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The German Law on Nationality and Citizenship is rather complex and has undergone many changes in the past. However, some aspects have remained the same. Please also read the information in the FAQ-Section on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
Please make sure you read and understand the information provided before contacting the German Embassy. This will help us to assist you better. Thank you!
The Nationality Act
The German rules on citizenship were thoroughly revised with the entry into force of the amended Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) on January 1st, 2000. The rules underwent yet another revision with the entry into force of the Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) on January 1st, 2005.
German citizenship by descent
German citizenship is mainly acquired and passed on through descent from a German parent. The parent has to be German citizen at the time of the birth of the child. Children who are born to former German citizens do not acquire the German citizenship. In addition, for children born before January 1st, 1975 to parents who were married to each other at the time of the birth, it was mandatory that the father was a German citizen in order for the child to acquire the German citizenship.
As an example: If your father was once a German citizen, but was naturalized Nepali before you were born, he automatically lost his German citizenship when he accepted the Nepali citizenship and was therefore unable to pass on the German citizenship to you. One or Two Citizenships?
Persons who were born in Germany before the year 2000 to non-German parents did not obtain German citizenship at the time of their birth and are not eligible for a German passport. Only children born in or after the year 2000 to long-term residents of Germany could or can under certain circumstances receive the German citizenship. They might however decide between the ages of 18 and 23 whether to retain their German nationality or the nationality of their parents, depending on several circumstances.
As a general rule, foreigners now have the right to become naturalized after eight years of habitual residence in Germany, provided they meet the relevant conditions. The minimum period for spouses of German nationals is usually shorter. For naturalization, it is necessary to prove adequate knowledge of German. A clean record and commitment to the tenets of the German Constitution are further criteria. The person to be naturalized must also be able to financially support him-/herself. Requirements for applicants residing abroad are more extensive than for residents of Germany.
The principle of avoiding dual citizenship
The German rules on citizenship are based on the principle of avoiding dual citizenship. This rule does not apply to Germans who receive the other citizenship by law or who applied for and received a citizenship of a member state of the European Union or Switzerland after August of 2007.
The German law on citizenship mandates that German citizens who voluntarily apply for and accept a foreign citizenship will automatically lose the German citizenship if they have not been granted a permission to retain the German citizenship prior to applying for a foreign citizenship.
This Beibehaltungsgenehmigung is granted by the Federal Office of Administration in Germany on an individual basis. To obtain the permission, you must prove that you still have substantial ties to Germany and are in a personal situation in which the dual citizenship would be beneficial to you and/or avoid individual detriments.
Please note that applications have to be submitted to the German Embassy and that proficiency in German is mandatory.
Further informationen can be found on the website of the Federal Office of Administration
New Rules for German parents who were born outside of Germany after December 31st, 1999
The German Law on Nationality states that children who were born outside of Germany to one or more German parent(s) who themselves were also born abroad on or after January 1st, 2000, will no longer automatically acquire the German citizenship through the sole principle of descent from a German parent. Exceptions apply if the child would otherwise be stateless or if the German parent(s) will register(s) the birth with the competent German mission abroad within one year of the birth of the child (Sect. 4, 4 of the German Nationality Act).
Important: Only persons born outside of Germany on or after January 1st, 2000, will have to register their children with the German Embassy if the children are also born outside of Germany and if the parents wish they (also) hold German citizenship.
If you are a German parent born before January 1st, 2000, and your child was born outside of Germany after this date, you do not have to register your child with the German Embassy. The above mentioned rule might however become important to your grandchildren.
Further information about German citizenship on our website is available at the German site of this webpage
as well as on these Websites of the Federal Office of Administration