Naturalization / receiving German citizenship

Citizenship by birth

A child automatically receives the German citizenship by birth if the mother or father has the German citizenship. If the parents are not married and only the father is German, it has to be proven that the child and father are related (at the youth and register office „Jugend- oder Standesamt“). Only in such cases is the father‘s German citizenship also conferred on the child.

If both parents are not German, the child receives the German citizenship if mother or father has lived in Germany longer than eighth years with a residence permit. Additionally, mother and father have to have a non-restricted residence permit or have the right to free movement as EU-citizens or their family members.  

Model of options

As described in the previous paragraph, the child generally has the citizenship of the parents and the German citizenship. The dual citizenship is not intended to be the general case. Therefore, the so called model of options is in place: at the age of 18, the now full of aged child has to decide for one of the two citizenships. The naturalization office requests this decision in a written letter.  If the child decides for the foreign citizenship, the German citizenship automatically terminates. If the child chooses the German citizenship, he or she has to prove that the foreign citizenship is terminated. Until the end of the 21 year of age it can be applied to keep both citizenships. The naturalization office accepts this application if losing the foreign citizenship would be unacceptable. If the foreign citizenship is from the EU or Switzerland, it will be approved to keep the foreign citizenship.

Naturalization

For many immigrants who have lived in Germany for a long time, getting a German passport and being able to vote and participate fully in German society represents full integration. Naturalization offers a path to this goal.

A lot speaks for naturalization: as a German citizen one is able to participate fully in German society and politics: one can hold any political functions and vote in any federal and federal state (‘Land’) elections. The job and career can be chosen without restrictions and within the EU one has the right to free movement. Obviously, naturalization also is bound to some duties. The German citizenship and naturalization is regulated by the Citizenship-Act (StAG) and the naturalization test enactment.

Requirements

Foreigners can be naturalized if they have lived in Germany with a residence permit for at least eight years. With the application to naturalization they have to own a residence permit or have the right to free movement as an EU citizen or a family member of an EU citizen.

Some residence permits do not allow for naturalization, e. g. with residence permits that were issued out of humanitarian reasons or for studies in Germany. German skills have to be fair (Zertifikat Deutsch or Deutschtest für Zuwanderer/B1). There may not be a case of criminal prosecution. Only in cases of light sentences an exception can be made. A commitment to the free democratic basic order has to me made. A naturalization test has to be passed. It can be refrained from proving German language skills due to disease or a handicap or if one has received a university degree in Germany.

Dual citizenship

Generally, naturalization in Germany is only possible if the former citizenship is renounced. An exception exists for citizens of other EU countries and Switzerland. They may keep their home passport and have dual citizenship.  For all others, dual citizenship will only be entitled if the renunciation of the former citizenship is a case of hardship or just not possible. This can be the case if the foreign country does not allow for a renunciation or if the requirements of a renunciation are hard to fulfil.

Naturalization of family members

The married spouse and minor children can be naturalized even if they have not lived in Germany for eighth years. The married spouse of a German can be naturalized under facilitated requirements: he or she has to have lived in Germany for three years lawfully and the marriage must have lasted at least two years here in Germany and still has to be continuing.

Procedure

The application to naturalization can only be filed after the 16th year of age. The competent office is the naturalization office within the immigration office. Here, you can also get free advice without obligation. The naturalization test is done by the Adult Education Centre ‘Volkshochschule’ in Bonn. Fees will apply for the procedure of naturalizations. 

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