If you do not have any family ties to Germany (i.e. none of your parents or grandparents were German citizens), then your only path to German citizenship is through the naturalization process. The main ways of becoming a naturalized citizen of Germany are through employment or marriage, both of which take years.
If you do have family ties, then you may be eligible to apply for German citizenship by descent. This means that if one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents was a German citizen, then you may also be one!
Why Become a German Citizen?
If you are already living in Germany, and do not plan to leave any time soon, then you will know that there are a lot of benefits to obtaining German citizenship, such as:
- You will be able to leave and enter the country as you wish.
- You will get a German passport, which is one of the strongest in the world in terms of mobility.
- You will have Freedom of Movement in the EU and access to the EU work market.
- You can vote for the German government and the European Parliament.
- Your future children will automatically become German citizens.
- You can become a civil servant in Germany.
How to Become a German Citizen?
To get German citizenship by naturalization, you have to live in Germany (legally!) for at least eight years. This means that you first have to:
- Apply for a German visa and temporary residence permit. These permits are valid for one to four years, issued based on the nature of your immigration (for work, marriage, freelancing, etc). You have to apply for renewal before it expires.
- Apply to become a permanent resident of Germany. After about four years of living in Germany with a temporary residence permit, you can apply for permanent residency.
- Apply for German citizenship. You can finally apply for German citizenship at least eight years after you receive your permanent residence permit, provided that you meet all the requirements, as outlined below.
Requirements for German Citizenship by Naturalization
To become a naturalized citizen of Germany, you have to meet all the following requirements:
- You must have lived in Germany for a minimum of eight years. Remember that time you spend in Germany as a tourist, international student or illegally does not count. In some cases, the required residence time can be shorter – see below.
- You must not have been convicted with a criminal offence. If you are currently in the midst of a criminal investigation, you
- At the time of application, you must hold a Permanent Residence Permit or have Freedom of Movement as an EU national.
- You must be employed and make enough to support yourself and your dependent family members, without relying on welfare or unemployment benefits.
- You must speak German at least on Level B1 (of the Common European Framework of Reference). Level B1 means you are an independent user, so you do not have to be fluent, you must just be able to use German enough to communicate independently.
- You have to pass the German Citizenship Test. This test includes questions that measure your knowledge of the social and legal system in German.
- You have to give up your previous nationality, unless:
- You are from an EU Member State or Switzerland.
- Your current country of nationality does not allow you to renounce your citizenship.
- You accept the German Basic Law, which is German Constitution law. To do this, you must state that you accept it in both writing and orally to the Naturalization Authorities.
Can I Apply for Naturalization Quicker?
Yes, in some cases, you can apply to become a naturalized German citizen quicker than in eight years’ time. This includes:
- After seven years of residence, if you completed a German language integration course at a Community College (Volkshochsschule).
- After six years of residence, if you are very proficient in the German language (at least level B2).
- After three years of residence, if you have been married to a German citizen for at least two years.
What Visas Count Towards German Citizenship?
The “residency period” needed for German citizenship by naturalization usually only takes into account the following residency types:
- Skilled worker visa.
- Researcher visa.
- Freelance or self-employed visa.
- EU Blue Card.
- Marriage and family visa.
- Asylum or refugee visa.
The German Citizenship Naturalization Process
You have to apply for German citizenship at the local Naturalization Authority in the German region or residential district you live in. If you are not sure where to apply, you can initially approach the Foreigner’s Office (Ausländerbehörde). A rough step-by-step process is as follows:
- Go to your local Naturalization Authority office. They will let you know how to initiate the procedure, what documents you have to collect, and which forms to fill out.
- Enter the Naturalization Test. You have to register for the test and enter it on a specified date at the nearest test centre. The Naturalization Authority will let you know where to register.
- Pay the application processing fee.
- Submit all the required documents for the application.
