Citizenship: the Law in Germany
The law around citizenship in Germany arises from the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz). § 3 Nationality Act outlines how a person can obtain citizenship. The listed steps include:
When it comes to dual citizenship, there are a variety of factors involved. With children born in Germany to parents from another EU state or Switzerland, they are usually entitled to dual citizenship. Generally, the child is not made to choose between the two nationalities. However, some countries in the EU, such as the Netherlands, have further restrictions around dual citizenship even with other EU states.
Does Germany Allow Dual Citizenship for German Citizens born Abroad?
Should a child have at least one German parent, they are entitled to German citizenship. So, in the case of a child born in Canada with a German mother and a non-German father, the child would be entitled to German citizenship. In previous times, before 2014, the law stated that the child in question would have German citizenship up to their 21st birthday but would then have to choose. However, the law has since changed on this matter, and now there is no requirement to give up the other citizenship under German law. This law was introduced in 2014, but it applies retroactively to those born in the 1990s and any child born afterwards.
German Citizenship by Descent & Dual Citizenship
German citizenship can be claimed by those with German ancestors in their direct line, namely their parents, grandparents and even in some cases their great-grandparents. This is a time-consuming process and expert legal advice is strongly advisable, particularly in proving your connection to Germany. Sourcing the appropriate documents to demonstrate that the connection with Germany exists and ensuring that the application form is correctly filled in is vital. Mistakes made in either process can result in further time delays and your application may be rejected. The rules on German citizenship by descent are quite strict and they can be found on our page “German Citizenship by Descent” along with much more information on this topic.
Just as in other cases of dual citizenship, in many cases gaining German citizenship by descent or ancestry does mean losing your previous citizenship. However, there are exceptions such as where you are applying for German citizenship as a citizen of another EU country. However, there are countries which do not permit dual citizenship. Therefore, if you come from China, Japan, India and Saudi Arabia originally and are interested in claiming German citizenship by descent you should note that these countries do not permit the holding of more than one citizenship. This will mean giving up your previous citizenship to benefit from what German citizenship has to offer.
Dual citizenship is complex and in the case of seeking dual citizenship with German citizenship by descent it is advisable to consult with our immigration lawyers. Each case is unique and will be based around your current citizenship, your family history, the laws of German citizenship and the citizenship laws of your country of origin.
Dual Citizenship: Children Born in Germany to Non-German Parents
For children born in Germany whose parents are foreign citizens, the birthplace principle has applied since 2000. According to this principle, the child and at least one of their parents receive German citizenship if at the time of birth at least one parent has been lawfully resident in Germany for eight years and has an unlimited right of residence (§ 4 StAG). When this provision was introduced, the basic idea was to enable children born in Germany to acquire citizenship of the country where at least one of their parents chose to live in, in the country in which they grew up themselves, thus improving their integration into German society. The central idea is that that person would be enabled to view Germany as their home.
For dual citizenship to apply, however, the other state has to permit dual citizenship. Many countries around the world do not permit dual citizenship, and such states are not limited to certain geographical areas of the map. Andorra, Oman, Malaysia and China are just some countries which do not permit it. In countries such as Iran, India, Japan and Saudi Arabia, one loses their citizenship should they take another country’s citizenship. With this in mind, it is worth researching your home country’s situation before starting the process to avail of dual citizenship. Contacting your embassy or consulate, or doing so with through a legal representative, would be an advisable course of action.
Dual Citizenship through Naturalization
The process of naturalization allows those who have resided in Germany for enough time to make themselves official citizens of the Federal Republic. This paragraph will cover this process briefly regarding its requirements with dual citizenship, but our German Citizenship by Naturalization covers the process in more detail.
To become a German citizen by naturalization, several conditions have to be in place. The conditions are as follows; the candidate must:
- have lived in Germany for a period of eight years (this can be reduced by two years in some conditions),
- possess a permanent right of residence or a means by which it can be obtained (through holding an EU Blue Card for example),
- have sufficient German language skills (a B1 level is recognised as sufficient in this case),
- be able to provide sufficient financial support to themselves and their dependants so as not to be reliant on the state,
- not have committed a crime in Germany or have a criminal record,
- state that they firmly believe in and support the democratic order of Germany.
In many cases, there will be a requirement to give up the other state’s citizenship to avail of German citizenship. However, there are also exceptions to this rule. In these cases, one can acquire dual citizenship, and there is no need for them to give up their current citizenship when seeking German citizenship by naturalization.
- EU and Swiss Citizens: as stated above, citizens of other EU countries, as well as Switzerland, will not be forced by German law to give up their other citizenship. However, not all EU countries are accommodating of dual citizenship. In such matters, it is worth contacting your country’s embassy for more details.
- Inability to Renounce Previous Citizenship: Some countries do not permit their citizens to renounce their citizenship. Such countries include Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina and Morocco.
- Persecution, Refugees and Asylum Seekers: Those who have been forced to move to Germany due to political persecution or conflict. They will not be forced to give up their citizenship.
- Hardship cases: In certain cases, hardship will occur due to giving up previous citizenship. This can be based on the applicant’s age or financial arrangements. It is worth consulting a legal representative to determine whether your case would be considered under this ground.
Does Germany allow Dual Citizenship for German Citizens Residing in Other Countries
In some dual citizenship cases, it is not simply non-Germans looking to become German. They involve German citizens abroad who seek dual citizenship. Generally, this is not allowed except in cases involving EU or Swiss citizenship. However, there are exceptions in place which can allow a German citizen to avail of dual citizenship. Under these conditions, the German citizen keeps their current citizenship and avails of the other country’s citizenship. The applicant must
- demonstrate that the other country’s citizenship is advantageous to you and that it brings benefits that would not arise if they remained a German citizen only.
- Show that their German citizenship is still a requirement for them through close connections to Germany.
- Follow the necessary steps to gain citizenship in the country they are based in.
For this form of dual citizenship to occur, the country in question must permit dual citizenship. There is little that a German lawyer or German state can do if the country in question has laws preventing the recognition of dual citizenship. As can be seen, such cases are decided on the facts of the situation, and for this reason, it is beneficial to get the assistance of an experienced immigration lawyer.
The Benefits of Dual Citizenship – German Citizenship
Being entitled to German citizenship brings huge benefits. Should you live in a non-EU state, you will now have a passport that entitles you to travel, work and study in the European Union countries. It is of great benefit should the holder wish to settle in Germany and start a business there or invest in the country. Alternatively, for someone who needs to travel for work purposes, the ability to avail of a German passport will make their international work and travel much easier. Furthermore, holding German citizenship provides a person with unrestricted access when it comes to working in Germany.
For students, German universities provide study programmes that are relatively inexpensive and at a very high standard. Many of the programmes provided are in English. The German passport is also recognised as one of the strongest in the world. With a German passport, one can travel to over 170 countries visa-free. Dual citizenship also presents to the holder to benefit from using the German consular services around the world. This can be very useful wherever a person is based or is travelling to.