German Citizenship by Descent

As a UK citizen, you can apply for German citizenship by descent if you have German ancestry. Note that citizenship by descent is not acquired automatically, and your eligibility will depend on certain factors.

For more information on acquiring German citizenship by descent and receiving bespoke advice regarding your immigration situation, speak to one of our legal advisers at 0333 305 9375.

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    Introduction to German Citizenship by Descent

    German citizenship by descent is a legal route that allows individuals with German roots to obtain citizenship, irrespective of their current nationality or country of residence. Thus, if you are a British citizen and have ancestors who were of German origin, you may be eligible for citizenship by descent.

    Getting German citizenship through descent is guided by clear rules in the law. The process can be complex and confusing, and whether or not you can claim citizenship will depend on several factors.

    First, you need to consider whether your parents or ancestors were eligible for German citizenship in the first place and remained citizens at the time of your birth. If you were born to former German citizens, you may not be eligible for citizenship by descent. However, you might be able to obtain citizenship through discretionary naturalisation or other routes.

    Your right to claim citizenship will also depend on your date of birth and whether you were born in or outside wedlock. It’s important to really understand the laws and rules involved. You should also work with an immigration lawyer to determine if you’re legally eligible for citizenship by descent before submitting an application.

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    Am I Eligible for German Citizenship by Descent?

    Under German law, you will be eligible for citizenship by descent if you meet certain conditions. These requirements centre around when you were born, which of your parents is/was a German citizen, and whether or not they were married at the time of your birth.

    Born to Married Parents

    If you were born in wedlock, you will be eligible for German citizenship by descent if you fit one of the following criteria:

    • Your father had German citizenship when you were born
    • You were born to a German mother on or after January 1 1975

    If you were born before January 1, 1975, to a German mother and foreign father, you could not obtain citizenship by descent unless you were at risk of being stateless.

    This was because, between May 23, 1949, and March 31, 1953, German women married to foreign nationals automatically lost their German citizenship and couldn’t pass such to their children.

    Even after March 1953, when marriage to foreign nationals was no longer a reason for the loss of citizenship, children from foreign fathers still couldn’t get citizenship from their mothers until 1975.

    However, amendments to the German Nationality Act provided 10 years starting on August 20 2021, during which you can obtain citizenship by declaration if you were previously ineligible due to gender imbalance.

    Born to Unmarried Parents

    If you were born out of wedlock, you will be eligible for citizenship by descent if you fit into any of the following categories:

    • Your mother was German at the time of your birth.
    • You were born after July 1 1993, and your father was a German citizen who established paternity in line with German law.

    If you were born before July 1 1993, to a German father and a foreign mother, you would only have been able to claim citizenship if your father established paternity and, at the time of your application, you were not more than 23 and had been resident in Germany for three years.

    However, under the new amendments, you can now obtain German citizenship by declaration for a 10-year period that began on August 20 2021.

    Citizenship for Descendants of Nazi Victims

    The 2021 amendments to the German Nationality Act also extended German citizenship to individuals who had theirs revoked between January 30, 1933,, and May 8, 1945,, on political, racial, or religious grounds.

    This includes those whose citizenship status was rescinded through the Eleventh Decree to the Reich Citizenship Act (which stripped citizenship from all Jews domiciled abroad on November 27 1941) or individually deprived under the 1933 Denaturalisation Act.

    The new law further extends German citizenship to their direct descendants. Therefore, if you have a parent or grandparents who lost their German nationality under Nazi rule, you may be eligible for citizenship by descent.

    German Citizenship by Declaration

    If you are of German descent but could not claim citizenship due to previous legislative gender imbalance or a status rescindment, you can now apply for citizenship by declaration in line with the new German Nationality Act.

    The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community waived certain requirements that apply to regular German citizenship applications. Under the waiver, anyone who qualifies for citizenship by declaration will not be required to meet language and residency requirements or pay application fees.

    Also, they will not be required to relinquish any previous nationality to claim German citizenship.

    It’s important to note that Germany’s citizenship by declaration came into law on August 20 2021, and is open to applicants for 10 years ending August 19 2031. If you’re eligible for citizenship through this route, it’s important to submit an application as soon as possible.

    Speak to an immigration lawyer to receive bespoke advice regarding your immigration situation. Call us at 0333 305 9375 today.

    Requirements for German Citizenship by Descent

    You will be required to submit the following documents when applying for citizenship by descent:

    • Your passport
    • Any other form of identification
    • Your parent’s German passport or identity card
    • Your birth certificate
    • Your parent’s birth certificate
    • Your parent’s marriage certificate
    • Any additional documents demonstrating your German ancestry.
    • Certificate of good conduct from the authorities in your country of residence.
    • A British police clearance certificate if you are older than 14 years.

    You must submit original and certified copies of your documents, which must be in German or English. Depending on your circumstances, the German Federal Office of Administration (BVA) will tell you if there are additional documents you need to send before they look at your application.

    Get professional help applying for German citizenship by descent from our legal team. Contact Us

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      Application Process for German Citizenship by Descent

      You can apply for German citizenship by descent at the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Edinburgh. Alternatively, you can apply at the Federal Office of Administration (BVA) in Germany.

