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German Nationality Law

german-passportOn January 1, 2000 a new nationality law came into force in Germany. This law will help foreigners living in Germany to become German citizens. According to the new law, “At the heart of the reform is the supplementing of the traditional principle of descent (jus sanguinis) by the acquisition of nationality by birth. For children born in Germany of foreign parents, this makes it easier for them to identify with their home country of Germany. They are given the chance to grow up as Germans among Germans.” Until now citizenship was identified according to the principle of descent. From now on the only thing that matters is the place of birth, like in many other European countries.

The German government estimates around half of the foreigners living in Germany will become eligible for citizenship under the new law. All children born in Germany will now automatically receive citizenship, if at least one of their parents has lived in Germany for eight years. The children of foreign parents will be entitled to dual citizenship until they are 23, at which point they must choose. Also, a person must fulfill certain conditions – be loyal to Germany and its people, and have a good command of the German language.

Birth in Germany

Children born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent:

In order to retain German citizenship, such children are required to take affirmative measures by age 23, after which their German citizenship otherwise expires. Assuming that this law is not changed or overturned by a court, these affirmative measures include an applicant’s proving that he or she does not hold any foreign citizenship other than in a European Union member nation or a nation such as Morocco, Nigeria, or Iran whose domestic law provides that citizenship in it cannot be lost.

Descent from a German parent

A person born of a parent with German citizenship at the time of the child’s birth is a German citizen. Place of birth is not a factor in citizenship determination based on parentage.

  1. Those born after 1 January 1975 are Germans if the mother or father is a German citizen.
  2. Those born before 1 January 1975 could normally only claim German citizenship from the father and not the mother. Exceptions included cases where the parents were unmarried (in which case German mothers could pass on citizenship) or where the German mother applied for the child to be registered as German on or before 31 December 1977.
  3. Special rules exist for those born before 1 July 1993 if only the father is German and is not married to the mother. The father must acknowledge paternity and must have married the mother before 1 July 1998.

Naturalisation by entitlement

An individual who fulfils all of the following criteria has an entitlement to naturalise as a German citizen:

An individual who does not have legal capacity is entitled to naturalise as a German citizen merely through ordinary residence in Germany for at least 8 years – he/she does not have to fulfil the other criteria (e.g. adequate command of the German language and ability to be self-supporting without recourse to benefits).

Applicants for naturalisation are normally expected to prove they have renounced their existing nationality, or will lose this automatically upon naturalisation. An exception applies to those unable to give up their nationality easily (such as refugees). A further exception applies to citizens of Switzerland and the European Union member states.

An individual who is entitled to naturalise as a German citizen can also apply for his/her spouse and minor children to be naturalised at the same time (his/her spouse and minor children need not have ordinarily resided in Germany for at least 8 years).

Exceptions to the normal residence requirements include:

Related articles:
How to Get German Citizenship
German Dual Citizenship
How to Move to Germany
How to Get a Work Permit for Germany

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