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IMMIGRATION

Acquisition of German citizenship through naturalization

The acquisition of German citizenship is associated with extensive advantages. According to the German Citizenship Act, it can be acquired primarily by birth, by declaration, through the so-called expellee procedure or through naturalization.naturalization. Naturalization often comes at the end of a long integration process and at the same time marks the beginning of a new phase of life in your new home country, Germany. In this article, the lawyers at our law firm explain which requirements you must meet for naturalization, in which cases you can also be naturalized without providing proof of all requirements, and what else is important. They also show you when it may make sense to instruct a lawyer.

The requirements for naturalization

A Legal entitlement to naturalization in Germany exists if you meet the following requirements:

  1. They are capable of acting,
  2. You have had your habitual and legal residence in Germany for 5 years,
  3. Your previous nationality and identity have been clarified,
  4. They are committed to the free democratic basic order of the Basic Law,
  5. You have an unlimited right of residence (settlement permit) or a specific residence permit,
  6. The livelihood for you and your family members is secured,
  7. You are not convicted of a felony,
  8. You have sufficient knowledge of German,
  9. They have knowledge of the legal and social order and living conditions in Germany.

Capacity to act

After the statescitizenship law, you are capable of acting when you reach the age of 16, which means that you are only able to apply for naturalization independently at the age of 16. apply for naturalization. This does not mean, however, that people who have not yet reached the age of 16 yet This does not mean, however, that persons who have not yet reached the age of 16 may not submit an application; rather, the legal representatives (e.g. the parents) act on behalf of the minor naturalization applicant.

Ordinary and legal residence

You meet this requirement if you live permanently and legally in Germany, for example with a residence title.

You must have lived in the Federal Republic of Germany for an uninterrupted period of five years. Under certain conditions, you have the option of shortening the required period of five years to up to three years. You can find out in which cases such a reduction is possible in the box "Reduction of the time limit".

In some exceptional cases, for example if you or your ancestors lost German citizenship during the Nazi era, you may be able to obtain German citizenship from abroad . On this page you will find all information on naturalization from abroad.

Shortening the deadline

These are the requirements for naturalization after three years:

  • Special integration achievements (e.g. good performance at work, training or school in Germany) or civic engagement (e.g. voluntary work),
  • German language skills at the level C1 and
  • secure livelihood.

If all requirements are met, the minimum period of residence can be shortened to up to three years.

Identity verification

A mandatory prerequisite for naturalization is that your identity and nationality have been clarified and established. Problems arise time and again, especially when it comes to establishing your identity, especially, if there is no state structure in your home country and reliable information is impossible in individual cases.

The verification of identity and previous nationality is carried out in three stages. The simplest case is the first stage, according to which you submit your identity and nationality for verification by presenting a passport, passport substitute or otherr officialr identity documents with photograph to comply.

If you do not have such documents and it is not possible and unreasonable for you to obtain them, your identity can be established by other suitable official evidence; such as a driver's license, service cardmilitary ID card, birth certificate, etc. (second stage). If you do not have such documents either and it is not possible and unreasonable for you to obtain them, you may be referred to anyother unofficial documents and possibly witness statements (third stage).

Commitment to the free democratic basic order / Declaration of loyalty

As part of the naturalization procedure, you must declare your commitment to the free democratic basic order of the German Basic Law and also make a declaration that you do not pursue, support or have not pursued or supported any anti-constitutional or extremist activities. You must also declare your commitment to Germany's special historical responsibility for the unjust National Socialist regime and to the peaceful coexistence of peoples.

The confession and declaration must already be made when you submit your application for naturalization, but at the latest before the naturalization certificate is issued. In the case of persons who do not have the capacity to act, i.e. who are under 16 years of age, the acknowledgement and declaration are not required.

Permanent right of residence (settlement permit) or special residence permits

At the time of naturalization, you must be in possession of a settlement permit or a residence permit.r temporary residence permit that ensures permanent residence or at least residence for a purpose that is not merely temporary.

