German Citizenship News | How to Apply ?

August 2023: German Cabinet signs off plan to ease path to citizenship

The German government’s proposal includes a shorter period of residency as a requirement — and allows dual citizenship for more people. Lawmakers still have to approve it.

Germany’s government on Wednesday presented a proposal to reform the country’s citizenship law.

It must still be deliberated on by both houses of Parliament.

“This is one of the most important projects of the coalition,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said when presenting the reform to the press.

“There have been many debates, unfortunately marked by resentments… at the expense of people who have worked here and have made a contribution to our welfare,” Faeser said.

What Does It Mean to Have German Citizenship?

When you live in Germany as a permanent resident, you do not qualify as a citizen of Germany. This puts some restrictions on your status, and that is why so many permanent residents of Germany seek German citizenship.

Having German citizenship gives you rights and freedoms that non-citizens do not have. You will have these opportunities as a German citizen:

  • The right to vote.
  • The right of free movement
  • The right of assembly and association
  • The right of consular protection
  • Unrestricted access to the German job market
  • The right to become a civil servant, etc.

Besides the rights as per the German constitution, you will also have the obligations and duties that each German citizen has. This includes the integration in society, respect for and obedience to all laws, and even potential German military service.

Types of German Citizenship

Becoming a German citizen is not possible under all circumstances. There are three general instances that can lead to you getting German citizenship.

  • By naturalization
  • By right of blood or in Latin Jus Sanguinis
  • By right of soil or in Latin Jus Soli

Getting citizenship by naturalization implies that you have fulfilled certain requirements that the German government has set and qualify to apply for German citizenship. The other type, by right of blood or Jus Sanguinis, means that you can gain German citizenship if you are a direct descendant of German citizens. This “right of blood” includes only your parents and no other relatives. By “right of soil”, or “Jus Soli”, means that you are born within the borders of Germany, so on German soil and that is how you get your citizenship.

All people except for EU, EEA, or Swiss nationals, must fulfil requirements and fall into one of these categories for getting German citizenship.

Despite these three instances appearing quite straightforward, each one has its own rules and regulations, which we will discuss further. It should also be noted that sourcing the appropriate paperwork and accomplishing everything you need to do within the timeframe can be very challenging. Working with dedicated legal professionals in immigration law such as those at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte help to accelerate the process or resolve potential problems during the process.

Becoming a German citizen by naturalization

What are the requirements for becoming a naturalized German citizen?

Section 10, para. 1 of the Nationality Act

To be eligible for naturalization, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possess the appropriate residence permit. Foreigners who have successfully completed an integration course are eligible for naturalization after seven years. Persons wishing to become naturalized citizens must also declare their allegiance to our constitution and have a sufficient command of the German language. Knowledge of German is an essential prerequisite for integration into our society. Candidates for naturalization must be familar with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany (naturalization test) an be able to support themselves without recourse to social assistance, unless this is due to circumstances beyond their control; nor can they have committed any serious criminal offences. In addition, they must give up their previous citizenship. In certain cases or for certain groups of persons, however, multiple nationality may be considered.

Special rules apply to persons with special status (displaced foreigners and stateless persons), making it easier for them to become naturalized citizens.  

Your local naturalization authority will be able to tell you whether you are eligible for naturalization and how to apply.

How well do naturalization applicants have to speak German?

Applicants for naturalization are required to have a sufficient command of the German language: oral and written German language skills equivalent to level B 1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for languages. 

The ability to speak German is an absolute necessity. Being able to communicate in German is essential for social and economic integration.

For more information on proof of sufficient command of German, please contact your local naturalization authority.

What is the fee for naturalization?

The fee for regular or discretionary naturalization is €255. A reduced fee of €51 applies for each dependent minor child naturalized along with a parent.

Fees may be reduced or waived completely in certain cases.

How to Apply for German Citizenship Naturalization?

If you can prove that you meet all the naturalization requirements, you can begin your application process. All persons over the age of 16 are obliged to apply. Parents and legal guardians of children under 16 years old apply for them.

