pays some of it off or at least partly or doesn’t serve at all. When it happened to me the army,after I asked when do I serve, the answer was and still is, “it is a case by case basis.” That means even your twin brother is not the same as you when it comes to the army. We’ll see why later on. Whatever is in quotations is taken from the latest written laws or spoken to me personally.

Many ask, what is the age limit to be eligible to serve. Here for once the law is explicit; 45. However, in practice, the majority of Greeks complete their military service between the ages of 20 and 30. This is easy to understand as the Greek economy is almost in shambles and the last thing they need is a 40 year old foreigner who doesn’t know the language (very few army officers know English) running around getting free food, clothing and housing. Greece wants a streamlined, small, well trained army not a big clumsy eater of scarce federal funds.

Another aspect that hasn’t changed is, and this is extremely important, the certificate of PERMANENT RESIDENT ABROAD, or monimos katikos eksoterikou. This is issued by your nearest Greek embassy or consulate that states you reside, pay taxes or have been born abroad and stayed at least 11 years. Their parents must be permanent residents abroad as well. This paper is to a Greek national abroad as spinich is to Popeye. Don’t leave home without it.

To register for the draft you can get the bulletin of inventory or the BI as it is referred as from your embassy. This must be sent to where you were registered either by your father or grandfather to father to you. If you were registered in let’s say Kozani, then they deal with it not Athens.

One aspect of the law has changed. As we said earlier you are a Greek national like it or not now includes being a national on your mother’s side. Before it was only your father’s son.

Another question is, when do I register? By law those who do not register when they reach 18 are draft evaders. Yes I know what’s going through your mind; oh no I’ll be put in jail or worse hard labor making souvlakia for my superiors. No you won’t. I was drafted in 1983 when I was supposed to appear in 1971. I never knew about it as I was living in the States. They informed me that I was a draft evader. When I asked them what the penalty was they said, “none.”

Now here is the million dollar question most all of you have; do I serve, how long, can I pay it off, can I get out of it completely? Warning, these “delicate questions” were and are interpreted in often conflicting ways by different army officials in charge. In one instance I asked a Colonel about a provision I had read in the latest law and he replied, “Who said that?” I answered, “the army did .” His answer was that it must be new and he hadn’t had the time to read it. It is 2 years old. Again the certificate of permanent resident abroad comes to the rescue like the spinach. Let’s say you were born in the States and have lived there for 11 years to parents who are permanent residents then you are a permanent resident abroad. This paper is your defence.

So how long do I serve? The law says 6 months but there are so many “but’s that confusion becomes almost Kafkaesque. You can reduce this to 3 or even 2 months. Here the ostensible and the ludicrous become friends.


1)      if you are enrolled in high school, vocational school or college, medical graduates.
2)      If you are hospitalized, confined to a wheelchair. They haven’t introduced the paraconscript system yet.
3)      Now catch this; “Doctoral diploma holder who excel in scentific work or research. Exceptional scientists according to law article 7, paragraph 7 1763/88.”  Preferrably Nobel prize winners in science, so hurry up and get that Nobel and be free from the army, but do it before your 45th birthday as the Nobel is worthless after that.
4)      “the eldest or the only child of deceased parents who has at least one child who is unfit for work.” Being mentally retarded fits into this category. Preferrably if both of you are. This includes the father’s wife as well. If your wife drives your kid crazy then he is free from the army and will thank her later on in life.
5)      “the widowed father of at least one living minor unfit for work.”  Or, father of a crazy brat.
6)      “the father of 3 living brats.”
7)      If you’re dead, but there is a penalty involved here.


Believe it or not, you can fulfill your army duty in installments which are without interest. You also get free collision insurance, for instance if your bayonet accidently pokes your fellow soldier in line. Now here is the confusion: “permanent residents abroad are eligible to fulfil their military obligations in instalments that each last at least 2 months.” So what if your duty is 3 months? No one figured that out; however they made a clause which states, “at the time of initialenlistent, (they) should declarewhen they wish to be enlisted and how long their first period of incremental service will last.” Okay, so I want to start one day before my 45th birthday or, I’ll start now in instalments of  one hour every month. What if there were a war? Your in the field all dressed up in your uniform and gun. The enemy is firing. You look at your watch and tell your fellow men, “sorry guys my one hour is up. Got to catch the plane to L.A.

Well that’s it for me but I’ll leave you with what I deem as VERY VERY IMPORTANT. I spoke with an officer in charge of recruiting Greek nationals abroad and asked him what he would say, what advice would he give to the thousands of  people reading this. He thought for a moment, took out some paper and a pen and wrote this. He asked, well rather I was ordered, not to use his name in the article.

I will try to give you a general answer to your question. As far as my experience and specialty allow, it is very important for Greeks who reside permanently abroad to get registered in Greece because this is for their benefit. They can get military service deferment as long as they live abroad, being eligible to travel in Greece whenever they want to. Consequently, they can enjoy all the civil, political and inheritance rights which many of them are so worried about. I hope my name to stay out of any announcement or publication in your web site or else, since this letter consists a handsome gesture.”

See also Information on Greek Military Obligations for Greek-Americans


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