We have listed for you in the box on the right which temporary residence titles fall into this category and enable you to become a naturalized citizen.

Special residence permits

Independently securing the livelihood

You must be able to support yourself and the members of your family to whom you are liable to pay maintenance without claiming certain state benefits. Unlike when applying for a residence permit, for example, the only thing that matters is whether you actually receive the benefits and not whether you are theoretically entitled to them.

The state benefits that you are generally not allowed to receive are all those from Social Code II (SGB II) and Social Code XII (SGB XII). Benefits under SGB II include unemployment benefit II, while benefits under SGB XII include social assistance or basic income support in old age and in the event of reduced earning capacity. However, benefits such as unemployment benefit I, child benefit, child supplement, child-raising allowance, parental benefit or BAföG are not relevant for naturalization.

If you have been employed at least 20 months in full-time employment within the last two years your livelihood is automatically guaranteed. The same applies if you are raising a child with your spouse and your spouse has worked for 20 months within the last two years. In these cases, receiving state benefits would not be a problem. The same exception also applies to people who work as part of the contract workers or generation of contract workers or guest workers, as long as they are not themselves to blame for being dependent on state benefits.

Overall, the requirement of a secure livelihood is forward-looking. Based on your current situation and previous history, the authorities will make a prognosis as to whether you are likely to be dependent on social benefits in the future. For this reason, you must also be able to prove that you have made sufficient provision for your old age, i.e. that you have paid into the statutory pension insurance scheme.

Dual citizenship

Under the old legal situation, you generally had to give up your previous nationality in order to be naturalized in Germany. However, this is no longer the case: since 27 June 2024, a new naturalization law has been in force that generally permits multiple nationalities. This means that dual citizenship is the new standard is the new standard - even if you applied for naturalization before the new law came into force.

However, if you wish to obtain dual citizenship, this must also be in accordance with the nationality law of your country of origin be possible. Some countries stipulate that your citizenship is automatically lost if you are naturalized in another country. Unfortunately, if you come from one of these countries, you cannot obtain dual citizenship. We have listed which countries these are in our FAQ.

The law already regulates some exceptions to this principle of avoiding multiple nationality in Section 12 StAG, according to which it is possible to retain your previous citizenship. Such exceptions, which occur again and again in practice, exist, for example, if the law of your home country does not provide for you to leave its nationality (legal impossibility), if your home country generally refuses to release you (de facto impossibility), if it is unreasonable for you to be released from your nationality, or if you are in possession of a travel document for refugees within the meaning of the Geneva Refugee Convention.

Some countries only allow citizens to give up their citizenship once they have a new one. This is to avoid statelessness. However, as Germany only naturalizes people who have already renounced their previous citizenship, citizens of these countries could in theory never be naturalized. To prevent this, a condition is attached to naturalization in these cases. The condition stipulates that applicants must give up their previous citizenship as soon as they are able to do so. Such a condition can be enforced under threat of a fine.

Impunity

As part of the naturalization process, you will be examined to determine whether you have been convicted of a criminal offense. Therefore, as part of the procedure, you must answer truthfully to the question whether there are any criminal convictions.

Convictions for fines of up to 90 daily rates or prison sentences of up to three months that have been suspended and remitted after the probation period has expired are not taken into account. Convictions that have already been discharged may also be disregarded. 

Learn more about immunity from naturalization here.

It is generally advisable to contact a lawyer if you are not sure whether you have any relevant previous convictions. Because if you make false statements here, you may be liable to prosecution under § 42 StAG! Please also bear in mind that there are also many criminal provisions in immigration law, for example in Section 95 AufenthG. Our lawyers will be happy to answer all your questions and ensure that you do not take any unnecessary risks.

Language skills and knowledge of the legal and social order

You have sufficient German language skills and knowledge of the legal and social order if you have successfully passed at least the B1 level language test and the so-called "naturalization test".

Anyone who came to Germany as part of the contract or guest worker generation does not have to provide proof of a language test. For these people, it is sufficient if they can communicate orally in German in everyday life without any significant problems.

