A German passport opens up not only Germany but the entirety of the European Union to its holder. A German passport can be essential for business, studying as well as retirement. The German passport is one of the most sought-after in the world, and therefore, knowing how to avail of one can be hugely beneficial. We have previously outlined the requirements to gain dual citizenship generally. This article will examine how US citizens can be eligible for a German passport and will examine dual German-US citizenship. If you are currently considering this option or are in the midst of your application, please consider contacting our firm directly using our contact details.

At Schlun & Elseven, we are a full-service law firm based in Germany. Our main offices are in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf, with further facilities in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. We work with clients worldwide, especially in immigration and business immigration law. Amongst our many services, we offer clients extensive guidance in availing of a German passport. Our lawyers are available to guide you throughout the process, as they have with many clients in the past. Contact us today to allow us to aid you through your legal difficulties.

If you have a particular issue or legal question concerning German Immigration Law and German citizenship, you can contact our law office anytime. Our German Immigration lawyers 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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Requirements for a German Passport

Naturalization: US Citizens in Germany

For an individual to gain a German passport, there are several options available to them. US citizens living in Germany can seek to gain German citizenship through the process of “naturalization.  Naturalization is allowed under German law by the § 10 Nationality Act (StAG). This article provides that a person residing in Germany can seek German citizenship in cases where they:

  • have lawfully resided in Germany for 8 years or more,
  • can support themselves and their family without recourse to social assistance or unemployment benefit,
  • have not been found guilty of criminal offences,
  • possess sufficient standard of German (B1 level)
  • are committed to the democratic principles of Germany and the Grundgesetz (German Constitution),
  • renounce their previous citizenship.

There are exceptions to the rules above, outlined on our “German Citizenship by Naturalization” page. It should be noted that spouses and life partners of German citizens can also apply for the naturalization process under § 9 StAG. The requirements for such spouses and life partners are the following – the applicant:

  • has not been convicted of any criminal offence
  • has found their own apartment or accommodation
  • together with their partner, can support themselves and their relatives

Applicants must additionally:

  • lose or give up their previous nationality
  • respect German laws and societal norms
  • commit themselves to the free, democratic and constitutional order of Germany
  • Prove knowledge of German at level B1

Should you have a legal issue regarding the naturalization process, please make sure to contact our lawyers directly.

Citizenship by Descent: German Citizens born in the USA

For children born in the USA to German parents (or a German parent), they will likely be automatically granted German citizenship. This applies whether your parents were married or not if you were born after 1993. However, the parents will have to send documents relating to the birth to the German authorities to gain access to the child’s German passport. This must be completed before the child’s first birthday. These documents will prove that the child is entitled to German citizenship through their parents being German.

Even in cases where the parents’ divorce, it is possible to make this application as long as the German parent recognises the child as their own. Similarly, applications can also be made for adopted children, as long as the child has been adopted before the age of 18 . If you require further legal advice regarding German citizenship by descent or ancestry, please make sure to contact our immigration law team directly.

There are also some difficult cases for those born before 1 January 1975 where citizenship may have been removed prior. The removal of citizenship may be related to the actions of the Nazi regime in Germany, and it is possible to have this citizenship restored. Art. 116 German Constitution allows for the restoration of citizenship in some such cases – see our article on “German Citizenship for Nazi Victims” to find out more on this topic.

Becoming a US Citizen

US Citizenship arises primarily through two ways – birth/descent and from naturalization. Birth in the USA consists of the individual being born in any of the fifty states and Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This citizenship arises regardless of the nationality of the person’s parents. Citizenship arising from descent is also a possibility for those with US citizens as parents. Such a situation may require professional legal advice as there are many important elements to consider. The parents were resident before the birth, are both parents US citizens and whether the child was born in “wedlock”.

For German citizens currently residing in the USA, there is the possibility of acquiring US citizenship through naturalization. Acquiring US citizenship by naturalization involves several steps such as:

The applicant must:

  • Be 18 years of age or over at the time you apply;
  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three years (this can differ depending on the category of residency);
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • Reside in the United States;
  • Show a certain level of knowledge and understanding of U.S. history & government structures as well as;
  • Be willing to take the US “Oath of Allegiance”.

There are alternative requirements for those who have served in the US military when acquiring US citizenship.

The USA allows for dual citizenship, and therefore, under US law, it is not a requirement to give up your German citizenship to become a US citizen. If you are looking to keep your German citizenship when applying for US citizenship it is necessary to apply for a “Beibehaltungsgenehmigung” or German Retention Permit. However, when travelling to the US, it is a requirement to use your US passport as a dual citizen. As we will see, the law in Germany is more complicated on the topic of dual citizenship.

