German citizenship law: German citizenship for foreigners living outside of Germany - MTH Rechtsanwälte Köln
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Immigration law
von: Helmer Tieben

If a person wants to obtain German citizenship, this is generally subject to certain conditions. These conditions are even more difficult to meet if one does not live in Germany but abroad. The requirements for acquiring German citizenship are regulated in the Nationality Act (StAG). In the following, it will be explained what a person living abroad has to do in order to obtain German citizenship or which requirements he/she has to meet.

Which requirements must I fulfill?

1. Naturalisation of former Germans (section 13 of the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG))

Former Germans and their minor children can regain German citizenship, even if they are ordinarily resident abroad.

If an application is filed in accordance with section 13 of the German Nationality Act (StAG), the decision on naturalisation is at the due discretion of the Federal Office of Administration.

As a rule, the following requirements must be met for naturalisation according to section 13 of the German Nationality Act:

a. Ability to support oneself

The applicant for naturalisation must be able to support himself (and his family) in his current home country – without recourse to government assistance. This also includes insurance against illness, the need for long-term care, occupational or permanent disability, and for old age.

b. There must be close ties with Germany in multiple respects

These include, among others:

long-term close contacts with friends and family in Germany;

long and/or regular stays in Germany

ownership of real estate or companies in Germany

c. Sufficient command of the German language

The applicant must have a sufficient command of German. As a rule, this is the case if he meets the requirements of the language test for Zertifikat Deutsch (B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) in oral and written form.

d. No criminal convictions

e. Fulfilment of citizenship requirements

If the applicant did not grow up in Germany, it may be necessary for him to pass a naturalisation test (familiarity with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany).

f. Existence of a public interest

The application must then be submitted to the competent German embassy in the applicant’s country of residence. However, it is the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne that will decide on the applicant’s entitlement to naturalisation

2. Naturalisation due to close ties with Germany (section 14 of the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG)

Persons who are ordinarily resident outside of Germany may also be naturalised if they have close ties with the Federal Republic of Germany.

Such close ties may include, for example, long-term or recurring stays in Germany (e.g. for work or study): ownership of real estate or companies (or shares in them) in Germany, German life partners, friends or acquaintances, command of the German language, memberships in German associations or activities for German organisations.

If such ties exist, the following conditions must also be met:

a. Ability to support oneself

The applicant for naturalisation must be able to support himself (and his family) in his current home country – without recourse to government assistance. This also includes insurance against illness, the need for long-term care, occupational or permanent disability, and for old age.

b. There must be close ties with Germany in multiple respects

These include, among others:

long-term close contacts with friends and family in Germany;

long and/or regular stays in Germany

ownership of real estate or companies in Germany

c. Sufficient command of the German language

The applicant must have a sufficient command of German. As a rule, this is the case if he meets the requirements of the language test for Zertifikat Deutsch (B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) in oral and written form.

d. No criminal convictions

e. Fulfilment of citizenship requirements

If the applicant did not grow up in Germany, it may be necessary for him to pass a naturalisation test (familiarity with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany).

f. Existence of a public interest

The application must then be submitted to the competent German embassy in the applicant’s country of residence. However, it is the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne that will decide on the applicant’s entitlement to naturalisation

The application must then be submitted to the competent German embassy in the applicant’s country of residence. However, it is the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne that will decide on the applicant’s entitlement to naturalisation

3. Acquisition of German citizenship by declaration (section 5 of the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG)

Nowadays, persons who are ordinarily resident in Germany can also acquire German citizenship by declaration. This is intended to provide reparation to those who, due to gender-discriminatory provisions of nationality law, were either unable to acquire German nationality by birth or lost their German nationality acquired by birth again.

However, it only applies to certain individuals:

– Children of a German parent (father or mother) who did not acquire German citizenship from that parent
– Children of a mother who, prior to their birth, lost her German citizenship by marrying a non-German
– Children who lost their German citizenship acquired through birth as a result of legitimation, as their German mother married their non-German father after their birth

In addition, the applicant must have been born after 23 May 1949 (the effective date of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz)) and he must not have any further criminal convictions.

4. Restoration of citizenship (Art. 116 para. (2) of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz – GG))

Former German citizens who were stripped of their citizenship on political, racial or religious grounds during the Nazi regime, can have their citizenship restored. This also applies to their descendants.

This type of naturalisation is an entitlement-based naturalisation and not a discretionary naturalisation. This means that if the requirements are met, the applicant will have an entitlement to naturalisation, and the Federal Office of Administration will have no discretionary powers.

The following persons are entitled to restoration of citizenship:

– Persons who were stripped of German citizenship between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 due to persecution on political, racial or religious grounds
– Persons who are descendants of someone stripped of German citizenship between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 due to persecution on political, racial or religious grounds.

5. Entitlement to naturalisation for victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants (section 15 of the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG))

Since 2021, victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants have been granted German citizenship on application if they suffered disadvantages under nationality law as a result of their persecution.

This option was created to redress the wrongs done to Nazi victims who suffered Nazi persecution but were not stripped of their citizenship and are therefore not already entitled to restoration of citizenship under Article 116 para. (2) of the German Basic Law.

The following persons are entitled to naturalisation under section 15 of the German Nationality Act (StAG):

Applicants who, due to persecution on political, racial or religious grounds between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945,

– lost or surrendered German citizenship prior to 26 February 1955 (for example through acquisition of foreign citizenship on application),
were excluded from the legal acquisition of German citizenship through marriage, legitimation or collective naturalisation of persons of German ethnic origin,
a. who were not naturalised following application, or
b. were generally excluded from naturalisation that would otherwise have been possible upon application, or
who surrendered or lost their habitual abode in Germany if
a. this had already  been established prior to 30 January 1933
or
b. in the case of children, this had also been established after this date

This entitlement to naturalisation is also extended to descendants.

Where do I have to submit what kind of application?

An application for naturalization must be submitted to the German embassy abroad in the respective country of residence of the applicant. For this purpose, it is recommended that you use the application forms that can be downloaded from

for Applicants over 16 years old

https://www.bva.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Buerger/Ausweis-Dokumente-Recht/Staatsangehoerigkeit/Einbuergerung/Ermessen/Antrag_EB.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6

for Applicants under 16 years old

https://www.bva.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Buerger/Ausweis-Dokumente-Recht/Staatsangehoerigkeit/Einbuergerung/Ermessen/Antrag_EBK.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6

Important Note: This article has been prepared by the lawyer Helmer Tieben for general information purposes only. Helmer Tieben 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

Lawyer in Cologne provides legal advice on German immigration law.

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