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Ways to getting a German citizenship and step by step explanation of each type

To many people nowadays, Germany is the ideal country where one would love to work and spend their life. With its low rates of unemployment, perfectly organized healthcare system, and many other factors – the Western European country keeps luring people around the world.

However, because of the bureaucracy and the strict German immigration system, many people are not even willing to take neither the energy nor the time to try to start a life in Germany. Still, you should not let that scare you. There are a few ways how to become a German citizen, though none of them is easy. They take time and energy, but if you gain German citizenship, it is all worth it in the end.

Types of German Citizenship

There are a few ways of how to become a German citizen, and all of them have very strict criteria and requirements. There are very specific circumstances, which can lead to German citizenship, as following:

  • Naturalization
  • German Citizenship by Descendent (right of blood)
  • German Citizenship by Birth (right of soil)

Following in this article, we will explain what are the criteria and requirements and how to become a citizen of Germany, through all the above-mentioned routes, and what each of them means.

German Naturalization

Naturalization is a process, which makes it possible for a foreigner to become a German citizen. To be eligible to apply for German citizenship through naturalization you must be a resident of Germany for at least 8 years. If you attended a German integration course, you only need 7 years of residence to be eligible for naturalization.

To get assistance with the naturalization process in Germany, we recommend you consult certified legal advisors such as Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte. They offer complete support during the entire process and will represent your case with the relevant authorities. Having represented successfully numerous they possess the necessary experience to help you with the application for German citizenship through naturalization. Contact them now!

German Naturalization Requirements

In addition to the eligibility criteria, to become a German citizen through naturalization you should also fulfill one of the following criteria:

  • Prove German language proficiency of at least B1. You can prove German language proficiency through:
    • A German language certificate, as Zertifikat Deutsch.
    • Certificate that proves you have completed a German secondary school.
    • Admission letter to a German upper secondary school.
    • Certificate that confirms you have completed at least 4 years of school in Germany with a passing grade.
    • Proof of completion of higher education degrees in German.
  • Be financially independent, and capable of supporting themselves and their family without using state welfare benefits.
  • Be a law-abiding citizen that had no criminal records.
  • Pass the naturalization test.
  • Give up on any previous citizenships.

How to Become a German Citizen Through Naturalization?

To become a German citizen through naturalization you must go through the following steps:

  1. Submit the Application Form.
  2. Pass the Naturalization Test.
  3. Pay the application fees.
  4. Submit the application.

Submit the Application Form

The first thing you have to do is to get an application form for German naturalization. You can obtain this form at one of the offices listed below:

  • the local immigration office
  • the city council (if you live in an urban area)
  • the regional district office (if you live in a German district)
  • the town council or any other local authorities

Fulfill the application form with honest and correct information. Remember that the information you give in this document has to comply with the information in the other documents required for application. The form is in German, since if you are applying for citizenship, you are supposed to have excellent knowledge of the language.

Pass the Naturalization Test

The second thing you have to do is to attend and pass a citizenship test, through which you prove that you have not only German language knowledge, but also that you know more about the country the citizenship of which you wish to hold. The test has 33 questions in total and to pass you must score at least 50%. This means, if you answer 17 of them correctly, then you pass the test. You will have to pay an amount of 25€ to attend the test.

Exempt from taking the test are only the categories listed below:

  • children under 6 years old
  • persons who cannot take the test due to old age, illness, or disability
  • persons who have a higher education degree from a German university in politics, law, or social sciences

Usually, there are questions about:

  • living in Germany
  • the German society
  • the German laws and rules
  • 3 questions are specifically about the region where you live.

Pay the application fees

There are some fees that each applicant will have to pay during their application process, which are as following:

  • Application form for adults – 255 €
  • Application form for children under 16 years old – 51 €
  • Naturalization/Citizenship test – 25 €

Submit the application

You will have to submit your application form alongside with the other required documents, at the same office where you have obtained the form. Your application will then be reviewed and you will be informed whether the authorities have decided to grant you citizenship or not.