Dual German-US Citizenship

Dual citizenship is a more complicated business. Although both the USA and Germany recognise the principle of dual nationality, it can be more difficult to apply it in practice. Children born to German and US citizens acquire both citizenships at birth. Although there was a previous requirement to choose one of the citizenships, this is no longer the case. The child may keep both citizenships throughout their life. In this instance, dual nationality – and thus holding both a US passport and a German passport – is possible in this case and is without a time limit. For other cases, it is more complicated.

 In the case where a child is born to two US citizens in Germany, they acquire both citizenships upon birth. However, a decision has to be made before the age of 23 whether the individual holds their German citizenship or US citizenship. In this circumstance a choice has to be made. As to which choice should be made, this decision will be based entirely on the circumstances of the individual considering their place of residence and many other factors.

For naturalized Germans, in this case, US citizens who have become German due to the process of naturalization, they do have to give up their US citizenship to become a citizen of Germany and thus acquire a German passport. As part of the naturalization process, the previous citizenship has to be given up, unless the applicant cannot do so following the law in their own country (§ 12 StAG). The USA does allow for its citizenship to be given up in cases where an individual applies for citizenship of another country, knowing that it will mean rescinding their US citizenship.

In the reverse situation, a German living in the USA looking to gain US citizenship, the USA does not require the applicant to give up their previous citizenship. Although the applicant must take the Oath of Allegiance and recognise the US Constitution, there is no requirement for them to cease their previous citizenship. However, it can lead to German citizenship being removed unless the applicant applies to retain their German passport. Under § 25 StAG it is possible for applicants to seek a Retention Permit which allows them to keep their German citizenship even after gaining US citizenship. The Retention Permit is sent to the German authorities, and Germany’s Federal Office of Administration will then decide on a case-by-case basis. During this evaluation, factors such as the applicant’s links to Germany and their German knowledge will be considered.

What Should I Be Aware of as Dual Citizen?

Although there are many benefits of dual citizenship, there are some factors to be aware of. If you are a dual German-US citizen, it is noteworthy that you can only fly into the USA on your US passport. Entering US territory with your German passport rather than your US passport may be considered a breach of US law. This also applies for flying into Germany. When entering Germany, it should be with the German passport not the US passport, once again you may experience legal difficulties otherwise. In Germany, you will not be able to able of the full consular services of the US consulate in Germany and vice versa. Essentially, in Germany, you will be seen as a German citizen, and in the USA, you will be seen as a US citizen.

Dual citizenship also means that the individual will likely have to file tax returns in both countries even if they are not living in one of the countries at the time. This requirement applies for US taxes regardless of whether they owe taxes in the USA that year. Dual citizenship can also not be used as an excuse to avoid military service should they be required to conduct military service in one of the countries. Limited military activity of this sort does not mean the individual relinquishes their dual citizenship.

The Benefits of a German Passport

There are many benefits available to those holding a German passport. The German passport is recognised by Henley & Partners Passport Index as the third most powerful passport in the world as it allows for visa-free access to 189 countries. A German passport opens Germany to not only its holder but also the rest of the European Union. This means that its holder can reside, work, study and retire in the EU once they hold a German passport. We have previously written about “Retiring to Germany: Retiree Residence Permit“, however, once the person in question is a German citizen there is no requirement for a visa to retire in Germany!

When it comes to working and studying, Germany is the strongest economy in Europe and one of the leading exporters in the world. There are many job opportunities for those coming to Germany. There are many senior management and executive roles available for highly qualified, experienced professionals who happen to be English native speakers. For students, Germany has many top-quality universities. Third level education is available at a much reduced cost in comparison to universities in the USA, and again there are many courses available in English.

Having a German passport, as a German citizen, also means that should you require the services of Germany’s embassies or consulates they may be made available to you. Germany currently has diplomatic relations with 193 countries and has 153 embassies, as well as further consulates. Should you find yourself in difficulties in other parts of the world it is reassuring to know that the services offered here may be of assistance to you.

Legal Guidance and Advice in Issues of German Citizenship

As shown, there are many reasons why having a German passport is of great benefit. However, the advice provided in this article should be seen as generalised assistance and cannot replace professional legal guidance. Your situation may not be as straightforward as the scenarios presented above. For this reason, should you consider or be in the process of applying for German citizenship, it is advisable to consult with an immigration law specialist.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, we are German immigration law specialists. Our attorneys have helped many clients from all over the world pursue a German passport and in their other immigration law or residence permit issues. Allow us to help you in your case.

We can be reached by filling in the contact form, by phone and via email. Once we have received communication from you outlining the legal issue at hand, we can provide the professional legal guidance needed for your particular case. Our immigration lawyers look forward to working with you.

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