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.