Becoming a citizen of a country you weren't born in is very enticing to many people. Especially if you want the benefits of citizenship in an EU country, obtaining a legal residence permit is incredibly appealing to many people.
Whether you're looking for permanent residence in the European Union or just something to add to your U.S. citizenship, obtaining dual citizenship is incredibly valuable.
Becoming a German citizen is complicated, and it can take years. However, it is possible to get German citizenship while keeping your current citizenship. This guide will explain the basics of dual citizenship in Germany and how to become a citizen of this European nation.
What is Dual Citizenship?
Dual citizenship is when you are a citizen of two countries simultaneously. Although this is not common worldwide, it is allowed in many countries, including Germany.
You can have dual citizenship by keeping your original citizenship and obtaining a second one (or vice versa). This is formal dual nationality if you do not intend to surrender your original citizenship. Alternatively, this is known as informal dual nationality if you want to renounce your original citizenship after becoming German.
Germany is one of the most popular choices if you're looking for dual citizenship in a country. It's one of the most prominent and famous countries in the EU and makes it easier to access citizenship, along with citizenship from your home country.
However, it is only possible in a few specific situations:
- You are a citizen of another country. You can have German citizenship and the citizenship of your country of origin or residence, as long as one doesn't conflict with the other.
- You're not an EU citizen, Swiss citizen, or American citizen. To become a German citizen and keep your old one (or get a new one), you must give up any previous citizenships that Germany considers to be "citizenship by convenience."
This means that if any of these countries grant you citizenship because they want something from you or think it will help them achieve their goals (like tax avoidance), it will probably cause problems for your application process in Germany.
How To Apply for Dual Citizenship in Germany
If you are interested in becoming a German citizen, you should start by applying for a residence permit. After receiving your residence permit, you can then apply for citizenship.
You can apply for citizenship if you have permanent residence in Germany and if:
- You have lived in Germany for at least eight years of residence legally
- You have been married to a German citizen (or partner) for at least three years
- You are stateless
Following that, there are three popular options for applying for German nationality and citizenship. Going through these processes with the German government will allow you to acquire your German passport and occasionally allow you to keep your previous nationality.
The following are the most common situations to look to in German law if you want to become a true German citizen.
Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national becomes a German citizen. It is also known as "citizenship by descent." Naturalization can take place in two ways:
- Through the naturalization process (Öffentlicher Verfahrensgang) or
- Through the simplified naturalization process (Erleichterter Verfahrensgang).
To apply for naturalization, you must meet specific requirements and complete several steps. The first step is submitting an application for citizenship that includes your details and information about your family members seeking German citizenship.
You will also need to include documents showing that you have lived legally in Germany for at least eight out of the past 12 years before submitting your application—or if this period hasn't yet elapsed, submit documentation showing that it will be completed soon.
Birth or Ancestry
To apply for German citizenship by birth or ancestry, you must have a German parent or grandparent. If your parents are married and one is German, you can apply for citizenship through them.
If neither of your parents is German, but you have a parent born in Germany before January 1st, 1953, and lived there until age 18, you may also be eligible. In addition, if both of your parents were foreign nationals but lived in Germany with permission (usually due to employment) when they had their last child, born after January 1st, 1953, this person may also be eligible. This is valid as long as those parents were not expelled from Germany for political reasons after 1945.
When You are an EU or Swiss National
You can apply for German citizenship if you are a European Union national or Switzerland native and have been continuously resident in Germany for at least eight years. The period of residence will not include any time spent outside of Germany during this time.
If you are an EU or Swiss national and have lived in Germany for at least eight years, you can apply for citizenship by naturalization. This situation will likely not allow you to acquire additional foreign citizenship, but it will enable you to meet residence requirements if you have non-German parents. You will need to meet the following criteria:
- You must be over 18 years old when you apply.
- You have lived in Germany for at least eight years before submitting your application.
- You have a permanent residence (or long-term EU resident permit) valid for at least five years before submitting your application.
- You provide proof of sufficient knowledge of German language skills and understanding of the democratic principles upon which Germany is based. This means speaking fluently on simple matters, explaining rules and regulations, stating opinions, exchanging opinions in written form, reading newspapers, magazines, books, etc., and using public services.
- In many cases, you will have to undergo an integration course.
What Does the Process of Obtaining German Citizenship Look Like?
The process to obtain dual citizenship in Germany is long and can be difficult. The first step entails applying for citizenship through your local city council or district office (Landratsamt).
After submission, you have one month to submit additional documents proving your identity and proof of German ancestry. Then, after five months, you will receive a notification from the government indicating whether or not your application has been accepted.
If approved, you will be granted citizenship through a certificate issued by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).
Once you officially obtain dual citizenship in Germany, you must consider several other things:
- You must decide if maintaining dual citizenship makes sense for both parties — you may face financial penalties if either party chooses not to maintain their status under certain circumstances.
- You must make this decision without pressure from others who may try to convince them otherwise.
The naturalization process involves a lot of paperwork, which can take up to two years. However, being granted citizenship in Germany will not change who you are. Your friends and family will still be your friends and family. Your hobbies will still be your hobbies, your personality will still be your personality, and your beliefs will not suddenly change into those of someone entirely different.
All in all, naturalization is about changing one's nationality but not necessarily changing who one is as an individual. The only thing that may change after becoming German is that you'll have the right to vote in elections and run for political office.
German citizenship law may be confusing and complicated, but with help from ETIAS, anyone can trial German life as a tourist before deciding if full citizenship is suitable.
If you are an expat who plans to travel to Germany long-term and would like to become a citizen, consider your options. The most important thing is to do research. You should learn how one can acquire citizenship status and ensure it is right for you. If not, then there are plenty of other options available as well.
We hope this guide has helped answer some questions about naturalization or dual citizenship, so now it's time for you to decide what feels best for your situation.
If you have more questions about entering or visiting Germany, check out our other articles and see howETIAScould help. Our website contains everything you need to know about legal advice, immigration law, and how a non-EU person can join an EU member state.
German Citizenship | German Federal Foreign Office