If you get the citizenship, you will have to pay 25 € to get the citizenship certificate. The certificate proves that now you have all the rights as every other legal resident in the Federal Republic of Germany.

German Naturalization by Marriage

Another way of getting German citizenship is by marriage. You will however need to apply for naturalization. The only difference is that you are not required to fulfill the residency length as for naturalization. You will still have to fulfill the other requirements just like for naturalization including:

  • pass the naturalization test
  • prove German oral and written knowledge
  • pay the fee

In addition, the candidate will have to fulfil the marriage requirements, which are:

  • the couple must have been married for at least two years
  • the couple must have lived in Germany for at least three years

German Citizenship by Descent

German citizenship by descendent, which is called the right of blood, is another way how people can become German citizens. It does not matter if you were born in Germany, or in the other side of the world. As soon as you fulfill the following conditions, you will be granted with citizenship in Germany:

  • one of your parent is a German citizen
  • your parents registered you to the German authorities in the country you are born before you turn one year old (if you are to born in Germany)
  • you give up on the citizenship of the non-German parent (if both aren’t German), after you become 18 (you have time to decide until you are 23).

Children under 18, adopted by German parents have the same right to get citizenship through ancestry.

Remember that you can get German citizenship by descent, only if one of your parents is a German citizen. You cannot do so if another family member, i.e. your grandparents are German, but not your parents.  In addition, those born in a foreign country, whose parents were also born in a foreign country, cannot obtain German citizenship by descent after January 1st, 2000.

For such matters, it is best that you get in touch with professionals that can advise you on your options and the easiest way to get German citizenship. Immigration and citizenship experts at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte will give you the necessary legal support during your application for citizenship.

German Citizenship Through Grandparents

If your parents are not German, then you cannot obtain German nationality directly from your grandparents. However, there is still hope as your parents may have obtained citizenship by descent from their German parents (and thus passed it on to you), even if neither of you has lived in Germany.

It is a little complicated, but your parents may be considered German citizens if:

  • They have a German father and their parents were married at the time of their birth.
  • They were born on or after 1 January 1975 to married parents, one of whom was a German citizen.
  • They were born to a German mother, even if your grandparents were unmarried at that time.
  • They were born on or after 1 July 1993 to a German citizen father, even if your grandparents were unmarried at that time.
  • One of their ancestors was a German citizen, who had their citizenship was revoked under Nazi rule in 1938.

If your parents are German citizens (as detailed in one of the instances above) then you can apply for your German passport, provided that you also meet the same requirements.

German Citizenship for Victims of Nazi Persecution and Their Descendants

In August of 2021, new laws entered into force, changing the German Nationality Act allowing more victims of the Nazi regime and their descendants to apply for German citizenship. Within the new act, you, your children and grandchildren, can apply for re-naturalization in Germany if between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945, due to political, racial, or religious reasons you: 

  • Were not allowed to legally obtain German citizenship via marriage, legitimation, or collective naturalization. 
  • Were not granted citizenship after applying.
  • Were excluded from applying despite being eligible for citizenship. 
  • Lost or gave up your German citizenship before February 26 of 1955, either through naturalization in another country or marriage to a foreign individual. 
  • Gave up your residence in Germany if your residency was established before 30 January 1933 (in the case of children, eligibility is considered even if residency was established after 30 January 1933). 

Previously, most applications were rejected due to limitations of the law.

Another significant change to the law that came into force in 2020 is the definition of a “descendant.” Now, qualified descendants also include: 

  • Children born before 1 April 1953 to married parents (German mother, non-German father), where the mother’s citizenship was forcefully revoked. 
  • Children born out of wedlock before 1 July 1993 to a German father and a foreign mother, where the father’s citizenship was forcefully revoked. 

If your application for German citizenship was rejected because of the previous regulations, you can submit a new application with no other particular form required. Make sure you contact a German embassy or consulate in your country to assist you. 

