German Citizenship by Residency: Legal Advice

German Citizenship by Residency: Legal Advice

The acquisition of German citizenship in Germany is generally based on the principle of descent or place of birth. According to this principle, people acquire German citizenship at birth or through their familial roots. However, for people residing in Germany, there is the possibility of obtaining German citizenship through residency based on the time a person has lived in Germany.

This process can be complex, and there are legal hurdles to obtaining citizenship, so it is recommended to get legal counsel before starting.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte PartG MbB, our German citizenship law experts can advise you on all aspects of the procedure.

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Conditions for Acquiring German Citizenship

A distinction must be made within the framework of the conditions under which German citizenship acquisition on the application is possible. For example, the German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – hereinafter: StAG) stipulates that those affected even have a right to naturalization under certain conditions.

In other cases, it is at the authorities’ discretion to decide whether or not to grant such an application.

General right to naturalization: According to § 10 StAG, the application of a foreigner is to be granted if they:

  • Have an unlimited right of residence in Germany,
  • Have been lawfully and habitually resident in the country for eight years,
  • Can earn a living for himself and his family without recourse to social assistance or unemployment benefit,
  • Have sufficient knowledge of German: for adults, language level B1 is required; for those under 16 years of age, language development appropriate to their age,
  • Have not been convicted of any criminal offence,
  • Renounce or lose their previous citizenship,
  • Are committed to the German Constitution and do not support any anti-constitutional efforts or credibly distance themselves from previous support,
  • Have passed the naturalization test on the German legal and social order.

Please do not hesitate to contact us and allow our expert citizenship law specialists to assess your case and provide clear and incisive legal advice. Our contact details are provided at the bottom of this page.

Exceptions to the Requirements for Naturalisation

Not all cases are the same, and many factors are considered when assessing a naturalisation case. Here are some of the exceptions to the requirements for naturalisation.

  • Duration of stay: The period is reduced to seven years if an integration course has been completed. The period is shortened to six years if the applicant has knowledge of German at the B2 level or has been volunteering for a non-profit organisation over an extended period. Spouses and children can also be naturalised, even if they have not legally lived in Germany for eight years.
  • Ability to Independently Support Oneself: Exceptions to this requirement are possible, for example, if unemployment occurs due to dismissal for operational reasons. Besides, payments made during school, vocational training and studies are not considered.
  • Abandonment or Loss of Previous Citizenship: These requirements are waived if the applicant cannot give up their previous citizenship or can only do so under challenging conditions (per § 12 StAG). This can be assumed, for example, if the foreign state’s law does not provide for the withdrawal of its citizenship or if the applicant would suffer considerable disadvantages, particularly economical or property disadvantages, if they gave up their foreign citizenship. Such disadvantages would have to go beyond losing citizenship in the other country.
  • Knowledge of German: Language level B1 can be proven by successful participation in a language course as part of the integration course, a German language diploma demonstrating their level, successful attendance of at least four years at a German-speaking school, successful completion of German secondary school (this can be shown with a Hauptschulabschluss, Realschulabschluss or with an Abitur), completed German-language vocational training or through completed studies at a German-speaking university or technical university. If you are unsure of your level or fulfil the requirements, please allow our legal professionals to examine your application.

Entitlement to German Citizenship for Spouses and Life Partners of German Nationals

Spouses and life partners of Germans can also apply for naturalization per § 9 StAG. They are regularly naturalized if their partner has had their lawful habitual residence in Germany for three years and has not been convicted of any criminal offence.

Additionally, the pair must have found their own apartment or accommodation and can support themselves and their relatives (if applicable) together with their partner.

Applicants themselves must also lose or give up their previous nationality (see our article on “Dual Citizenship” to find out if your situation applies to the requirements of dual citizenship), respect German laws and societal norms, commit themselves to the free, democratic and constitutional order of Germany and can prove knowledge of the German language to at least level B1

The spouse’s required stay can only be shortened in exceptional cases, for example, if the marriage has lasted for three years and the spouse has worked abroad in the German interest as a member of internationally active companies and institutions.

German Citizenship at the Discretion of the Immigration Authority

Even if the applicant is not entitled to acquire German citizenship, the authority can still approve the application in some instances according to § 8 StAG. The applicant fulfils the general requirements for this if they have had their lawful habitual residence in Germany for eight years and have not been convicted of any criminal offence during that time.

Additionally, they should have found their own accommodation and can earn a living for themselves and their family, without necessarily relying on social benefit.

The required residence period of eight years may be shortened for groups of persons for whom certain naturalisation facilities have been granted. This group includes foreign nationals without a regular residence, children and young people under the age of majority, older applicants, applicants involved in activities in the German interest, in particular in the fields of science, research, business, art, culture, the media, sport or in public service and cases of hardship.

Please, do not hesitate to contact our immigration lawyers if you are amongst this group and require legal representation or assistance with your German citizenship application.

Other Factors Considered by the Immigration Authority in Naturalization Cases

In its discretionary decision, the authority takes into account, among other things, how well the applicant fits into German society, their knowledge of German and whether they are committed to the free, democratic and constitutional structures of Germany.

The possibility of obtaining the uniform nationality of the family is also considered.

In special cases, the authority can also approve an application if the requirements of § 8 StAG are not completely fulfilled, for example where former Germans and their underage children, who have their habitual residence abroad, can then be naturalised if they have had a clear criminal record until then, (per § 13 StAG) and in cases where foreigners who have their habitual residence abroad may be naturalised if the other requirements of §§ 8, 9 StAG are fulfilled and if there are ties to Germany that justify naturalisation (per § 14 StAG).

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Practice Group: German Citizenship Law

Practice Group:
German Citizenship Law

Nora Nolan

Lawyer

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