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Updated January 2024

Due to its outstanding standard of living and strong economy, Germany has become one of the ideal countries to live in. Some people not only aim to live in Germany but also become part of its citizens. However, obtaining German citizenship is not as easy as it seems because of its complicated bureaucratic system.

If you are interested in acquiring German citizenship, read on as Wego delves into everything you need to know about German citizenship requirements.

German citizenship law

The German Federal Government has approved a new citizenship law aimed at simplifying and expediting the process for foreign nationals residing in the country to obtain citizenship. This law includes several key changes, including a reduction in the mandatory residency period from eight to five years.

Furthermore, it grants citizenship to children born in Germany if at least one of their parents has been residing in the country for five years.

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German citizenship in 5 years

Germany is set to simplify the naturalization process, reducing the residency requirement to five years and allowing individuals to apply after just three years with outstanding achievements in integration. The Bundestag approved these plans on 19 January, endorsing a general rule that permits individuals to hold multiple nationalities in the future.

While the commitment to the democratic constitutional order was already a requirement, the reform aims to define this commitment more precisely, explicitly stating that actions such as “anti-Semitic, racist, or other inhuman acts” are incompatible with these principles.

 

The reform introduces additional eligibility criteria, disqualifying individuals engaged in polygamous marriages or displaying behavior contrary to gender equality. Prospective German citizens must demonstrate the ability to support themselves and their families. These measures seek to streamline and clarify the naturalization process while upholding the values of democracy and equality.

German citizenship in 3 years

Individuals with outstanding achievements can receive citizenship only within three years of residing in Germany. The achievements may include academic achievements, professional achievements, and significant social contributions. Additionally, they must acquire a high level of fluency in the German language, at least at the C1 level. They also have to be financially independent.

German citizenship requirements

German citizenship status can be obtained in several ways, including by naturalization, birth, descent, and marriage. Provided below are the details of the requirements.

German citizenship by naturalization

Under the current law, foreigners who have legally lived in Germany for eight years are eligible for naturalization. The residency period will be reduced to five years when the new law applies. Additionally, to obtain citizenship by naturalization, you must further fulfill the following requirements:

  • acquire permanent residency rights at the time of naturalization
  • renounce their previous citizenship
  • have a good understanding of the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany, which is proven by passing the naturalization test
  • financially independent
  • fluent in the German language with oral and written skills  equivalent to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
  • no criminal convictions
  • commitment to the constitutional principles of freedom and democracy

German citizenship by birth

Since January 2001, German nationality law has recognized the jus soli basis of citizenship acquisition based on the place of birth. Based on the current law, however, children with foreign parents can only acquire German citizenship if at least one of the parents has legally resided in Germany for at least eight years and acquired permanent resident rights at the time of the child’s birth. The residency period of the parent will be reduced to five years once the new law takes effect. As for German children born outside of Germany on or after 1 January 2000, they will acquire German nationality only if the parents report the birth to the competent German mission abroad before the child’s first birthday.

German citizenship by descent

German citizenship by descent can only be passed on through a German parent to their children. At least one of the parents has to be a German citizen when the child is born. In the case of children who are born outside marriage with a foreign mother and German father, they can only attain German citizenship if the father effectively recognizes his paternity according to German law before the child’s 23rd birthday. Moreover, children born to former German citizens cannot acquire German citizenship by descent.

German citizenship by marriage

Foreign nationals can also obtain German citizenship by marrying a German citizen. However, they are only eligible if they have legally lived in Germany for three years and their marriage has lasted at least two years. They must also fulfill the general requirements of naturalization.

German citizenship test

The naturalization test is meant to assess an individual’s knowledge of Germany’s legal system, society and living conditions. The test consists of 33 multiple-choice questions, including three specific questions about the German state where the applicant lives. In order to pass the test, the applicant has to reach 17 correct answers. For preparations, you can take a sample test on the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees website, where the correct answers will be displayed.

The test is not required of those who have completed a German high school or German higher education program in the legal, social, political, or administrative sciences. When the new law applies, workers who have contributed significantly to the country also do not have to take the test.

German citizenship fee

To apply for naturalization, you must pay EUR 255. A reduced charge of EUR 51 applies for each dependent minor child naturalized with a parent.

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