Germany is one of the most popular destinations for immigrants and expats from all around the world. A great deal of people move there each year in search of education, economic, and living opportunities.
One question will eventually be on their minds: How can I become a German citizen? Is the pathway to citizenship easy? What can I do to speed the process up? Is knowledge of the German language necessary? In this blog post, we'll answer all these questions and more.
German Citizenship: Do You Automatically Qualify for One?
Before you take the long and arduous path to obtaining citizenship, it is good to check if you automatically qualify for one. German law sets out a few ways by which ethnic Germans can obtain citizenship:
- Citizenship by birth: Children born on German soil after 2000, even if neither of their parents are German nationals, are automatically qualified for German citizenship granted one of their parents is a legal resident of the country. Children born in Germany will need to choose between their parents' citizenship and German citizenship once they come of age.
- German citizenship by descent: Unlike many other European countries, simply being a descendant of Germans isn't enough to gain German citizenship. One of your parents has to have been a German citizen for you to qualify. If one of your parents is a German citizen, then they need to contact the German embassy in the relevant country to give you a pathway to citizenship.
- Victims of the denationalization program: If your ancestors were victims of the ruling National Socialist party at the time and were forced to relinquish their German citizenship, as their ancestor, you're entitled to apply and receive German citizenship granted you meet certain requirements.
If any of these apply to you, your process will be much faster and easier than the regular pathway to citizenship.
Getting Neutralized in Germany: The Steps You Need to Take
If you are an expat/immigrant to Germany with no prior ties to the country, and you want to become a citizen, it is possible, but the process is complex. Here are some of the key requirements you need to fulfil:
- You have been a legal resident of Germany for at least eight years (6 or 7 if you attend an integration course).
- You have a permanent residence permit in Germany, and you're able to support yourself.
- You speak German at a B1 or higher level.
- You must not have a criminal record.
- You must pass a citizenship test.
These are the most prominent requirements, and for most people, if you intend to continue living in Germany, meeting them isn't hard. However, you'll still face some difficulties even if you meet all the requirements:
- Paperwork: To prove your language proficiency, you need to take a test at certified locations. To prove residence and income, you need to show years of tax returns. To prove a lack of criminal records, you need to get in touch with the police. In short, the process is long and complicated, and even if you have met all the requirements, you'll likely need professional legal aid to help guide you through it.
- Your previous citizenship: Most countries disallow dual citizenship, and this was true for Germany too until recently. So, while it is possible to get German citizenship on top of your existing one, your home country's laws might not allow it. If that's the case, and you're still adamant about becoming a German national, you need to take steps to relinquish your prior citizenship.
- Time: If you want to obtain German citizenship, you have to wait. The preparation of the paperwork, the processing of the application, and the background checks: They all take time. So, even if you've successfully fulfilled all the conditions, you might need to wait a year or two before you can finally receive your citizenship. You need to take this into account if you're planning on scheduling your life around this.
- Time abroad: The 8-year stay in Germany needs to be relatively uninterrupted. This means that while you can go on holidays in foreign countries, you can stay there for prolonged periods if you are adamant about acquiring German citizenship. This is a strict criterion that may be impossible to fulfil for many.
Though complex and fraught with difficulties, a pathway to citizenship exists in Germany, and in recent decades, Germany has only relaxed its laws surrounding this issue. So, if you are adamant about becoming a German citizen, you can certainly achieve it this way as many have done in recent years.
Exceptions and Special Circumstances
Though the outlined method is ostensibly the primary way for immigrants/expats to obtain German citizenship, there are exceptions, and we'll go over the most prominent and important ones below.
- Citizenship through marriage: If you are married to someone with German nationality, you're entitled to German citizenship as well. You have to meet a relaxed version of some of the criteria above. This includes residence in Germany for three years and marriage to your partner for two as the two most prominent ones. If you meet these conditions, you can acquire German citizenship.
- Refugees and stateless people: stateless people and refugees also have their own set of rules and requirements they need to fulfil. This has some commonalities with the regular pathway to citizenship. They also need to show German language proficiency and undergo a citizenship test, but some of the other rules are relaxed when they apply for German citizenship, which takes into account their unique circumstances.
There are multiple pathways to citizenship for those seeking to move to Germany. Though the process is hard, has many requirements, and will take time, it isn't impossible. Many expats and immigrants have successfully become German citizens and have gotten access to a German passport.
In this article, we went over some of the most prominent ways to obtain citizenship, be it through defence from a German mother or German father, prolonged legal residence in Germany, and marriage. Knowing the law, the requirements and your options are key to making the goal of obtaining German citizenship a reality.
Obtaining German Citizenship FAQ
Is Germany Easy to Get Citizenship?
Whether it is easy or not to go through naturalization for German citizenship is a complex question that will largely depend on your frame of reference. Contrary to most of the Western hemisphere, it doesn't have unrestricted Jus Soli, which means automatically conferring citizenship to anyone born on the country's soil. If compared to these nations, the German citizenship process will appear difficult by comparison.
Compared to most of the old world however, whether it is its fellow European countries, Asia, Middle East or Africa, Germany has some of the most lax and accommodating naturalization laws. In some countries, unless you're born to citizens of that nation, there are no legal pathways to obtain citizenship. Suffice it to say that's not the case with Germany. If you are curious about the process and how to get German citizenship, read our detailed blog post above!
Does Germany Allow Dual Citizenship?
Yes, Germany has recently changed its laws to allow dual citizenship in particular circumstances, particularly allowing children who are born with two citizenships to keep both. However, if you so choose to retain your citizenship, it will impact the country's considerations regarding giving you citizenship or not. So, you have to be careful and get in touch with German authorities before you make your final decision.
How Can I Get PR in Germany?
If you are a citizen of non-EU countries, you can only get permanent residency in Germany after staying as a temporary resident for a period of time, having a stable income, a clean police record, and prove German language proficiency. After you meet all these criteria, you can apply for permanent residency and German citizenship down the line.