German Citizenship by Birth

German citizenship rights are based on the ‘principle of descent’, which means individuals inherit their right to nationality through a German parent, as opposed to having it automatically granted by born on German soil. If not born in Germany to two German parents, there is an application process to go through to be granted with German citizenship.

Total Law specialise in the legalities of immigration, visas and residency permit permissions. Our team can help guide you through the application process to obtain German nationality – call us today on (+44)333 305 9375 to learn more.

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    German citizenship by birth: the basics

    Acquiring German citizenship through birthright is based on ‘the principle of descent’. This implies that German citizenship is inherited through at least one birth parent who already holds it.

    The rules for German citizenship inheritance in this manner changed in 2000. German parents born on or after January 1st 2000 in any state outside of Germany are no longer able to automatically pass on their citizenship status if they too are born outside of the country. However, since this date, children born on German soil to non-German parents may acquire German citizenship at the time of birth providing at least one parent has been resident in the country for at least eight years (and holds the right to permanent residence, or are undergoing the process to receive it).

    The criteria for obtaining German citizenship as a birthright varies somewhat dependent on the place of birth and citizenship status of the parents.

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    Becoming a German citizen: eligibility criteria

    Historically, German citizenship was based on the principle of birthplace, and so the eligibility criteria for an individual to receive it (either automatically or through application) has changed over the years. As of January 2023, German citizenship may be obtained at birth through:

    Birth to parents legally wed

    Between January 1st 1914 and December 31st 1974, children inherited automatic citizenship if their father was a German citizen at the time of their birth. If their mother was German but their father was not, they would also automatically gain German nationality; unless they acquire the other.

    Since 1st January 1975, children automatically gain citizenship if either of their parents is a German citizen at the time of their birth.

    If a child is born overseas to a German parent who was also born abroad after January 1st 2000, they may be granted citizenship provided their birth is registered with a German foreign mission within a year. The entitlement to obtain citizenship by birth is lost after this time period expires.

    Birth to parents not legally wed

    Since January 1st 1914, any child born out of wedlock to a German mother automatically acquires this citizenship at first. The same applies for fathers, but only for those born since July 1st 1992 and where the paternity has been established in accordance with German law. This may require an accredited paternity test to be carried out.

    If a child is born outside of Germany to a parent who was also born outside of Germany after January 1st 2000, the same requirement applies if their parents were married – and their birth must be registered with a German foreign mission within a one year period.

    Birth via legitimation

    Where children were born to a German father but non-German mother, between 1914 and June 30th 1993, and the parents were not legally married, they may have acquired citizenship through ‘legitimisation’. This is where their parents later legally married; then providing them with the same right to nationality as if their parents had been wed.

    Birth via adoption by a German parent

    Where children were adopted by a German parent between January 1st 1959 and December 31st 1976, they were entitled to apply for citizenship through declaration. However, the deadline for such applications was December 31st 1979 so has long since passed.

    Since January 1st 1977, any adoption of a minor by one or more German parents may obtain citizenship as long as the adoption is legally recognised by German and EU law.

    Birth to non-German parents in Germany

    The principle of birthplace does still apply in some circumstances, but the criteria is a little more nuanced.

    Where a child was born on German soil to parents who did not hold citizenship prior to January 1st 2000, there is and was no route to citizenship. However, since then, they may be eligible to apply providing that:

    • At least one parent has lived legally in Germany for eight years or longer
    • That parent has had a valid appropriate residence permit for that period
    • That parent has the right of permanent residence in Germany (even if they are still undergoing the application process to obtain it).

    It is very rare that exceptions are made to the eligibility criteria, but there have been cases where it is overturned for newly discovered parentage. If your situation is complex and requires specialist intervention, call Total Law for advice on (+44)333 305 9375.

    Registering an overseas birth at a German foreign mission

    Where the birth of a child overseas has taken place and the parentage of them makes them eligible for German citizenship, the birth must be registered at a foreign mission. The process for this usually works as following:

    Locate local German diplomatic mission

    Germany boasts one of the largest overseas diplomatic missions in the world with Embassies and Consulates in most countries worldwide. A quick online search can locate the applicant’s nearest.

    Contact local mission

    The applicant should contact their local diplomatic mission to explain the situation and book a citizenship application appointment. However, where there is not such a facility in the applicant’s state, they may contact the nearest geographically and seek advice. In some cases, they may be able to attend another country’s Embassy or Consulate, and in others, they may attend a different mission facility.