Co-naturalization

You also have the option of naturalizing your spouse or registered partner and your minor children together with you under simplified conditions.

The marriage or civil partnership does not have to have been entered into in Germany. Rather, it is sufficient if a marriage entered into under foreign law is validly registered and recognized by the state in the country where the marriage was entered into and if it is also otherwise essentially the same as a German marriage.

Co-naturalization of spouses and underage children has many advantages: First of all, unlike normal naturalization, there is no requirement for eight years of habitual and legal residence in Germany. Instead, it is sufficient if your spouse or registered partner to be naturalized has lived in Germany for at least four years and has been married to you for at least two years. The following applies to your children: If they are under the age of six, they must have spent half their lives in Germany, and if they are older than six, they must have spent more than three years in Germany.

In addition, the (administrative) fees for the naturalization of your underage children are currently only EUR 51. Minors who are naturalized without their parents, on the other hand, have to pay EUR 255.

So co-naturalization can provide a good opportunity for your close family to be naturalized at the same time as you under eased conditions.

Discretionary naturalization

If you do not meet all of the above requirements, but it would be a particular hardship to deny you German citizenship, you may be eligible for discretionary natural ization in accordance with § 8 StAG. This can be granted to naturalization applicants if there is a public interest in their naturalization. If you do not explicitly state in your application for naturalization under which legal basis you wish to be naturalized, the authorities are obliged to also consider discretionary naturalization.

Regional differences in the naturalization process

The formal requirements for applying for naturalization may vary depending on the location in Germany. While the legal requirements are uniform, the necessary forms, documents and application procedures may vary.

Here you will find general information and advice on naturalization for the cities of Berlin and Munich.

Here you will also find special information on obtaining dual citizenship for people from Turkey, the USA and Canada.

Advantages of naturalization

Naturalization is the most frequently chosen path to German citizenship for people who already live in the Federal Republic - and rightly so. This is because naturalization has many advantages. Once you have been naturalized, you are officially a German citizen. As such, you can easily obtain a German passport, with which you enjoy freedom of movement in Europe and can also enter many countries worldwide without a visa. Not only is the entire European labor market open to German citizens, but also access to civil servant status. In addition, every citizen is guaranteed a lifelong right of residence in the Federal Republic of Germany, which does not have to be repeatedly extended. Furthermore, citizens are protected from deportation to other countries and also enjoy the full protection of the German state when traveling abroad.

Last but not least, naturalization is advantageous because it gives you the opportunity to have certain close family members naturalized together with you by way of joint naturalization. This may allow you to save part of the processing fee.

Frequently Asked Questions on naturalization (FAQ)

It usually takes up to 12 months for a decision to be made on an application for naturalization. The new Naturalization Act has also been in force since 27 June 2024. It is therefore to be expected that the number of naturalization applications will increase significantly. As a result, processing times are also likely to increase by several months. If the authorities do not make a decision on your application for too long, it may be advisable to file an action for failure to act. Our lawyers will be happy to advise you on this.

In principle, you must not have a criminal record if you want to be naturalized. However, not all previous convictions are really relevant. For example, convictions or penalty orders of no more than 90 daily rates as well as convictions for prison sentences of up to three months that were suspended and not enforced are not taken into consideration. The same applies to previous convictions that are no longer listed in the Federal Central Criminal Register. You can find out more about exemption from punishment for naturalization here.

The naturalization test consists of 33 multiple choice questions, of which you must answer at least 17 correctly in order to pass. It takes one hour to complete and costs 25 euros. To prepare, you can simulate the test online or view the entire catalog of all possible questions. Where exactly you can register for the test and take it varies from region to region. You can find more information on this at your local immigration office.

The general period of residence that must be fulfilled for naturalization is five years. It can be shortened by up to two additional years in the case of special integration achievements, for example in work, school or voluntary work. At best, naturalization is therefore possible after just three years of residence.

