|German Citizenship Act|
|Parliament of Germany|
|An Act relating to German citizenship|
|Enacted by||Government of Germany|
|Status: Current legislation|
German nationality law is the law governing the acquisition, transmission and loss of German citizenship. The law is based on a mixture of the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli . In other words, one usually acquires German citizenship if a parent is a German citizen, irrespective of place of birth, or by birth in Germany to parents with foreign nationality if certain requirements are fulfilled. Naturalisation is also possible for foreign nationals after six to eight years of legal residence in Germany.
Jus sanguinis is a principle of nationality law by which citizenship is determined or acquired by the nationality of one or both parents. Children at birth may automatically be citizens of a particular state if either or both of their parents have citizenship of that state or national identities of ethnic, cultural, or other origins. Citizenship can also apply to children whose parents belong to a diaspora and were not themselves citizens of the state conferring citizenship. This principle contrasts with jus soli.
Jus soli, meaning "right of the soil", commonly referred to as birthright citizenship in the United States, is the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship.
Although non-EU and non-Swiss citizens normally must renounce their old citizenship before being approved for naturalisation (if the laws of their other countries of citizenship do not already automatically act to denaturalise them upon award of German nationality), there is a broad exception for when it would be "very difficult" to do so, and as of 2017, a majority of newly naturalised German citizens have been allowed to retain their previous citizenships.Under German law, citizens of other EU countries and of Switzerland may keep their old citizenship by right, however, some EU countries (such as the Netherlands) do not allow dual citizenship even with other EU countries. German citizens wanting to acquire a non-EU or non-Swiss citizenship and to maintain their German citizenship must apply for permission ( Beibehaltungsgenehmigung ) before acquiring the other citizenship, or they automatically lose German citizenship when they acquire the foreign citizenship. For details, see Dual citizenship section below.
The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together with three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba—it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.
A Beibehaltungsgenehmigung is a certificate issued by the German Federal Government in accordance with Section 25(2) of the Nationality Law.
A significant reform to the nationality law was passed by the Bundestag (the German parliament) in 1999, and came into force on 1 January 2000. The reformed law makes it somewhat easier for foreigners resident in Germany on a long-term basis, and especially their children born in Germany, to acquire German citizenship.
The Bundestag is the German federal parliament. It can be compared to the chamber of deputies along the lines of the United States House of Representatives or the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. Through the Bundesrat, a separate institution, the individual states of Germany participate in legislation similar to a second house in a bicameral parliament.
The previous German nationality law dated from 1913. Nationality law was amended by the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany; these amendments were revoked after the defeat of Nazism by an Allied occupational ordinance during WWII in 1945. Germany ratified the European Convention on Nationality, which came into force in Germany on 1 September 2005.All German nationals are automatically also citizens of the European Union.
The Nuremberg Laws were antisemitic and racist laws in Nazi Germany. They were enacted by the Reichstag on 15 September 1935, at a special meeting convened during the annual Nuremberg Rally of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). The two laws were the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour, which forbade marriages and extramarital intercourse between Jews and Germans and the employment of German females under 45 in Jewish households, and the Reich Citizenship Law, which declared that only those of German or related blood were eligible to be Reich citizens. The remainder were classed as state subjects without any citizenship rights. A supplementary decree outlining the definition of who was Jewish was passed on 14 November, and the Reich Citizenship Law officially came into force on that date. The laws were expanded on 26 November 1935 to include Romani people and Black people. This supplementary decree defined Romanis as "enemies of the race-based state", the same category as Jews.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state where nearly all aspects of life were controlled by the government. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
Upon defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, the victorious Allies asserted joint authority and sovereignty over 'Germany as a whole', defined as all territories of the former German Reich west of the Oder–Neisse line, having declared the destruction of Nazi Germany at the death of Adolf Hitler. The four powers divided 'Germany as a whole' into four occupation zones for administrative purposes, under the United States, United Kingdom, France and the Soviet Union respectively; creating what became collectively known as Allied-occupied Germany. This division was ratified at the Potsdam Conference. The four zones were as agreed in February 1945 by the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union meeting at the Yalta Conference; setting aside an earlier division into three zones proposed by the London Protocol.
