The law on citizenship in Germany is in the process of some new amendments. If a person is affected by the gender-discriminatory descent regulations in force at the time and could not obtain German citizenship by birth because of this, the new § 5 German Nationality Act (StAG) now offers the possibility of obtaining German citizenship by declaration. In future, those affected will be granted a ten-year right of declaration, which will make a claim to German citizenship possible.

The upcoming changes will be of huge interest to those looking to gain German citizenship by descent or ancestry. The amendments were approved on June 24th 2021 by the German parliament (“der Bundestag”) and they will have far-reaching consequences. There are enormous benefits linked to possessing German citizenship and should be considered by those who may be entitled to it. In this article, we will outline the considered changes, outline the possibilities under the new legal situation and explain the conditions under which you have a right to naturalisation.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, we are a full-service law firm based in Germany. Our dedicated team of German citizenship lawyers are available to support you with your German citizenship application.

If you have a particular issue or legal question concerning German Immigration Law, you can contact our law office anytime. Our lawyers for German Immigration Law can be reached by phone, email and also provide video conferencing options. For more legal information, please visit our Immigration Information Germany Center.

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Extended Rights to German Citizenship

The new changes to the German law on citizenship by descent will extend the rights of those seeking German citizenship by descent. After the new law comes into force, children and other descendants of German citizens will be granted a ten-year right of declaration to acquire German citizenship if this could not be acquired at birth.

In the following circumstances, German nationality was not automatically acquired by birth:

  • A child was born following the marriage of a German woman to a foreign man before 1 April 1953; in this situation, the mother automatically lost her German nationality.
  • A child was born following a German woman marrying a foreign man before 1 January 1975.
  • Where a child was born before 1st July 1993 in a situation where the father was a German citizen but was not married to the foreign mother on the day of birth.

As early as 1975, the German legislator granted these children the possibility to become German citizens by declaration. If they did not make use of this possibility, they could initially no longer acquire German citizenship.

Since 2012, it has been possible to apply for naturalisation if one parent is a German citizen and one did not automatically become a German citizen by birth. However, a close connection to Germany has been required for this. “A close connection” in this case refers to regular visits to Germany, relatives living in Germany or attendance at German schools abroad. In addition, the applicant has had to prove that they have a command of the German language at level B1 of the European Framework of Languages.

The new law, however, makes naturalisation much easier in these cases:

No more Discretionary Naturalisation

All persons born after the entry into force of the German Constitution (i.e. after 24 May 1949) have a right to naturalisation. In practice, this restricts the German authorities’ discretion in deciding German citizenship cases. Essentially this refers to the following persons where discretion was used:

  • Children born in wedlock to German mothers and foreign fathers before 1 January 1975,
  • Children born out of wedlock to German fathers and foreign mothers born before 1 July 1993 (only after effective recognition of paternity or its establishment according to German laws, submission of the declaration of recognition or initiation of the establishment procedure before the child concerned reaches the age of 23),
  • Children of a mother who had automatically lost her German nationality before the birth of the child by marrying a foreigner before 1 April 1953,
  • children who lost their German nationality acquired by birth through legitimation effected by a foreigner and effective under German law before 1 April 1953, and
  • the descendants of all the children listed above.

Time Limit for German Citizenship

The right to naturalisation for all the above-mentioned persons exists for 10 years from the day the new law comes into force. We will inform you of this date in good time on our website.

“Close Ties to Germany”: No Longer Required

Close ties to Germany are no longer required. If it can be proven that one of your parents was a German citizen on the day of your birth and if you fall under one of the above-mentioned groups of persons, you no longer have to prove that you still have relatives in Germany, for example, or that you have been a regular visitor or attended a German school abroad.

No German Language Skills Requirement

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for people acquiring German citizenship by descent was the necessity to demonstrate German language skills. However, with the introduction of the new law, there is no longer a necessity for such applicants to prove they have German language skills.

Who is Not Eligible for German Citizenship?

However, according to the new regulations, you are no longer eligible for naturalisation if you possessed German citizenship after your birth but then gave it up again or lost it in some other way. However, if you lost your German citizenship due to National Socialist persecution, we recommend our article “Persecution under National Socialism: Facilitated Naturalisation”. There, we explain the conditions under which reparation naturalisation can be granted.


Full-Service Law Firm: Successful Applications for German Citizenship by Descent

Do you fall under one of the above-mentioned groups of persons and would like to know whether you are entitled to naturalisation? Please fill out our interactive questionnaire, and we will get back to you. You can find our questionnaire here.

We will be happy to assist you throughout the naturalisation process, especially in communicating with the relevant German authorities. Experience shows that it can take a while to obtain the necessary documents. When applying for German citizenship by descent, it is important to be able to prove your family connection to your German ancestors with appropriate documents. Keep this in mind and put the documents aside.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, we are a full-service law firm with offices in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf and have further facilities in Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Hamburg. We advise clients worldwide on German immigration law. Our team of lawyers in migration law will be happy to assist you with the naturalisation process. Contact us today to start working with our experts.

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