|German Citizenship Act|
|Parliament of Germany|
|Enacted by||Government of Germany|
|Status: Current legislation|
German nationality law is the law governing the acquisition, transmission and loss of German citizenship. The law is based on a mixture of the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli. In other words, one usually acquires German citizenship if a parent is a German citizen, irrespective of place of birth, or by birth in Germany to parents with foreign nationality if certain requirements are fulfilled. Naturalization is also possible for foreign nationals after six to eight years of legal residence in Germany.
Although non-EU and non-Swiss citizens normally must renounce their old citizenship before being approved for naturalization (if the laws of their other countries of citizenship do not already automatically act to denaturalise them upon award of German nationality), there is a broad exception for when it would be "very difficult" to do so, and as of 2017, a majority of newly naturalized German citizens have been allowed to retain their previous citizenship. Under German law, citizens of other EU countries and of Switzerland may keep their old citizenship by right, however, some EU countries (such as the Netherlands) do not allow dual citizenship even with other EU countries. German citizens wanting to acquire a non-EU or non-Swiss citizenship and to maintain their German citizenship must apply for permission (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) before acquiring the other citizenship, or they automatically lose German citizenship when they acquire the foreign citizenship. For details, see Dual citizenship section below.
A significant reform to the nationality law was passed by the Bundestag (the German parliament) in 1999, and came into force on 1 January 2000. The reformed law makes it somewhat easier for foreigners resident in Germany on a long-term basis, and especially their children born in Germany, to acquire German citizenship.
The previous German nationality law dated from 1913. Nationality law was amended by the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany; these amendments were revoked after the defeat of Nazism by an Allied occupational ordinance during WWII in 1945. Germany ratified the European Convention on Nationality, which came into force in Germany on 1 September 2005. All German nationals are automatically also citizens of the European Union.
Before the formation of the German Empire in 1871, the states that became part of the empire were sovereign with their own nationality laws, those of the southern ones (notably Bavaria) being quite liberal. Prussia's nationality law can be traced back to the "Law Respecting the Acquisition and Loss of the Quality as a Prussian subject, and his Admission to Foreign Citizenship" of 31 December 1842, which was based on the principle of jus sanguinis. Prussian law became the basis of the legal system of the German Empire, though the state nationality laws continued to apply, and a German citizen was a person who held citizenship of one of the states of the German Empire.
On 22 July 1913 the Nationality Law of the German Empire and States (Reichs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, shorthand: RuStAG) established a German citizenship, either derived from the citizenship of one of the component states or acquired through the central Reich government.
Under the Third Reich, in 1934, the German nationality law was amended to abolish separate state citizenships and creating a uniform Reich citizenship, with the central Reich authorities having power to grant or withdraw German nationality. In 1935 the Reich Citizenship Law (Reichsbürgergesetz), the second of the Nuremberg Laws, created a new category called "state subjects" (Staatsangehörige) to which Jews were assigned, thereby withdrawing citizenship from Jews who had been citizens; only those classed as being of "German or related blood" retained Reich citizenship.
On 13 March 1938, Germany extended the nationality law to Austria following the Anschluss that annexed Austria to Germany. On 27 April 1945, after the defeat of Nazism, Austria was re-established and conferred Austrian citizenship on all persons who would have been Austrian on that date had the pre-1938 nationality law of Austria remained in force. Any Austrians who had held German nationality lost it. Also see Austrian nationality law.
The Nazi amendments of 1934 and the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were revoked by Allied occupational ordinance in 1945, restoring the 1913 nationality law, which remained in force until the 1999 reforms.
Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland pflegte aufgrund des anfänglichen Alleinvertretungsanspruchs ein außenpolitisch und völkerrechtlich zwiespältiges Verhältnis zur DDR, was sich in der Gesetzgebung niederschlug. Durch ihre deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit waren Bürger der DDR nach bundesdeutscher Rechtsauffassung zugleich Bundesbürger. So konnten sie jederzeit – auch ohne dauerhafte Übersiedlung, z. B. anlässlich einer Besuchsreise im Bundesgebiet – einen bundesdeutschen Reisepass erhalten und damit in Drittstaaten weiterreisen, für die ihr DDR-Reisepass nicht gültig war oder deren Grenzkontrollstempel im Reisepass ihnen bei der Rückkehr in die DDR Nachteile hätten bereiten können. Während der Nutzung des bundesdeutschen Passes wurde der DDR-Pass bei bundesdeutschen Stellen hinterlegt.
During the Cold War, East German authorities established a new citizenship law in February 1967 which superseded the Nationality Law of 1913. However, Wester German government continued to recognize citizens of East Germany were at the same time, automatically the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany, although it has a conflicting relationship with the laws of East Germany. Citizens of East Germany were eligible to get West Germany passport even without the permanent relocation.:84
Article 116(1) of the German Basic Law (constitution) confers, subject to laws regulating the details, a right to citizenship upon any person admitted to Germany (in its 1937 borders) as "refugee or expelled of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such a person." Until 1990 ethnic Germans living abroad in a country in the former Eastern Bloc (Aussiedler) could obtain citizenship through a virtually automatic procedure. From 1990 the law was steadily tightened each year to limit the number of immigrants, requiring immigrants to prove language skills and cultural affiliation.
