German Citizenship

How to get German citizenship – find out how to get German nationality so that you can get a German passport, and the documents required for the application procedure…

There are a number of different ways to acquire or claim German citizenship; through naturalisation, birth or adoption.

German Nationality by Naturalisation

In general, it is possible to apply for German nationality through naturalisation (Einbürgerung) after eight years of residence in Germany, although there are exceptions. An application for naturalisation can be submitted by anyone over the age of 16; parents of minors under the age of 16 must submit the application on their behalf. There is a fee for the procedure: 255 euros, or 51 euros for minors (as of June 2016).

In order to qualify for naturalisation, the applicant must fulfil the following conditions:

  • Eight years of lawful residence, reduced to seven if the person has done an integration course, occasionally reduced to six under special circumstances
  • Passed a naturalisation test (see below) – which includes knowledge of the social and legal system
  • Financially independent and not relying on welfare or unemployment benefits, with the ability to support all dependents
  • Be able to speak and write German (equivalent to level B1)
  • Have no criminal record
  • Be committed to Germany’s constitutional principles
  • Renounce their original citizenship, with the exception of American, Russian and EU member-state citizens, or those from a country that does not permit this

Marriage and registered same-sex partnerships to a German citizen does not automatically lead to German citizenship – to be entitled to German naturalisation, the person must be married to a German citizen for at least two years, and have lived in Germany for a minimum of three years.

Applications for naturalisation

Where the application is made depends on the person’s situation and may be at the local Immigration Office, youth migration services, local authority or immigration advice services. It is advisable to contact the local naturalisation services office which will indicate which office is responsible for the naturalisation process.

The regional advice office will be able to inform the applicant which documents are required for the procedure, as this may vary from state to state and may depend on the individual’s situation. However, the following will most certainly be required:

  • Proof of identity
  • Residence permit
  • Birth certificate – if in a language other than German this must be translated into German by an official translator and legalised

The Federal government has also published a brochure which outlines the procedure for naturalisation (in German)

Naturalisation Test

The naturalisation test is a multiple-choice examination with 33 questions. Candidates have 60 minutes to complete the test and must answer at least 17 questions correctly. It is possible to repeat the test if the candidate fails.

Some applicants can be exempted from the test, for example if they have graduated from a German school, or if they have a disability.

There is a fee for the test.

German Nationality by Birth or Adoption

Children of foreign nationals, born on or after 1 January 2000, acquire German citizenship at birth if one of the parents holds a permanent residence permit and has been resident in Germany for at least eight years. This citizenship expires at the age of 23 if the person cannot confirm one of the following:

  • They have lived in Germany for at least 8 years prior to reaching the age of 21
  • They graduated from a school in Germany or went to school in Germany for six years
  • They have successfully finished a vocational or professional training course in Germany

Any child under the age of 18 automatically acquires German nationality following adoption by a German parent

Dual Nationality

Not all countries allow dual nationality, it is advisable to check with the consulate of your home country before starting the procedure for German citizenship.

The German Embassy has information for American-German citizens on dual nationality.