How to obtain the German citizenship: 7 ways to obtain the citizenship legally, conditions, cost, registration procedure
On this page, you will learn how citizens of foreign states, can obtain/get the citizenship of Germany. The law of Germany provides for several ways to obtain the citizenship, those are discussed further on the page. In addition, you will learn how much it costs to apply for the German citizenship, what the conditions for obtaining it are, and how to apply for the citizenship. Apart from that, the page highlights the opportunities for receiving the dual citizenship (double citizenship), and cites statistical data on granting the German citizenship to foreigners. You will also find out under what conditions a person can lose their citizenship in Germany.
§ Legal basis for obtaining the German citizenship: laws and rights
Citizenship means a person’s belonging to a certain state as expressed in the established rights and obligations of the given person and the given state in relation to each another. In some counties, there are different categories of citizenship, while no such ranking exists in Germany, where all the citizens have a single German citizenship/ an interstate German citizenship. German citizens are also the citizens of the European Union.
All citizens of Germany have an interstate German citizenship and are at the same time the citizens of the European Union.
The legal basis governing the citizenship issues, including its acquisition and loss, is as follows: the Constitution of Germany, articles 16 and 116, as well as the Nationality Act (in German: Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, abbr. StAG).
- Constitution of Germany, Articles 16 and 116
- The Nationality Act, Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (StAG)
- Act concerning Residence, Employment and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Republic of Germany, Aufenthaltsgesetz
The document confirming that a person has the German citizenship is the Certificate of Citizenship), which can be obtained by applying to the registry office or to the local Foreigners Registration Office. Besides, the German citizenship can be confirmed by the ID/ proof of identity (in German: Deutscher Personalausweis) and the German international(travel) passport (in German: Reisepass).
§ Statistics on obtaining the German citizenship by foreigners, citizens of Russia, Ukraine, the EU
The table below will help you find out how many people receive the German citizenship/ the number of people receiving the German citizenship; the data in the table are quoted as of 2017 and are based on the figures by the German Federal Office of Statistics.
Table 1: Statistical data/ Statistics on granting the German citizenship on the foreigners naturalization in Germany (by country).
|Previous citizenship||Number of people granted the citizenship per year||% of the total number||Average age|
|EU countries||38'707||34.5 %||41|
|African countries||11'104||9.9 %||33|
|United States of America||979||0.9 %||-|
|United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||7'493||6.7 %||53|
As can be seen from Table 1, most of the foreigners being granted the citizenship of Germany have the citizenship of one of the European countries.
§ Ways to obtain the German citizenship: 7 legal ways
The list below presents all the major possibilities for obtaining/ getting the German citizenship in compliance with the German Nationality Act.
- Long-term residence in the country (from 6 to 8 years);
- Marriage to a German man, woman;
- German citizenship at birth;
- German citizenship at adoption;
- Ethnic German resettlers / Late resettlers (in German: Spätaussiedler);
- Former Germans (people of German ethnicity) residing abroad;
- Foreigners residing abroad, under certain conditions.
§ Major conditions for obtaining the German citizenship
The laws of Germany clearly specify the conditions for the German citizenship to be obtained by foreigners. The term being used in this case is "Naturalization" (in German: Einbürgerung). In order to have a complete picture of your rights and possibilities of getting the citizenship, you should consult the Department of Citizenship, since each case may be featured by its specifics.