Article 116(2) entitles persons (and their descendants), who were denaturalised by the Nazi government, to be renaturalised if they wish. Those among them, who after May 8, 1945 take up residence in Germany are automatically considered German citizens. Both regulations, (1) and (2), allowed a considerable numbers of Poles and Israelis, residing in Poland and Israel, to be concurrently German citizens.
Children born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent::
To retain German citizenship, such children are required to take affirmative measures by age 23, after which their German citizenship otherwise expires. These affirmative measures may include proof of the applicant's link to Germany, as evidenced by at least one of the following:
Applicants fulfill these requirements in the vast majority of cases. If not, the applicant can alternatively prove they hold no foreign citizenship other than in a European Union member nation or a nation such as Morocco, Nigeria, or Iran whose domestic law provides that its citizenship cannot be lost.
Parents who are citizens of European Economic Area states or Switzerland are eligible to receive permanent resident permits after five years.
A person born of a parent with German citizenship at the time of the child's birth is a German citizen. Place of birth is not a factor in citizenship determination based on parentage.
Persons who are Germans on the basis of descent from a German parent do not have to apply to retain German citizenship by age 23. If they acquire another citizenship at birth, they can usually continue to hold this.
German law forbids double-barreled surnames (e.g. consisting of both the mother's and the father's surnames if the parents are unmarried, or if the parents are married but do not share a surname). However, an exemption is granted to German citizens by descent who are born abroad and have a double-barreled surname, providing that their surname format is permitted under the law of their country of birth and the laws of any other countries of which either parent is a citizen.
A minor child adopted, in Germany, by a German citizen on or after January 1, 1977, is a German citizen. Minor children adopted by German citizens outside of Germany must meet "certain requirements" to obtain citizenship.
Individuals are entitled to naturalise as a German citizen if they fulfill all the following criteria :
The examination tests a person's knowledge of the German Constitution, the Rule of Law and the basic democratic concepts behind modern German society. It also includes a section on the Constitution of the Federal State in which the applicant resides. The citizenship test is obligatory unless the applicant can claim an exemption such as illness, a disability, or old age.
An individual who does not have legal capacity is entitled to naturalise as a German citizen merely through ordinary residence in Germany for at least 8 years—and does not have to fulfil the other criteria (e.g., adequate command of the German language and ability to support themselves without recourse to benefits).
Applicants for naturalisation are normally expected to prove they have renounced their existing nationality or that they lose it automatically on naturalisation, before receiving German citizenship. However, they are not required to do so if the previous citizenship is from another European Union member state or Switzerland, or if the other citizenship(s) may be renounced "only under very difficult conditions." Such difficulty is to be assumed if any of six conditions apply, including unreasonable difficulties in renouncing, holding a refugee travel document, and the potential economic hardship of renunciation exceeding a cost of 10,225.84 Euros (originally 20,000 Deutsche Marks). Most persons naturalised as German citizens in 2017, 61%, fell within these exceptions and were successful in obtaining approval to retain their other citizenships, with more than 81% of new German citizens from the Americas doing so. That global proportion is up from 45% in 2000.
An individual who is entitled to naturalise as a German citizen can also apply for a spouse and minor children to be naturalised at the same time (the spouse and minor children need not have ordinarily resided in Germany for at least 8 years).
Exceptions to the normal residence requirements include:
There are special provisions for victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants.
An individual who is legally ordinarily resident may be naturalized as a German citizen if they can demonstrate sufficient ties with Germany to justify naturalization.
Under Article 116 of Germany's constitution, known as the Basic Law, anyone who had their German citizenship revoked during the Nazi regime for "political, racist, or religious reasons" may re-obtain citizenship. The Article also includes the descendants of Nazi victims, and does not require them to give up the citizenship of their new home countries.
Regulations stipulate that a descendant of those who had their citizenship revoked is entitled to re-naturalization only if "the following hypothetical question can be answered with a 'yes': Had the primary claimant of the naturalization claim not been deprived of German citizenship, would their descendants have acquired citizenship by birth according to the applicable German law of citizenship? Note that children adopted by German Jews before 1945 are not eligible for German citizenship, even if they were born in Germany.
The "applicable German law of citizenship" referred to states that "Children born in wedlock between Jan. 1, 1914 and Dec. 31, 1974, acquired German citizenship only if the father was a German citizen at the time of their birth." Some waivers were granted for "Children born in wedlock between April 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1974 to a German mother and a non-German father"—but not for those born earlier.
