German Citizenship

Germany is a centrepiece of economy, business and leisure on the world stage and very much considered the powerhouse of the European Union (EU). A country full of opportunity, it is a popular tourist destination and receives tens of thousands of applications for visas every year. However, those eligible may go one step further and apply for German citizenship: enjoying the benefits of being a German national for life.

Germany is due to pass new laws in 2024 on dual citizenship and the minimum residence requirements for those applying for German citizenship by naturalisation. This is unlikely to have any retrospective impact but it is always recommended that applicants seek legal advice before embarking on an application to become a German citizen. Call Total Law on 0333 305 9375 to receive expert legal guidance.

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    Becoming a German Citizen

    There are several routes for individuals to become German citizens, with each holding its own eligibility criteria and application process.

    Germany is an EU member state, as well as being part of the EEA (European Economic Area) and Schengen area. This allows for a large degree of freedom when it comes to living and working in other European countries as well as for visa-free travel to many. As such, obtaining German citizenship and then a German passport, is a hugely attractive prospect for many.

    It should be noted, however, that becoming a German national is a lengthy and involved process that is not simple. It is always recommended that applicants seek specialist legal advice to guide them through the process. The team at Total Law can meet this need: call us today on 0333 305 9375 to learn more.

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    Eligibility for German citizenship

    There are several routes for an individual to acquire German nationality, each with varying eligibility criteria. These qualifying factors are as follows:

    German citizenship by naturalisation

    Naturalisation is the process by which a non-national of Germany acquires citizenship through their immersion into the country’s culture and daily life over a long period of time.

    In Germany, anyone who has lived in the country for at least eight years with a valid residence permit (or seven years if they successfully complete an integration course demonstrating their knowledge of German culture) may apply for citizenship. Applicants must also:

    • Declare their allegiance to the German constitution
    • Have sufficient knowledge and command of the German language
    • Be familiar with the laws, society and living condition in Germany (proven through passing a naturalisation test)
    • Be able to financially support themselves without reliance on state benefits or assistance (unless due to circumstances beyond their control)
    • Have committed no serious criminal offences
    • Be willing to either rescind their previous nationality or, where valid, become a dual citizen.

    Those who are displaced from their home country or are stateless may apply earlier. Special conditions apply: seek legal advice from Total Law on 0333 305 9375 to learn more.

    Where a person seeking citizenship through naturalisation has a spouse or dependent (minor) children who are not yet eligible, their family members may apply at the same time as them to expedite the family’s citizenship status.

    German citizenship by descent

    German citizenship may be afforded to individuals by descent, but is not always an automatic birthright. Automatic German nationality is usually granted where:

    • A child is born to a German mother (whether to married parents or unmarried parents) after 1975
    • A child is born to a German father (whether to married parents or unmarried parents) after 1993.

    Where the child was born prior to these dates, they will not have automatically received German nationality at birth but may be eligible for naturalisation.

    German citizenship by birth

    Where a child is born on German soil later than 2000 to non-German parents, they may be eligible to acquire German citizenship if the following criteria are met:

    • At least one of the parents has been permanently and legally resident in the country for at least eight years
    • (If the child was born on or after 28th August 2007) The parent resident in the country must hold indefinite leave to remain status.

    Children born to foreign parents in Germany before 2000 did not receive citizenship automatically and are not permitted to apply retroactively.

    Where a child is considered German by descent through any of the above mentioned measures, they will receive a letter at age 21 asking them to undergo a formal ‘opting procedure’ make a decision between their foreign or German nationality, unless:

    • They have been resident in the country for at least eight years
    • They have attended a school in Germany for at least six years
    • Their other nationality is for an EU country or citizenship.

    German citizenship by marriage

    Marrying a German citizen previously granted spouses an automatic right to citizenship, but the eligibility changed in 1970. Now, in order to be eligible, spouses must:

    • Be legally married to someone who is a German citizen
    • Have lived in Germany for at least three years and hold a valid residence permit
    • Be able to financially support themselves or be supported by their spouse without reliance on state benefits or assistance
    • Have an adequate knowledge and command of the German language
    • Be familiar with the laws, society and living condition in Germany (proven through passing a naturalisation test)
    • Have committed no serious criminal offences
    • Be willing to either rescind their previous nationality.

    German citizenship by adoption

    If a child is adopted by German parents through a legally recognised adoption, they have been automatically eligible for citizenship since 1979. If the adoption took place prior to this, they will no longer be able to apply retrospectively.

    In most cases, Germany will allow adopted children to maintain dual citizenship with their birth country, but if their other nationality is not compatible with dual status, they will be asked at age 21 to undergo a formal ‘opting procedure’ to make a decision between their nationalities and rescind one.

    If the adoption happens outside of Germany, there are a number of criteria it must meet to be legally recognised. In these instances, applicants are advised to seek legal advice. Contact Total Law on 0333 305 9375 discuss your circumstances.

    German citizenship on another basis

    Citizens of the former German Democratic Republic as well as German minorities throughout central and eastern Europe may have been declared German citizens in the Second World War, and are now able to claim citizenship in the Federal Republic of Germany. This process is somewhat specialist but Total Law can help. Call our team on 0333 305 9375 to learn more.

    How to get German citizenship?

    The application process for German citizenship is not a short nor simple one, and so it is imperative that the applicant understands what it entails and what they need to provide. As a general rule, the following steps should be taken:

    • Determine eligibility pathway

    An application will be immediately declined if the wrong pathway is applied for, so it is critical that the applicant understands which criteria applies for them. The eligibility criteria vary significantly between routes and each must strictly be adhered to.

