Updated August 2023
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.
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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.
German citizenship in 5 years
Based on the new regulation, those seeking citizenship by naturalization will only need to reside in Germany for five years instead of eight years to obtain citizenship. In exceptional circumstances, one may gain citizenship with only three years of residence. Furthermore, children of foreign parents born in Germany will be granted unconditional citizenship if at least one parent has resided lawfully in the country for more than five years.
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 have to pay for EUR 255. For each dependent minor child naturalized with a parent, a reduced charge of EUR 51 is applicable.