- Wait for the application to be processed. This can take about two years. If the application is successful, you will initially receive an assurance of naturalisation (Einbürgerungszusicherung).
- Renounce your current citizenship. You can submit the assurance of naturalization certificate to the consulate of your country. If you are an EU citizen or your country does not allow renouncement of citizenship, you do not have to do this step.
- Get the Naturalization Certificate. Once you have renounced your citizenship (if required), you have to attend a Naturalization Ceremony where you will receive the Certificate of Naturalization. This means you are officially a German citizen!
- Apply for a German Passport and ID Card! You must do this at the local residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt).
Can I Apply at the Same Time as My Spouse?
Yes, you can apply for naturalization in Germany alongside your spouse even if you are not yet eligible yourself. This is called “derivative naturalization”, and it applies to the children of applicants as well as the spouse, so that the entire family may apply to become German citizens at the same time.
With derivative naturalization, only the period of residence requirement is waived – you must still meet all other requirements, such as language proficiency, passing the Naturalization Test, and lack of criminal charges.
How Much Is the Naturalization Fee in Germany?
The fees you have to pay during your naturalization process include:
- The fee for processing the naturalization application for each adult: €255.
- The fee for each minor applicant: €51.
- The Naturalization Test fee: €25
- The Naturalization Certificate cost: €25
German Citizenship Through Descent
If one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents was a German citizen, there is a chance that you are also a German citizen, even if you have never stepped foot in Germany. Technically, you are considered a German citizen and can reclaim your German citizenship if:
- You were born to married parents and your father was a German citizen.
- You were born on or after 1 January 1975 to married parents and either one of your parents was a German citizen.
- You were born to unmarried parents but your mother was a German citizen at the time of your birth.
- You were born to unmarried parents on or after 1 July 1993, and your father was a German citizen.
- One of your ancestors was a German citizen, whose citizenship was revoked under Nazi rule due to political, racial or religious reasons in 1938.
- Children born to German parents living abroad after 31 December 1999 do not automatically get German citizenship. The parents must register the child with German authorities before their first birthday.
How to Prove I Am Entitled to German Citizenship by Descent?
If you think you are eligible for German citizenship through descent, then you will have to prove the legitimacy of your claims. If one of your parents was a German citizen, it is easy enough to prove through birth certificates or registration papers. However, it is trickier if you are trying to prove descent by your grandparents or great-grandparents, as you will have to track down the necessary documents or evidence of immigration.
If you are living abroad, your first point of contact should be the German Embassy in your country or the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, who will notify you on how to proceed, what documents you need, or even if you are eligible at all.
Can I Get German Citizenship as an EU National?
To become a German citizen if you already have the nationality of another EU country, you will have to live and contribute in Germany for at least eight years and meet all other citizenship requirements, including language proficiency.
The German Citizenship Test
Everyone who applies to become a citizen of Germany must pass the Naturalization Test. This test measures how much you know about the legal and social system in Germany and as well as the German way of life. It is administered by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and you must register to take it at the local test centre, after starting your naturalization procedure.
What is included in the German Citizenship Test?
The test includes 33 questions, which are divided into three sections:
- “Living in a democracy”
- “History and responsibility”
- “People and society”
When do you pass?
You pass the Naturalization Test if you answer at least 17 out of 33 questions correctly.
Where do I prepare for the German Citizenship Test?
You can practice for the Naturalization test via the questionnaire offered by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees on this website.
Does Germany Accept Dual Citizenship?
In most cases, Germany does not allow dual citizenship. So to become a German citizen, you likely have to renounce your current nationality. There are exceptions only in the following instances:
- If someone is born with dual citizenship. For example, a child is born to one German and one non-German parent.
- If you have EU or Swiss citizenship.
- If it would cause you undue hardship to renounce your citizenship. For example, if the condition for renouncing citizenship is paying a large fine, entering military service, or losing assets and annual income of at least at least €10225.
- If your country of residence does not allow the renouncement of citizenship.