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German Citizenship by Naturalization

Germany is one of the most popular destinations in the world for immigration. It is a country with one of the highest number of immigrants in the world. There are many reasons why Germany is such a popular destination, whether it is its stable political situation, strong economic performance or location at the heart of Europe. These factors contribute to Germany being a great location to work, raise a family and allow yourself to achieve your personal goals and desires.

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.

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Application for Naturalization & Our Legal Services

In applying for naturalization, our clients can rely on our expert legal advisors to oversee their application. As experienced legal professionals, our team has helped countless clients over the years with their requests and applications and can guide you through the exact requirements which need to be fulfilled. Here are the important factors in the application procedure:

  • Interview and Application: As part of the naturalization procedure, a counselling interview is usually held with the municipal or local authorities at the applicant’s place of residence, following which the relevant application form for naturalization is handed over. Foreign nationals can apply for naturalization from the age of 16. Fees usually amount to 255 euros. For children who are naturalized together with their parents, the amount is 51 euros.
  • Certificates: The completed application must then be completed with various documents depending on the facts of the case, such as certificates, civil status certificates, proof of income, language certificates, etc.
  • Naturalization Test: Applicants can register for a naturalization test, which may have to be taken, at an examination centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees; information on the nearest examination centre can be obtained from the local naturalization authorities.
  • Processing of Application: The competent authority then processes the application and regularly submits inquiries to the responsible jobcentre, the employment office, the social welfare office, the Federal Office of Justice, the State Criminal Police Office and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to examine the individual requirements.
  • Relinquishing of Citizenship: Depending on the case’s facts, it may be necessary to relinquish previous citizenship before or after naturalization.
  • Approval of Application for Naturalization: If all the necessary prerequisites and documents have been met, the authority shall approve the application for naturalization.

Our lawyers can guide you through the entire process and should there be a legal dispute we will be in your corner providing you with the benefit of our expertise. Our immigration lawyers have helped clients worldwide in their cases for German citizenship by naturalization. We have overseen numerous applications and know the exact requirements to be fulfilled. The assistance of experienced legal counsel greatly increases your chance of being granted naturalization and can save you the problems that may arise in the case of a rejected application. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our lawyers are ready when you are.

Conditions for Acquiring German Citizenship

Within the framework of the conditions under which German citizenship acquisition on the application is possible, a distinction must be made. 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 he or she:

  • Has an unlimited right of residence in Germany,
  • Has 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,
  • Has sufficient knowledge of German: for adults, language level B1 is required, for those under 16 years of age, language development appropriate to their age,
  • Has not been convicted of any criminal offence,
  • Renounces or loses his or her previous citizenship,
  • Is committed to the German Constitution and does not support any anti-constitutional efforts or credibly distance themselves from previous support,
  • Has passed the naturalization test on the German legal and social order.

Contact us now and allow our team of expert immigration law specialists to assess your case and provide you with clear and incisive legal advice. Our contact details are provided at the bottom of this page.

Exceptions to the Requirements for Naturalization

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

  • 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 B2 level or has been volunteering for a non-profit organisation over an extended period of time. Spouses and children can also be naturalized, 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 taken into account.
  • 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 law of the foreign state does not provide for the withdrawal of its citizenship or if the applicant would suffer considerable disadvantages, in particular economic or property disadvantages, if they gave up their foreign citizenship. Such disadvantages would have to go beyond the loss of their 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 demonstrated 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 Naturalization for Spouses and Life Partners of German Nationals

For spouses and life partners of Germans, they 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 length of stay can only be shortened in special 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.

Naturalization 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 certain cases 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 naturalization 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. Contact our immigration lawyers today if you are amongst this group and require legal representation or assistance with your naturalisation 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 taken into account.

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 naturalized 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 naturalized if the other requirements of §§ 8, 9 StAG are fulfilled and if there are ties to Germany that justify naturalization (per § 14 StAG).

German Citizenship by Descent

Naturalization is not the only means by which someone can gain German citizenship. Another means by which this can be achieved is through the applicant’s ancestry. Ancestry in this case refers to your direct line, your parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents. There are certain rules in place regarding the removal of citizenship, the marital status of the child’s parents and more. Our page “German Citizenship by Descent” provides more insight into the requirements and outlines who can apply.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, we offer clients full support in all matters relating to their application for German citizenship by descent. Do you have German ancestors? Were your family forced to leave Germany during the turbulent 20th century? Contact us now and find out how your family history may allow you to gain German citizenship.

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Practice Group: German Citizenship Law

Practice Group:
German Citizenship Law

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