What You Need to Know About Applying for German Citizenship

The good news is that immigrants can usually apply for German citizenship after a certain number of years of residence. If you have been living in Germany as an immigrant for several years you may be eligible to apply for German citizenship (Deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit).

What You Need to Know About Applying for German Citizenship

Germany’s global reputation as a country of innovation and high-quality products draws thousands of people to the country every year, particularly those who are highly skilled and experienced in their fields. Germany offers one of the most stable and prosperous economies in the world, so it’s no surprise that so many people from other countries are interested in obtaining German citizenship.

If you plan to apply for German citizenship, however, you should know what you’re getting into — it’s not an easy process, and it can take years to complete if everything goes smoothly. Here’s what you need to know about applying for German citizenship and whether or not it might be right for you.

There are several ways that you can obtain German citizenship, ranging from naturalization to marriage to receiving citizenship based on the conditions of your parents’ nationality and your place of birth. Becoming a German citizen can be an exciting and fulfilling experience, as well as an excellent way to secure your future in this country and make it your home. The most common way to become a German citizen, however, is through naturalization (Einbürgerung in German).

If you’re living in Germany and want to become a German citizen, you’ll need to meet certain requirements. First of all, you must have a valid German passport, have lived in Germany legally for at least 8 years, and be able to prove that you can financially support yourself without state assistance. Once you fulfill these requirements, you can fill out an application that will be reviewed by the authorities within three months' time.

What is the Meaning of Citizenship in Germany?

German citizenship is a legal status that entails citizens with specific rights, duties, protections, and benefits in Germany. German citizenship means you’ll be able to live in Germany indefinitely. This will give you the right to vote, consular protection, free movement and unrestricted access to the German jobs market. For foreigners in Germany, nationality offers much more stability.

In general, German citizenship is not established through birth on German territory but by descent from a German legal mother and/or a German legal father. Any person born to a married German parent is typically a German national at birth, regardless of the place of birth. Children of unmarried couples in which only the father is German must be legitimised for them to acquire German nationality.

Foreign nationals, on the other hand, may naturalize after residing in Germany for at least eight years and demonstrating knowledge in the German language. Although non-EU/Swiss naturalization candidates are expected to renounce their previous nationalities, the majority are granted permission to retain their old statuses. Germany is the ideal country where one would love to work and spend their life. With its low rates of unemployment, perfectly organized healthcare system, and many other factors that keeps luring people around the world.

However, because of the bureaucracy and the strict German immigration system, many people are not even willing to take neither the energy nor the time to try to start a life in Germany. Still, you should not let that scare you. There are a few ways how to become a German citizen, though none of them is easy. They take time and energy, but if you gain German citizenship, it is all worth it in the end.

Types of German Citizenship

There are three main ways to get German citizenship. 

  • Right of blood
  • Right of soil
  • Naturalization

The first two requires you to have German ties, either your parents are German or you were born in German. Whereas the latter is for expats living in the country. When seeking German citizenship through naturalization, you’ll have to fulfill certain requirements set by the German government to qualify, such as living in the country for a certain amount of time. This varies depending on the grounds you’re seeking citizenship.

In this article, we will explain what the criteria/ requirements and how to become a German citizen. But we will be focusing on the naturalization route. 

German Citizenship Through Naturalization

If you do not have any family ties to Germany (i.e. none of your parents or grandparents were German citizens), then your only path to German citizenship is through the naturalization process. Naturalization is a process, which makes it possible for a foreigner to become a German citizen. Most expats will need to apply for German citizenship by naturalization. The main ways of becoming a naturalized citizen of Germany are through employment or marriage, both of which take years.