Before the formation of the German Empire in 1871, the states that became part of the empire were sovereign with their own nationality laws, those of the southern ones (notably Bavaria) being quite liberal. Prussia's nationality law can be traced back to the "Law Respecting the Acquisition and Loss of the Quality as a Prussian subject, and his Admission to Foreign Citizenship" of 31 December 1842, which was based on the principle of jus sanguinis . Prussian law became the basis of the legal system of the German Empire, though the state nationality laws continued to apply, and a German citizen was a person who held citizenship of one of the states of the German Empire.
The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.
Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area comprising roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's main cities are Munich, Nuremberg and Augsburg.
Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital first in Königsberg and then, in 1701, in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.
On 22 July 1913 the Nationality Law of the German Empire and States (Reichs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, shorthand: RuStAG) established a German citizenship, either derived from the citizenship of one of the component states or acquired through the central Reich government.
Under the Third Reich, in 1934, the German nationality law was amended to abolish separate state citizenships and creating a uniform Reich citizenship, with the central Reich authorities having power to grant or withdraw German nationality. In 1935 the Reich Citizenship Law (Reichsbürgergesetz), the second of the Nuremberg Laws, created a new category called "state subjects" (Staatsangehörige) to which Jews were assigned, thereby withdrawing citizenship from Jews who had been citizens; only those classed as being of "German or related blood" retained Reich citizenship.
On 13 March 1938, Germany extended the nationality law to Austria following the Anschluss that annexed Austria to Germany. On 27 April 1945, after the defeat of Nazism, Austria was re-established and conferred Austrian citizenship on all persons who would have been Austrian on that date had the pre-1938 nationality law of Austria remained in force. Any Austrians who had held German nationality lost it.Also see Austrian nationality law.
The Nazi amendments of 1934 and the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 were revoked by Allied occupational ordinance in 1945, restoring the 1913 nationality law, which remained in force until the 1999 reforms.
Article 116(1) of the German Basic Law (constitution) confers, subject to laws regulating the details, a right to citizenship upon any person admitted to Germany (in its 1937 borders) as "refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin or as the spouse or descendant of such a person." Until 1990 ethnic Germans living abroad in a country in the former Eastern Bloc (Aussiedler) could obtain citizenship through a virtually automatic procedure. From 1990 the law was steadily tightened each year to limit the number of immigrants, requiring immigrants to prove language skills and cultural affiliation.
Article 116(2) entitles persons (and their descendants), who were denaturalised by the Nazi government, to be renaturalised if they wish. Those among them, who after May 8, 1945 take up residence in Germany are automatically considered German citizens. Both regulations, (1) and (2), allowed a considerable numbers of Poles and Israelis, residing in Poland and Israel, to be concurrently German citizens.
Children born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent::
To retain German citizenship, such children are required to take affirmative measures by age 23, after which their German citizenship otherwise expires. These affirmative measures may include proof of the applicant's link to Germany, as evidenced by at least one of the following:
Applicants fulfill these requirements in the vast majority of cases. If not, the applicant can alternatively prove they hold no foreign citizenship other than in a European Union member nation or a nation such as Morocco, Nigeria, or Iran whose domestic law provides that its citizenship cannot be lost.
Parents who are citizens of European Economic Area states or Switzerland are eligible to receive permanent resident permits after five years.
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.
Persons who are Germans on the basis of descent from a German parent do not have to apply to retain German citizenship by age 23. If they acquire another citizenship at birth, they can usually continue to hold this.
German law forbids double-barrelled surnames (e.g. consisting of both the mother's and the father's surnames if the parents are unmarried, or if the parents are married but do not share a surname). However, an exemption is granted to German citizens by descent who are born abroad and have a double-barrelled surname, providing that their surname format is permitted under the law of their country of birth and the laws of any other countries of which either parent is a citizen.
