Germany today is home to no less than nine million people from overseas. In fact, becoming a German citizen is ranked after the United States as the second most sought-after new citizenship destination in the world. One of Germany’s most attractive aspects is its inclusive welfare state. The provision of welfare to all Germans according to need is a legal obligation of the state. Anyone who does not have a job will receive 60 percent of his or her last net pay, while those with children will receive 67 percent. In addition, the monthly pension is 2,000 Euros.
Extra benefits are provided to all parents with children, which can be up to €220 per month. Germany is also an attractive destination for youth, as there are no tuition fees for most university undergraduate and postgraduate courses in state-run educational establishments. The only requirement is a reasonable knowledge of the German language. If an overseas student can’t meet the German language requirement, then there are countless schools offering German language courses. Check our best resources for learning German.
There are many skilled workers required in Germany, including plumbers and electricians as well as doctors, engineers, and IT specialists. In 2015, the unemployment rate was only 4.7 percent, and companies such as Adidas, BMW, Volkswagen and Siemens always have employment opportunities. This makes German citizenship a distinct possibility for those with the right skills.
A strong economy, great jobs and wages, relatively little crime, a clean environment, plenty of free time to enjoy leisure activities, and the welfare system are top reasons that attract migrants to Germany, who may in the end be interested in obtaining German citizenship.
Benefits of Obtaining German Citizenship
There are many benefits of German citizenship. Once a person has gained German citizenship, a German passport entitles the holder to the following:
- Visa-free travel to 177 countries.
- The ability to work live and study in German at a very reasonable cost.
- The ability to work, live and study freely in any other European Union or EEA country.
- The right to vote in German elections.
- The right to welfare payments and pensions in Germany.
- Basic constitutional rights, such as freedom of association and assembly.
- Eligibility to work as a civil servant.
- Financial support for studying in public educational establishments.
- Entitlement to support provided by the German consular services in other countries.
- A short waiting period of just 3 years for a non-German spouse to file an application for citizenship.
The effort required to win the right to live in Germany is well worth it, as the benefits of German citizenship make the efforts in the end worthwhile. The advantages of German citizenship are far greater than those of other countries in the European Union.
German Citizenship Types
There are several types of German citizenship under German citizenship law, depending on the circumstances of the person.
1. German Citizenship by Birth
A child has German citizenship by birth as long as one parent has German citizenship. A child who was born on or after 1 January 2000 to parents who are non-German, but at least one of whom holds a permanent residency permit and has been residing in Germany for no less than 8 years, or is a Swiss citizen, is entitled to German citizenship. However, a child who was born to a German parent(s) overseas does not get German citizenship if the German parent(s) were born overseas on or after 1 January 2000 and remain residing outside Germany, unless the child would otherwise end up stateless. If the child’s biological father is German but the child was born out of wedlock, the child can only get German citizenship if his or her paternity is established legally before the child reaches the age of 23 years.
2. Naturalisation and German Citizenship
A foreigner, or someone who is stateless, can gain German citizenship through naturalisation. There are certain requirements before naturalisation and obtaining German citizenship can take place. One of them is passing a test on the social and legal aspects of German life. The test contains 33 multiple-choice type questions, of which a person has to get no less than 17 correct. Before being considered for naturalisation there are other requirements, such as the following:
- Speaking adequate German and having passed a relevant test such as the DTZ Zertifikat.
- Having permanent residence status at the time of naturalisation.
- Having lived legally in Germany for 8 years and the ability to support yourself and your dependents without drawing unemployment or social welfare benefits.
- Having no previous criminal record.
- Showing your allegiance to democracy and freedom as constitutional principles.
3. German Citizenship Through Marriage
Section 9 of the Nationality Act allows spouses or registered same-gender partners of German citizens to apply for German citizenship by marriage after having completed 3 years of permanent residency in Germany. At the time of applying, they must have lived together for 2 years. Marrying a German citizen and becoming a German citizen is thus a possible option.
German Citizenship Requirements
If you are intending to apply for German citizenship, there are certain requirements that need to be met, as listed below:
- You need to have resided in Germany for no less than 8 years on a residence permit, or to have resided in.
- Germany for 7 years on a residence permit and taken part in an integration course.
- You need to prove your language proficiency in German to B1.
- You need to be financially capable of supporting yourself as well as your family without asking for assistance from the German state.
- You are required to be a law-abiding without any criminal record.
- You need to pass the citizenship test.
- You are required to renounce citizenships of other countries.
There is no visa for German citizenship requirements as such – it’s only necessary to hold a German residence permit. The German government will have records indicating your residence status, and bank statements can be used to show your financial stability. The B1 German language requirement can be proved by showing any of the following:
- Zertifikat Deutsch, which is a German language certificate.
- A certificate proving that you have studied at a German secondary school.
- A certificate proving you have undertaken 4 years of schooling in German and have passed.
- Proof of having completed a higher education degree in German.