Requirements for German Naturalization

If you are not German by birth, you can be naturalized if you meet the following requirements:

  • You have been living in Germany legally for at least eight years. The time you spend in Germany as a tourist, international student or illegally does not count.
  • You have an indefinite right of residence in Germany at the time of application
  • You are able to support yourself and your dependents without social welfare benefits and unemployment benefit. You fulfil this requirement especially if you are in adequately paid employment at the time you apply for naturalization.
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the German language. You must speak German at least on Level B1 (of the Common European Framework of Reference). Level B1 means you are an independent user, so you do not have to be fluent, you must just be able to use German enough to communicate independently.
  • You have passed a naturalization test. This includes questions that measure your knowledge of the social and legal system in German.
  • You have not been convicted of any criminal offence
  • You accept the Basic Law: The Basic Law (Grundgesetz) is the constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • You give up your previous nationality: when you are naturalised, you will have to give up your previous nationality.

How to Apply for Citizenship Through Naturalization

If you meet all of the requirements listed above, you can then apply for citizenship. 

To begin with, you will have to apply for German citizenship at the local Naturalization Authority in the German region or residential district you live in. If you are not sure where to apply, you can initially approach the Foreigner’s Office (Ausländerbehörde). Here's a step-by-step guide on the naturalization process:

  1. Go to your local Naturalization Authority office: They will let you know how to initiate the procedure, what documents you have to collect, and which forms to fill out.
  2. Enter the Naturalization Test: You have to register for the test and enter it on a specified date at the nearest test centre. The Naturalization Authority will let you know where to register.
  3. Pay the application processing fee.
  4. Submit all the required documents for the application: In addition to the form, you will need to provide the following documents to prove that you meet the naturalization requirements:
    • Bank statements to prove your financial position
    • German residence records
    • Proof of your German language skills, mentioned above
    • Receipts to show you’ve paid the fees
    • Naturalization certificate from passing the citizenship test
    • Then, submit the application to the office which originally issued the application form.
  5. Wait for the application to be processed: The processing time for citizenship applications is quite lengthy, it can take about two years. If the application is successful, you will initially receive an assurance of naturalisation (Einbürgerungszusicherung).
  6. Renounce your current citizenship: You can submit the assurance of naturalization certificate to the consulate of your country. If you are an EU citizen or your country does not allow renouncement of citizenship, you do not have to do this step.
  7. Get the Naturalization Certificate: Once you have renounced your citizenship (if required), you have to attend a Naturalization Ceremony where you will receive the Certificate of Naturalization. This means you are officially a German citizen!
  8. Apply for a German Passport and ID Card! You must do this at the local residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt).

How Much Does it Cost?

The fee you pay to apply will depend on how quickly you need a decision. If you’re looking for fast processing and don’t mind paying a little extra, opt for priority processing. The fee is 145 euros if you are applying from within Germany and 250 euros if you are applying from abroad. This expedited service means that your application will be reviewed by an immigration official in two weeks or less. If you can wait longer, standard processing takes about six months but costs only 55 euros. There is no expedited option available at that price point, so it may be worth springing for priority if you have your heart set on moving to Germany as soon as possible.

Additional Information

Furthermore, getting married to a German citizen doesn't automatically entitle you to become a German nationality. There are still other requirements you will have to meet. Such as being married for at least two years, and been a legal resident in Germany for at least three years to qualify. Then, you can apply for naturalization and meet all of the other necesaary requirements in addition to the aforementioned marriage requirements.

Moreover, you can proceed to get a German passport once you have your German Citizenship. Meanwhile, most people will have to give up their nationality to get German citizenship. But there are certain people who can hold two citizenships: Children with one German and one foreign parent, or a parent who has two citizenships; Re-settlers of ethnic German descent and their family members (admitted along with them); Those from countries that do not allow them to give up their citizenship Germans who acquire citizenship of another EU country or Switzerland.

Final Thoughts

Although it can be a long and arduous process, learning how to become a German citizen can be well worth it. Germany offers high quality of life, an impressive work-life balance, and an excellent education system. But before you start running your mouth about how great life in Germany is, make sure you’re eligible first! Be sure to brush up on German history if you’re not already familiar with it. It's important to understand that obtaining citizenship in Germany isn't necessarily easy or quick. As one expat put it: Obtaining citizenship is like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. It will take time, but you'll eventually get there - don't give up! Proceed with the link below for more detailed information.