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.
The German passport is among the top three most powerful passports in the world. It gives to its holder the opportunity to visit 188 countries around the world visa-free. Moreover, the country has borders with nine other EU countries, more than any other country in the EU. You can just take a bus or train and within a day or less, you will be in another country. Its culture, architecture, public system, food and holidays, are extra factors that make life in Germany, the dreamed life for many.
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 the German citizenship, it is all worth it in the end.
If you are wondering how to become a citizen of Germany, you will find short but clear information in this article.
Benefits of having German Citizenship
The benefits of being a German passport holder are many. If you live in Germany only as a permanent resident, you will be able to taste the life there, work and study, and benefit from many other things. However, if you do not have citizenship, you will be restricted in some others as:
- you will not be able to vote, elect and be elected
- you will not have the right of assembly and association
- you will not have the right of consular protection
- you will have restricted access to get a job in Germany
- You will not be allowed to become a civil servant, etc.
On the other side, if you hold German citizenship, you will have the right to all the above mentioned, and much more. Still, you shall not forget that rights and benefits come with obligations and duties, to the Federal Republic of Germany, which you will have to fulfill as every other citizen, including German military service.
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:
- 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.
Naturalization is a process, which makes it possible for a foreigner to become a German citizen. You can become a German citizen through naturalization, if you fulfill one of the following criteria:
- you have been living in Germany for 8 years or more on the right residence permit
- you have been living in Germany for 7 years on the right residence permit and you attended an integration course
Eligibility Criteria for German Naturalization
There are other German citizenship requirements and criteria, which one has to fulfill and meet in order to be able to get German citizenship through naturalization, as explained below.
Aside of having to fulfil one of the above mentioned conditions on the length of residency in Germany, the candidate for naturalization needs to fulfill the following requirements, as well:
- the applicant must prove German language proficiency of at least B1
- the applicant must be financially independent, and capable of supporting themselves and their family without using state welfare benefits
- the candidate must be a law-abiding citizen that had no criminal records
- there is a naturalization test the applicant must pass
- The candidate for naturalization must give up any previous citizenships
One of the crucial requirements is knowledge of German language, at least B1 level. German knowledge can be proved by submitting one of the documents listed below:
- 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
German Naturalization Application Process
The process of applying for German Citizenship through naturalization is not easy. You will have to make sure you fulfill all of the German citizenship requirements, collect documents that prove such thing, and much more.
Below find a step-by-step guideline on how to apply for German Citizenship through Naturalization.
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 oral and writing skills in German.
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. 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
The test has 33 questions in total. If you answer 17 of them correctly, then you pass the test. You will have to pay an amount of 25 euros to sit for 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
Pay the application fees
There are some naturalization fees that each applicant will have to pay during their application process, which are as following:
- Application form for adults – 255 Euros
- Application form for children under 16 years old – 51 Euros
- Naturalization/Citizenship test – 25 Euros
- Citizenship certificate – 25 Euros
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 with citizenship or not.
If you get the citizenship, you will have to pay 25 euros 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).
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.
Remember that children under 18, adopted by German parents have the same right to get citizenship through ancestry.
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.
German Dual Citizenship
You may apply for German dual citizenship only in some very specific cases. Dual citizenship in Germany is reserved only for some special categories of people, which are:
- citizens of any of the EU countries of the former Soviet Union countries
- those from countries that do not permit their citizens to give up citizenship
- ethic Germans
- candidates with parents from US
- persons who have a permission from the German authorities to hold dual citizenship
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