The abbreviation BVA stands for Federal Office of Administration. The Federal Office of Administration deals centrally with administrative tasks that are the responsibility of the federal government. As the individual federal states are generally responsible for naturalizations, the Federal Office of Administration only processes naturalization applications that are submitted from abroad. The Federal Office of Administration is also responsible for applications for the retention or release of German citizenship, as well as applications for the determination of the (non-)existence of German citizenship or the acquisition of a declaration.

Germany has embassies or consulates in almost every country in the world. There is often only one embassy per country - this is then responsible for all people from that country. In large countries in particular, however, there are often several consulates, each of which is responsible for one region. The exact distribution of responsibilities is then explained on the embassy's website. You can find a map of all German missions abroad here.

Where you have to apply for naturalization depends on where you live. If you are in Germany, you must apply to the naturalization authority responsible for your place of residence. You can find out which authority this is from the foreigners authority in your town or municipality or from the district or city administration. Naturalization applications from abroad, which are processed by the Federal Office of Administration, must be submitted to the responsible German mission abroad, i.e. the German embassy or a (general) consulate.

A fee of 255.00 euros is payable for a naturalization certificate for adults. The fee for a rejection notice is between 25.00 and 255.00 euros. A naturalization certificate for a minor child (i.e. up to the age of 18) who is naturalized together with someone else (co-naturalization) only incurs a fee of 51.00 euros.

Freedom of movement in Europe, the possibility of visa-free entry into many other countries with one of the "strongest" passports in the world and protection by the institutions of the German state, even when traveling abroad, are just some of the many advantages of German citizenship. In addition, German citizens enjoy unrestricted access to the labor market of all EU countries, including the possibility of becoming a civil servant, as well as a lifelong right of residence in Germany and the EU, which does not expire even during longer stays abroad.

Since the new Naturalization Act came into force on 27 June 2024, those wishing to naturalize no longer have to give up their old citizenship. According to the new legal situation, anyone can obtain dual citizenship - provided the country of origin also allows it. You can find a list of countries that do not allow dual citizenship here.

The following countries belong to the Schengen area:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Croatia
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Iceland (outside the EU)
  • Liechtenstein (outside the EU)
  • Norway (outside the EU)
  • Switzerland (outside the EU)

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Ireland are NOT part of the Schengen area!

The authorities often take a very long time to process a naturalization application due to the many documents involved. Processing times of several months to well over a year are the rule. Since the Act on the Modernization of Citizenship Law came into force on 27 June 2024, it can be assumed that waiting times will be considerably longer again because many new applications will be submitted. To help you obtain your rights more quickly, it may be advisable to file an action for failure to act. Our experienced lawyers will be happy to advise you on this. Just ask us.

In principle, language skills at level B1 or higher are required for naturalization. If you can prove a higher language level, you may be able to naturalize earlier. Theoretically, naturalization is also possible with a lower language level than B1. However, this still requires a certain knowledge of the language, as your integration into the German way of life must be guaranteed. In addition, there must be a public interest in you receiving German citizenship.

Anyone wishing to acquire German citizenship must be able to prove that they can support themselves and their dependents. to support themselves and their can support themselves. They must not be receiving benefits under the Second or Twelfth Book of the German Social Code (SGB II or SGB XII). be received. These include, for example, unemployment benefit II, basic income support in old age or in the event of reduced earning capacity and social assistance.

However, according to the new law , there are exceptionsIf you have been in full-time employment for 20 months within the last 24 months within the last 24 months, receiving state benefits is not harmful. The same applies if your spouse or registered partnerwho lives with you and a child has been in full-time employment for 20 months within the last 24 months. And also for former guest workers and contract workers and their spouses who have joined them are also exempt from receiving state benefits such as social assistance if they are not responsible for this.

YesThe new law does not change the rules for the naturalization test. However, as before, you do not have to take the test if you are at least a German school-leaving qualification (qualificationRealschule, Abitur etc.)a completed vocational training with a grade in the subject of social studies or a degree in the fields of law and social sciences, social sciences or politics naor politics.