The steps to applying for naturalization are as follows:

Get an Application Form

Since Germany is a big country, each state and area have its own immigration office to apply for naturalization. To begin the process, you must get a naturalization application form from one of the following places:

  • The local immigration office
  • If you live in an urban area, go to the city council.
  • If you live in a German district, go to the regional district office.
  • The town council or any other local authorities.

Fill out the application form and start compiling a file with all documents, which prove you meet the requirements.

Pass the German Citizenship Test

To prove that you are ready to gain German citizenship, you must pass the citizenship test. This test includes 33 multiple choice questions on German living, society, rules, and laws, as well as questions specific to the place you live. The test takes one hour, and you must answer at least 17 questions correctly to pass the test. When you pass the test, you will get a naturalization certificate, which you can add to your document file.

To prepare for the test, you can take an integration course, use the practice test options of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, or simply read more information on German life and laws.

You can be exempt from the naturalization test if you belong to any of these groups:

  • You cannot take the test due to old age, illness, or disability.
  • You are under 16 years old.
  • You have a higher education degree from a German university in politics, law, or social sciences.

Pay the Naturalization Fees

There are also certain fees associated with applying for German citizenship through naturalization. These are the fees you must pay:

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

Submit all Documents

Take the documents that prove you meet the naturalization requirements, such as your application form, the receipts to show you have paid all fees, and your naturalization certificate, to the application office. The officers will go through your case, and if approved, you will get the citizenship certificate. The certificate now proves that you are a citizen of Germany and not just a permanent resident.

German Citizenship by Marriage

People who qualify for naturalization are not only those who have had permanent residence in Germany for a specified period. If you marry a German citizen, you can also get citizenship by applying for naturalization.

Foreign nationals who are already married to a German national must still meet all naturalization requirements and pass the test. However, they should also meet the marriage requirements. The “marriage requirements” mean that the foreign national spouse cannot apply for naturalization unless the couple has been married for at least two years and have lived in Germany for at least three years.

German Citizenship by Descent

The second type of German citizenship is by right of blood or Jus Sanguinis. “Right of blood” means that you have at least one German parent, and it does not consider whether you were born in Germany or not. You get German citizenship by descent if your parents register you to the German authorities in the country you are born before you turn one year old. If your parents have different nationalities, you get German citizenship; however, between the ages of 18 and 23 years old, you will have five years to decide which nationality you want to retain.

If your parents are divorced, you can get German citizenship by descent only if your parent recognizes you as their legal child by the rules of German law.

You cannot get German citizenship if you were born in a foreign country and your German parents were also born in a foreign country after January 1st, 2000. This rule can be bypassed if you as a child would be stateless if the German authorities did not accept you and give you German citizenship. Additionally, you cannot claim German citizenship through any other ancestors except your parents, including German citizenship through grandparents.

Another instance where you can get German citizenship through ancestry is if German citizens adopted you as a child under 18 years old.

As can be seen, German citizenship through ancestry or by descent is not a straightforward task in most cases. Sourcing the appropriate documents to demonstrate your eligibility can be difficult and the application itself can take a long time to process. It should also be noted that dual citizenship is often not permitted in such cases and losing your current citizenship may be the consequence of this form of citizenship. However, there are many benefits of German citizenship should you wish to continue your application.

Legal advice from professionals is often the best course of action when considering German citizenship by descent. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte their dedicated Citizenship by descent team will examine all aspects of your case and advise you on how to proceed. Should applying for citizenship be your best option, they will support you and oversee the entire application. 

German Citizenship by Birth

If you do not have German parents but are born within the borders of Germany, you can qualify for citizenship by birth or by right of soil. This is referred to as Jus Soli citizenship. You can get this type of citizenship under the following conditions:

  • If at least one of your parents has lived in Germany for at least eight years before the birth of the child,
  • If at the time the child is born, one of the parents had a permanent residence permit.

In getting this type of citizenship, the child will again have to choose the parents’ citizenship or the citizenship of Germany between the ages of 18 and 23 years old. The child must give up the parents’ nationality to get the German one or apply for dual citizenship.

Only children born after February 2nd, 1990, have the right to get this type of citizenship.

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