Obtaining German Citizenship
In general, German citizenship is established by descent from a German mother and/or a German father or by birth in Germany after 31 Dec 1999 (further conditions apply).
German citizenship may have been obtained through the following:
• by birth in wedlock
• by birth out of wedlock
• by adoption
• by legitimation
• by marriage of a foreign wife to a German (only until 31 March 1953)
• by other reasons
German citizenship by being born in wedlock
Children born in wedlock between 1 Jan 1914 and 31 Dec 1974 acquired German citizenship only if the father was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
Children born to a German mother in wedlock between 1 Jan 1964 and 31 Dec 1974 only acquired German citizenship if they would have become stateless otherwise.
Children born in wedlock after 1 Jan 1975 acquired German citizenship if one of the parents was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
Children born in wedlock between 1 April 1953 and 31 Dec 1974 to a German mother and a non-German father did not become German citizens by birth. However, during the years 1975, 1976 and 1977, their parents could claim German citizenship for them. The deadline for this procedure irrevocably ended on 31 Dec 1977.
German citizenship by being born out of wedlock
Children born out of wedlock to a German mother after 1 Jan 1914 acquired German citizenship.
Children born out of wedlock to a German father after 1 July 1993 acquired German citizenship if (among other requirements) paternity had been established according to German law.
Children born out of wedlock to a German father before 1 July 1993 may acquire German citizenship by declaration before their 23rd birthday, if paternity has been established and if they have resided in Germany for at least three years. The declaration can only be made in Germany at the child's residence.
German citizenship by adoption
If you were adopted as a minor by at least one German citizen on or after 1 Jan 1977, you are a German citizen. If the adoption happened outside Germany it has to meet certain requirements.
Children who had been adopted by a German parent between 1 Jan 1959 and 31 Dec 1976 could have become a German citizen by declaration until 31 Dec. 1977.
German citizenship by legitimization
The marriage of the parents of a child born out of wedlock was called „legitimization“. Children born out of wedlock between 1 Jan 1914 and 30 June 1998 could have acquired German citizenship through the marriage of their parents.
German citizenship by marriage
Foreign women who married a German citizen between 1 April 1914 and 31 Mar. 1953 acquired German citizenship automatically.
Foreign women who married a German citizen between 1 April 1953 and 31 Dec 1969 could have acquired German citizenship under certain conditions, esp. by declaration at time of marriage.
Since 1 Jan 1970 the acquisition of German citizenship by marriage does not exist anymore. A foreign spouse can only naturalize if certain requirements are met.
German citizenship by birth in Germany
Children born in Germany after 31 Dec 1999 to foreign parents who were legal residents of Germany for at least eight years, acquire German citizenship. However, they must declare, upon reaching 21 years of age, whether they want to keep the German or the foreign citizenship of their parents (so-called ‘opting procedure’, Section 29 of the Nationality Act), unless
• they have had habitual residence in Germany for eight years
• have attended school in Germany for six years,
• hold a school-leaving certificate or have completed vocational training in Germany
They are exempt from the opting procedure if they have exclusively the nationality of another EU country or Switzerland in addition to the German one.
German citizenship through naturalization
The regular naturalization process typically requires, among other things, that you have legally resided in Germany for the past eight years, speak German (B1 level) and are capable of financially supporting yourself. Your local municipality is in charge of your application for naturalization. Therefore, applications at the Embassy are usually not possible.
There are rare possibilities for naturalization from abroad, esp. for former German citizens or for spouses of German citizens who are posted abroad in an official German function. These require that applicants prove that their naturalization is beneficial to the German state. Applicants must prove close ties to Germany, speak German (B1 level) and be able to financially support themselves. Other citizenship(s) usually must be renounced (does not apply to citizenships of EU countries or Switzerland).
All naturalizations require that applicants pass a test on civic knowledge.
An exception is the naturalization of people whose citizenship was revoked under the National Socialist regime, thereby restoring the German citizenship to which they are legally entitled. In these cases, facilitations apply.
Exception: Birth to a German Parent born abroad after 31 Dec 1999
Please note that German citizenship is not automatically obtained if a child (C) is born outside Germany and the following applies to the German parent or both German parents of the child:
- the parent was born outside of Germany after 31 Dec 1999
- the parent has habitual residence outside of Germany at the time the child C is born
and the child C obtains another citizenship through birth (e.g the other parent’s nationality or the nationality of the birthplace).
The child C can obtain German citizenship if the parents register the birth of the child C with a registrar in Germany (can be done through the Embassy) within one year after the birth of the child C.
Although the information on this website has been prepared with utmost care, we can not accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein.
See also our
German website for frequently asked questions about German citizenship