Becoming a German Citizen by Naturalisation: Overview
If you were not born in Germany but have lived in the country for a number of years, it may still be possible for you to obtain German citizenship. This is known as citizenship by naturalisation.
Generally, you will need to have legally lived in Germany for at least 8 years in order to be eligible. However, there are some exceptions, for example if you are married to a German citizen or if you have official refugee status.
In many cases, you will have to relinquish your current citizenship in order to naturalise. You will also have to give your agreement to Germany’s constitution, the ‘Basic Law’, and demonstrate sufficient proficiency in the German language.
- Becoming a German Citizen by Naturalisation: Overview
- Eligibility and Conditions for Naturalisation
- German Citizenship by Naturalisation: Application Process
- Which Documents Will I Require?
- Early Naturalisation for Spouses of German Citizens
- Naturalising in Under 8 Years: Other Exceptions
- Rejection of German Citizenship by Naturalisation
- Application Fee for Naturalisation
- Processing Time for German Citizenship by Naturalisation
- The Naturalisation Test
- How Can Total Law Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Eligibility and Conditions for Naturalisation
You may be eligible for German citizenship by naturalisation if you satisfy the following eligibility criteria:
- You have legally resided in Germany for at least 8 years
- You have already been granted indefinite right of residence in Germany or a limited residence permit that is eligible for conversion into an indefinite residence title.
- You have sufficient financial means to support yourself and any dependents without reliance on welfare benefits. You would satisfy this condition if you hold sufficient paid employment at the time of application, for example
- You have sufficient proficiency in the German language. Specifically, you must have written and oral German skills of at least the B1 level, according to the Common European Framework of Reference. It is also possible to satisfy this condition if you have either a school-leaving certificate from a German school or a German vocational training diploma/university degree
- You have passed the German naturalisation test. More information is given on this test later in the article. Note that, if you have either a German school-leaving certificate or a German degree in law, social science, or political science, you are unlikely to need to complete the naturalisation test requirement
- You have a clean criminal record
- You accept the German constitution, known as the ‘Basic Law’. You will need to confirm that you accept the Basic Law both orally and in writing
- In most cases, Germany does not allow dual nationality, and so you will be required to give up your current nationality. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, for example if you are from another EU state or from Switzerland. There are also exceptions in place for Morocco, Iran, and Algeria, which generally do not allow their citizens to relinquish their citizenship
Note that the naturalisation authorities are also able to decide certain cases on a discretionary basis, for example with underage children and the spouses of migrants who are themselves entitled to naturalise. In such cases, the naturalisation authorities may grant citizenship status before the usual 8 years of residence have passed.
German Citizenship by Naturalisation: Application Process
There are a number of steps which you must complete in order to apply for German citizenship by naturalisation.
Firstly, you will need to write to the naturalisation authorities. They will advise on your case and will provide you with an application form. You will need to return this form to the naturalisation authorities, alongside the other necessary documents. You will also be required to pay the naturalisation fee.
Your application will now be processed. If the application is successful, you will receive a notification from the naturalisation authorities in which they list your next steps. These will vary based on the federal state in which you live. In some cases, you will have to take steps to renounce your current citizenship. You will be provided with an assurance of naturalisation which you can send to your home consulate or embassy in order to carry out renunciation of your previous citizenship.
Once this condition has been satisfied, you will receive a naturalisation certificate. This will either be given to you directly or presented at a naturalisation ceremony. Once you receive this certificate, you are officially a German citizen.
When German citizenship status has officially been granted, you will then be eligible for a German identity card and a German passport. These are issued by your local Residents’ Registration Office. You will be expected to possess at least one of these documents in order to prove your identity. These documents generally take a few weeks to be processed.
Which Documents Will I Require?
The exact documents which are required for your citizenship application will depend on your grounds for applying for naturalisation in the first place. However, as a rule, you will require a combination of the following documents:
- Valid passport
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Children’s birth certificates (if applicable)
- Naturalisation application, completed by hand
- Valid residence permit
- Contract of employment
- Proof of income, e.g. monthly pay slips
- Confirmation from your employer
- School-leavers certificate from German school (if applicable)
- Diploma from a German vocational training institution and/or a degree certificate from a German university (if applicable)
- Declaration of loyalty to the German state
- Test results proving sufficient German language proficiency
- Proof of address, e.g. rental agreement, landlord confirmation, etc.