    Collate supporting documents

    The diplomatic mission will supply a list of required documents to demonstrate the applicant’s eligibility for German citizenship. This will include proof of parentage and proof of the parent/s’ nationality. All documents should be collected ahead of the application appointment and if not already in German or English, should be translated accordingly.

    Attend appointment

    The application appointment must be attended by the parents and child unless a special dispensation has been made. Usually lasting around an hour, a member of the mission’s staff will audit the application and all supporting documents and file the application for processing.

    Receive decision

    In most cases, the decision to grant citizenship is a swift one based purely on eligibility criteria being met. However, if the circumstances are more complex, it may take up to two years to receive a decisive decision – with further documents and information requested by immigration authorities throughout this period. If the family moves to Germany within this period they should notify authorities, who will amend their contact detail records accordingly.

    If citizenship is granted, the applicant’s parents may choose to attend a formal citizenship ceremony; but this is not usually the case where the recipient is a minor. Once citizenship has been confirmed, the parent/s are then free to apply for a German passport on behalf of their child.

    For a quick application procedure, reach out to us for your German citizenship by birth. Contact Us

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      Supporting documents for a German citizenship application

      Where a child is automatically entitled to German nationality and their birth is registered in Germany, there is no need to undergo a full application process for citizenship. Where this isn’t applicable, the following documents should be supplied at the application appointment:

      • The child’s birth certificate
      • Copies of the parents’ German passport/s at the time of birth
      • Copies of the grandparents’ German passport/s at the time of birth
      • (If applicable) A copy of the parents’ marriage certificate
      • (If applicable) A copy of the grandparents’ marriage certificate
      • (If applicable) A copy of the parents’ certificate of naturalisation
      • (If applicable) All valid adoption documents.

      It is common for immigration authorities to request further documents on applicants throughout the citizenship application process. Such documents must be provided if the application is to be processed further.

      German citizenship entitlement by birth: the application process

      Applying for German citizenship is a long and very involved process. While different in every case, the standard process is as follows:

      Contact expert lawyer

      It is always recommended that applicants have specialist legal support throughout the citizenship application process. Total Law can help, no matter how big or small the job ahead. Call our office on  (+44)333 305 9375 to discuss.

      Collect supporting documents

      All supporting documentation may be on-hand and ready for the application as it will not be processed without it. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to supply as much as possible to demonstrate eligibility – better to provide too much than too little, which will lead to delays. All documents must be translated (by an accredited translator) into German if they are not already.

      Complete application form

      Your lawyer will be able to provide you with details on the relevant route for application and help you complete the application form. This is usually done online, and the application fee (€55 for minors) is payable at this point. Copies of the supporting documents are attached and sent virtually along with the application.

      Attend interview

      While in most cases German citizenship by birth cases are being made on behalf of a child, if the applicant is older (usually 16+), they may be required to attend an interview at a local authority office.

      Await processing

      The relevant authorities will process the application, which may take several months.

      Receive citizenship certificate

      If citizenship is successfully granted, a German citizenship certificate will be either sent by post or provided in person at an appointment at the local authority. With this certificate, citizenship is proved and a German passport may be applied for.

      Regarding your German citizenship by birth, we may offer you professional legal assistance. Contact Us

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        How can Total Law help?

        Citizenship applications are lengthy, costly and complex: and when you’ve just had a baby, life is already hectic. The Total Law team guide families through the citizenship process to help maximise their chances of success, ease their stress and help them settle either in Germany or overseas.

        We aim to always communicate jargon-free and never to accommodate hidden fees or unnecessary admin costs. Call the Total Law office today for a free chat with no obligation to proceed on (+44)333 305 9375. Our knowledgeable team of specialist lawyers will take you through the process step-by-step.

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                  Related pages for your continued reading.

                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  Exemptions are made for those displaced by the German Nazi regime or who had their citizenship revoked during WWII. Specialist legal advice should be sought.

                  Germany recognises dual citizenship but not all other countries do. As a rule, Germany prioritises those taking its nationality as a primary or sole one.

                  Citizenship applications can take up to several years to be granted. Applicants should note the process pauses every time that additional information is requested, until such time as it is received.

                  Refugees are usually granted residency in Germany and may be fast-tracked for citizenship themselves. Legal advice should be sought by applicants, particularly where there is no recourse for the child to obtain the nationality of their technical ‘home’ country.