German citizens in this situation must obtain a name declaration ( Namenserklärung ) before being allowed to hold a German passport or identity card.
A child adopted by a German citizen becomes German national automatically if aged less than 18 on the date the application for adoption was made. So dual citizenship is granted.
Individuals are entitled to naturalise as a German citizen if they fulfill all the following criteria :
The examination tests a person's knowledge of the German Constitution, the Rule of Law and the basic democratic concepts behind modern German society. It also includes a section on the Constitution of the Federal State in which the applicant resides. The citizenship test is obligatory unless the applicant can claim an exemption such as illness, a disability, or old age.
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—and does not have to fulfil the other criteria (e.g., adequate command of the German language and ability to support themselves without recourse to benefits).
Applicants for naturalisation are normally expected to prove they have renounced their existing nationality or that they lose it automatically on naturalisation, before receiving German citizenship. However, they are not required to do so if the previous citizenship is from another European Union member state or Switzerland, or if the other citizenship(s) may be renounced "only under very difficult conditions."Such difficulty is to be assumed if any of six conditions apply, including unreasonable difficulties in renouncing, holding a refugee travel document, and the potential economic hardship of renunciation exceeding a cost of 10,225.84 Euros (originally 20,000 Deutsche Marks). Most persons naturalised as German citizens in 2017, 61%, fell within these exceptions and were successful in obtaining approval to retain their other citizenships, with more than 81% of new German citizens from the Americas doing so. That global proportion is up from 45% in 2000.
An individual who is entitled to naturalise as a German citizen can also apply for a spouse and minor children to be naturalised at the same time (the spouse and minor children need not have ordinarily resided in Germany for at least 8 years).
Exceptions to the normal residence requirements include:
There are special provisions for victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants.
An individual who is ordinarily resident outside may be naturalised as a German citizen if they can demonstrate sufficient ties with Germany to justify naturalisation.
Under Article 116 of Germany's constitution, known as the Basic Law,anyone who had their German citizenship revoked during the Nazi regime for "political, racist, or religious reasons" may reobtain citizenship. The Article also includes the descendants of Nazi victims, and does not require them to give up the citizenship of their new home countries.
This does not apply to those born before 1953 to a German Jewish mother: Although the law that German citizenship passed only through fathers was changed in 1953, this was not made retroactive.
Regulations stipulate that a descendant of those who had their citizenship revoked is entitled to re-naturalization only if "the following hypothetical question can be answered with a 'yes': Had the primary claimant of the naturalization claim not been deprived of German citizenship, would their descendants have acquired citizenship by birth according to the applicable German law of citizenship?Note that children adopted by German Jews before 1945 are not elligible for German citizenship, even if they were born in Germany.
The "applicable German law of citizenship" referred to states that "Children born in wedlock between Jan. 1, 1914 and Dec. 31, 1974, acquired German citizenship only if the father was a German citizen at the time of their birth." Some waivers were granted for "Children born in wedlock between April 1, 1953 and Dec. 31, 1974 to a German mother and a non-German father" -- but not for those born earlier.
See also the German Citizenship Project.
Under transitional arrangements in the 1999 reforms (effective 1 January 2000), children who were born in Germany in 1990 or later, and would have been German had the law change been in force at the time, were entitled to be naturalised as German citizens.
Polygamy is illegal in Germany. In June 2019, a law was adopted according to which persons living in polygamous marriages cannot be naturalized.
Between 1995 and 2004, 1,278,424 people obtained German citizenship by naturalization. This means that about 1.5% of the total German population was naturalized during that period.
|Total (including countries not mentioned)||71,981||86,356||82,913||106,790||143,267||186,688||178,098||154,547||140,731||127,153||106,897||112,348||107,317|
German citizenship is automatically lost when a German citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country, except:
Other cases where German citizenship can be lost include:
Naturalized Germans can lose their German citizenship if it is found out that they got it by willful deceit / bribery / menacing / giving intentionally false or incomplete information that had been important for the naturalization process. In June 2019, it was decided to prolong the deadline from 5 to 10 years after naturalization.
