German Citizenship


Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis, © Ute Grabowsky / photothek.net

13.12.2019 - Article

Obtaining German Citizenship

In general, German citizenship is established by descent from a German mother and/or a German father or by birth in Germany after 31 Dec 1999 (further conditions apply).

German citizenship by being born in wedlock

Children born in wedlock between 1 Jan 1914 and 31 Dec 1974 acquired German citizenship only if the father was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
Children born to a German mother in wedlock between 1 Jan 1964 and 31 Dec 1974 only acquired German citizenship if they would have become stateless otherwise.
Children born in wedlock after 1 Jan 1975 acquired German citizenship if one of the parents was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
Children born in wedlock between 1 April 1953 and 31 Dec 1974 to a German mother and a non-German father did not become German citizens by birth. However, during the years 1975, 1976 and 1977, their parents could claim German citizenship for them. The deadline for this procedure irrevocably ended on 31 Dec 1977.

German citizenship by being born out of wedlock

Children born out of wedlock to a German mother after 1 Jan 1914 acquired German citizenship.
Children born out of wedlock to a German father after 1 July 1993 acquired German citizenship if (among other requirements) paternity had been established according to German law.
Children born out of wedlock to a German father before 1 July 1993 may acquire German citizenship by declaration before their 23rd birthday, if paternity has been established and if they have resided in Germany for at least three years. The declaration can only be made in Germany at the child's residence.

German citizenship by adoption

If you were adopted as a minor by at least one German citizen on or after 1 Jan 1977, you are a German citizen. If the adoption happened outside Germany it has to meet certain requirements.
Children who had been adopted by a German parent between 1 Jan 1959 and 31 Dec 1976 could have become a German citizen by declaration until 31 Dec. 1977.

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German citizenship by legitimization

The marriage of the parents of a child born out of wedlock was called “legitimization”. Children born out of wedlock between 1 Jan 1914 and 30 June 1998 could have acquired German citizenship through the marriage of their parents.

German citizenship by marriage

Foreign women who married a German citizen between 1 April 1914 and 31 Mar. 1953 acquired German citizenship automatically.
Foreign women who married a German citizen between 1 April 1953 and 31 Dec 1969 could have acquired German citizenship under certain conditions, esp. by declaration at time of marriage.
Since 1 Jan 1970 the acquisition of German citizenship by marriage does not exist anymore. A foreign spouse can only naturalize if certain requirements are met.

German citizenship by birth in Germany

Children born in Germany after 31 Dec 1999 to foreign parents who were legal residents of Germany for at least eight years, acquire German citizenship. However, they must declare, upon reaching 21 years of age, whether they want to keep the German or the foreign citizenship of their parents (so-called ‘opting procedure’, Section 29 of the Nationality Act), unless
•    they have had habitual residence in Germany for eight years
•    have attended school in Germany for six years,
•    hold a school-leaving certificate or have completed vocational training in Germany
They are exempt from the opting procedure if they have exclusively the nationality of another EU country or Switzerland in addition to the German one.

German citizenship through naturalization

The regular naturalization process typically requires, among other things, that you have legally resided in Germany for the past eight years, speak German (B1 level) and are capable of financially supporting yourself. Your local municipality is in charge of your application for naturalization. Therefore, applications at the Embassy are usually not possible.
There are rare possibilities for naturalization from abroad, esp. for former German citizens or for spouses of German citizens who are posted abroad in an official German function. These require that applicants prove that their naturalization is beneficial to the German state. Applicants must prove close ties to Germany, speak German (B1 level) and be able to financially support themselves. Other citizenship(s) usually must be renounced (does not apply to citizenships of EU countries or Switzerland).
All naturalizations require that applicants pass a test on civic knowledge.

An ex­cep­tion is the nat­u­ral­iza­tion of peo­ple whose cit­i­zen­ship was re­voked un­der the Na­tion­al So­cial­ist regime, there­by restor­ing the Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship to which they are legal­ly en­ti­tled. In these cases, facilitations apply.

Exception: Birth to a German Parent born abroad after 31 Dec 1999

Please note that German citizenship is not automatically obtained if a child (C) is born outside Germany and the following applies to the German parent or both German parents of the child:
-    the parent was born outside of Germany after 31 Dec 1999
-    the parent has habitual residence outside of Germany at the time the child C is born
and the child C obtains another citizenship through birth (e.g the other parent’s nationality or the nationality of the birthplace).
The child C can obtain German citizenship if the parents register the birth of the child C with a registrar in Germany (can be done through the Embassy) within one year after the birth of the child C.

Renunciation of Citizenship

If you live in Ireland, possess Irish (or another) citizenship in addition to German citizenship, and, for certain reasons, wish to renounce your German citizenship, you must file an application through the Embassy.

Please include the documents cited in the application in the required form and have your signature certified.

Your application will be forwarded by the German Embassy to the German Federal Office of administration ('Bundesverwaltungsamt') in Cologne. If renunciation is approved, a renunciation certificate will be issued to you. It will be passed on to you by the Embassy. The renunciation does not come into effect until you accept the certificate.

Renunciation of Citizenship (Leaflet in German language)

Application form (in German)

Non-acquisition of German nationality for children born abroad to German

Non-acquisition of German nationality for children born abroad to German parents pursuant to section 4 (4), first and third sentences, of the Nationality Act
(correct as of April 2016)

Under what circumstances will my child not acquire German nationality automatically?
Your child will not automatically acquire German nationality by birth if
- You (both German parents) were born abroad after 31 December 1999,
- Your child is born abroad,
- You (both German parents) are ordinarily resident abroad* at the time of the child’s
birth and
- Your child automatically acquires a foreign nationality upon birth.

