What are the requirements for German citizenship

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German citizenship law is basically based on the so-called descent principle. This means that German citizenship is usually not acquired on the basis of being born in Germany, but on the basis of descent from a German parent.

There are the following reasons for acquiring German citizenship:

  • Acquisition through conjugal birth
  • Acquisition through illegitimate birth
  • Acquisition by birth in the federal territory (under certain conditions since 01.01.2000)
  • Acquisition through adoption
  • Acquisition through legitimation
  • Acquisition through marriage of a foreigner to a German (until March 31, 1953)
  • Other reasons for acquisition

See below for detailed information.

Acquisition through conjugal birth

Children born in wedlock who were born between 01.01.1914 and 31.12.1963 could only acquire German citizenship through a German father.

Children born in wedlock to a German mother who were born between 01.01.1964 and 31.12.1974 only acquired German citizenship if they would otherwise have become stateless.

Since 01.01.1975 it has been possible to acquire German citizenship if one of the parents, i.e. father or mother, is German.

Children born abroad, whose German parent was born abroad after December 31, 1999, only acquire German citizenship if iThe registration of the birth in a German birth register is requested within one year. If the German parent was born before December 31, 1999 and / or in the federal territory, nothing changes in the automatic acquisition of German citizenship through descent.

Children born in wedlock to a German mother who were born after April 1st, 1953 and before January 1st, 1975 and already had a nationality, had the opportunity to submit a declaration that they wanted to obtain German citizenship. This declaration period finally expired on December 31, 1977.

Acquisition through illegitimate birth

Children born out of wedlock to a German mother have received German citizenship since 01.01.1914 through their mother.

Children born out of wedlock with a foreign mother and a German father have acquired German citizenship since July 1st, 1993, provided that, among other things, a valid acknowledgment or determination of paternity has been made.

Children born out of wedlock to a German father who were born before July 1st, 1993 can acquire German citizenship by declaration, provided that all of the following requirements are met:

  • There must be an effective recognition or determination of paternity according to German law,
  • the child must have been legally resident in the federal territory for three years and
  • the declaration must be submitted before the age of 23

The declaration can therefore not be submitted abroad but only at the German place of residence. The process of establishing paternity must be initiated before the child has reached the age of 23.

Children born abroad, whose German parent was born abroad after December 31, 1999, only acquire German citizenship if within a year the entry of the birth in a German birth register is requested.

Acquisition by birth in the federal territory

Since 01/01/2000, German citizenship can also be acquired by children of foreign parents who are born on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The prerequisite is that at least one parent has been legally resident in Germany for at least eight years. If the child is born after August 28, 2007, at least one parent must also have an unlimited right of residence.

Children who were born before 01.01.2000 cannot acquire German citizenship retrospectively through this regulation.

Acquisition through adoption

Since January 1, 1977, German citizenship can also have been acquired through adoption by a German parent

For children who were adopted by a German parent between 01/01/1959 and 12/31/1976, there was, under certain conditions, the possibility of acquiring German citizenship by means of a declaration. The right of declaration expired on December 31, 1979.

Acquisition through legitimation

“Legitimation” means the subsequent “marriage” of a child born out of wedlock.

This status change from illegitimate to legitimate child can be carried out through subsequent marriage, the prerequisite for this is that paternity has been effectively recognized or established and the marriage with the child's mother takes place. On the other hand, legitimation can be given by a decision of the Guardianship Court.

The acquisition of German citizenship through legitimation is basically based on the regulations that apply to legitimate children as explained above.

The possibility of acquiring German citizenship through legitimation existed from 01/01/1914 to 06/30/1998.

Acquisition through marriage of a foreigner to a German

Foreign women who had married a German automatically acquired German citizenship between January 1, 1914 and March 31, 1953.

Special regulations applied to foreign women who married a German between April 1, 1953 and August 23, 1957.

In the case of marriage between 08/24/1957 and 12/31/1969, if the marriage was entered into at a German registry office, there was the possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaring it to the registrar. If the marriage was not concluded in front of a German registrar or the declaration was not made, the foreign wife was entitled to naturalization as long as the marriage continued and the husband had German citizenship.

Since 01.01.1970, marrying a German is no longer an automatic reason for employment. Since then, spouses of German citizens can only under the general requirements of §14 StAG to be naturalized.

Other reasons for acquisition

German citizenship can also have been acquired through naturalization or award. Please note the separate information on naturalization of former Germans and their underage children in accordance with Section 13 of the Citizenship Act and the information on naturalization in accordance with Art. 116 (2) of the Basic Law for former German citizens who died between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 German citizenship has been withdrawn for political, racial or religious reasons.

Germans in the former German Democratic Republic were and are generally still German citizens today. Special regulations also apply to members of the German minorities in Central and Eastern Europe who may have received German citizenship through collective naturalization during the Second World War. If you belong to this group of people, please contact the Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh using the contact form. Should you have further detailed questions about acquiring German citizenship. Please also consult our list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about citizenship. If you cannot find what you are looking for there, please contact the embassy or consulate general using the contact form