by Markus Stolz

Spelling
regulations #2

byMarkus Stolz
January 22, 2010, 12 Comments

Two days ago I wrote about our experience in obtaining a Greek passport for our daughter. The Greek authorities use the Greek spelling from the birth certificate and then translate this phonetically into Latin characters. In our case this led to a “new” Latin name – STOLZ became STOLTS. You can read about it here.

Yesterday I received an email by the Embassy Counsellor of Economy and Trade for the Greek embassy in Berlin! He pointed me to a provision in the law stating that if a person with a foreign last name is already known with a spelling other than the one that the transliteration rules provides, then documents proving that claim can be submitted and the new Greek passport will then bear that name.

He also kindly sent me the ministerial decree mentioning several aspects regarding the issuance of passports, pointed me to the relevant pages, and advised me on the best action to take. In addition, we had a lively exchange of thoughts about the promotion of Greek wines abroad.

I am impressed by the actions of the Embassy Counsellor. He read my blog and responded, investing time and energy to help. This is very generous and moving. He obviously shares my motto “listen, engage, share”. I am sure he would make one hell of a blogger.  Fittingly enough, his first name is Dionyssis, who in Greek methodology is the god of wine.

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  1. katJanuary 22, 2010, 9:12 pm

    You should ask him if his name is Dionysus, Dionysios, Ntionisios or Dio. ;)

    But I am very impressed he read your blog and offered you the documentation. I have a name with a W and a G; I won’t tell the story as it does not have a happy ending and leaves me with passports and papers with all sorts of spellings that aren’t my name.

  2. ChristinaJanuary 25, 2010, 10:15 am

    Impressive! Good to hear that there are some people that actually do know what the law says (which in this case makes total sense!). It is unfortunate that the people who SHOULD know and is their job, don’t…
    Btw Markus, I want the decree, the provision, everything… :-)

  3. lopiJanuary 30, 2010, 12:02 am

    In high-school, my english language teacher’s surname – a lovely Englishman from Wales – was Heath. The authorities had translated it in greek as “Χηθ” and when he applied for his son’s passport they spelled it “Chith”. He fought that decision and managed to get it spelled correctly, but go figure…

  4. elloinosJanuary 30, 2010, 12:08 am

    Lopi :) what can I say – “Chith” might be the perfect example of what can happen to your good name. I hope readers don’t think we make this up.

  5. Matthew ConnaughtonFebruary 1, 2010, 5:48 pm

    A good end to a potentially bad-ending story. Its surprising how many people don’t get the help you did simply because they don’t know the language or haven’t used certified translation.

  6. VasilioAugust 9, 2011, 4:43 am

    I have the same problem . A couple of years ago, thru the mercy of a nice embassy employee, I succeeded in changing my latin name to Vasilio. Like is written in my South American Passport. This time, When I was renewing I told them If they could fix it again. They made me feel a letter(actually they did), got some copies of my id,passport. But after a month they said they couldn´t change my name. Now my name according to their system is going to be Vasileios instead of Vasilio. Which can be a problem when traveling since passport name should match ticket name. Need Help. How do I go about it?

  7. ChristinaOctober 3, 2011, 11:36 am

    Hi, I just renewed my Greek passport and now have the same problem; my surname is no longer spelled as in my previous passport. I live in The Netherlands and have all my local registration papers for taxes, bank, city registration etc registered in the old spelling. Even my marriage certificate was issued in the old spelling.

    I would appreciate it if you could share with me in detail the information that was given to you to resolve the new Latin spelling of surnames; the provision in the law, the ministerial decree etc.

    Thanks in advance and best regards
    Christina

  8. georgeNovember 13, 2011, 10:27 pm

    Like Vasilio and Christina, in our family, the spelling of our names (last and first names) has been changed. We are planning on suing as we can see no other recourse at this point.

    I would recommend most of you do the same.

  9. Nicolas (NIKOLAOS??)December 15, 2011, 9:40 pm

    Same problem with me, after they had issued for 50 years passports with the name Nicolas (on their own initiative), now they want to change it to Nikolaos. Italian authorities where I live tell me I am not the same person for which they had issued residence permits, my house in Rome is owned by Nicolas, not Nikolaos, etc, etc. MORE: my daughters, born in Rome, were registered under my surname (as Italian law prescribes) in the masculine form. They have all their education titles, social security, etc, etc and all Greek passports so far under this surname. Now, they want to change the surname to the genitive form (eg PAPADOPOULOU rather than PAPADOPOULOS), which will work havoc with their lives. WHAT MORE CAN I SAY? ordinary madness, WE ARE AT THE MOMENT STATELESS WITHOUT PASSPORTS. Help……

  10. JeremyMarch 26, 2012, 6:55 pm

    The accepted procedure is to get the English/German passport issued first. Then present the foreign passport to the Greek passport office (for northern suburbs it is in Marousi) and they will accept the latin spelling from the foreign passports without question since you are indeed foreign. Before 2004 this was a problem but now it is not. I’ve lived (and worked) in Athens since 1994. If you prepare your paperwork beforehand and don’t let relatives and friends scare you into believing that you will have a problem then you will rarely have a problem. I found the police at the Aliens department in Marousi extremely helpful. You will even find that they are available during convenient hours to accept passport applications.

  11. ΔημήτρηςApril 8, 2014, 1:33 am

    Hi Markus. By total accident I discovered your blog (I was searching something completely else but the search engine include your site as well). I am greek and my wife is from Hungary so I know how messed up are the situations concerning the names. Because I search a bit the matter a long time ago (when I had simiral problems) I’ll tell you my findings from my expperience: A long time ago a question raised about how a greek name could be written in official documents with latin letters in order to be valid abroad. After a lot of debate and mistakes (because every authority were wrote a greek name to latin character as it was better suited in the clerk thought process), it was desided to adopt a transliteration standard that provided by the “Hellenic Organization for Standardization” called ELOT-743 (1982). That was indented ONLY for greek names with greek letters to be possible to transofrmed to latin characters in order for every authority who issues an official document to follow a common procedure of transliteration. but the most important thing here is that this procedure is not reversible. That means that once the greek name transformed to latin characters, there is no way to write it back to greek characters correctly. The adoption of the standard became a law (1983) and it is used since. This law being a bit naive doesn’t take into account what you now face: Even today there is not a common way (or any way at all) of a name of a latin or other origin to be transofrmed to greek letters exactly. This is due to the several differences between greek and the language of origin. The best suited solution is to transform the non-greek name phonetically to greek so it will make sense and be correct according to the greek language. Now this is a problem. Because now you have a greek name and only ONE official way to transliterate it to latin: ELOT-743. See, that’s why, I considered the law to be naive. It didn’t -ever- take into account that that latin names are to stay as they were originally (after the greek transformation). What can I say? It is a mess still…