Attila Selek, one of the plotters in the 2007 bomb plot in Germany had hidden criminal proceedings against him for breaches against gun regulation from the passport authorities during his citizenship application. Those authorities removed his citizenship in 2011 on the grounds that it had been fraudulently obtained. This rendered him stateless.
See also the section "Revocation of German citizenship for adult terrorists with second citizenship."
Allowed under following circumstances:
In June 2019, Germany adopted a law that allows to revoke the German citizenship of dual citizens who have joined or supported a terror militia such as the Islamic State and are at least 18 years old.
See also the section "Fradulent application."
Because Germany forms part of the European Union, German citizens are also citizens of the European Union under European Union law and thus enjoy rights of free movement and have the right to vote in elections for the European Parliament.When in a non-EU country where there is no German embassy, German citizens have the right to get consular protection from the embassy of any other EU country present in that country. German citizens can live and work in any country within the EU and EFTA as a result of the right of free movement and residence granted in Article 21 of the EU Treaty.
Germans living abroad (Auslandsdeutsche) are German emigrants, namely, German citizens residing outside Germany. German emigrants usually do not pay taxes to Germany. Germans abroad are allowed to vote in the Republic's federal elections (general elections). According to the German Foreign Office, "German citizens with permanent residence abroad can participate in federal elections in Germany and European elections. As a rule, German voters who reside permanently in non-EU countries abroad and are not resident in Germany any more, cannot participate in German state and local elections. However, German citizens who are living permanently in other EU countries can vote in municipal elections of their country of residence."
In addition to the above sense, Auslandsdeutsche also refers to ethnic Germans in German-speaking communities abroad who descend from settlers in those countries generations or centuries ago (and therefore are mostly not citizens of Germany). To be unambiguous, modern-day German emigrants may be specified as "German citizens with permanent residence abroad" (Deutsche Staatsbürger mit ständigem Wohnsitz im Ausland).
The case is complicated by the German right of return law concerning Spätaussiedler , people who do not have German citizenship but who are in theory entitled to it because the German state considers them German nationals, like Volga Germans in Kazakhstan.
Significant communities of German citizens abroad are found in the following countries:
More statistics at German diaspora#Distribution.
There were 786,000 Germans in interwar Romania in 1939. USA: Large numbers of German citizens live permanently in the U.S., especially academics, artists, computer experts, engineers, and businesspeople. According to the German Missions in the US, “German citizens living abroad are not required to register with the German Embassy, so we are unable to say how many German citizens live in America.” Some of those Germans abroad hold passports from both Germany and the United States.
Visa requirements for German citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Germany. In March 2019, German citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 188 countries and territories, ranking the German passport 2nd in the world according to the Henley & Partners Passport Index.
The German nationality is ranked number two as of 2018 in The Quality of Nationality Index (QNI). The ranking is considering internal factors such as peace & stability, economic strength, human development and external factors including travel freedom. France has taken number one after seven years, attributable mainly to the country’s former colonial empire.)
Naturalization is the legal act or process by which a non-citizen in a country may acquire citizenship or nationality of that country. It may be done automatically by a statute, i.e., without any effort on the part of the individual, or it may involve an application or a motion and approval by legal authorities. The rules of naturalization vary from country to country but typically include a promise to obeying and upholding that country's laws, taking and subscribing to the oath of allegiance, and may specify other requirements such as a minimum legal residency and adequate knowledge of the national dominant language or culture. To counter multiple citizenship, most countries require that applicants for naturalization renounce any other citizenship that they currently hold, but whether this renunciation actually causes loss of original citizenship, as seen by the host country and by the original country, will depend on the laws of the countries involved.
Swiss citizenship is the status of being a citizen of Switzerland and it can be obtained by birth or naturalisation.
