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“Am I a German citizen?” - Basics of German citizenship law

21.10.2020 - Article

If you are not sure whether or not you are eligible to apply for a German passport and would like to find out more, please answer the following 11 questions. Please submit the information via email to info@sydney.diplo.de:

  1. What is your exact date of birth and where were you born?
  2. Which citizenship(s) did your father and mother hold at the time of your birth? Did or do they still hold a German passport?
  3. Were your parents married to each other at the time of your birth? If applicable: When and where did your parents get married?
  4. Please provide the date of birth and place of birth for both your mother and father.
  5. Which citizenship(s) did your father and your mother hold at the time of their birth?
  6. When did they apply for and receive the Australian (or any other) citizenship, if they ever did so?
  7. Which citizenship did (all) your grandparents hold at the time of your parent's birth?
  8. Were your grandparents married to each other at the time of your father's/your mother's birth? If applicable: when and where did your grandparents get married?
  9. Did you, your parents or your grandparents ever apply for the Australian (or any other) citizenship? If applicable, please explain in more detail when and by whom the application was submitted and who of your ancestors was included.
  10. Did you or your parents or grandparents ever join the armed forces of any other country than Germany voluntarily?
  11. If you or any of your ancestors were adopted, please provide us with detailed information.

If you require information about applications for Australian citizenship that you or a family member has submitted in the past, we recommend you contact the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship Australia or the National Archives in Canberra (https://www.naa.gov.au/explore-collection/immigration-and-citizenship)

In complicated cases or if no proof of German citizenship can be produced, you need to apply for a certificate of German citizenship before you can apply for a passport. The team of the Consulate General will inform you accordingly after you have replied to the above questions.

Acquiring German citizenship

If one of the following scenarios applies to you, you cannot apply for German citizenship - you are already German. German citizenship is mainly acquired by descent, by legitimation, adoption, naturalization, declaration or birth in Germany after 2000.

German Citizenship by descent

The majority of Germans have acquired German citizenship automatically at birth because one parent was a German citizen at the time. Whether this applies to you or not, depends on when you were born, and whether your parents were married at the time of your birth.

Your parents were married at the time of your birth? Choose your date of birth:

You became a German citizen by birth if your father was a German citizen at the time.

If only your mother was German, you could not have acquired German citizenship through her. There was a possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaration until 1978. If the deadline was missed, the only way to become a German citizen is through naturalization. From abroad this is subject to strict requirements such as fluency in the German language and close ties to Germany. More information in German can be found here

You became a German citizen by birth if your father was a German citizen at the time.

If only your mother was German, you only became a German citizen if you had otherwise been stateless.

If you acquired another citizenship at birth and only your mother was German, you could not have acquired German citizenship through her. There was a possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaration until 1978. If the deadline was missed, the only way to become a German citizen is through naturalization. From abroad this is subject to strict requirements such as fluency in the German language and close ties to Germany. More information in German can be found here

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

Attention: If you were born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999 and your German parent him/herself was also born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999, then you were not born a German citizen. Only if your birth was registered in Germany within one year of your date of birth, you became German. Further information can be found here

Your parents were - not - married at the time of your birth? Choose your date of birth:

You became a German citizen by birth if your mother was a German citizen at the time.

If only your father was a German citizen, you did not become a German citizen by birth. You may only be German by legitimation if your parents married later on (see below).

There was a possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaration until your 23rd birthday, if certain requirements such as a three-year domicile in German were fulfilled.

If the declaration was not made (successfully), the only way to become a German citizen is through naturalization. From abroad this is subject to strict requirements such as fluency in the German language and close ties to Germany. More information in German can be found here

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

If only your father was a German citizen, a legally valid acknowledgment of paternity must be made or a court procedure initiated before your 23rd birthday - biological paternity itself is not sufficient.

You became a German citizen by birth if your father or your mother were German citizens at the time.

If only your father was a German citizen, a legally valid acknowledgment of paternity must be made or a court procedure initiated before your 23rd birthday - biological paternity itself is not sufficient.

