There have been many changes to German citizenship laws since 1914. Here, we are summarising the various different regulations. Please ensure you also read the articles about automatic acquisition of German Citizenship and loss of German Citizenship.
Not every individual enquiry will be resolved with this overview. If you have any specific questions that are not answered here, please contact us. Please note that we can only respond if you include detailed information concerning your specific case.
“Am I German?”
A person is German if they have acquired the German citizenship and has not subsequently lost it.
The majority of Germans have acquired citizenship automatically by birth because at the time one or both parents were German citizens. Whether or not this applies to you depends on when you were born and whether your parents were married at the time of your birth.
If you are not German by birth, it is possible that you have obtained citizenship by legitimation, adoption naturalisation, declaration, or birth in Germany after the year 2000.
“I want to become German”
You believe you have a German ancestor and could be German because of them? Then you probably do not need to and cannot apply for German citizenship. It is important to understand that either you are German because you have obtained it automatically, otherwise there is a very limited chance of becoming German through naturalisation.
If you reside abroad and are not German already, there are only very few exceptions where it is possible to apply for naturalisation. In most cases, applications for naturalisation are only successful if you have your permanent residence in Germany. Further information on naturalisation can be found here.
Exception: Naturalisation in restitution cases
Former German citizens who were stripped of their citizenship or acquired a foreign citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds between 1933 and 1945, as well as their descendants, may upon their request be re-naturalised. For more information read here.
What is a Certificate of Citizenship?
You can apply for determination of German citizenship in order to obtain a certificate of citizenship. The certificate confirms and proves that you have been a German citizen at the time of issue, for example by birth, and that you have not lost it since. An application is useful if it is not clear whether you (still) have German citizenship, of if an authority specifically requests a certificate of citizenship.
You do not become a German citizen by receiving a certificate of citizenship; rather it confirms that you are already German.
Read here for further information on how to apply for a certificate of citizenship.