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German citizenship by naturalization

A woman in Frankfurt celebrates receiving her German citizenship

A woman in Frankfurt celebrates receiving her German citizenship, © dpa

01.04.2021 - Article

German citizenship can also be acquired by naturalization. However, naturalization of persons residing outside of Germany is only possible in exceptional cases.

Naturalization, i.e. applying for and being granted German citizenship, is usually meant for persons who currently live in German and have lived in Germany continuously for several years. Nat­u­ral­iza­tions of persons liv­ing abroad on the ba­sis of dis­cre­tion are rare and need to be of spe­cial in­ter­est to the Fed­er­al Re­pub­lic of Ger­many.

In general, those applying for naturalization must give up their foreign nationality. There are exceptions for nationals of EU member states and Switzerland as well as for those whose German citizenship is restored.

The following exceptions allow naturalization of persons living outside of Germany:

Former German citizens who between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds are entitled to (re-)Naturalisation. This also applies to their descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren) if those would have become German citizens if their ancestor had not been deprived of his or her German citizenship.

The application forms are available on the website of the German Federal Office of Administration.

Please note that the whole application process must be conducted in German language.

On August 30, 2019, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and Community issued two comprehensive decrees to create more generous options for acquiring citizenship under Section 14 of the Nationality Act for the benefit of descendants of the victims of National Socialism whose forebears lost their German citizenship amid the National Socialist persecution and were not entitled to have it restored under Art. 116 (2) of the Basic Law (Press Release of the Federal Ministry of the Interior).

Those who stand to benefit from the decrees include:

  1. Children born in wedlock before April 1, 1953, to German mothers whose citizenship had been revoked and foreign fathers;
  2. Children born out of wedlock before July 1, 1993, to German fathers whose citizenship had been revoked and foreign mothers;
  3. Children, irrespective of the date of birth, whose German parent acquired foreign citizenship prior to February 26, 1955, and lost their German citizenship amid the National Socialist persecution occurring between January 30, 1933, and May 8, 1945. This includes:     
  • A father or mother who had lost German citizenship amid National Socialist persecution by obtaining foreign citizenship (naturalization) before February 26, 1955
  • A mother who had lost German citizenship before April 1, 1953 (Section 17, No. 7 of the former Imperial and State Nationality Law) through marriage to a foreign or stateless man

This path to citizenship is also open to descendants of these children up to a generational cut-off date pursuant to Section 4 (4) of the Nationality Act.

Please observe this cut-off date. Accordingly, the first generation born abroad after December 31, 1999, will be the last to be able to acquire citizenship more easily. Their minor children who are born before the transitional deadline on December 31, 2020, can acquire citizenship along with their parents if the application for citizenship is filed before January 1, 2021.

For this group of people, easier requirements for citizenship apply. Only basic German language skills and basic knowledge of the legal and social order and the prevailing living standards in Germany are necessary.

For further information, visit the website of the Central Service Agency of the Federal Government at: Website of the Federal Office of Administration.

If you have any questions, please contact the competent German foreign mission.

Persons born after 23.05.1949 and before 01.01.1975 as child of a German mother and a non-German father and whose parents were married at the time of birth, may apply for naturalization even while living outside of Germany. Prerequisits are among others very good German language skills as well as continuing close connections to Germany.

The ministerial decree of August 30, 2019, expands the group of persons eligible for citizenship to include the children born in wedlock to German mothers and foreign fathers before the Basic Law entered into force on May 24, 1949, and the children born out of wedlock to German fathers and foreign mothers who did not acquire German citizenship owing to the citizenship law prevailing at the time of their birth as well as their descendants. The required language ability was lowered to level B1 GER. Please bear in mind that this path to citizenship is available only until the generational cut-off date under Section 4 (4) of the Nationality Act. This means that the first generation born abroad after December 31, 1999, will be the last to be able to take advantage of this option to acquire citizenship.

The application for naturalization is to be handed in with the Federal Office of Administration through the responsible German Mission. Charges apply.

Persons born after 23.05.1949 and before 01.07.1993 to a German father and a non-German mother and whose parents were not married are able to apply for naturalization from abroad if the paternity has been confirmed according to German law. Prerequisits are among others very good German language skills as well as continuing close connections to Germany.

The ministerial decree of August 30, 2019, expands the group of persons eligible for citizenship to include the children born in wedlock to German mothers and foreign fathers before the Basic Law entered into force on May 24, 1949, and the children born out of wedlock to German fathers and foreign mothers who did not acquire German citizenship owing to the citizenship law prevailing at the time of their birth as well as their descendants. The required language ability was lowered to level B1 GER. Please bear in mind that this path to citizenship is available only until the generational cut-off date under Section 4 (4) of the Nationality Act. This means that the first generation born abroad after December 31, 1999, will be the last to be able to take advantage of this option to acquire citizenship.

The application for naturalization is to be handed in with the Federal Office for Administration through the responsible German Mission. Charges apply.

Former German citizens who lost their citizenship less then 12 years ago by applying for a non-German citizenship and are not in possession of a special permit to retain their German citizenship (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) can apply for re-naturalization. Prerequisits are among others very good German language skills as well as continuing close connections to Germany.

The application for naturalization is to be handed in with the Federal Office for Administration through the responsible German Mission. Charges apply.

Persons, who lost their German citizenship by applying for citizenship of another EU Country or Switzerland, and who have their regular residence in the European Union or Switzerland can be re-naturalized. This also applies to minors who can re-naturalized together with a parent.

The application for re-naturalization is to be handed in with the Federal Office for Administration through the responsible German Mission. Charges apply.

 

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