*(If you are ordinarily resident abroad, it is immaterial that you have retained a residence in Germany purely for registration law purposes.)

What do I have to do to obtain German nationality for my child?
You must apply for the birth to be registered in the register of births at the competent German registry office before your child’s first birthday. This deadline is deemed to have been met if the application is received by the competent German mission abroad within the one-year period. The application may be made by one parent alone.
To apply to register your child’s birth you must submit the following documents:

- A fully completed and signed application form
- Your child’s foreign birth certificate
- The parents’ birth certificates
- The parents’ marriage certificate (if applicable)
- The parents’ passports/ID cards
- Proof of a valid acknowledgement of paternity, if the parents of the child are not married to one another

Please note that your child cannot be issued with German identity papers until a complete application for registration of the birth has been submitted.
If you have any queries, please contact the consular section of the German mission abroad
responsible for your place of residence.

Easier path to German citizenship for descendants of victims of Nazi persecution

Minister Seehofer issues two decrees allowing restoration of German citizenship
As of today, descendants of victims of National Socialist persecution will be able to acquire German citizenship more easily. This is because the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) has issued two comprehensive decrees to facilitate the acquisition of German citizenship for people resident abroad who are descendants of Germans persecuted under the National Socialist regime, and who are not entitled to restoration of citizenship under Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz).
Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer said: “Germany must live up to its historical responsibility towards descendants of German victims of National Socialist persecution who have been deprived of citizenship rights. This applies particularly to those whose parents or grandparents were forced to flee abroad. The decrees being issued today will provide a swift, directly applicable rule allowing such persons to acquire German citizenship.”
According to Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law, former German citizens who, between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945, were deprived of their citizenship as a result of injustices perpetrated by the National Socialist regime, are entitled to have their citizenship restored, upon request. This also applies to the descendants of persons whose citizenship was revoked, as the injustices perpetrated against their forebears prevented them from becoming German citizens by descent. Under certain scenarios of similar historical injustice, potential claimants do not, for legal reasons, qualify for citizenship under Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law.
Until 2007, it was possible for them to obtain citizenship based on Section 13 of the Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, StAG), which at that time could be applied to descendants of former Germans who did not meet the terms of Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law. However, in 2007 this provision was restricted to descendants who were minors, as the legislator no longer deemed it to be in the public interest to naturalize adult descend-ants of former Germans who had been resident abroad for generations. However, as such cases continued to occur in considerable numbers, the BMI issued a decree on 28 March 2012 allowing naturalization under easier conditions.

The Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom led to a spike in applications for (restored) citizenship under Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law: in 2015 there had been 43 such applications, but in 2016 there were 684; in 2017 the number rose to 1,667 and in 2018 it was 1,506. In addition, many applications for citizenship that came from the UK, and from other countries, were not covered by Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law or by any current decrees.
The BMI considers it a sign of great trust that descendants of emigrated victims of National Socialist persecution now wish to acquire German citizenship. This is why the BMI has created more options, in the form of these decrees, for the benefit of descendants who wish to become German.
Persons who stand to benefit from the decrees include:
 - children born in wedlock before 1 April 1953 to German mothers whose citizenship had been revoked and foreign fathers;
- children born out of wedlock before 1 July 1993 to German fathers whose citizenship had been revoked and foreign mothers, provided the paternity of those children was recognized or determined under German law prior to their reaching the age of 23;
 - children whose German parent had acquired foreign citizenship and lost their German citizenship amid National Socialist persecution, including children whose mothers emigrated as a result of persecution and lost their citizenship under Section 17, number 6, of the former Imperial and State Nationality Law (RuStAG a.F.) prior to 1 April 1953 by marrying a foreign man;
   - and their descendants up to a generational cut-off point that was written into law on 1 January 2000 in accordance with Section 4 (4) of the Nationality Act. This corresponds to the scope of Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law.
Thus, any descendants who fulfil the above criteria can acquire German citizenship, whether they are from the second, third, fourth, or in some cases even fifth generation. For their descendants born after they acquired citizenship, in other words for subsequent generations, the usual regulations governing citizenship by descent apply (Section 4 (1) or (4) of the Nationality Act in cases of continued residence abroad).
The decrees also cover children of German citizens who were not affected by National Socialist persecution but who, owing to earlier unconstitutional regulations on descent, were excluded from acquiring German citizenship at birth, including their descendants up to the generational cut-off point.
For eligible persons affected by National Socialist persecution, citizenship requirements will be reduced to a minimum. Such persons will not have to prove that they are able to support themselves financially. The language requirement will be cut to a basic level of German, and a basic knowledge of the legal and social order and the living standards prevailing in Germany will be sufficient. Applicants will not have to take a test, but simply meet

with a member of staff in person at the relevant diplomatic representation abroad, who will determine that the requirements have been met. These meetings will be conducted in a spirit of goodwill. Eligible persons will not be required to give up other nationalities they may possess and will be naturalized free of charge.
The regulations are applicable with immediate effect. The legal basis is the provision for the naturalization of foreigners ordinarily resident abroad, as set out in Section 14 of the Nationality Act. The details set out in the decrees mean that we now have a regulation that entitles any persons in the categories described above who fulfil the specified requirements to be naturalized.
For persons in similar situations but whose particular circumstances are not covered by the decrees, decisions can be made on a case-by-case basis. Such decisions are to be based on the criteria of the decrees.
Applications can be made immediately via German diplomatic representations abroad.

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