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How to apply for German citizenship (deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit)

If you have been living in Germany for several years you may be eligible to apply for German citizenship (deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit) Here’s what you need to know:

How can I get German citizenship?

Anyone thinking of applying for German citizenship first needs to identity what kind of citizenship they are eligible for and what measures are needed to achieve these requirements. There are three ways you can attain citizenship:

Naturalisation (Einbürgerung)

If you have lived in Germany uninterrupted for a minimum of eights years and you meet all the other requirements. (read more below)

By right of blood (Abstammungsprinzip)

Should you have a German parent (either mother, father or both) then you must also qualify for this type of German citizenship, your birth must be registered within one year with the German mission in the country where you were born.

By right of soil (Geburtsortsprinzip)

If you were born in Germany to non-German parents. At least one of your parents must have been a permanent resident in Germany for at least eight years and they must posses the necessary permission to remain in Germany indefinitely.

Once one reaches the age of 18 they have the option of deciding if they want German citizenship or their parent’s citizenship.

German citizenship by Naturalisation

Naturalisation is the process of going through an application process and it can take several months.

What are the requirements for German citizenship by naturalisation?

To be able to qualify for naturalisation you must fulfil a list of requirements. These are;

  • You have lived in Germany on a lawful residence permit for more than eight years.
  • You are able to support yourself and your family financially without relying on unemployment benefit IIhousing benefits or childcare allowance.
  • You do not have a criminal record.
  • You have passed the naturalisation test.
  • You are prepared to lose your previous citizenship (some exceptions apply; see section on dual nationality below).
  • You are committed to the democratic principles of the German constitution.

German language proficiency test

You will need to demonstrate that you have mastered the German language to the Level B1 which can be proven with any of the following:

German language certification

  • such as the Deutschtest für Zuwanderer or equivalent.
  • Certificate of successful participation in a language course as part of an integration course.
  • German secondary school leaving certificate or equivalent, with a grade of at least “pass” in German.
  • Admission to grade 10 of an upper secondary German school (RealschuleGesamtschuleGymnasium) with a grade of at least “pass” in German.
  • Attendance at a German school for four years, with a grade of at least “pass” in German.
  • Studies at a German university, or successful completion of a German vocational training course.

If you do not fulfil all the requirements, in special cases there may still be an option for you to apply for discretionary naturalisation, at the discretion of your local authorities.

Exceptions to the 8-year requirement

You might qualify for the exception from the 8 year requirement for naturalisation. You can apply immediately for German citizenship if either of the following applies to you:

  • You have successfully completed a German language integration course at a Community College (Volkshochsschule) and have lived in Germany for seven years continuously.
  • You can demonstrate an even better command of the German language (level B2 or higher) and have lived in Germany for six years continuously.
  • You have been married to a German citizen for a minimum of two years and have lived in Germany legally for at least three years continuously.

Does Germany offer dual citizenship?

Germany does not offer dual citizenship and people from other countries will often have to renounce citizenship. There are, however, some exceptins to this rule:

Cases where German citizenship with dual nationality is permitted

You are not required to give up your original citizenship if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are an EU / Swiss citizen.
  • You are a citizen of the former Soviet Union.
  • You have permission from the German authorities to retain another citizenship.
  • Your country does not allow you to or it is impossible to renounce your citizenship (e.g. if your country is in a state of conflict).  

How do I apply for German citizenship?

If you fulfil all the requirements and you want to apply for German citizenship, you need to apply to the appropriate authority’s office.

  • The authority responsible for citizenship matter depend on the federal state one resides. You have to check in with your local foreigners’ office or citizens office.
  • Your local citizenship authority will schedule a consultation with you to discuss all the important information. If you should be abroad when you apply for German citizenship then your application will be handled by your local German mission.
  • The citizenship authority will provide you with all the necessary information and forms during your initial consultation and once you have gather the required documentation then you can submit your application and pay the application fee.
  • This will start the application process and depending on your federal state, it can take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months to receive a response to your request.

If you have children under the age of 18 and you want them to have German nationality, you can request for them to be naturalised with you.

READ ALSO: How much does German Citizenship cost?

Documents required for German citizenship application

The citizenship authority will advise you on exactly which documents you need to prepare during your initial consultation. These will usually include:  

  • Your passport and / or identity card (not a driving licence)
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Proof of financial stability (e.g. bank statements)
  • Proof of language proficiency
  • Pass certificate for the naturalisation test

Depending on your personal situation, some additional documents may be required.

German citizenship application outcome

Once ones’ complication has been considers, the citizenship authority will send you the outcome via post. This can take anywhere between a few weeks and several months.

German citizenship application granted

Should you be successful in your application then your letter will contain instructions on how to complete the process by attending a compulsory citizenship ceremony.

At this ceremony, you must swear an oath of allegiance to Germany’s laws and customs in order to receive your certificate of naturalisation.

Once you have German citizenship you can also apply for a German passport.

German citizenship application rejected

Should your application be rejected for any reason, you will receive a notice in the post explaining the grounds for the rejection. In this case, speak to your immigration office or citizenship authority to see if there are legal grounds for an appeal.

What rights do I get with German citizenship?

Becoming a German citizen means you gain some rights that are not available to non-citizens, even those who have permanent residency. The new rights given to you as a citizen include:

  • The ability to enter and leave Germany freely.
  • The right to a German passport.
  • The ability to vote in German national and state elections.
  • Unrestricted access to find a job in Germany.
  • The right to become a civil servant.
  • Automatic EU citizenship with the right to freedom of movement.
  • The ability to vote for the European Parliament.