German citizenship by descent
Even if you have never lived in Germany, you may be eligible to obtain German citizenship by descent if your parents or grandparents were German citizens.
German citizenship is earned and passed down primarily through ancestry from a German parent. The parent must be a German citizen at the time of the child’s birth.
Children born to former German citizens are not granted German citizenship. Furthermore, for children born before January 1st, 1975 to parents who were married at the time of the birth, the father had to be a German citizen in order for the child to receive German citizenship.
Can I obtain German citizenship by descent?
Under German Citizenship Law, you are deemed a German citizen if your birth circumstances fit into one of the categories listed below. (As a result, if you are the child or grandchild of one of the people named here, you are eligible for German citizenship via descent.)
Children Born to married Parents
Children Born to Unmarried Parents
Although acquiring German citizenship by ancestry is possible, the requirements can be complex.
German Citizenship by Descent: New Rules (August 2021)
The Fourth Act Amending the German Nationality Act went into effect in August 2021. The new laws give children born to a German mother or father the ability to declare German citizenship if they were denied citizenship at the time of their birth owing to gender-discriminatory rules. These people’s descendants are also eligible for German citizenship.
More specifically, under the new standards, you are eligible for German citizenship if you were born before 1975 and did not acquire German citizenship because your German mother married your foreign father before to your birth (and consequently had to forfeit her German nationality).
- You were born out of wedlock to a German father and a foreign mother before July 1993.
- You lost your German citizenship as a result of “legitimization” (i.e. after you were born, your German mother married your foreign father and had to forfeit her nationality).
- You are a direct descendant (child or grandchild) of one of the people mentioned above.
Remember that these new restrictions are only in effect for ten years, beginning on the date they were implemented.
Citizenship through Descent for Holocaust Victims
The new German Nationality Act requirements also make it easier for Nazi victims and their descendants to get German citizenship. Individuals who surrendered, lost, or were denied German citizenship owing to political, racial, or religious persecution between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 are eligible for German citizenship under these rules. This includes the following:
- Persons who renounced or lost their German citizenship before February 26, 1955 (e.g. by acquiring foreign citizenship, or marriage with a foreigner).
- Persons of German ethnic heritage who were barred from legitimately attaining German citizenship through marriage, legitimization, or collective naturalization.
- Individuals who, while being qualified for citizenship, were not naturalized as German citizens following an application.
- Individuals who were refused naturalization despite being qualified for citizenship.
- Individuals who surrendered or lost their German residency if it was established before January 30, 1933. In the case of children, residency established after January 30, 1933 qualifies.
- Direct descendants of those listed above.
What If My Ancestors lost German Citizenship?
If your parents or grandparents lost German citizenship, they may be eligible to restore it under new German nationality regulations that go into effect in August 2021. These regulations apply to anyone who has lost or been denied German citizenship as a result of persecution or gender discrimination.
Many Jewish Germans, for example, were forced to give up their nationality as they escaped the Nazi authority during WWII. Similarly, many children were never able to assert their right to German citizenship because of gender discriminatory regulations in place at the time of birth.
Those people, as well as their immediate descendants, can now reclaim their German nationality simply by declaring it.
German Citizenship Restored (Gender Discrimination Grounds)
Individuals who are able to restore their German citizenship include:
- Children born to German parents but not granted German citizenship. This covers, for example, children born in wedlock to a German mother and a foreign father before 1975.
- Children born to a German mother who married a foreigner before having the child and therefore lost her German nationality. Prior to 1975, German women who married foreigners had to renounce their citizenship.
- Children who were born with German citizenship but lost it due to “legitimation” by their foreign father. For example, if the mother was German at the time of the child’s birth (out of wedlock), she passed on citizenship to the child. However, once the child was born, the German mother married the foreign father, and both the mother and the child were forced to give up their nationality.
- Descendants of children numbered one through three. Relevant legislation: Article 5 of the German Nationality Act [Right of declaration for children born after the Basic Law went into effect].
German Citizenship Restored (Political, Racial or Religious Grounds)
Former German citizens who lost their German citizenship due to political, ethnic, or religious reasons can now restore it, according to German Nationality Laws. This includes the following people:
- Jewish German citizens who fled Nazi persecution and lived in other countries between January 30, 1933, and May 8, 1945.
- Individuals who lost their German citizenship when their names were published in the Reich Law Gazette (Reichsgesetzblatt).
- Descendants of those listed in 1 and 2.
Relevant legislation: Article 116 (2) of the German Basic Law – [Definition of “German” citizenship restoration].
How to Regain German Citizenship via Descent
To restore your German citizenship, you must submit an application to the German Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt). If you are not in Germany, you can send your declaration to the nearest German diplomatic office, which will forward it to the Federal Office of Administration.
If you meet all of the conditions, the Federal Office of Administration will determine your eligibility. If you answer yes, you will be given a certificate confirming your acquisition of German citizenship by declaration (Urkunde über dem Erwerb der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit durch Erklärung).
Please keep in mind that if you or an ancestor are eligible for German citizenship by declaration, you have a 10-year window from the date the law was passed. As a result, the deadline for declaring German citizenship is August 19, 2031.
Although it sounds simple and quick in theory, sorting through heaps of documentation and dealing with German bureaucracy can be a scary notion. A qualified immigration attorney can help you navigate the procedure of recovering your German citizenship.
How Do I Establish My Eligibility?
To restore your German citizenship by descent, you must: • Submit your birth certificate and/or the birth certificates of your ancestors. You must establish a connection between yourself and your ancestors.
• Submit any other documents that demonstrate your eligibility for German citizenship, such as former German passports.
• Show that you have not lost your citizenship after previously obtaining it.
• Establish that you are not a German child who was born outside of Germany after December 31, 1999 and was not registered in accordance with Section 36 of the Civil Status Act.
• Demonstrate that you have no criminal convictions.
• Fill out any forms necessary by the Federal Office of Administration.
One of the most important aspects of your citizenship application is the supporting documents. If properly completed, they can significantly speed up the entire procedure, allowing you to acquire your citizenship certificate sooner.
German Citizenship by Descent Processing Time
It will take two to three years from the time you submit your completed application to the Federal Office of Administration to acquire your certificate of German citizenship.
Checklist for Documents
Before you can apply for German citizenship by descent, you must have all of the necessary documentation. The documents differ depending on the situation, however they all include:
• Passport and ID card
• Parentage documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, and certificates of descent
• Family heirlooms
• A certificate of good behavior from your home country.
• Evidence of impunity You must demonstrate that you have no prior convictions for jail or young sentences of two or more years, nor have you been subjected to preventative custody.
• Proof of German citizenship holding or loss (if applicable).
• Evidence of acquiring or holding other citizenships (if applicable).
• Change of name certificate (if applicable).
• Evidence of custody (if applying with children up to 16 years).
Original documents or notarized copies of yourself and all your ancestors must be submitted. You must get some documents translated and stamped by a professional translator if they are not in German or English.
Before processing your application, the German Federal Office of Administration (BVA) will notify you of any further papers you must submit.
The Cost of Obtaining German Citizenship Through Descent
There are no administrative or processing expenses associated with obtaining German citizenship by descent. This does not include any expenditures incurred as a result of legal advice, translations, notarizations, or sending documents.
Is it possible to have dual nationality in Germany?
Although Germany officially does not permit dual citizenship, obtaining German citizenship by declaration (as a descendant) does not require you to give up your current nationality. So once you’ve acquired German citizenship, you can technically keep your other citizenships.