Naturalization

Acquisition of German citizenship through naturalization

The acquisition of German citizenship is associated with extensive advantages, in particular German citizens enjoy freedom of movement in Europe and can also enter many countries worldwide without a visa. Not only is the entire European labor market available to German nationals, but they also have access to civil servant status.

According to the German Citizenship Act, citizenship can be acquired primarily by birth, by declaration, by the so-called expellee procedure or by naturalization. naturalization naturalization.

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 8 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 a permanent right of residence or a specific residence permit,
  6. The livelihood for you and your family members is secured,
  7. Basically you would Give up or lose your previous citizenship,
  8. You are not convicted of a felony,
  9. You have sufficient knowledge of German,
  10. 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 eight years. Under certain conditions, you have the option of shortening the required period of eight years.

However, at the end of January 2024, the Bundestag passed a law reducing the duration of this minimum residence period from eight to five years. This new legal situation will come into force three months after the law is promulgated, so it is likely to apply from May 2024. The possibility of shortening this residence period by a further two years will essentially remain in place under the new legal situation. In future, it will therefore be possible to be naturalized after just three years of residence in Germany if you have made special efforts to integrate.

Shortening the deadline

7 years: "Integration Course Certificate

  • Successful participation in an integration course (i.e. language test level B1) as well as an orientation course "Living in Germany

6 years: "Special integration services

  • Minimum language proficiency level B2,
  • particularly good academic, vocational or professional performance, or
  • civic engagement, i.e., sustained volunteer activities.

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 may be established by other suitable official evidence; e.g. driver's license, service cardmilitary service passport, birth certificate, etc. (second stage). If you do not have such documents either and if it is not possible and unreasonable for you to obtain them, you may refer to anyige 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 support for the free democratic basic order and also make a declaration that you do not pursue, support or have not pursued or supported any anti-constitutional or extremist endeavors.

The confession and the declaration must already be made when applying for naturalization, but at the latest before the naturalization certificate is issued. For persons who are not capable of acting, i.e. who are not yet 16 years old, the confession and the declaration are not required.

Permanent right of residence 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.

Furthermore, the receipt of social benefits will only have a negative effect on your naturalization application if you are responsible for it. This means: If it is not your fault and you are not responsible for the fact that you are dependent on social benefits, then the receipt of benefits has no influence on your naturalization.

The details of this rule are expected to change from May 2024, when some changes to citizenship law passed by the Bundestag come into force. According to the new legal situation, the element of having to represent someone will be removed. This means that receiving benefits will also be detrimental if you were dependent on them through no fault of your own. However, applicants who have been in full-time employment for at least 20 months in the last two years will no longer be checked to see whether their livelihood is secured. This means that receiving state benefits would then also be unproblematic. The same exception also applies to people who came to Germany as part of the guest worker generation.

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.

Abandonment or loss of previous citizenship

To avoid multiple citizenship, you must always give up your previous citizenship if you wish to be naturalized in Germany. If you have dual citizenship, you even have to give up both passports.

However, the changes passed by the Bundestag at the end of January 2024 will also have an impact here. As soon as these come into force, presumably in May 2024, German citizenship law will generally allow multiple nationalities. From then on, no one will have to give up their previous passport when naturalizing - provided that the nationality law of their country of origin also allows them to hold two passports. For naturalization applicants from countries such as Turkey, the USA, Canada, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and many others, the path to dual citizenship will then be clear.

Read more about dual citizenship in 2024 here.

The law already regulates some exceptions to this principle in § 12 StAG, according to which it is possible to retain your previous nationality. 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 be released from its nationality (legal impossibility), if your home country generally refuses to release you (actual 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 do not let citizens give up their citizenship until they have a new one. This is to avoid statelessness. However, since Germany only naturalizes people who have already given up their previous citizenship, citizens of these countries could, in theory, never be naturalized. To prevent this, naturalizations in these cases are subject to a condition. The condition requires applicants to give up their old citizenship as soon as they are able. Such a condition can be enforced under threat of a fine.

Acceptance of dual citizenship

  • Legal impossibility:
    States that in principle do not permit withdrawal: Argentina, Bolivia.

    States that do not allow withdrawal when acquiring citizenship by birth: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Uruguay.

    States that do not provide for withdrawal in certain constellations: Dominican Republic, Brazil.

  • Actual impossibility:
    Renunciation of citizenship is legally possible, but is denied or almost never approved: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Eritrea, Iran, Cuba, Lebanon, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia.

    (as at: 2024)

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.

Language skills and knowledge of the legal and social order

You have sufficient 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".

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 naturalization, you may be eligible for discretionary naturalization 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

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

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.