German Citizenship

You can acquire German citizenship via different routes like naturalisation, birth, and descent. However, you must meet the stringent requirements for German citizenship to qualify.

To learn more about German citizenship and find out if you qualify, speak to one of our German immigration experts. We can always help you in person, over the phone, or online. Call us at (+44)333 305 9375 or contact us online for immediate assistance.

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    Introduction to German Citizenship

    Due to Germany’s stable economy, social infrastructure, and abundant employment opportunities, most foreign nationals who come to Germany aim to become citizens eventually. And though foreigners can take on German citizenship, the legal procedure for obtaining German citizenship is quite complicated. The requirements are also stringent.

    However, the benefits of German citizenship far outweigh the stress involved in the process, which is why the demand remains high. German citizenship grants you:

    • The right to vote in Germany and the European Parliament.
    • The right to work in Germany’s civil service.
    • Freedom of movement within the European Union and the right to live and work in any EU member state without a residence permit.
    • Freedom from certain administrative obligations (no more visits to the immigration office).
    • Unrestricted access to the German labour market.
    • Right to consular protection.
    • The right to a German passport, which affords you visa-free travel to over 180 countries.

    As a German citizen, you’ll be required to fulfil specific duties and obligations, such as integration into German society, obedience to German laws, and, where necessary, military service.

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    How To Get German Citizenship

    The most popular routes to obtaining German citizenship are through:

    1. Naturalisation.
    2. Principle of parentage (right of blood).
    3. Principle of birthplace (right of soil).

    Each of these citizenship routes has its specific eligibility criteria and requirements. And because German citizenship laws are generally complex, you’ll need professional assistance when applying for citizenship. Total Law Germany immigration experts can help you determine the right citizenship pathway and guide you through the complex procedures. You can call us at (+44)333 305 9375 or contact us online.

    German Citizenship by Naturalisation

    Foreign nationals who have resided in Germany for a long time can apply for German citizenship by naturalisation, provided they meet the German citizenship requirements. You are eligible to apply for German citizenship if:

    • You have continuously lived in Germany for eight years.
    • You have a valid means of identity or can prove that your home country has refused to issue you one.
    • You hold a settlement permit or a residence permit leading to permanent residence.
    • You have the financial means to support yourself and any dependents and won’t be relying on social welfare.
    • You have no past criminal convictions.
    • You’re proficient in German up to B1 level or higher.
    • You have passed the German naturalisation test or have a German school-leaving certificate.
    • You formally declare your commitment (verbally and in writing) to the German Basic Law/constitution.
    • You’re ready to give up your former nationality. However, nationals of certain countries like the EU states, Switzerland, Algeria, Iran, and Morocco are allowed to keep their nationality when applying for German citizenship.

    All these requirements are mandatory for German citizenship. However, there are some exceptions to the eight-year residency requirement. You can apply for German citizenship in under eight years if you meet the following conditions.

    • You have resided in Germany for at least seven years and completed a German integration course.
    • You have lived in Germany for six years and can prove you’re well integrated into German society. You can demonstrate your integration by your ability to speak German at a B2 level or higher or by proof of long-term participation in voluntary work in Germany.
    • You’re married to a German citizen and have lived in Germany for up to three years. You must have been married for at least two years.

    Your naturalisation application will be approved once you meet all these requirements. Your application may also be approved if you receive support from the social welfare office due to:

    • A sudden loss of employment resulting from compulsory redundancies.
    • An inability to work because of participation in vocational training or child care.

    German Citizenship by Descent

    Overview

    Germany’s citizenship by descent (right of blood) grants citizenship to children of German citizens irrespective of their place of birth. Depending on when you were born, you may automatically receive German citizenship if one of your parents is German and your birth was registered with the appropriate German authorities.

    The requirements for obtaining German citizenship by descent vary for different persons due to changes in German citizenship laws over time. Your qualification for German citizenship by descent depends on two factors.

    • Your date of birth and the applicable citizenship laws at the time.
    • The marital situation of your parents.