- Clean criminal record
- Proof that you are not currently receiving welfare benefits from the German state
Early Naturalisation for Spouses of German Citizens
If you are married to a German citizen, you may be eligible to naturalise sooner than after the usual minimum of 8 years. In order to be eligible for this exception, you must satisfy the following criteria:
- You have been legally residing in Germany for at least 3 years
- You have been married to a German citizen for at least 2 years
- You possess a valid passport (or equivalent document)
- You have accommodation in Germany
- You must be neither entitled to received welfare benefits nor currently receiving welfare benefits
- You have German language proficiency to a minimum of the B1 level
- You have passed the German naturalisation test
- You have a clean criminal record
- You have accepted Germany’s ‘Basic Law’ before the Naturalisation Office, both verbally and in writing
- In most cases, you will also need to relinquish your previous citizenship. There are some exceptions, however, for example if you are currently a citizen of another EU state
Naturalising in Under 8 Years: Other Exceptions
Other than being married to a German spouse, there are a number of other exceptions in which it may be possible for you to naturalise after living in Germany for under 8 years. These exceptions are as follows:
- It may be possible to naturalise after 7 years if you have completed Germany’s integration course
- It may be possible to integrate after 6 years if you are deemed to be very well integrated, e.g. if you speak fluent German, or have been a volunteer in Germany for a number of years
- If you apply at the same time as your spouse and children, this can also shorten the wait time
- If you are an asylum seeker, have been granted refugee status, or are a stateless individual, it may be possible for you to naturalise after 6 years. In this case, you will need to obtain approval from the relevant naturalisation authorities
Rejection of German Citizenship by Naturalisation
There are a number of reasons why your application for German citizenship by naturalisation might be rejected. One of the most common reasons is incomplete submission of the necessary documents, for example if you do not possess all of the required documents in the first place. Your application may also be unsuccessful if you are not able to provide adequate proof of your ability to financially support yourself and any dependents, or if you do not satisfy the German language requirement.
If your application for German citizenship by naturalisation is rejected, you have the option of appealing against the decision. The exact process for doing so varies according to the federal state in which you live. In some states, for example, the process involves filing a lawsuit against the deciding authority.
Alternatively, you may choose to submit a new application for citizenship. In such cases, it is advised that you seek legal representation in order to help with your re-submission. This is because your re-submission will likely be processed by the same deciding authority which rejected your original application, and so seeking legal representation can help to avoid a repeat rejection. Contact Total Law on (+44) 333 305 9375 to learn more about how we can help you with this.
Application Fee for Naturalisation
The fee for German citizenship by naturalisation is generally €255. If your children are applying for naturalisation with you, the fee for their application will be €51 each, or €255 if only one child is applying.
It may sometimes be possible to waive this fee, for example if you have a low income or are naturalising a high number of children at the same time.
You may also choose to pay for legal assistance in order to help with your application. Contact Total Law on (+44) 333 305 9375 to learn more about how we can assist you.
Processing Time for German Citizenship by Naturalisation
The exact processing time for German citizenship by naturalisation varies on a case by case basis. However, it can take several months for an application to be processed. Your local naturalisation authority can advise you on how long the application is likely to take in your particular case.
You can minimise the processing time of your application by ensuring that you correctly submit all necessary documents to the naturalisation authority.
The Naturalisation Test
The naturalisation test is used to determine whether or not applicants have sufficient legal and cultural knowledge of Germany.
The test has 33 questions, 3 of which relate to the particular federal state in which the applicant lives. The questions are multiple choice. In order to pass, the test-taker must answer at least 17 of the 33 questions correctly. The success rate is currently over 90%, as of 2023.
Certain people are exempt from having to take this test, for example if they are under 16 or are unable to take it due to disability, illness, or old age. If you received a school-leavers certificate from a German school or a German degree in law, social science, or political science, you are also unlikely to need to take the test.
There is a sample test available on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
How can Total Law Help?
Germany is a popular choice for those looking to settle in the EU. It offers many advantages, such as numerous areas of natural beauty, a thriving economy, and a peaceful environment in which to raise children. It also offers easy travel access to the other EU states. As such, it is a popular choice for foreign nationals looking to settle in Europe.
However, the German citizenship rules are complicated and difficult to navigate. As such, many people who are looking to apply for German citizenship through naturalisation choose to seek legal assistance with their application. At Total Law, we have many years of experience in providing advice on cases exactly like this. Contact us today on (+44) 333 305 9375 to learn more about how we can help.
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Generally speaking, you will need to provide evidence that you have passed a language exam at a minimum of the B1 standard. However, there are certain circumstances in which you will likely not need to do so. These include if you graduated from a German school, have a degree from a German university or a diploma from a German vocational training programme, or if you have a chronic disability or illness which prevents you from taking the test.
In most cases, you will need to have legally resided in Germany for at least 8 years in order to be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation. There are some exceptions to this rule, which are outlined in the article.
Once you submit your application, it can take several months for it to be processed. You can minimise the time which your application takes to process by making sure to submit all of the required documents correctly and promptly.
Yes, there are some situations in which it is possible for your German citizenship to be revoked. These include if you yourself revoke your German citizenship, if you are adopted by a foreign citizen, if you join the armed forces of another state of which you’re also a citizen without the permission of the German authorities, or if you acquire another nationality which is not compatible with German dual citizenship.