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How to Renounce German Citizenship: Advice from Immigration Lawyers

Renouncing German citizenship may be a requirement for obtaining the citizenship of another state. German citizenship law does not generally allow for dual citizenship, particularly when applying for the citizenship of third countries (non-EU states). Dual citizenship law is complicated further by the laws of the other state, as some countries do not permit dual citizenship, and the only way to become a citizen of that country is to renounce previous citizenship – such as renouncing German citizenship. However, there are other reasons a person may renounce citizenship ranging from tax and business decisions to personal reasons. Whatever your reason for renouncing German citizenship, the lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte are here to help you.

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Renouncing German Citizenship: What is Needed

To renounce your German citizenship you need to hold dual or multiple citizenships. Germany does not allow for voluntary renunciation of citizenship if it would leave the person without a recognised nationality. Renunciation of German citizenship is provided for under § 26 (1) StAG (Nationality Act), and it states:

(1) A German may renounce his or her citizenship if he or she possesses multiple citizenships. Such a renunciation must be declared in writing.

Applicants seeking to renounce their citizenship need to present their documents and file an application through the German Embassy or the responsible Consulate General. It is only following their assessment and approval that German citizenship can then be renounced, as shown by § 26 (3) StAG:

(3) The loss of citizenship takes effect upon delivery of the certificate of renunciation issued by the approving authority.

The processing time can take around four months, all going well. Mistakes made in the application will slow down the process. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our immigration lawyers are highly experienced at such paperwork and in ensuring that applications are carried out correctly. We have worked with clients worldwide and will provide expert advice to help you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes. If you need specialised legal service, do not hesitate to contact us by using our contact form and other details below.

Furthermore, all minors or adults under care require the consent of the German family court in order to be allowed to renounce their citizenship. Additionally, there are certain occupational roles such as soldiers in the German army and active German civil servants where an applicant cannot generally apply to renounce their German citizenship. However, there is an an exception if the applicant has been resident abroad for at least ten years without interruption.


The Consequences of Renouncing German Citizenship

Renouncing German citizenship is a decision that should be considered in advance, as there are significant consequences for renunciation. The extent of the loss will be determined by which other citizenship you take. If, for example, your other citizenship is from another European Union member state, you will still have the right to live, work, study and retire in Germany without needing a residence permit. However, if the other passport is from a “third-country”, you will lose the European Freedom of Movement. Such a loss can have major consequences for a person’s professional and personal life. However, that may also be balanced with your connection (or lack of) to Europe, and European citizenship plays an insignificant role in your current situation.

If you have lost your German citizenship and do not have European citizenship, you will need a residence permit to stay in Germany. This residence title should be suited to the required purpose, such as for taking up gainful employment. Essentially, upon renouncing German citizenship, you will be viewed as a “foreigner” in Germany.


How to Keep German Citizenship: The Retention Permit

When becoming a citizen of another country, it is often the case that German citizens need to give up their German citizenship. However, there is a way to retain German citizenship and it is provided for under § 25(2) StAG. Under this provision, German citizens can apply for a Retention Permit (“Beibehaltungsgenehmigung”), however, they must apply for this permit before acquiring the citizenship of the other country. At Schlun & Elseven, we advise on all matters concerning the Retention Permit and provide advice to German citizens all over the world looking to retain their citizenship. Consulting with legal counsel is advisable to ensure that the application meets the expectations of the German authorities. The application process has a processing period of approximately 14 months but mistakes made can slow down the procedure.


Can you Regain German Citizenship?

Under § 13 StAG, former Germans can regain their citizenship after losing it. They need to apply to regain their former status, and it can only be granted following a successful application. Generally, the criteria for regaining German citizenship involves whether there is a public interest in your re-naturalisation. This refers to matters such as not being a danger to the state and whether you have (and the degree of) a criminal record. Additional naturalisation requirements must be met, such as a good knowledge of the German language, close ties to Germany and the securing of a livelihood.

When applying, the applicant should see it as if they should have applied for the Retention Permit (“die Beibehaltungsgenehmigung”) but failed to do so at the right time. From there, the standard held is that the applicants would have been granted a Retention Permit if they had applied in time and that their links to Germany (that would be required for the Retention Permit) still exist at the time of the application. If the applicant lost their German citizenship before 1 January 2000 due to not having a Retention Permit, regaining German citizenship can only be considered if there is a special public interest in that move. The applicant’s private interest is only given secondary consideration.

When making an application to regain German citizenship, it is advisable to consult with the immigration law team at Schlun & Elseven. Our lawyers will examine your case and determine whether you should apply to regain citizenship and what documents are needed for your specific cases. Our team will also support you regarding professional translations of certain documents if needed.

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German Citizenship Law

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Please use the contact form to inform us about your concerns regarding giving up German citizenship. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment on the basis of the information provided and give you a cost estimation.