German Citizenship by Descent

People of German descent live in numerous countries all around the world. Many of these people are interested in trying to obtain German citizenship. If you were born to German parents, you may be eligible for German citizenship by descent, even if you were not born in Germany.

However, the rules of German citizenship are complicated and vary significantly based on your individual circumstances. As such, many applicants choose to seek legal assistance with the application process. Contact Total Law today on 0333 305 9375 or send a message online, to learn more about how we can make your application as smooth as possible.

    Request a call back from our immigration experts

    German Citizenship by Descent/Ancestry: Overview

    Whether or not you are entitled to German citizenship depends on a range of factors, mostly relating to the citizenship of your parents and whether or not they were married at the time of your birth. A number of legislative changes throughout the years mean that the exact rules which apply to you will also depend on when you were born.

    You may also be eligible for citizenship through restitution if your relatives faced persecution in Germany under the Nazis, or for citizenship through declaration if you were not granted German citizenship due to historical gender-discriminatory legislative rules.

    All of these routes may be an option for you even if you were not born in Germany. However, the acquisition of German citizenship is a long process, and varies significantly based on your exact circumstances.

    EXCELLENT
    Immigration Advice Service 4.7 rating 414 reviews
    Reviews.io Logo

    Determining Eligibility for German Citizenship by Descent

    The rules for German citizenship by descent vary based on a number of factors. One of the main factors is whether or not your parents were married at the time of your birth.

    The specific rules are as follows:

    Born to Married Parents

    If you were born to married parents and either of the following conditions apply to you, then you likely acquired German citizenship automatically at the time of your birth:

    • Your father had German citizenship when you were born
    • Your mother had German citizenship when you were born, and you were born on or after 1st January 1975

    However, if the following applies, you likely did not automatically acquire German citizenship at birth (though you may still be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation):

    • Your mother had German citizenship when you were born, and you were born before 1st January 1975

    Born to Unmarried Parents

    If your parents were unmarried at the time of your birth, the rules are slightly different. It is likely that you are automatically a German citizen at birth if either of the following apply:

    • Your mother had German citizenship when you were born
    • Your legal father had German citizenship when you were born, and you were born on or after 1st July 1993

    However, in the following situation, it is likely that you do not have automatic German citizenship (though citizenship through naturalisation may still be an option):

    • Your legal father was a German when you were born, and you were born before 30th June 1993

    German Citizenship By Declaration

    If you were born to a German parent after 23rd May 1949, it is possible that you were deprived of German citizenship on gender-discriminatory grounds. This is because the rules differed for how citizenship was passed down from German men versus German women. As the law no longer permits discrimination on grounds of gender, it may now be possible for people who were denied German citizenship in the past to claim it.

    If any of the following circumstances apply to you, you may be eligible for German citizenship through the declaration route:

    • You were born after 23rd May 1949 to a German parent and you did not automatically acquire German citizenship at the time of your birth (e.g because you were born out of wedlock to a German mother and a non-German father)
    • You were born after 23rd May 1949 to a previously German mother who had lost her German citizenship on account of marrying a non-German citizen, based on the old version of the Reich and Nationality Act
    • You were born after 23rd May 1949 and lost the German nationality which you otherwise acquired at birth due to legitimisation initiated by a foreign citizen, under the old version of the Reich and Nationality Act
    • The descendants of the children to whom any of the above apply may also be eligible for German citizenship under this route

    This route is expected to be available until 2031. It is not guaranteed that it will still be possible to get citizenship through declaration after that point.

    How To Apply For German Citizenship by Descent

    The exact process for applying for German citizenship by descent will depend on whether or not you are in Germany. If you are in Germany, you will need to submit your application to the German Federal Office of Administration. If you are outside of Germany, you should apply to the local German consular services in your home country.

    Once you have submitted your documents to the relevant authority, your case will then be considered. You may also be asked to provide additional evidence, if the documents which you provided are deemed to be insufficient to prove your claim to German citizenship by descent.

    If your application is successful, you will then receive a certificate of confirmation.

    Once you have been granted German citizenship, you will then be eligible to apply for a German passport. This will also grant you membership of the EU and the associated right to work, travel, and study throughout the EU member states.

    Documents Required for German Citizenship by Descent

    The specific documents required for applying for German citizenship by descent vary according to your particular circumstances. However, you will generally need to provide a combination of the following documents:

    • Birth certificate
    • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
    • Birth certificate(s) of your German ancestor(s)
    • A copy of your criminal record
    • Family books/records which demonstrate your family history
    • Any other documents which you think may aid with your application, e.g. evidence of the persecution under Nazi rule which your ancestor(s) faced (if applicable)

    Note that failure to submit the right documents to the German authorities can cause delays to your application.

    For a streamline application process, reach out to us for your German citizenship case. Contact Us

      Request a call back from our immigration experts

      How Long Does It Take to Get German Citizenship by Descent?

      The exact waiting time for German citizenship varies based on a number of factors, such as how many other applications are also being processed at the same time and whether or not you submit all of the right documents to the relevant German authorities.

      However, generally speaking, the processing time of an application for German citizenship through descent takes 2 to 3 years. Note that you do not need to have been continuously and legally living in Germany when you apply, unlike with German citizenship through naturalisation.

      In order to minimise the length of your application, make sure to submit all of the required documents promptly and correctly. You may also choose to seek legal assistance in order to ensure that your application runs as smoothly as possible. Contact Total Law on 0333 305 9375 to learn more about how we can help you with this.

      Application Cost for German Citizenship by Descent

      There is not an application fee associated with applying for German citizenship through descent. However, you may be required to pay to have your official documents translated into German.

