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How to Get German Citizenship

Getting German citizenship opens up not only German but also the rest of Europe to you. German citizenship allows you to live, work, retire, study and much more in Germany and the wider European Union. It also grants you visa-free or visa-upon-arrival in order 180 countries around the world. We have previously outlined the great number of benefits of gaining German citizenship, and it should be considered by anyone eligible. On this page, we will give you an overview of how to get German citizenship by examining avenues such as German citizenship by Naturalization, German citizenship by descent, German citizenship by marriage and German citizenship by birth.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our team of experienced immigration law experts advise on all matters relating to German citizenship. Regardless of the means you use to get German citizenship; our dedicated team can support you in your case. Contact us now by using our contact details provided below this article to allow us to work with you today.

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German Citizenship by Birth

The principles around German citizenship by birth can be seen under § 4 I StAG. This states that:

A child acquires German citizenship by birth if one parent possesses German citizenship. Where at the time of the birth only the father is a German national, and where for proof of descent under German law recognition or determination of paternity is necessary, acquisition is dependent on recognition or determination of paternity with legal effect under German law; the declaration of recognition must be submitted or the procedure for determination must have commenced before the child reaches the age of 23.

However, there is an exception to this rule for children born abroad and whose German parent was born abroad after 31.12.1999 and had their regular residence abroad (§ 4(4) StAG). The exception to this rule is that the child would otherwise be born stateless if they are not permitted to have German citizenship.

If a German changes their regular residence abroad and has a child after 01.01.2000, this child acquires German citizenship. However, if they have descendants, this rule only applies to their children within a one-year period, so the decision must be made early if they want their child to acquire said German citizenship.

Your parents do not need to be born in Germany for you to acquire German citizenship by birth. You can qualify for this type of Jus Soli citizenship under the following conditions:

  • If at least one of your parents has lived in Germany for at least 8 years before the birth of the child
  • If at the time the child is born, one of the parents had a permanent residence permit.

When getting this type of citizenship, it is vital to consider that the child may have to choose the parents’ citizenship or the citizenship of Germany when they are between the ages of 18 and 23 years old. Applying for dual citizenship in Germany is a complex topic and dependent on many factors. Many countries do not permit dual citizenship and will force you to give up citizenship of that country when acquiring German citizenship. At the same time, others do not allow you to give up citizenship. Our legal team advises on all matters relating to dual citizenship and can be reached through our contact details below.

However, under a recent law from December 2014, this type of German citizen (to foreign parents) who have grown up in Germany or whose foreign citizenship is that of an EU member state or Switzerland may keep both their German and their other citizenship. Once again, the other state’s rules may interfere with the acquisition of dual citizenship and getting professional legal advice is recommendable.

How to get German Citizenship by Naturalization

German citizenship by naturalization can be gained by non-Germans who have lived and worked in Germany over several years. It is provided for per § 10 StAG, which outlines the following conditions:

A person can apply if:

  • 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.

Some countries have rules which prevent their citizens from giving up their previous citizenship. In this case, the German authorities have some discretion concerning how the rule stating that you must renounce previous citizenship.

Once the applicant has these factors in their favour and is looking to get German citizenship by naturalization, they must apply for it by correctly filling out the necessary paperwork. Should you experience any difficulties or require further advice, assistance or support in this application, please contact our lawyers directly. Our page on “German Citizenship by Naturalization ” provides further insight into the legal requirements, exceptions, and other aspects of German law on naturalization.

How to get German Citizenship through Marriage

Spouses of German citizens are eligible for German citizenship after three years of legal residence in Germany. In order to apply for this fast-track version of naturalization, the spouse must have been married or in a registered partnership for at least two years at the time of application. It should be noted that the above-listed requirements for naturalization still apply in this case. This means that the test may need to be passed, however there are exceptions in place for those who possess a degree in law, politics or social sciences from a German university.

How to get German Citizenship by Descent

Getting German citizenship by descent by descent is a very complicated business, and it may also mean giving up your previous citizenship. It can be applied both in your home country and in Germany. If applying from abroad, the application can be made at a German consulate or embassy. German citizenship by descent means that you may be eligible for German citizenship based on your ancestor’s citizenship. Ancestor, in this case, means your direct line, so your parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. However, there are strict rules in place as to what is required for this type of citizenship.

Here are those who are eligible for citizenship by descent:

  • Your ancestors had their citizenship taken away under Nazi rule on political, racial or religious grounds in 1938
  • You are a child, born in wedlock, of a German citizen father and were born before 1975.
  • You are a child, born in wedlock, of a German father or mother and were born after 1975.
  • Your birth was after June 1993, and you are a child of a German citizen father, born outside of wedlock, and paternity is proven before you turn 23.

Allow our team of expert immigration lawyers to assess your situation and determine whether you have a case. If you are within these categories and wish to get German citizenship, then you can make your application once you have the following documents:

  • A birth certificate,
  • The birth certificate of the relevant ancestor,
  • Recorded ancestry of your family,
  • In cases in which it applies, the marriage certificate of the relevant ancestor,
  • Your passport or identity card,
  • Documents concerning the non-acquisition of another nationality,
  • Proof of the possession of other citizenship.

The documents abovelisted are only some of those that you will need. The full list will depend on the grounds you are applying for citizenship and on your situation. Furthermore, be aware that this is a time-intensive process, and the authorities within embassies and other offices are not always forthcoming with advice.

Organising all of the required documentation can be difficult, and sourcing the original documents can be challenging for applicants outside of Germany. For this reason, working alongside experienced legal counsel is advisable. Our lawyers will help you speed up the process wherever possible and ensure that your application follows all the requirements. Our team works alongside clients with complex cases daily and can provide all the support needed in preparing your case. Mistakes made in the application can result in long delays and can result higher costs.

See our page on German Citizenship by Descent & Ancestry for more information.

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Practice Group: German Citizenship Law

Practice Group:
German Citizenship Law

Nora Nolan


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