German Citizenship law: German citizenship for foreigners residing in Germany

Naturalization

Entitlement to naturalization (Anspruchseinbürgerung) according to section 10 German National Act

If a foreigner resides in Germany he is entitled to get naturalized, if he meets certain requirements. These requirements are laid down in section 10 para 1 of the German Nationality Act.:

  • Germany has been the applicants habitual lawful abode for the last eight consecutive years (under certain conditions 7 or even 6 years can be enough)
  • The applicant declares his commitment to the basic democratic values of the German constitution
  • The applicant has a permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) or a certain temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis).
  • The applicant has independent means of securing his livelihood
  • The applicant has adequate German language skills (at least reference level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
  • Applicant is willing to give up his current citizenship
  • Applicant must be a law abiding citizen without any convictions on his record
  • Applicant must have past the German naturalization test (basic knowledge of the German legal system and the German social order)

If the applicants meets all of these requirements, he is entitled to naturalisation according to section 10 of the Nationality Act.

Please note that the German immigration offices sometimes do not follow the law and their decisions can therefore be a violation of the German Nationality Act. In this case one can challenge the decision of the German immigration office by going to the administrative court. Nevertheless very often it is sufficient, if the German immigration office receives a counterstatement.

Please also note that in certain hardship cases the applicant has not to fulfill some of these requirements. If for example the applicant is very old or ill and has therefore problems to learn the German language, it might not be necessary to speak the German language on the B1 level.

According to section 10 paragraph 2 of the German Nationality Act the spouse and the minor children of the applicant can also be naturalized if they meet the above mentioned requirements, even if they live less than 8 years in Germany.

Discretionary naturalization for spouses and minor children of German citizens according to section 9 of the German Nationality Act (StAG)

For spouses and minor children of German citizens there is the possibility of a discretionary naturalization according to section 9 of the German Nationality Act, if the applicant fulfills the following criterias:

  • Germany has been the applicants habitual lawful abode for the last three consecutive years and the spouse is married to the German citizenship for at least 2 years.
  • The applicant has a permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) or a certain temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis).
  • Applicant is willing to give up his current citizenship.
  • Applicant must be a law abiding citizen without any convictions on his record
  • The applicant declares his commitment to the basic democratic values of the German constitution
  • The applicant has adequate German language skills (at least reference level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages)
  • Applicant must have past the German naturalization test (basic knowledge of the German legal system and the German social order)
  • The applicant has independent means of securing his livelihood (together with his spouse).

Discretionary naturalization for athletes, artists, scientists, etc. according to section 8 German Nationality Act (StAG)

According to section 8 of the German Nationality Act the German immigration offices can grant naturalization for certain athletes, artists, scientists, etc., even if they live less than 8 years in Germany (at least 3 years). Since the naturalization is at the discretion of the German immigration offices, it is necessary that the athlete, artist or scientist is a high achiever, e. g. being able to compete at olympic level. Nevertheless in certain cases the German immigration offices can be quite generous when it comes to the discretionary citizenship according to s. 8 German Nationality Act (StAG).

The law states that there must be a public interest in giving the German citizenship to the applicant. Therefore there must be an advantage for the German government to naturalize this special applicant. In these cases it is also at the discretion of the German immigration offices to make an exception to some of the general requirements mentioned above (language, securing his livelihood, etc.), if for example the applicant does not speak the German language at the B1 level.

German Citizenship by principle of descent (right of blood or Jus Sanguinis) according to section 4 para 1 German Nationality Act

A person may also derive German citizenship at birth through one or both German parents. This is known as „jus sanguinis,“ Latin for right of blood to nationality. This does only apply, if the child is a direct descendant of one or two German parents.

This rule applies for children of a German mother and a foreign father only, if the child was born after the 1st January 1975. Children born outside  of wedlock to a German father a foreign mother will be German citizens, if they were born after 01.07.1993.

It happens sometimes that a German citizen claims the fatherhood for a foreign child, even if he is not the real father, in order to enable the child to claim the German citizenship.

If the German immigration office finds out about this, they will challenge the paternity and the child will lose the German citizenship accordingly. In certain cases the child might also not lose the German citizenship.

German citizenship by principle of birthplace (By right of soil or Jus Soli) according to section 4 para 3 German citizenship

Germany´s Nationality Act was amended in the year 2000 to include birthright citizenship in certain cases. This was laid down in section 4 para 3 of the German Nationality Act.

According to section 4 paragraph 3 of the German Nationality Act a child of foreign parents shall acquire German citizenship by birth in Germany if one parent

  1. has been legally ordinarily resident in Germany for eight years and
  2. has been granted a permanent right of residence (Niederlassungserlaubnis) or as a national of Switzerland or as a family member of a national of Switzerland possesses a residence permit on the basis of the Agreement of 21 June 1999 between the European Community and its Member States on the one hand and the Swiss Confederation on the other hand on the free movement of persons (Federal Law Gazette 2001 II p. 810).

Please note that this is just an overview of the rules regarding German citizenship for foreigners residing in Germany. There are many other cases foreigners can claim Germany citizenship and many excemptions to the aforementioned requirements for the naturalization. The German Nationality Act is subject to constant amendments and updates.

Important Note: This article has been prepared by mth Tieben & Partner for general information purposes only. Mth Tieben & Partner does not accept any liability to any person or organisation for the use or reliance of the information contained in this article. On any specific matter, kindly contact us by dialing 0049 (0)221 – 80187670 or sending us an email to info@mth-partner.de

Lawyers in Cologne provide legal advice on German immigration law.

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