    German Citizenship by Birth to Married Parents

    Before 1975, German citizenship was primarily obtained by paternal descent. You automatically receive German citizenship if your father was German at the time of your birth. You could not get German citizenship from your mother if you have a German mother and a father of another nationality.

    However, if only your mother were German and you were born between January 1963 and December 1974, you could receive German citizenship if you would have been stateless otherwise. There was also a possibility of obtaining German citizenship by declaration until 1978. In August 2021, the German Nationality Act reintroduced citizenship by declaration for persons born to one German parent between 1914 and 1974.

    From 1975, persons born to a German father or mother automatically received German citizenship. However, if you were born outside Germany after December 1999 and your German parent was also born outside Germany, you would not automatically receive German citizenship. You could only become a German citizen if your birth was registered with the German authorities within one year of your birth.

    German Citizenship by Birth to Unmarried Parents

    Before July 1993, a child born out of wedlock automatically received German citizenship if the mother was German. You could not receive German citizenship by birth if only your father were a German citizen when you were born. You could only obtain citizenship by legitimation if your parents got married later.

    You can receive German citizenship if born after July 1993 to at least one German parent. However, suppose only your father was German when you were born. In that case, legal paternity must have been established before you turned 23, as biological parentage is insufficient for obtaining German citizenship.

    Those born outside Germany after December 1999 to one German parent who was also born abroad are not automatically German citizens. You only qualify for German citizenship if your birth was registered with the German authorities before your first birthday.

    Persons born to at least one German parent between 1949 and July 1993 who could not receive citizenship by descent due to the citizenship laws at their birth can now apply for citizenship by declaration.

    Acquisition of German Citizenship by Declaration

    The fourth amendment of the German Nationality Act, which took effect on 20th August 2021, provides a ten-year right of declaration to qualifying persons of German descent. It allows individuals born after 1949 to a German father or mother who could not receive German citizenship due to the prevailing nationality laws at the time of their birth to obtain German citizenship by making a declaration to the competent citizenship authority.

    The following categories of persons qualify for German citizenship by declaration.

    • Persons born after 23rd May 1949 to a German parent who did not receive German nationality by birth and falls into one of these categories:
    • Children born in wedlock before 1975 to a German mother and a foreign father.
    • Children born outside wedlock before July 1993 to a German father and a foreign mother.
    • Persons born after 23rd May 1949 whose German mother lost her citizenship through marriage to a foreigner.
    • Persons born after 23rd May 1949 who lost their German nationality received at birth through legitimation – a later marriage of their German mother to their foreign father before 1st April 1953.
    • Children of the above three categories of persons.

    Unlock your German citizenship as a descendant with our assistance. Contact us for expert legal advice. Contact Us

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      German Citizenship by Birth

      You’re automatically a German citizen if you were born in Germany to a German parent or abroad to a German parent born in Germany. You may also qualify for German citizenship by birth (right of soil) if you were born in Germany to foreign parents, depending on the residence status of your parents at the time of your birth.

      If you were born to foreign parents in Germany, you’re eligible for German citizenship by birth if:

      • One of your parents had lived in Germany for at least eight years at the time of your birth.
      • One of your parents held a permanent residence permit when you were born.
      • You were born after 2nd February 1990.

      You’ll be required to choose between German citizenship and your parents’ citizenship at the age of 18. You must choose your preferred citizenship before your 23rd birthday. You’ll also have to renounce your former citizenship to assume German nationality, except when impossible.

      German Citizenship by Adoption

      Adopted foreign children of German parents may obtain German citizenship by law, depending on the prevailing nationality laws at the time of their adoption.

      Persons adopted before January 1959 would not receive German citizenship even if both adoptive parents were German citizens at the time of the adoption. The adopted child retains their original nationality.

      Persons adopted by German nationals between 1959 and 1976 would not automatically receive German citizenship. However, they could apply for citizenship by declaration and receive German citizenship until 1977.

      From 1977, adopted children of German nationals automatically received German citizenship if the appropriate German authority recognised their adoption.