Attention: If you were born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999 and your German parent him/herself was also born outside of Germany after 31.12.1999, then you were not born a German citizen. Only if your birth was registered in Germany within one year of your date of birth, you became German. Further information can be found here


German citizenship by birth on German territory

A child born in Germany on or after 01.01.2000 to non-German parents may acquire German citizenship under certain conditions:

At least one of the foreign parents must have had his legal domicile in Germany for at least eight years and – for children born on or after 28.08.2007 – the parent must also hold permanent residency in Germany.

If this is applicable to you, it is either written in your birth records or can be confirmed by the registry office of your place of birth.

Children born to foreign parents in Germany before 01.01.2000 did not acquire German citizenship automatically and cannot retroactively apply for citizenship under the above regulation.

German citizenship by adoption

If you were effectively adopted as a minor by at least one German citizen on or after 01.01. 1977, you are a German citizen. If the adoption took place outside Germany it has to meet certain requirements.

Children who had been adopted by a German parent between 01.01.1959 and 31.12.1976 could have become a German citizen by declaration until 31.12.1979.

German citizenship by legitimation

Children born out of wedlock between 01.01.1914 and 30.06.1998 could have acquired German citizenship through the marriage of their legal parents by German law.

German citizenship by marriage

Foreign women who married a German citizen between 01.04.1914 and 31.03.1953 automatically acquired German citizenship.

Foreign women who married a German citizen between 01.04.1953 and 31.12.1969 could have acquired German citizenship under certain conditions, esp. through declaration at the time of marriage.

Since 01.01.1970 the acquisition of German citizenship by marriage does not exist anymore. If situated in Germany, a foreign spouse can apply for naturalization if certain requirements are met.

German citizenship by other reasons

If none of the above is applicable to you but you believe to have acquired German citizenship, please kindly get in touch with the German Consulate in Sydney.

Loss of German citizenship

By naturalization abroad

If you willingly apply for a foreign citizenship and obtain it, German citizenship is automatically lost. Loss of citizenship can be avoided by obtaining a special permit (“Beibehaltungsgenehmigung”) before you are naturalized in a foreign country.

However, as of 28.08.2007 (date of naturalization in the foreign country), German citizenship is not lost anymore if you apply for and receive the citizenship of an EU member state or of Switzerland.

By marriage

German women, who married a foreign citizen before 23.05.1949, have lost their German citizenship even if they became stateless. They can be re-naturalized if certain requirements are met.

German women, who married a foreign citizen between 23.05.1949 and 31.05.1953, have lost their German citizenship only if they did not become stateless. Since 01.04.1953 German citizenship cannot be lost by marriage with a foreign citizen any more.

By adoption

since 01.01.1977: If you are adopted by a non-German and are no longer considered to be legally related to your German parent(s), you lose German citizenship if the adoption automatically makes you a citizen of your adopted parents' country.

By voluntarily entering into the armed forces of a foreign country

since 01.01.2000: If you are a dual citizen and enter voluntarily the armed forces of the country whose citizenship you also have, you lose the German citizenship. Loss of citizenship can be avoided by obtaining an official permission from the competent German authorities before you enter the armed forces.

However, as of 06.07.2011 (date of commencement of duties), this permission is automatically given to those who are also a citizen of

  • a state listed in § 41 I of the German “Aufenthaltsverordnung” (Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, United States of America)
  • an EU member state
  • an EFTA member state
  • NATO member state

and who serve in this country.

By participating in combat actions of a terrorist organization

since 09.08.2019: If you take part in combat actions of a terrorist organization, you lose you German citizenship, unless your become stateless.

By renunciation (if you hold dual citizenship)

If you are a dual citizen (German and at least one other citizenship), you can renounce the German citizenship by declaration.

By permanent residence abroad before 1914

German citizen who had their permanent residence abroad for more than 10 years before 1914 automatically lost their German citizenship unless they registered themselves in the “Konsulatsmatrikel” (consular register) of the German consulate or continued to apply for passports. This reason for loss of German citizenship is particularly important in case you wish to trace back German citizenship to ancestors who emigrated Germany before 1904. If this is the case, they would have lost German citizenship after 10 years and could not have passed it on by descent to future generations.


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