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German citizenship law is fundamentally based on the so-called parentage principle. This means that German citizenship is acquired primarily from the parentage of a German parent. In addition, since 2000, domestic and foreign parents can also be acquired.
The reasons for acquiring German citizenship are as follows:
Acquisition through conjugal birth
Marital children who were born between 01/01/1914 and 31/12/1963 only acquired German citizenship through their German father.
Marital children of a German mother, who were born after 01.01.1964 and before 31.12.1974, acquired German citizenship if they otherwise would have become stateless.
Marital children who were born since January 1st, 1975 acquired nationality if one of the two parents was German.
Marital children of a German mother who were born after April 1st, 1953 and before January 1st, 1975 and who already had a nationality had the possibility from January 1st, 1975 to give a declaration that they wanted to get the German nationality. This declaration period expired on December 31, 1977. These children can apply for naturalization. More information can be found here.
Acquisition through illegitimate birth
Children born out of wedlock to a German mother have been granted German citizenship by the mother since 01/01/1914.
Children born to illegitimate children of a German father have acquired German citizenship since July 1st, 1993, provided that, among other things, a valid acknowledgment of paternity or paternity is made before the child is 23 years old.
These children may be naturalized. More information can be found here.
Acquisition of German citizenship for children born abroad whose German parents were born abroad after December 31, 1999 (Section 4 (4) StAG)
At birth abroad, children whose German parents or parents were born abroad after 31.12.1999 and at the time of
Birth of the child has his / her habitual residence abroad, not German by birth, if you acquire a foreign nationality by birth.
The child acquires German citizenship retrospectively at the time of his birth only if the parents apply to the responsible registry office in Germany or to the responsible German diplomatic mission within a year of the birth of the child in the birth register.
Mr. A was transferred to Spain by his company in 1999. There his daughter Klara was born on February 1st, 2000. The family returns to Germany after a few years. In 2018, Klara met a US citizen with whom she moved to the United States. Her son was born there on 01.01.2020. Although his mother is German, he does not acquire German citizenship by birth because he is born in the United States of America.
In order for the child to acquire German citizenship, Klara or the child’s father must apply to the competent registry office in Germany or the responsible German diplomatic mission for the birth of their child. If the application is made on time and in full, the child can be issued with a German passport upon request.
Please note: This regulation can affect all Germans (expats and emigrants) who were born abroad and have a child abroad, regardless of the reason and duration of their stay abroad.
German nationality may also have been acquired by adopting a German parent since January 1, 1977. If you have any further questions, please contact the German diplomatic mission responsible for you.
For children who were adopted by a German parent between 01/01/1959 and 31/12/1976, there was the possibility until December 31, 1979 to acquire German citizenship by declaration.
Acquisition through legitimation
Legitimation is the subsequent marriage of the parents of an illegitimate child. Legitimacy can also be given by a child’s marriage declaration by a court. The acquisition of German citizenship is generally based on the regulations applicable to legitimate children. Since July 1st, 1998, the legal concept of legitimation no longer exists in German law.
German citizenship could also have been acquired from 01/01/1914 to 06/30/1998 through legitimation.
Acquisition at birth in Germany and foreign parents
Since 01.01.2000, the children of foreign parents, of whom at least one parent fulfills certain residence criteria, have acquired German citizenship at birth in Germany.
Acquisition by marrying a foreigner to a German
Foreign women who had married a German automatically acquired German citizenship from January 1, 1914 to March 31, 1953.
There were special regulations for foreign women who married a German woman between April 1st, 1953 and August 23rd, 1957.
In the case of marriage between August 24, 1957 and December 31, 1969, there was the option of acquiring German citizenship by declaration of marriage or afterwards.
Since 01/01/1970, marriage is no longer an automatic reason for making a living. Spouses of German citizens can, however, apply for naturalization from abroad under certain conditions. Please contact your responsible foreign representative.
Other employment reasons
German citizenship may also have been acquired through naturalization or through conferral. Please note the separate information on the individual naturalization procedures and the information on naturalization in accordance with Art. 116 Para. 2 Basic Law for former German citizens, who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 had German citizenship for political, racial or religious reasons has been withdrawn.
Germans in the former German Democratic Republic were and still are German citizens. If you have acquired citizenship of the German Democratic Republic (e.g. by issuing an identity card), please contact the German diplomatic mission responsible for you.
Special regulations also apply to members of the German minorities in Central and Eastern Europe, who may have obtained German citizenship through collective naturalization during the Second World War. If you belong to this group of people, please contact the German diplomatic mission responsible for you. You can find out which representation is responsible for you with the help of our consulate finder.
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