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German citizenship by birth

A boy pointing at a globe (symbolic photo)

A boy pointing at a globe (symbolic photo), © dpa

28.02.2018 - Article

German citizenship is mainly based on the principle of descent from one German parent. Only since 2000 it is possible to receive German citizenship through birth in Germany in a limited number of cases.

The principle of descent

German citizenship law is based on the principle of descent. This means that German citizenship is generally established by descent from a German parent and not through birth on German territory.

Only since January 2000 can children born in Germany to non-German parents acquire German citizenship if at the time of birth one parent has lived in Germany legally for at least eight years and has the right of permanent residence. For children born after 28.08.2007, one parent needs to have an unlimited right of residence in Germany.

In return, German parents born on or after 01.01.2000 outside of Germany no longer automatically pass German citizenship on to their children if These are born outside of Germany as well.


German citizenship may have been obtained at birth through the following:

  • Children born in wedlock between 01.01.1914 and 31.12.1963, aquire German citizenship only if their father was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
  • Children born in wedlock between 01.01.1964 and 31.12.1974 to a German mother, only acquired German citizenship if they would have become stateless otherwise.
  • Since 01.01.1975, children acquire German citizenship if either of the parents is a German citizen at the time of their birth.
  • Children born to a German mother between 01.04.1953 and 01.01.1975 and who already had a citizenship had the possibility to declare that they wanted to receive the German citizenship. The deadline for this declaration was 31.12.1977.
  • Children born abroad whose German parent was born outside of Germany on or after 31.12.1999, only acquire German citizenship if their birth is registered with a German foreign Mission within one year.

  • Children born out of wedlock to a German mother on or after 01.01.1914 acquire German citizenship by birth through the mother.
  • Children born out of wedlock to a German father on or after 01.07.1993 acquire German citizenship by birth if (among other requirements) paternity has been established according to German law.
  • Children born out of wedlock to a German father before 01.07.1993, can acquire German citizenship as long as they fulfill the following criteria:

  • Paternity has been established according to German law
  • The child must have had its lawful and ordinary residence in Germany for three years and
  • The declaration must have been made by the time the child completes ist 23rd year

    Following this, the declaration cannot be made abroad but only at the German place of residence. The proceedings for the determination of paternity already has to be started by the time that the child completes its 23rd year.

  • Children born abroad whose German parent was born outside of Germany on or after 31.12.1999, only acquire German citizenship if their birth is registered with a German foreign Mission within one year.

  • Since 01.01.1977, children can receive German citizenship if they are adopted by a German citizen and the adoption is recognised under German law.
  • Children who were adopted by a German parent between 01.01.1959 and 31.12.1976 could become German citizens by declaration until 31.12.1979.

The marriage of parents of a child Born out of wedlock was called „Legitimation“. The change of status of a child born out of wedlock to one born in wedlock could be achieved to a later marriage by the parents if the paternity had been established. This option for acquiring German citizenship existed from 01.01.1914 until 30.06.1998.




Since 01.01.2000, a child born in German to non-German parents may acquire German citizenship if at the time of birth one parent has lived in Germany legally for at least 8 years and has the right of legal permanent residence. For children born after 28.08.2007, one parent needs to have an unlimited right of residence in Germany.


Children born to foreign parents in Germany before 01.01.2000 did not acquire German citizenship and cannot retroactively apply for citizenship under the above regulation.



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