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.
(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.