In August 2019, the German Government announced new measures to cover the restoration of citizenship to victims of Nazi persecution (between 1933 and 1945); this included new provisions for the descendants of German Jewish mothers who lost their citizenship by marrying non-German men whilst overseas.
See also the German Citizenship Project.
Under transitional arrangements in the 1999 reforms (effective 1 January 2000), children who were born in Germany in 1990 or later, and would have been German had the law change been in force at the time, were entitled to be naturalized as German citizens.
In addition to the principle of descent, since 1 January 2000 German nationality law also recognizes the principle of birthplace (in Latin: jus soli) for the acquisition of citizenship. According to this principle, children born in Germany to non-German parents may, under certain conditions, acquire German citizenship. At least one of their parents must have been a legal resident of Germany for at least eight years and must have a permanent right of residence at the time of the child's birth.
Between 1995 and 2004, 1,278,424 people obtained German citizenship by naturalization. This means that about 1.5% of the total German population was naturalized during that period.
|Serbia and Montenegro||3,623||2,967||2,244||2,721||3,444||9,776||12,000||8,375||5,504||3,539||6,309||6,085||-|
|Total (including countries not mentioned)||71,981||86,356||82,913||106,790||143,267||186,688||178,098||154,547||140,731||127,153||106,897||112,348||107,317|
German citizenship is automatically lost when a German citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, except:
Other cases where German citizenship can be lost include:
Naturalized Germans can lose their German citizenship if it is found out that they got it by willful deceit / bribery / menacing / giving intentionally false or incomplete information that had been important for the naturalization process. In June 2019, it was decided to prolong the deadline from 5 to 10 years after naturalization.
Attila Selek, one of the plotters in the 2007 bomb plot in Germany had hidden criminal proceedings against him for breaches against gun regulation from the passport authorities during his citizenship application. Those authorities removed his citizenship in 2011 on the grounds that it had been fraudulently obtained. This rendered him stateless.
See also the section "Revocation of German citizenship for adult terrorists with second citizenship."
Allowed under following circumstances:
In June 2019, Germany adopted a law that allows to revoke the German citizenship of dual citizens who have joined or supported a terror militia such as the Islamic State and are at least 18 years old.
See also the section "Fradulent application."
Because Germany forms part of the European Union, German citizens are also citizens of the European Union under European Union law and thus enjoy rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament. When in a non-EU country where there is no German embassy, German citizens have the right to get consular protection from the embassy of any other EU country present in that country. German citizens can live and work in any country within the EU and EFTA as a result of the right of free movement and residence granted in Article 21 of the EU Treaty.
German citizens can be extradited only to other EU countries or to international courts of justice, and only if a law allows this (German Basic Law, Art. 16). Before the introduction of the European Arrest Warrant, the extradition of German citizens was generally prohibited by the German Basic Law.
Germans living abroad (Auslandsdeutsche) are German emigrants, namely, German citizens residing outside Germany. German emigrants usually do not pay taxes to Germany. Germans abroad are allowed to vote in the Republic's federal elections (general elections). According to the German Foreign Office, "German citizens with permanent residence abroad can participate in federal elections in Germany and European elections. As a rule, German voters who reside permanently in non-EU countries abroad and are not resident in Germany any more, cannot participate in German state and local elections. However, German citizens who are living permanently in other EU countries can vote in municipal elections of their country of residence."
In addition to the above sense, Auslandsdeutsche also refers to ethnic Germans in German-speaking communities abroad who descend from settlers in those countries generations or centuries ago (and therefore are mostly not citizens of Germany). To be unambiguous, modern-day German emigrants may be specified as "German citizens with permanent residence abroad" (Deutsche Staatsbürger mit ständigem Wohnsitz im Ausland).
The case is complicated by the German right of return law concerning Spätaussiedler, people who do not have German citizenship but who are in theory entitled to it because the German state considers them German nationals, like Volga Germans in Kazakhstan.
Significant communities of German citizens abroad are found in the following countries:
More statistics at German diaspora#Distribution.
There were 786,000 Germans in interwar Romania in 1939. USA: Large numbers of German citizens live permanently in the U.S., especially academics, artists, computer experts, engineers, and businesspeople. According to the German Missions in the US, “German citizens living abroad are not required to register with the German Embassy, so we are unable to say how many German citizens live in America.”  Some of those Germans abroad hold passports from both Germany and the United States.
Visa requirements for German citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Germany. In January 2020, German citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 189 countries and territories, ranking the German passport 3rd in the world according to the Henley & Partners Passport Index.
The German nationality is ranked number two as of 2018 in The Quality of Nationality Index (QNI). The ranking is considering internal factors such as peace & stability, economic strength, human development and external factors including travel freedom. France has taken number one after seven years, attributable mainly to the country's former colonial empire.)
This graph shows the full Global Ranking of the 2018 Henley Passport Index. In certain cases, a rank is shared by multiple countries because these countries all have the same level of visa-free or visa-on-arrival access.