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Citizenship

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You are looking for information about German citizenship? Or you would like to know if you are a German citizen or can become one? Or would you like to apply for a certificate of citizenship?

The Basics

Einbürgerung
Einbürgerung © picture alliance / dpa

German citizenship law has undergone many changes since 1914. Below we will outline the main regulations. Please read both, the information on acquisition of citizenship, as well as the chapter on loss of citizenship.

Not all possible cases can be represented in this outline. For more detailed information, consult our FAQs. If you cannot find the answer to your question there, contact your German Mission. Note that we can only provide a profound answer if you provide detailed information on your specific case.

“Am I German?”

A person is German if he/she acquired German citizenship and has not subsequently lost it.

The majority of Germans have acquired German citizenship automatically by birth because one parent was a German citizen at the time. Whether this applies to you or not, depends on when you were born, and whether your parents were married at the time of your birth:

Your parents were married at the time of your birth? Choose your date of birth:

You became a German citizen by birth if your father was a German citizen at the time.

If only your mother was German, you could not derive German citizenship from her. There was the possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaration until 1978. If the deadline was missed, you did not acquire German citizenship. A subsequent naturalisation is subject to strict requirements like fluency in the German language.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father was a German citizen at the time. If only your mother was German, you became a German citizen only if you had otherwise been stateless.

If only your mother was German and you did not become stateless, you could not derive German citizenship from her. There was the possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaration until 1978. If the deadline was missed, you did not acquire German citizenship. A subsequent naturalisation is subject to strict requirements like fluency in the German language.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

Attention: If you were born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999 and your German parent him/herself was also born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999, then you were not born a German citizen. Only if your birth was registered in Germany within one year of your date of birth, you became German. Read here

Your parents were - not - married at the time of your birth? Choose your date of birth:

You became a German citizen by birth if your mother was a German citizen at the time.

If only your father was a German citizen, you did not become a German citizen by birth. You may only be German by legitimation (see below). A subsequent naturalisation is subject to strict requirements like fluency in the German language.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

However, if only your father was a German citizen, legal paternity must have been established before your 23rd birthday - biological paternity itself is not sufficient.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

If only your father was a German citizen, however, legal paternity must have been established before your 23rd birthday - biological paternity itself is not sufficient.

Attention: If you were born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999 and your German parent him/herself was also born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999, then you were not born a German citizen. Only if your birth was registered in Germany within one year of your date of birth, you became German. Read here

If you are not a German citizen by birth, you could have obtained citizenship by legitimation, adoption, naturalisation, declaration or birth in Germany after 2000.

Detailed information

Once acquired, one may still lose German citizenship under certain conditions. Information on loss of citizenship and how you can avoid it can be found here

“I Want to Become German”

Do you have a German ancestor and wish to be German because of him/her? If you cannot prove direct lineage according to the previous section, you most likely are not German and cannot apply for German citizenship. It is important to understand that you have either been a German citizen all along because you have obtained citizenship automatically or that you have hardly a chance of becoming German through naturalisation today.

If you reside abroad and are not German already  there are only a very few scenarios that make naturalisation possible, as a major requirement for naturalisation is that one is residing in Germany. The list of very few exceptions from the requirement of residence in Germany can be found here

Exception: Naturalisation in restitution cases according to Article 116 Basic Law:

Former German citizens, who were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds between 1933 and 1945, may upon request be re-naturalised. The same goes for their descendants. Read here 

What is a Certificate of Citizenship?

You can apply for determination of German citizenship in order to obtain a certificate of citizenship. The certificate confirms and proves that you have been a German citizen at the time of issuance, for example because you obtained citizenship by birth and that you have not lost it since. An application is useful if it is not clear whether you (still) have German citizenship, or if you for example want to avoid having to submit numerous documents of your ancestors when applying for a passport.

By receiving a German certificate of citizenship you do not become a German citizen - instead, a certificate of citizenship confirms that you have been a German citizen all along.

Find information on how to apply here

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