    • Gather supporting documents

    Each pathway to German citizenship has its own requirement for supporting documents to be submitted alongside an application. Exactly what is required will be advised by the relevant immigration office (usually a German Embassy or Consulate if the applicant is abroad, or if the applicant is already in Germany, the Ausländerbehörde Foreigner’s Office). All of these should be collated ahead of time as they must be readily available at the application stage.

    • Complete application form

    The application form supplied by the relevant authority must be completed at this stage, wholly and accurately. The form varies dependent on the applicant’s location and route to citizenship. It is recommended that the applicant keeps a copy of the completed application form as well as all supporting documents.

    • Take German citizenship test

    If applicable for the route to citizenship, the applicant must take and pass a test to demonstrate their knowledge of German society, culture and laws.

    • Pay citizenship application fee

    If applicable for the route to citizenship, an application fee may be payable at this point.

    • Submit application form

    The application form, along with all supporting documents, proof of the passed citizenship test and a receipt for the application fee, should be submitted at this stage. Again, the submission process varies dependent on the applicant’s location and route to citizenship.

    • Attend citizenship interview

    In some instances, applicants will be invited to an interview with a local immigration authority. This must be attended on time and in person, with any further requested documents taken along.

    • Wait for processing

    Citizenship applications are rarely granted quickly and authorities can take several months to reach a decision. During the processing period, the application form and documents will be reviewed and verified for eligibility, and background checks will be made.

    • Attend Oath Ceremony

    If the applicant has been successful in obtaining German citizenship, they will be invited to an Oath Ceremony. At this ceremony they will pledge allegiance to Germany and formally become a German citizen.

    • Receive German Citizenship Certificate

    A German citizenship certificate will be issued, serving as proof of the citizenship status.

    • Apply for German passport

    As a German citizen, the individual is now eligible to apply for a German passport. This can be done at the Bürgeramt citizen’s office local to the citizen and must be done in person.

    The Naturalisation Test

    Everyone undergoing an application to become a German citizen must pass the Naturalisation Test. This test is intended to measure the applicant’s knowledge of German society to prove that they are well integrated. Administered by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, it must be taken at a local test centre.

    The test comprises 33 questions, split into three sections: ‘Living in a democracy’, ‘History and responsibility’, and ‘People and society’. To pass, a minimum of 17 questions out of the 33 questions must be answered correctly.

    A questionnaire is offered by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees through their website which applicants can use to prepare ahead of their official test.

    For help obtaining a German citizenship, speak with our team today. Contact Us

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      What is derivative naturalisation?

      Derivative naturalisation refers to the process of a spouse or minor children of a citizenship by naturalisation candidate receiving their own citizenship through this route despite not yet being eligible by themselves due to the minimum residence requirement. This allows for families to acquire German citizenship together.

      Aside from the minimum residence period, the citizenship requirements for derivative naturalisation are otherwise the same as for regular naturalisation based on legal entitlement. The minimum residence period for those applying for derivative naturalisation is three years continuous and legal residency in Germany, and for spouses to be married or in a registered partnership with the other party for at least two years.

      German Dual Citizenship

      Dual citizenship in Germany is an evolving piece of immigration law, but as of December 2023 there are several ways in which individuals can be eligible to hold German citizenship alongside the citizenship of another country.

      Applicants may become a dual German citizen if their citizenship was gained through birth, descent or naturalisation. This will only apply if:

      • The other nationality held is that of an EU or EEA member state, or Switzerland; OR
      • The home country of the applicant does not permit the renunciation of their citizenship; OR
      • Renouncing the other citizenship would result in hardship; OR
      • The applicant holds refugee status in Germany.

      It is always recommended that applicants work with a specialist lawyer when navigating the dual citizenship application process. Total Law’s team can help – call us on 0333 305 9375.

      How long does it take to get citizenship in Germany?

      In most cases, it takes several years to be eligible for a route to German citizenship. However, once a formal application has been filed, processing times will vary as every application is judged individually. On average, it takes around six months for a simple application to be processed and around two years for more complex cases.

      What is the fee for German citizenship?

      Where an application is being made for citizenship by naturalisation, a €255 fee is payable per adult (€51 for a minor). The naturalisation test, which must be taken by all applicants no matter their route to becoming a German citizen, incurs a fee of €25 and the naturalisation certificate costs €25 per copy.

      We can make your German citizenship application process hassle-free. Contact Us

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        How can Total Law help?

        With vast knowledge and experience of German law and the related legal and social system, Total Law’s team of specialist solicitors work with clients on a daily basis to successfully apply for German citizenship.

        Whether you’re a child born to a German parent or were born in Germany, are looking to naturalise after a long period of living in the country as a permanent resident or have a more idiosyncratic reason for wanting citizenship, we can help. Taking pride in communicating jargon-free, we support applicants throughout the process to formally become German and can liaise with appropriate authorities as required.

        Give the Total Law team a call today on 0333 305 9375 for a free, no-obligation chat.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  The Federal Republic of Germany has one of the largest overseas diplomatic missions in the world, with Embassies in many countries. If there isn’t one in your home country, you may apply through a Consulate or by contacting the Embassy in the nearest neighbouring country or state.

                  All applicants for German citizenship must prove their German language proficiency to at least the B1 level on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. In certain circumstances, such as disability or in the case of minors, the requirement for demonstrable German language skills may be waived.

                  Voluntarily entering into any armed force of another country to provide a military service, even if that of another country who the citizen holds nationality of, may result in the immediate dismissal of German citizenship. However, prior permission can be sought from the German government to avoid this.

                  While anything major on a criminal record is likely to render a candidate for citizenship automatically ineligible, more minor offences may be overlooked by German authorities. Seek legal advice to learn more; call Total Law on 0333 305 9375.