German Citizenship by Birth

German citizenship by right of soil is quite the contrary to that by right of blood. There are three conditions for getting this kind of citizenship, as listed below:

  • at least one of the parents must have lived in Germany for at least 8 years prior to the birth of the child
  • at least one of the parents must have had a permanent residence permit at the time the child was born
  • the child must be born after February 2nd, 1990

Once again, upon becoming 18 years old, the child will have to choose between the German citizenship and that of their parents. The child must take a decision on the citizenship he or she wishes to hold before turning 23 years old, or apply for dual citizenship.

Does Germany Allow Dual Citizenship?

Germany does not normally allow dual citizenship. However, exceptions are possible in certain circumstances, such as:

  • You have a German and a non-German parent or your parents have dual nationality. According to the principle of descent, you will have the nationalities of both parents from birth, and thus, dual citizenship.
  • Your country of origin does not allow the renouncement of your nationality.
  • It is very difficult for you to renounce your previous nationality. This is most prevalent among refugees who cannot go back to their country of origin to start the process of renouncing their nationality, so they are allowed dual citizenship.
  • You are an ethnic German repatriate. If you are recognised as an ethnic German repatriate (descendants of Germans from the former Soviet Union and other countries in Eastern Europe who faced prosecution due to their German nationality after WW2) you receive a repatriates certificate and you automatically receive German nationality.
  • If you are a national of an EU country or Switzerland.

If your circumstances match one of the above-mentioned categories, you can pass your dual nationality to your children as well, who can keep it permanently.

German Citizenship Re-naturalization

If you have previously given up on your German passport and citizenship, you still have chances to apply for re-naturalization. In order to become a German citizen once again you must:

  • apply for naturalization just like the first time
  • give up on all previous citizenships
  • not have lost German citizenship previously due to criminal activity

Benefits of German Citizenship

If you become a German citizen, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • You can work, study, or open a business in Germany without restrictions.
  • You can live, work, or study in any EU country without having to apply for a residence permit.
  • You can travel visa-free to 145 world countries.
  • You can vote and become involved in German politics.
  • You will be able to benefit from German social security benefits, if the need arises.
  • You can retire in Germany and any other EU country you wish.
  • You no longer have to deal with German Immigration Bureaucracy.

Reasons Why Your German Citizenship Application May Be Denied 

Your citizenship application in Germany can sometimes be refused on various grounds, but the most common reasons are: 

  • You miscalculated your residency period. 
  • You are currently not employed. 
  • You have committed a serious offense. 
  • You have another valid citizenship. 

Residency Period Miscalculation

To become a German citizen, you must have lived in Germany for at least eight years (7 if you took part in a German integrated course). If you were living in Germany under a student visa or an au pair visa during these eight years, then that time is not calculated towards your citizenship period. For this reason, many people miscalculate the period that counts towards citizenship, and your application may get rejected. 

You Are Not Employed

For naturalization in Germany, you have to show evidence that you can support yourself and your dependents; this includes having a job. If you are unemployed at the time of the application, there is a good chance that your citizenship application may be rejected. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • If you are unemployed due to operational dismissal and you can prove that you are actively seeking employment. 
  • If you have young children that need to be looked after. 

You Have Committed a Serious Offense

Minor convictions do not hinder your ability to become a German citizen. However, if the crime you committed is considered a severe offense, citizenship is impossible. Depending on the type of crime you committed, your conviction may be deleted from the federal registry system after enough time has passed, and you may be eligible for naturalization. 

In cases of active investigations, there cannot be a decision on your application until the investigation is closed and a decision is made. 

You Have Another Valid Citizenship 

Germany does not permit dual citizenship. So, to qualify for naturalization, you have to give up on your previous citizenship in most cases. 

Some cases may be exempted from this rule, i.e., you have permission to keep both citizenships, or your current country does not allow you to revoke your citizenship (see the details above).

Please note that you can re-apply for citizenship in most cases, but you also have the option to file an appeal of the initial notice. Check with your local immigration office on how to proceed further. 

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