      German Citizenship by Marriage

      Since 1970, Marriage to a German national does not automatically make one a German citizen. However, you can obtain German citizenship by naturalisation if you’ve married your German spouse for at least two years. You’re eligible for German citizenship through marriage if:

      • You have legally resided in Germany for at least three years.
      • You’ve been married to a German citizen for at least two years.
      • You have a good command of the German language – at least B1 level.
      • You meet other naturalisation requirements.

      You may also be required to renounce your former citizenship when taking on German nationality.

      Other Ways to Obtain German Citizenship

      Other ways of obtaining German citizenship include:

      • Legitimisation: Persons who could not obtain citizenship by descent because they were born out of wedlock to a German father and a foreign mother before 1975 can obtain citizenship by legitimation if their parents eventually got married. Legitimisation means the parents’ marriage legitimates the child and gives them the father’s German citizenship.
      • Citizenship for Ethnic German Resettlers: Descendants of Germans from the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries can obtain German citizenship once they can prove their German ancestry. You’ll be automatically granted citizenship if you are recognised as an ethnic German. However, this procedure only applies to persons born before 1993.

      Claim your rightful German citizenship, whether by birth, adoption or marriage. Contact us for expert guidance and assistance. Contact Us

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        German Dual Citizenship

        In principle, Germany does not allow dual citizenship. Therefore, foreigners who want to take on German citizenship must first renounce their current citizenship. However, exceptions are made for specific categories of persons. You do not have to give up your original citizenship if:

        • You’re an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen.
        • You have parents from the US.
        • You are an ethnic German.
        • You automatically have dual citizenship at birth – i.e., you were born after 1993 to one German parent and one foreign parent.
        • You’re a citizen of any of the states succeeding the former Soviet Union.
        • You’re a recognised refugee or asylum seeker, and your home country is still in a state of conflict.
        • You have received permission from the German authorities to retain your original citizenship.
        • Your country of origin does not permit its citizens to relinquish their citizenship.

        As of 2023, the German government is reviewing a new citizenship law to make it easier for non-EU nationals to acquire German citizenship. Once finalised, the new law will allow dual citizenship and reduce the residency requirement for citizenship from eight years to five years.

        Applying For German Citizenship

        Applying for German Citizenship by Descent

        To claim your German citizenship by descent, you will be required to submit enough supporting documents to prove your ancestry. This includes your birth certificate and that of your ancestors. You will also have to prove that you do not have any criminal convictions and that you haven’t lost your citizenship before. Once you have gathered enough supporting documents to prove your ancestry and eligibility, you can submit the documents and complete the application forms required by the Federal Office of Administration.

        Applying for German Citizenship by Birth

        If you were born in Germany to German parents, you are automatically a German citizen and need not go through any application process to claim your citizenship. However, if you were born on German soil to foreign parents, you will have to choose between a German nationality and your parent’s nationality before your 23rd birthday. You can make this decision at age 18 so far you meet the requirements. Once you’ve decided, you can submit the required form as well as your supporting documents to claim your German citizenship.

        Applying for German Citizenship by Naturalisation or Marriage

        If you meet the requirements for becoming a German citizen by naturalisation, you can apply once you’re over 16. Parents and legal guardians can apply for their children/wards under 16 years. Likewise, if you are married to a German citizen, you can apply for citizenship by naturalisation if you meet the requirements.

        You’ll apply at the naturalisation authority in your place of residence. The steps to applying for German citizenship by naturalisation are as follows:

        1. Get an application form: Collect a naturalisation application form from the responsible immigration authority where you reside. It could be the local immigration office, town council, city council, or regional district council, depending on where you live. Fill out the application and start compiling your supporting documents.
        2. Pass the naturalisation test: You must pass a German citizenship test to prove you’re ready to become a German citizen. The test consists of multiple-choice questions about German history, culture, and regulations, and you’ll receive a naturalisation test certificate if you pass the test.You may not be required to take the citizenship test if:
          • You are less than 16 years old.
          • You cannot take the test because you’re aged, sick, or disabled.
          • You studied law, politics, or social sciences at a German university.
        3. Pay the naturalisation fees: You must pay all associated fees before submitting your application. You must pay an application fee of €255 when applying for German citizenship by naturalisation. If you’re applying for dependent children, the application costs €51 for each child under 16 years. Additional costs include €25 for the naturalisation test and €25 certificate of citizenship fee.
        4. Submit your application: Submit your completed application form and supporting documents to the citizenship office. It can take up to six months to process your citizenship application.

