Here is something you don’t hear every day: “I dealt with Greek bureaucracy, and it was not bad at all!” Here is my story:
Back in the late 1980s, when I became a US citizen, I was under the impression that it was not legal to have two passports, so I did not renew my Greek one. Since that time I have found out that it is perfectly legitimate to have both a US and a Greek passport, and last year I decided to renew my Greek one.
The web page of the Greek Consulate General in Chicago was very helpful and explained the process and what documents I might need. My case was a bit different since I had a Greek passport that had expired about 35 years before, so I needed some clarification. I emailed the consulate, and a very helpful employee gave me more information. I then called to make an appointment and the same person was polite, informative and of great help.
I went to Chicago in October 2020; the whole process took about two hours. Not all employees were great, but none was rude or unhelpful. (I was going to say that the older employees were a bit less helpful, but I now realize that those “old” people are my age!) In any case, the whole process was short and painless.
I was informed in January of 2021 that my passport was ready and I had till June 5 to go to Chicago and get it; I made the trip back to Chicago on May 24. A couple of employees were a bit upset it took me so long (I still had 12 days before the due date), but nothing dramatic. After half an hour I had my brand-new Greek passport in hand.
Although the overall experience was good, I do have two complaints/questions, but they have nothing to do with the performance of the employees of the Greek Consulate General in Chicago. It is either a question of Greek law or government policy or maybe an issue with a European Union directive.
Why did I have to go to Chicago (twice) to get the passport? Don’t get me wrong, I love Chicago, it is a great and underappreciated American city with great museums and architecture. As an aside, I even had the opportunity in May to visit the Yannis Tsarouchis exhibit and gained a better appreciation of his art. But Chicago is 600 kilometers away from Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where I live, so it requires planning and time off from work. When I renew my US passport I complete the whole process by mail; it seems to me the Greek passport could be obtained that way as well. At a minimum, the second trip to Chicago, to pick up the passport, could have been avoided.
Another issue is the length of time the Greek passport is valid. My US passport is valid for 10 years; why is the Greek one good for only five?
Those two issues notwithstanding, I was witness to the fact that Greek bureaucracy can be, and in this case was, user-friendly. We often complain – and rightly so most of the time – about the foibles of Greek bureaucracy; if my experience was bad I would have no doubt complained as well, so I think it’s only fair now to give kudos to all the good people at the Greek Consulate General in Chicago for a job well done. I’ll see them again in five years!
John A. Mazis is a history professor at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.