      These are the steps you should take:

      1. Download an application form package from the BVA’s website and fill out only the ones that apply to you.
      2.  Submit the completely filled application form and your supporting documents to the German embassy or consulate in the UK or directly to BVA. You make a submission in person or via post.
      3. When the BVA receives your application, you will receive a confirmation of receipt via email or post within 3 to 6 months of your submission. The confirmation contains a file number, which you must save for future correspondence.
      4. Once the authorities have reviewed your application, you will be notified of their decision.

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

      German citizenship applications can take 2 to 3 years to process, after which you will receive your certificate of citizenship.

      To minimise the processing time, it’s important to correctly fill out your application form and submit all required supporting documents at the time of application.

      Application Fees of German Citizenship by Descent

      You do not have to pay an application fee to apply for German citizenship by descent. However, you may need to pay for notarisation, translations, mailing, or legal advice, where applicable.

      Benefits of Obtaining German Citizenship by Descent

      Once you become a German citizen, there are several benefits you can enjoy, including:

      1. Live in Germany: Acquiring German citizenship grants you the right to live in Germany without any restrictions. You also take up any kind of employment and set up a business without facing residency limitations.
      2. Visa-free travel: With your German passport, you enjoy the privilege of visa-free travel within the EU and to over 145 countries.
      3. Healthcare and education: You will have access to the country’s robust healthcare system and can benefit from quality education, including higher education, without facing the limitations imposed on non-citizens.
      4. Social benefits: You can also enjoy social benefits, including child benefit payments, family allowance, and social housing assistance if you qualify.
      5. Pass on citizenship: German citizenship obtained by descent can be passed onto future generations, providing a lasting connection to German heritage and citizenship for your family.
      6. Vote: As a German citizen, you’ll have the right to participate in national and local elections and actively contribute to the democratic process of the country.
      7. Cultural and emotional connection: In addition to practical benefits, obtaining German citizenship fosters a deep sense of identity, belonging, and connection to German heritage.

      Our specialist lawyers have the expertise to heighten your chance of obtaining German citizenship by descent. Contact Us

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        Considerations for Dual Citizenship

        Generally, anyone applying for German citizenship is required to give up their previous nationality. This is because German nationality law aims to prevent the creation of multiple nationalities as much as possible.

        However, if you obtain citizenship by declaration, you will not need to give up your current UK nationality. Similarly, if you had dual citizenship at birth, such as if you were born to a German and a foreign parent, you might be able to keep both nationalities.

        Other Ways of Obtaining Citizenship in Germany

        Besides acquiring German citizenship by descent, there are other ways you can become a German citizen, and they include:

        Citizenship by Naturalization

        If you weren’t born in Germany or have a German parent, you can become a citizen if you have resided legally in the country for 8 years. If you finish an integration course, the residency requirement could be reduced to seven years. In special cases, like if you’re proficient in German or do volunteer work, it might be lowered to six years.

        Furthermore, if you’re married to a German citizen and have been in Germany for at least two years, the residency time required for citizenship is reduced to four years. For kids under 16, they can apply for citizenship after living in Germany for three years.

        One important requirement to naturalise as a German citizen is to have an unlimited right of residence. Your residence right could be via a work visa, as an investor, through family reunification, or as a refugee.

        German citizenship by naturalisation costs €255 and €51 for each dependent joining their parent’s application. Children applying for naturalisation without their parents must pay the full €255 fee.

        Citizenship by Birth

        You are automatically a German citizen if you were born in Germany or abroad to German parents born in Germany.

        Also, if you were born in Germany to foreign parents, you can acquire German citizenship if at least one of your parents has resided in Germany legally for at least 8 years.

        Citizenship by Adoption

        Children who are adopted by German nationals will automatically get citizenship as long as the adoption process is legally finalised and adheres to German adoption laws.

        Speak to our legal team today. They can help with any matter. Contact Us

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          How Can Total Law Help?

          Whether you’re eligible for German citizenship by descent depends on whether your parents or grandparents were eligible for German citizenship in the first place.

          While the eligibility criteria seem easy to decipher, especially with recent changes to the German nationality law, the application process can still be challenging and take up a lot of time.

          You will need to prepare strong evidence to prove that you have German origins, and this can differ depending on individual circumstances. The processing time can take longer if your application is incomplete.

          However, our immigration lawyers at Total Law can help you. We are experienced in German immigration laws and have helped several individuals with their citizenship applications.

          If you choose Total Law, we will help you determine if you meet the requirement for citizenship by descent and help you gather compelling evidence to prove your case. If you have any questions along the way, we will answer them.

          To get started on your citizenship application, call us at 0333 305 9375. We are available to help you in person, over the phone, and online.

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                    Frequently Asked Questions

                    If you qualify for German citizenship by descent, you won’t need to demonstrate proficiency in the German language.

                    To prove that you have German roots, you will need to submit some identification documents pertaining to your parents or Grandparents. These could include family books, birth certificates, and certificates of descent.

                    While it is extremely rare and hardly ever happens, the German government can revoke your citizenship for the following reasons:

                    • Committing a serious crime such as human trafficking, terrorism, etc.
                    • Fraudulent acquisition of German citizenship
                    • Participation in activities harmful to the state
                    • Going against the interest and security of the state, such as joining the armed forces of another country without Germany’s approval.