Nationality and Citizenship Law

The German Law on Nationality and Citizenship is rather complex and has undergone many changes in the past. However, some aspects have remained the same. Please make sure you read and understand the information provided below before contacting the German Foreign Mission. This will help us to assist you better. Thank you.

The Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz)

The German rules on citizenship were thoroughly revised with the entry into force of the amended Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) on January 1st, 2000. The rules underwent yet another revision with the entry into force of the Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) on January 1st, 2005.

German citizenship is mainly acquired and passed on through descent from a German parent. The parent has to be German citizen at the time of the birth of the child. Children who are born to former German citizens do not acquire the German citizenship. In addition, for children born before January 1st, 1975 to parents who were married to each other at the time of the birth, it was mandatory that the father was a German citizen in order for the child to acquire the German citizenship.

As an example: If your father was once a German citizen, but was naturalized Canadian before you were born. He automatically lost his German citizenship when he accepted the Canadian citizenship and was therefore unable to pass on the German citizenship to you.

If you were born before January 1st, 1975 to parents who were married to each other at the time of the birth, and your mother was a German citizen, you may be able to apply for German Citizenship. German language skills are one of the requirements for this application. 

For further information please refer to the website of the Federal Office of Administration (in German language).

(Please note: due to a reorganization of the websie of the Federal Office of Administration the English language version is temporarily offline)

One or Two Citizenships?

The German rules on citizenship are based on the principle of avoiding dual citizenship. This means that a German citizen who voluntarily applies for and accepts a foreign nationality on principle loses the German nationality automatically. This rule does not apply to Germans who receive the other citizenship by law (e.g. children born in Canada to parents that hold German citizenship at the time of the birth of the child may be dual citizens by law), or who applied for and received a citizenship of a member state of the European Union or Switzerland after August of 2007.

Persons who were born in Germany before the year 2000 to non-German parents did not obtain German citizenship at the time of their birth and are not eligible for a German passport. Only children born in or after the year 2000 to long-term residents of Germany could or can under certain circumstances receive the German citizenship. They must however decide between the ages of 18 and 23 whether to retain their German nationality or the nationality of their parents.

As a general rule, foreigners now have the right to become naturalized after eight years of habitual residence in Germany, provided they meet the relevant conditions. The minimum period for spouses of German nationals is usually shorter. For naturalization, it is necessary to prove adequate knowledge of German. A clean record and commitment to the tenets of the German Constitution are further criteria. The person to be naturalized must also be able to financially support him-/herself. Requirements for applicants residing abroad are more extensive than for residents of Germany.


German Citizenship Law and Dual Citizenship

The German law on citizenship mandates that German citizens who voluntarily apply for and accept the Canadian citizenship will automatically lose the German citizenship if they have not been granted a permission to retain the German citizenship prior to becoming Canadian. This "Beibehaltungsgenehmigung" is granted by the competent authority in Germany on an individual basis.

Baby in the national colours of Germany (black, red, yellow)

German Canadian Dual Citizenship by Birth

While the German rules on citizenship are based on the principle of avoiding dual citizenship, this principle does not apply to children who receive dual citizenship through descent from their parents .

Non-acquisition of German nationality for children born abroad

Children born abroad do not acquire German nationality by birth if their German parent(s) were themselves born abroad after 31 December 1999 and at the time of the child’s birth were ordinarily resident abroad, provided such children acquire another nationality upon birth.


Am I German?

If you are Canadian citizen and would like to find out if you are eligible to apply for a German passport, there are some basic principles of the German law of citizenship that you should familiarize yourself with first.

gute Verbindungen

Repatriation (Ermessenseinbürgerung)

In principle, repatriation of former Germans is possible, if there is a public interest regarding the naturalization. However, requirements for applicants residing abroad are more extensive than for residents of Germany.


Loss of German Citizenship as a Result of Military Service

Please be advised that German citizens who voluntarily enter the armed forces of a country other than Germany will on principle automatically lose their German citizenship if they did not obtain a consent of the competent German authority (i.e. the Federal Ministry of Defense). Please note that as a consequence of an international treaty between several nations since July 6, 2011  the consent is considered as given if a German Canadian citizen enters the Canadian armed forces after this date.

Nationality and Citizenship Law

Map of German Foreign Missions in Canada

Interactive map of German diplomatic and consular representations in Canada

One embassy, three consulates general, and five honorary consuls offer their consular services across Canada, each covering a specific geographic region. To find out where please consult our interactive map.