Law on Nationality


Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis, © Ute Grabowsky / photothek.net


Overview of amendments

The German rules on citizenship were thoroughly revised with the entry into force of the amended Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) on 1 January 2000. The Act was further revised with the entry into force of the main part of the Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) on 1 January 2005 and its further provisions on 28 August 2007.

On 20 December 2014 the Second Act Amending the Nationality Act entered into force. This contains new provisions concerning the obligation for children born in Germany to non-German parents to choose one nationality (Optionsregelung).

Here you find the most important points of the current regulations of the German Nationality Act.

On 20 August 2021 the Fourth Act Amending the Nationality Act entered into force, creating a legal claim to naturalisation within the framework of reparations for persons who were affected by National Socialist persecution and therefore lost or did not obtain German citizenship but who have no entitlement to the restoration of German citizenship pursuant to Article 116 (2) sentence 1 of the Basic Law, and for their descendants. The Act also includes a ten-year right of declaration, under which children born to a German parent after the entry into force of the Basic Law who, due to the regulations in force at the time of their birth, were excluded in a gender-discriminating manner from acquiring German citizenship by descent at birth have the option of obtaining German citizenship by making a simple declaration.

Provisions for foreigners living in Germany

Since 2000, children born in Germany to non‑German parents automatically acquire German citizenship if one parent has been legally resident in Germany for at least eight years and has a permanent right of residence. Upon turning 21, these children are obliged to choose between their German nationality and their parents’ nationality (Optionspflicht). However, the Second Act Amending the Nationality Act, which entered into force on 20 December 2014, significantly reduces the number of those obliged to opt for one nationality.

Pursuant to section 7 of the Nationality Act, repatriates returning to Germany in or after 1993 automatically acquire German nationality upon receipt of the papers issued under section 15 of the Federal Expellees Act after they arrive in Germany.

As a general rule, non‑Germans have the right to become naturalised after eight years of legal residence in Germany, provided they meet the relevant conditions. The minimum period of residence for spouses of German nationals is usually shorter. For naturalisation, it is necessary to prove adequate knowledge of German. A clean criminal record and commitment to the tenets of the Basic Law (Constitution) are further criteria. The person to be naturalised must also be able to support themselves financially.

The aim of avoiding multiple nationality remains a key feature of German law on nationality, even now. In general, those applying for naturalisation must give up their foreign nationality. However, since 1 January 2000 the exceptions that allow applicants to retain their former nationality have been considerably broader. These apply for example to elderly persons and victims of political persecution. Applicants may also retain their nationality if it is legally impossible for them to renounce it or if they cannot be expected to do so, for example because of the excessive cost or degrading procedures this involves. The same is true if renouncing the foreign nationality would bring serious disadvantages, especially financial disadvantages such as problems with property or assets.

Since 28 August 2007, nationals of EU member states and Switzerland who are naturalised in Germany have been allowed to hold multiple nationality. Whether the laws of the applicant’s country of origin also permit multiple nationality must be clarified in advance.

The text of the law, as well as statistics on the non-German population in Germany, can be found on the website of the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration. Further details concerning nationality law are available on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the government agency responsible for legislative reforms in the field.

If you are a non‑German living in Germany and have questions about acquiring German nationality, please contact the local authority in the town or district in which you reside.

For more Information please use the link below.

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