The list below presents the general conditions for naturalization of foreigners residing in Germany for a long time:
- 8 years of residence within the territory of the country (if applicable, this period may be reduced to 6 years);
- The actual right for the permanent or long-term residence in the country being effective by the moment of filing the application for naturalization, for example, with the valid right to free residence in the EU, a residence permit, as well the right for temporary residence, provided that the permanent residence is expected;
- Agreement with, and recognition of the free democratic order as provided by the Constitution (has to be expressed in writing and verbally, as it will be fixed by the Department of Citizenship, Naturalization Office);
- Abandonment of the previous citizenship (sometimes, depending on the previous citizenship, this is not required);
- Knowledge of the German language at the B1 level as the least (see the German language proficiency levels);
- Knowledge of the legal system, the society, and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany (to be confirmed by taking and passing the Citizenship Examination, German naturalisation test or by other documents);
- Self–sufficient supply of money to cover the living expenses for yourself and your family members – i. e., independently of the financial assistance from the state (this requirement, too, is subject to exceptions);
- No criminal record and no court sentence for a committed crime (Having not been sentenced for an unlawful act and not being subject to any court order imposing a measure of reform and prevention)
The main way to obtain the citizenship for foreigners: 6-8 years of residence in Germany.
8 years of residence in the country is the main possibility for foreigners to be naturalized/ granted citizenship (for foreigners, residence in Germany is possible in connection with their work and for other reasons).
§ Citizenship test (in German: Einbürgerungstest)
To be naturalized in Germany, it is required to prove your knowledge of the legal system, the society, and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany; in most cases this is done by by taking and passing the Citizenship Examination, German naturalisation test. As an alternative of the test, a certificate of the German school education, or graduation diplomas of some German higher education institutions may serve as a proof. During the above-mentioned test, the applicant, within 1 hour, has to answer 33 multiple-choice questions, of which 3 questions are specific and depend on the land of the applicant’s residence. To each question, it is necessary to choose one of several optional responses, which is right, and it is required to respond correctly to at least 17 questions.
In the course of the naturalization procedure, children under 16 years of age, as well as the persons, for whom taking the test is impossible due to illness, disability or old age, shall be exempt from the test such as illness, a disability, or old age; such an exemption may also apply in some other cases.
The questions for the naturalization-related test are publicly available, and a complete list of over 300 questions and answers in the German language can be found on the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees website (see below on the page). Besides, the local Department of Citizenship (in German: Einbürgerungsbehörde) organize(s) the test-related preparatory courses. Therefore, the applicants have all the opportunities to prepare for the test on their on, and the absolute majority of them pass it successfully. In case the test is not passed, it will be possible to take it again.
In order to take the Citizenship Examination, naturalisation test in Germany, it is required to address the local Department of Citizenship. The test has to be paid for, and as of 2019, its price amounted to 25 euros.
§ Procedure for formalizing the German citizenship or for naturalization in Germany
In case of compliance with all of the abovementioned conditions, naturalization, however, does not follow automatically; in order to be naturalized, it is necessary to file an application to the local Department of Citizenship (in German: Einbürgerungsbehörde). For children under 16 years of age, the application for naturalization shall be filed by their parents. After verification and upon a positive, the applicant receives a certificate of the German citizenship. The period for the application consideration and all the naturalization conditions fulfillment is different in each specific case and may take several months.
Thus, the procedure for formalizing the German citizenship or for naturalization comes down to the following stages:
- Advising at the local Department of Citizenship and getting the application form and the list of documents and confirmations to be provided;
- Filing the application and providing the required documents to the local Department of Citizenship;
- Payment of the fee for the naturalization application consideration (cost of naturalization);
- Registration of renunciation from the previous citizenship (sometimes, depending on the previous citizenship, this is not required);
- Obtaining a Certificate of Citizenship;
- Contacting the local Residence Registration Office (in German: Einwohnermeldeamt) for receiving a German ID and an international passport.
In order to find out what authority in the locality of your residence is responsible for accepting and considering applications for naturalization applications, you may address the local municipal or district administration, or the local Foreigners Registration Office (in German: Аusländerbehörde). For the persons, living outside the territory of Germany, the authority responsible for the naturalization matters issues is the Federal Office of Administration (in German: Bundesverwaltungsamt, BVA) in the city of Cologne; in order to receive consultations in the given case, the would-be applicants should address the German representative office, or the Embassy, or the Consulate General, etc., in their respective countries.