The Republic of Liberia was founded by freed African slaves from North America by the American Colonization Society and returned to establish a republic on African soil. Shortly after their arrival they were met by the indigenous people that inhabited the land. The Nationality law is set forth in the Aliens and Nationality Law of 1973, based on its 1847 Constitution. Current citizenship laws explicitly state being Black as a prerequisite to citizenship. The first constitution allowed for women to transmit their nationality to their children, although multiple citizenship was not permitted nor is it permitted in revisions of the constitution.
Italian nationality law is the law of Italy governing the acquisition, transmission and loss of Italian citizenship. Like many continental European countries it is largely based on jus sanguinis. It also incorporates many elements that are seen as favourable to the Italian diaspora. The Italian Parliament's 1992 update of Italian nationality law is Law no. 91, and came into force on 15 August 1992. Presidential decrees and ministerial directives, including several issued by the Ministry of the Interior, instruct the civil service how to apply Italy's citizenship-related laws.
Belgian citizenship is based on a mixture of the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli. In other words, both place of birth and Belgian parentage are relevant for determining whether a person is a Belgian citizen. It is regulated by the Code of Belgian Nationality.
French nationality law is historically based on the principles of jus soli, according to Ernest Renan's definition, in opposition to the German definition of nationality, jus sanguinis, formalised by Johann Gottlieb Fichte.
Dutch nationality law is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis and is governed by the Kingdom Act on the Netherlands nationality, which was signed by the monarch on 19 December 1984 and officially promulgated on 27 December 1984. Thus citizenship is conferred primarily by birth to a Dutch parent, irrespective of place of birth. Children born in the Netherlands to two foreign parents do not acquire Dutch citizenship at birth, unless special criteria are met.
Swedish nationality law determines entitlement to Swedish citizenship. Citizenship of Sweden is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis. In other words, citizenship is conferred primarily by birth to a Swedish parent, irrespective of place of birth.
Nationality law in the Republic of Austria is based on the principle of jus sanguinis. In other words, one usually acquires Austrian citizenship if a parent is Austrian, irrespective of place of birth.
Maltese nationality law is based primarily on the principles of Jus sanguinis, although prior to 1 August 1989 the principle of Jus soli was the basis of the law.
Norwegian nationality law is based on the principle of jus sanguinis. In general, Norwegian citizenship is conferred by birth to a Norwegian parent, or by naturalisation in Norway.
Chinese nationality law regulates the acquisition, transmission, and loss of Chinese nationality. The law is based on the principle of jus sanguinis, meaning that individuals born to a Chinese national parent usually acquire Chinese nationality at birth.
Slovenian nationality law is based primarily on the principles of Jus sanguinis, in that descent from a Slovenian parent is the primary basis for acquisition of Slovenian citizenship. However, although children born to foreign parents in Slovenia do not acquire Slovenian citizenship on the basis of birthplace, place of birth is relevant for determining whether the child of Slovenian parents acquires citizenship.
Hungarian nationality law is based on the principles of jus sanguinis. Hungarian citizenship can be acquired by descent from a Hungarian parent, or by naturalisation. A person born in Hungary to foreign parents does not generally acquire Hungarian citizenship. A Hungarian citizen is also a citizen of the European Union.
Nationality law of Greece is based on the principle of jus sanguinis. Greek citizenship may be acquired by descent or through naturalization. Greek law permits dual citizenship. A Greek national is a citizen of the European Union, and therefore entitled to the same rights as other EU citizens.
Estonian citizenship – based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis – is governed by a law promulgated on 19 January 1995 by the Riigikogu which took effect on 1 April 1995. The Police and Border Guard Board is responsible for processing applications and enquiries concerning Estonian citizenship.
Danish nationality law is governed by the Constitutional Act of Denmark and the Consolidated Act of Danish Nationality . Danish nationality can be acquired in one of the following ways:
Luxembourgish nationality law is ruled by the Constitution of Luxembourg. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a member state of the European Union and, therefore, its citizens are also EU citizens.
This graph shows the full Global Ranking of the 2018 Henley Passport Index. In certain cases, a rank is shared by multiple countries because these countries all have the same level of visa-free or visa-on-arrival access.