      Additionally, you may have to pay to get copies of your official documents notarised, as only the originals or notarised copies are accepted by the German authorities.

      You may also choose to obtain legal assistance in order to aid with your application. This is especially common with German citizenship applications as the rules are often complex and confusing. Contact Total Law today on 0333 305 9375 to learn more about how we can help you with this.

      Other Ways To Become A German Citizen

      There are also a number of other routes to German citizenship, besides citizenship through descent.

      One route is German citizenship through adoption. If you were adopted when you were under 18 by a German citizen, and the adoption took place on or after 1st January 1977, you automatically have German citizenship.

      If you were a citizen of the former German Democratic Republic, you are also likely to automatically be a German citizen. It is also possible that, if you are a German minority living in central or eastern Europe, you gained German citizenship during World War 2.

      Another path to German citizenship is through restitution. Specifically, if you have an ancestor who experienced persecution in Germany between 1933-1945, when the country was under Nazi leadership, you may be eligible for citizenship through restitution. This persecution may have been due to a variety of factors, including religion, nationality, sexuality, or disability.

      Examples of when this route may be applicable to you include if you have a relative who lost their German citizenship or who never claimed it in the first place, due to persecution under the Nazis. You may also be eligible if you have an ancestor who was not themselves German but who resided in Germany and was forced to flee due to experiencing persecution.

      You can also apply for German citizenship through naturalisation. This will generally involve residing legally and continuously in Germany for at least 8 years, although there are some exceptions. If you complete an integration course, for example, you may be able to naturalise after 7 years. If you have refugee status, you may also be able to naturalise sooner.

      You may also be able to naturalise sooner if you are married to a German citizen. Note that German citizenship through naturalisation requires sufficient proficiency in the German language and official agreement with the German constitution, the ‘Basic Law’.

      We can provide expert legal help with your immigration application. Contact Us

        Request a call back from our immigration experts

        How Can Total Law Help?

        There are people of German descent living all over the world, many of whom may be interested in trying to obtain German citizenship. Germany is a country which offers many benefits, including easy access to the rest of the EU, numerous areas of natural beauty, and a thriving economy. It is a peaceful country with a rich culture As such, many people of German descent seek to claim their German heritage and obtain German citizenship.

        However, the process of obtaining German citizenship is complex and can often be very confusing. As such, many applicants choose to seek legal assistance with their application. At Total Law, we have many years of experience in providing assistance with cases exactly like this. We can help with every stage of the application, including finding out which route is right for you and helping you to locate the necessary documents.

        Contact us today on 0333 305 9375 or message us online, to learn more about our services and to receive bespoke legal advice.

        Advice Package icon

        Advice Package

        Comprehensive immigration advice tailored to your circumstances and goals.

        Application Package icon

        Application Package

        Designed to make your visa application as smooth and stress-free as possible.

        Fast Track Package icon

        Fast Track Package

        Premium application service that ensures your visa application is submitted to meet your deadline.

        Appeal Package icon

        Appeal Package

        Ensure you have the greatest chance of a successful appeal. We will represent you in any case.

        Advice Package image

        The Advice Package

        During this untimed Advice Session with our professional immigration lawyers in London, you will receive our comprehensive advice, completely tailored to your needs and your situation.

          Request a call back from our immigration experts

          Request the Advice Package
          Application Package image

          The Application Package

          With our Application Package, your dedicated immigration lawyer will advise you on your application process and eligibility. Your caseworker will then complete and submit your forms to the Home Office on your behalf.

            Request a call back from our immigration experts

            Request the Application Package
            Fast Track Package image

            The Fast Track Package

            Our Fast-Track Application Package is a premium service for those who need to submit their application in time with their deadlines. Your case will become a top priority for our lawyers and you will benefit from our highest-quality services.

              Request a call back from our immigration experts

              Request the Fast Track Package
              Appeal Package image

              The Appeal Package

              By choosing our Appeal Package, you can rely on our lawyers’ legal knowledge and experience to ensure you have the highest chance of a successful appeal. We will also fully represent you in any hearings/tribunals.

                Request a call back from our immigration experts

                Request the Appeal Package

                We offer immigration advice sessions as face to face appointments at all of our UK offices, or via the phone. Learn more

                  Request a call back from our immigration experts

                  Related pages for your continued reading.

                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  In some respects, it may be considered easier to get German citizenship through descent. This is because your eligibility is primarily determined by your ancestry, rather than how long you have lived in the country for, for example. If you satisfy the eligibility criteria, you are therefore likely to experience a streamlined path to citizenship.

                  On the other hand, German citizenship through descent is not an option for everyone, in which case citizenship through naturalisation may be the best option.

                  In either case, it is essential to make sure that you apply for citizenship with all of the necessary documentation in order to ensure that your application runs as smoothly as possible.

                  If you are entitled to German citizenship through descent, you will likely not be required to have proficiency in the German language. This is because you are automatically entitled to German citizenship. It is also not necessary that you have lived in Germany before applying for German citizenship, or that you were born in Germany.

                  If you wish to gain German citizenship through naturalisation, on the other hand, you will likely need to meet a minimum threshold of German proficiency. This is because the ability to speak German is considered an important part of integration into German life.

                  You will need to provide ancestry records for your relevant German relatives. For example, you should try to provide birth certificates for your relevant family members, or family records which demonstrate your relation to your German ancestor. The more evidence which you are able to provide, the more likely it is that your application will be successful.

                  German citizenship through descent is primarily decided by the nationality of your parents. However, if your great-grandparents passed their German citizenship down to your parent(s), you will likely be eligible for German citizenship through descent. However, if your great-grandparents are German and your parents are not, you are very unlikely to be granted German citizenship through descent.