§ Advantages of obtaining the German citizenship
Upon obtaining the German citizenship, such a person receives equal rights and obligations with all the citizens of the country. The list below provides the key benefits, rights, and obligations acquired along with the citizenship.
- The automatically acquired citizenship of the European Union;
- The right to take part in political elections at the level of the Municipality, Land, or Federation;
- The right to stand as a candidate for political office;
- The possibility of free choice of profession and work in Germany;
- Possibility for visa-free travelling and visa-free relocation within Europe;
- Possibility for visa-free travelling in many countries of the world;
- The right, without recall, to permanent residence in Germany (Permanent residence in Germany);
- It is not required to constantly renew the right to reside in Germany and visit the local Foreigners Registration Office;
- Consular protection abroad.
§ Dual(double) citizenship in Germany
As a rule, in order to obtain the German citizenship, a person has to repudiate the then existing one. However, in some cases, the renunciation from the previous citizenship is either impossible or extremely difficult to implement; in this case, it is possible to obtain the German citizenship while retaining the previous one.
When a German obtains a citizenship of another state, the German citizenship is automatically lost to them. If a citizen of the country wishes to obtain the citizenship of another state, before accepting a foreign citizenship, s/he has to submit a retention application to the local Department of Citizenship (in German: Beibehaltungsantrag) and obtain a respective retention permit.
A person may obtain dual citizenship, double citizenship in the cases listed below:
- If it is either impossible or extremely difficult to repudiate the then currently existing foreign citizenship;
- If the then currently existing citizenship is the citizenship of a European Union country;
- The dual citizenship at birth, if both parents are foreign nationals;
- Asylees, refugees;
- Ethnic German resettlers, late resettlers.
Since the legislation governing the provision of dual citizenship has many rules and exceptions, it is best in each particular case to get advice from the responsible Office as to the possibilities of possessing more than one citizenship.
If a person has the dual citizenship, s/he should bear in mind that when a person enters the other country of their citizenship, s/he shall be deemed a citizen of the given country and shall be subject to the laws of this country. Therefore, Germany will not be able to provide such a person with its diplomatic protection in the said country.
§ The cost of obtaining, getting the German citizenship
As noted above on this page, in order to receive the German citizenship, it is necessary to file a respective application. Besides, it is required to pay the fee to formalize the citizenship. As of early 2019, this fee amounted to 255 euros per person; if a child received the citizenship together with their parents, the fee for him / her made 51 euros.
In some cases, the payment may be deferred or made in installments, payment in installments or even free consideration of the application is possible.
§ Abandonment of the German citizenship
Obtaining the German citizenship, a person receives it for indefinite time and cannot be deprived of it without a reason. Losing the country's citizenship is only possible in cases specified in the legislation. A person cannot be deprived of the citizenship against their will if, as a result of such deprivation, s/he remains without any citizenship at all.
The German citizenship is indefinite and may be lost to a person only in the cases as set by law.
In compliance with the abovementioned Law, the German citizenship will be lost under the following conditions:
- Obtaining the citizenship of another state;
- Renunciation from the citizenship of their own free will;
- In case of adoption by foreign citizens;
- In case of voluntary participation in the hostilities of another state (under certain conditions);
- Under certain conditions, a child of foreigners who received dual citizenship at birth but has not been raised in Germany.
In case of the German citizenship loss, the former German shall be considered as a foreigner, s/he has to return in their passport to the local residents' registration office. In case of the citizenship loss, under certain conditions, a person has special rights to obtain a permit to permanently reside in Germany.
§ Useful links
Below you will find the links to the sources of detailed information on obtaining the German citizenship. The links to the citizenship laws can be found above on the page.
- Information about the citizenship on the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community website
- Practice online citizenship test
- A complete list of the citizenship test
- Issues (questions and answers) regarding granting the German citizenship, naturalization on the website of the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration