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    Nationality is the allegiance of an individual citizen to a particular state with all the associated rights and obligations. Each country determines who its nationals are, and whether and under what conditions this nationality can be lost or acquired in accordance with the general principles of international law and within its limits. In Germany, nationality is governed by the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG).

    If a foreign national seeks to acquire German citizenship, he or she must submit an application for naturalisation. The legal basis both for the acquisition and loss of German nationality can be found in the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG). Due to the lack of uniform regulations between the individual countries, you can have one, two or multiple nationalities or even no nationality at all.

    To be naturalised in Germany, you will normally need to give up your old citizenship

    In Germany, on the other hand, it is important to know that you will normally lose your former nationality with naturalisation or must renounce it, because Germany wants to avoid creating multiple nationalities through naturalisation (section 10 para. (1) no. 4 of the German Nationality Act), since the aim of naturalisation should be for the applicant to pledge allegiance to Germany alone. Moreover, there is no general entitlement to dual nationality (aka multiple nationality)

    Dual nationality as an exception

    That said, there are exceptional cases where Germany will allow dual citizenship. In these exceptional cases, the foreign national can apply for naturalisation with dual nationality in Germany despite certain exceptional circumstances on the part of his or her country of origin. These exceptions are governed by section 12 of the German Nationality Act:


    According to section 12 para. (1) sentence 2 nos. 1 and 2 of the German Nationality Act, a multiple nationality of the applicant is allowed, for example, if the law of the foreign state makes no provision for renouncing its citizenship or if the foreign state regularly refuses to release its nationals from citizenship. This is the case for certain Asian or African countries (such as Afghanistan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Angola, Lebanon, Iran,  …). There, the state makes no provision for renouncing its citizenship. There are many reasons why giving up one’s citizenship is not possible Some countries make no statutory provisions for renouncing their citizenship and hence regularly refuse a denaturalisation. Furthermore, it may be de facto impossible. This is the case if the foreign state has never or almost never allowed its nationals to give up its citizenship. This also applies when the law of the foreign state makes renunciation of its citizenship dependent on a certain age limit, but in addition, it must be de facto impossible to renounce the foreign citizenship after reaching this required age limit. 


    In accordance with section 12 para. (1) sentence 2 no. 3 of the German Nationality Act, a failure of the foreign state to accept the application may also constitute grounds for permitting multiple nationality. Moreover, a refusal of the foreign state to provide the required application forms despite repeated serious and sustained efforts on the part of the applicant may result in the applicant being allowed to become a German national through naturalisation while retaining his or her previous citizenship.


    In some cases, a foreign state can even take more than two years to decide on the foreign national’s application for release from citizenship. This is an unreasonable length of time and can hence be a reason to permit dual nationality in individual cases. An unreasonable condition for renunciation of a previous citizenship also exists if it would lead to substantial disadvantages for the applicant (for example, dangers to the applicant or his or her family members). If a release from citizenship is refused for reasons beyond the foreign national’s control, this can also help with the acceptance of dual nationality. Exceptions are made equally often in the case of unreasonable conditions demanded by the foreign state for a denaturalisation. If the release from foreign citizenship is made dependent on the performance of military service, this is an unreasonable condition, for example, if the applicant is over 40 years of age and has not habitually resided in this foreign state for more than 15 years or was born or raised in Germany, was educated mostly at German schools, and has reached the age for military service in the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.


    If “the process for release from citizenship entails unreasonable difficulties, and failure to grant naturalisation would constitute a special hardship” multiple nationality must often be allowed for elderly persons who have reached the age of 60. The decisive factor is what efforts would be reasonable for an elderly person. For example, entering the country, which is required by the foreign state for denaturalisation, cannot be demanded if it would be impossible for an elderly person due to poor health. By and large, failure to grant naturalisation to the elderly person must constitute a special hardship. This would be the case, for example, if family members living in Germany are already German citizens (section 12 para. (1) sentence 2 no. 4 of the German Nationality Act).


    Germany must also make exceptions if the foreign national would suffer substantial disadvantages beyond the loss of his or her civic rights, in particular disadvantages of a financial or property-related nature, by giving up his or her foreign citizenship. For example, if denaturalisation would lead to inheritance rights restrictions in the country of origin or a loss of pension entitlements. However, these disadvantages must be related in time and substance to the renunciation of the previous nationality and must be verifiable (cf. decision of the Cologne Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht Köln) of 7 December 2005, 190 K 356/05). On the other hand, a possible impairment of future income-generating opportunities will not be sufficient reason on its own. Even economic disadvantages worth less than EUR10,000 would generally be considered immaterial
    (section 12 para. (1) sentence 2 no. 5 of the German Nationality Act).

    If the foreign national holds a travel document in accordance with Article 28 of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 28 July 1951, dual nationality will also be permitted by Germany (section 12 para. (1) sentence 2 no. 6 of the German Nationality Act).

    The City of Cologne wishes to point out that dual nationality can be allowed if the previous citizenship cannot be renounced or can only be renounced under particularly difficult conditions (see above). Another reason stated by the City of Cologne would be the if the foreign national holds the citizenship of another member state of the European Union or Switzerland. Exceptions are also to be made for persons who are recognised as foreign refugees or have been granted asylum. All exceptions are based on individual decisions and may differ slightly, so that an examination of the individual options of the respective applicant is recommended.

    Important note: The contents of this article have been created to the best of our knowledge and belief. However, due to the complexity and volatility of the subject we are unable to accept any liability or guarantee.

    If you need legal advice, please call us without obligation on 0221 – 80187670 or send us an e-mail to



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    German residence titles such as residence permits, permanent settlement permits and EU Blue Cards allow foreign nationals to stay, work and rent accommodation in Germany. However, for many foreigners, this is not enough and so a good number decide to become German.

    Advantages of naturalisation (acquisition of German citizenship)

    Naturalisation means that a foreign citizen relinquishes his or her original citizenship and acquires German citizenship in return. As a result, he or she will have exactly the same rights and obligations as other German citizens, such as the right to vote in elections, free choice of profession, and membership in the European Union, which allows you to enjoy freedom of movement in Europe and even travel outside Europe to many countries without a visa. You gain political participation and equal rights. For Germany, this possibility of naturalising foreign citizens is an opportunity to bind people to Germany who have been living here for a long period of time and who are successfully contributing to society. There are multiple legal bases for the acquisition of German citizenship by naturalisation, most of which are governed by the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG). Several requirements need to be met to this end. They will be listed in more detail below.

    Requirements for becoming a German citizen through naturalisation

    It is important to note that you are not naturalised automatically. German citizenship can only be obtained by submitting an application. Before deciding to take this step, you should first check whether you meet the statutory requirements.

    The German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG), which governs naturalisation, distinguishes between discretionary naturalisation and entitlement-based naturalisation.


    Discretionary naturalisation means that spouses of Germans, top athletes, and famous artists, for example, can be naturalised after a short waiting period, which is usually three years. Unlike for entitlement-based naturalisation.


    Entitlement-based naturalisation, which is much more common, requires that you have lived in Germany for at least eight years. Under certain circumstances, however, seven or even six years will be deemed sufficient. This is the case if the applicant has passed an integration test (7 years) or if the applicant has made outstanding integration efforts (6 years). “Outstanding integration efforts” within the meaning of section 10 para. (3) of the German Nationality Act (StAG) is a vague legal term and the said language skills are just an example. Hence, other integration efforts must also be taken into account, such as special achievements in education or professional training, volunteer or community activities, social commitment and/or trade union/association work.

    Furthermore, applicants must be able to support themselves. If, for example, somebody is receiving social benefits such as Hartz IV, the application will not be approved. It should be noted that child benefit or education assistance do not count as social benefits. Personal reasons for acquiring German citizenship are not questioned.

    Nevertheless, meeting the requirements for naturalisation demanded by the respective authority during an individual interview is no guarantee for a successful outcome. Each application for naturalisation is examined by the competent authorities on a case-by-case basis.

    Here are the basic requirements for entitlement-based naturalisation once again:

    • Permanent or unlimited right of residence at the time of naturalisation
    • Commitment to the free democratic constitutional system enshrined in Germany’s Basic Law (Grundgesetz)
    • Willingness to give up or lose your previous citizenship
    • Oral as well as written command of German corresponding to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
    • Proof of knowledge of the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany (naturalisation test)
    • Ability to support yourself (and possibly your dependants) without recourse to benefits
    • No criminal convictions

    How does the naturalisation procedure work?

    First you need to apply for German citizenship. The immigration and citizenship authority in the city where you reside is responsible for processing the application. In some federal states you must address the citizens‘ registration office (Bürgeramt) or the foreign citizens‘ registration office (Ausländerbehörde). In Cologne, for example, you can only obtain the required application form by booking a consultation. However, in most cases, you can simply download the form from the website of the respective city. Nevertheless, it is advisable to pick up the application form for German citizenship in person. In this case the staff there can offer you individual advice and explain the specifics directly, as well as explicitly tell you which documents will be needed in addition to the application form in your case. Persons who permanently live abroad can only be naturalised in certain exceptional cases. (Naturalisation of applicants living abroad). The Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt) in Cologne is the competent authority. However, you can also first contact a competent German diplomatic mission (embassy, consulate general or other consular office) in your region.

    As a rule, you will need to submit the following documents with your application:

    • Completed application form
    • Birth certificate
    • Copy of your passport
    • Copy of your residence permit in Germany
    • Language certificates (level B1)
    • Employment contract
    • Lease contract

    The exact documents that are required will vary from person to person and from authority to authority. It is best to ask the relevant authority yourself in advance. Because an incomplete application may lead to delays.


    Sufficient command of German is a crucial requirement. As a rule, your language skills must be equivalent at least to level B1 (sufficient command). If you want to be naturalised after only 6 years of residence, they must even meet level B2. If you cannot provide relevant proof of sufficient command of German, you will need to pass a language test. In this test you must be able to show that you can communicate adequately in German. Applicants who can present a German school-leaving certificate, may not need to provide evidence of their command of German. And in cases where the foreign national obviously speaks perfect German, it may be unlawful for the naturalisation authority to insist on a certificate purely for formal reasons.

    Update: In August 2021, the German Nationality Act was amended and the words “in oral and written form” were deleted. Section 10 paragraph (4) of the German Nationality Act now reads as follows: “The requirements specified in subsection (1) sentence 1 no. 6 are met if the foreigner passes a language examination for level B 1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.”


    You will also have to pass a naturalisation test. This test will examine your knowledge of the legal, social and democratic system of the Federal Republic of Germany. It consists of 33 questions, three of which are specific to the federal state where you are registered. To pass the test you need to answer 17 questions correctly. This is to show whether you have made first efforts at integration. Applicants who can present a German school-leaving certificate may not need to take the naturalisation test. You will find all questions of the naturalisation test on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge – BAMF) and can even try a sample test.

    Online naturalisation test

    Online complete catalogue


    If you have met all the requirements, your application will be approved and you will receive an assurance of naturalisation. This will enable you to take the next step and is by no means the naturalisation certificate itself. This assurance can also be revoked if the applicant’s situation changes. Now you will need to give up your current citizenship, for which different conditions apply depending on your country of origin. Once you can provide evidence that you have renounced your original citizenship, the naturalisation process will be completed. For example, if your country of origin does not permit a release from citizenship, does not respond to your application for two years, or does not provide for a renunciation of citizenship, you may retain your old citizenship by way of exception. In these cases a naturalisation with dual citizenship is possible.

    Once all of the steps have been taken, you will be sent a certificate of naturalisation by post. This document completes your naturalisation and you have become a German citizen. You can take this certificate to the citizens’ registration office to apply for an ID card and a passport.

    The costs are currently €255 per applicant and €51 for each child who is to be naturalised together with his or her parents. The authorities are usually flexible when it comes to payment of this amount. The fee can be reduced, paid in instalments, or even waived completely in some cases if the person can prove a low income or if multiple parties are being naturalised. Additional expenses include €25 for the naturalisation test and fees for the issuance or certification of various documents. The time required for the procedure can vary greatly. Once you have submitted your application with all of the required documents and have successfully renounced your original citizenship, you can expect to be naturalised within six weeks. In the case of communication problems with the country of origin and if missing documents have to be submitted belatedly, the process can even take more than two years.


    Refugees who have been granted asylum in this country can also apply for naturalisation after spending a certain time in Germany, although they must also meet the above-mentioned requirements. However, in certain respects Germany will facilitate the procedure. The reason for this being that refugees cannot plan their stay in Germany in advance during their flight and a residence permit in the asylum procedure is initially only issued on a temporary basis.

    The process is facilitated for the following requirements, while all other conditions must be fully met:

    • Command of the German language does not need to be equivalent to level B1. Nevertheless, the applicants must be able to communicate adequately in German.
    • Easier criteria apply to the naturalisation test.
    • The regular minimum period of residence is six years, not the usual eight years.
    • Dual citizenship is possible if the applicant is still being persecuted.


    Special provisions apply to the naturalisation of children of foreign citizens between the ages of eight and sixteen. A child cannot be required to take a naturalisation test, but he or she must still demonstrate a basic knowledge of German. A period of residence of at least eight years is mandatory, and this applies to both the child and its parents. The question of no criminal convictions must also be addressed, as 14 is the age of criminal responsibility in Germany. It is important to note that if one parent already has German citizenship when the child is born, the child can be naturalised according to ius sanguinis (right of descent).

    If you have any questions about naturalisation, simply contact  lawyer Helmer Tieben. Lawyer Tieben was admitted to the bar in 2005 and specialises in immigration and asylum law. You can reach Mr Tieben on 0221 – 80187670.

  3. German citizenship law: German citizenship for foreigners living outside of Germany

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    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. This is due to the fact that naturalization of persons living abroad is rather conceived as an exception. The requirements for acquiring German citizenship are regulated in the Nationality Act (StAG). § 14 StAG regulates exactly the case of naturalization of persons living abroad. 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.

    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

    for Applicants under 16 years old

    Which requirements must I fulfill?

    First of all, it is important to mention that persons living abroad can never claim naturalization. Whether naturalization is granted is always at the discretion of the authorities. Therefore, fulfilling the requirements does not necessarily lead to the granting of German citizenship.


    Ties to Germany

    The most important requirement of § 14 StAG for the naturalization of persons living abroad is proof of ties to Germany. Only those who can prove ties to Germany have the possibility of acquiring citizenship at all, since not everyone should be granted this.

    What is meant by a tie to Germany?

    The requirement of a tie to Germany must be understood against the background that most Germans live in Germany and are therefore familiar with the country, culture, language, etc. This is at least not so easy to see in the case of people living abroad, since they are not in Germany. It must therefore be obvious that the person could easily live in Germany or has close family ties to Germany. Indications for a relationship to Germany would be good language skills, membership in German clubs or organizations, a degree from a German school (which may be located abroad), or for example a German parent or a German spouse.

    If a tie to Germany is accepted by the authorities after submitting appropriate proof, there is a good chance of naturalization.

    Other requirements:

    Only a few additional requirements of § 8 StAG must be fulfilled:

    • The applicant must be at least 16 years old or legally represented
    • The applicant must not have been convicted of a criminal offence by a final judgment
    • The livelihood must be guaranteed
    • In the case of spouses who are naturalized according to § 9 StAG due to the fact that they would otherwise have no citizenship, proof of knowledge at language level B1 is also required

    If these requirements are all met and the authority concludes that there are ties to Germany, the chances of naturalization are quite good. However, as already mentioned, naturalization is by no means certain; it is at the discretion of the authority.

    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

    Lawyers in Cologne provide legal advice on German immigration law.