        Obtaining German citizenship can be complex. Contact us for a hassle-free application process. Contact Us

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          Required Documents for German Citizenship Application

          When applying for German citizenship, you must provide the following documents to prove that you meet the requirements.

          • Citizenship application form.
          • Valid passport or other identity document.
          • Your residence permit.
          • Naturalisation test certificate (if applying for citizenship  by naturalisation)
          • Your birth certificate.
          • Birth certificate of your ancestors (if applying for citizenship  by descent)
          • Proof of proficiency in the German language at B1 level or higher. It could be a German language certificate, a German school leaving certificate, proof of completion of at least four years of schooling in German, or proof of completion of a German university degree or vocational training.
          • Your marriage certificate (if applicable).
          • Proof of sufficient finances to support yourself and dependents (if any). It could be bank statements, pay slips, or other financial documents.
          • Criminal record certificate.
          • Proof of payment of naturalisation fees.

          The citizenship office may request additional documents if they need more evidence. They’ll review your residence records and supporting documents to decide on your application.

          Loss and Restoration of German Citizenship

          German citizens cannot renounce their nationality to evade taxes, compulsory military service, or other obligations to Germany. However, you’ll lose your German citizenship if:

          • You obtain citizenship from another country without applying for retention of your German citizenship, or your retention application was rejected.
          • You’re adopted by a non-EU/EEA/Swiss national.
          • You have dual citizenship and voluntarily join the military service of your second country without the consent of German authorities.
          • You obtained citizenship by naturalisation, and you’re caught engaging in illegal/criminal activities.

          Regaining German Citizenship After Losing It

          You may be able to regain German citizenship if you lost it for reasons other than criminal convictions. You can apply for renaturalisation. It involves the same procedure and requirements as the standard naturalisation procedure. You may also have to renounce your current citizenship.

          You can regain German nationality if you (or your ancestors) lost your German citizenship due to denationalisation by the National Socialists. The German Basic Law grants automatic naturalisation, “restoration of citizenship,” to Nazi victims and their descendants whose German citizenship was revoked by the National Socialist Party between 1933 and 1945.

          How Total Law Can Help

          Although German citizenship has many benefits, the procedure is overly complex, thanks to Germany’s restrictive nationality laws and bureaucratic red tape. Plus, the requirements are more stringent than in other countries.

          Each of the German citizenship routes has its specific eligibility criteria and requirements. And because German citizenship laws are generally complex, seeking professional counsel is essential before starting your German citizenship application. Total Law Germany immigration experts can help you determine the right citizenship pathway and guide you through the complex procedures.

          Our legal practitioners are experts in German immigration laws. We can help you determine your eligibility for German citizenship and gather the relevant supporting documents to prove your eligibility. We’ll also guide you through the application process and review your application before you submit it to prevent mistakes that can cause the citizenship office to reject your application.

          We can help you 24/7 in person, via the phone, or online. Call us at (+44)333 305 9375 or contact us online to speak to one of our immigration lawyers and get immediate assistance with your situation.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    How fast your citizenship application is processed depends on the citizenship office in your state. It can take between a few weeks and six months from the time you submit your citizenship application.

                    Although German permanent residency grants you the freedom to live and work in Germany permanently, it does not give you the right to vote, run for office, or own a German passport, irrespective of how long you have lived in Germany. Citizenship gives you the full rights and benefits available to native Germans.

                    There are no age restrictions for obtaining German citizenship. However, children below 16 years of age cannot apply on their own. Their parents or legal guardians must apply on their behalf.