There are requirements for German citizenship by marriage, and it is not the case that a spouse gets automatic citizenship because their partner has German citizenship. A spouse has to be able to prove they have lived with the German citizen for 2 years and have themselves spent 3 years as a permanent resident in Germany.
Required Documents For German Citizenship
You will need to provide the following documents:
- Proof that you don’t have a criminal record
- Proof of your proficiency in German
- Bank statements showing that you are financially able to support yourself and your family.
How to Apply for German Citizenship
You can begin a German citizenship application if you are able to prove that you meet all requirements for citizenship by naturalization. All people over 16 years are required to apply themselves, and parents or legal guardians of any children under 16 apply must on their behalf. You should follow the steps below:
You need to pick up an application form from a specific place such as
- your nearest immigration office;
- your city council office in your urban area;
- your regional district office.
Before starting to complete the application form you will have to pass the German citizenship exam, which takes 60 minutes to complete. You are required to answer 17 of the questions correctly. The test consists of 33 questions of the multiple-choice type, which will ask you about German living, rules, society, and laws, and about where you are living in Germany. Once you have passed the test, a naturalization certificate will be issued to you. You can, of course, prepare yourself if you aren’t sure you will pass by participating in an integration course, or you can do some practice tests, which the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees can provide for you. Some groups of people are not compelled to take the test and these include the following:
- Anyone who is old, ill or disabled.
- Anyone who is under 16 years of age.
- Those who possess a higher education degree in law, politics, or social sciences from a German university.
You will need to pay the naturalization fee, which is €255 per adult, and €51 for a child under 16. Other costs include the following:
- The citizenship test (€25)
- The citizenship certificate (€25).
The German Citizenship Test
Here is an example of a typical question from the German citizenship test:
People who live in Germany are permitted to criticize the government openly because
1. They have religious freedom;
2. They have to pay taxes;
3. They are given the right to vote;
4. There is freedom of speech in Germany.
If you have any difficulty answering this question, you should learn more about your rights and obligations as a German citizen, and practice citizenship test questions and answers.
Now, to apply for German citizenship, you should take all the documents that prove you meet the requirements for naturalization and citizenship, along with your application form and any receipts for the fees, to the office where you collected an application form. Your application will be scrutinised, and if it is approved you will be given the citizenship certificate. The certificate now proves that you are a citizen of Germany and not just a permanent resident.
How Long Does it Take to Apply for German Citizenship?
This will depend on where you submit your application, but it shouldn’t be more than a month from the date of submitting your German citizenship application.
It’s not necessarily an easy process becoming a German citizen, as it requires the discipline of staying in the country for 8 years before becoming eligible to apply for German citizenship. However, it can be achieved in stages, first becoming a resident for a specific reason, then applying for permanent residency, and finally German citizenship after the correct amount of time has been spent as a permanent resident.
1. Who is Eligible for German Citizenship?
A person is eligible to apply for German citizenship if he or she
- has been living in Germany legally for the last 8 years;
- is committed to living in a free, democratic, constitutional society;
- is an EU or Swiss citizen with the appropriate residence permit;
- does not require benefits as a means of support;
- hasn’t broken the law;
- has sufficient knowledge of German;
- understands Germany’s legal system, German society, and how people live in the Republic of Germany; and
- has passed the citizenship test.
2. Does Germany Allow Dual Citizenship?
Dual citizenship in Germany allows dual nationality with other EU member states, and if a child is born to a US parent and a German parent, he/she acquires at birth both US and German citizenship, regardless of the place of birth. Neither of the two countries requires an individual born in these situations to choose whether to take up US or German citizenship. They can keep both citizenships for life.
If you are a German living in Australia you may be considering Australian citizenship because the country permits dual citizenship, but you need to consider the German rules as well. According to German citizenship law, anyone who applies for another country’s citizenship may lose German citizenship, but you can avoid this loss by applying for a retention certificate for dual citizenship in Germany called the Beibehaltungsurkunde before being granted Australian or another country’s citizenship. You have to give good reasons for being offered a retention certificate.
3. How can I get German Citizenship?
For a start, you need to have lived in Germany for no less than 8 years as a permanent resident. There are a number of other requirements such as fluency in German, adequate financial means, no criminal record, agreement with the principles of a democratic society, and the ability to score more than 50 percent in the citizenship test. Once you have met these requirements, you can consider applying for German citizenship.
There are two types of residence permits:
1. Limited Residency Permit
This is the aufenthaltserlaubnis, and is valid for a specific time period and for a specific purpose such as the following:
- for educational purposes;
- to take part in economic activity;
- on humanitarian and political grounds;
- for family reasons.
If the aufenthaltserlaubnis is to be used for work, this must be mentioned in the application.
2. Unlimited Residency Permit
This is called the niederlassungserlaubnis, meaning “settlement permit” or “permanent residency permit”. It provides the right to work and live in Germany indefinitely on a permanent resident permit. It is available under German nationality law and is provided to those who have possessed a residence permit for 5 years under the following conditions:
- Their means of earning an income is secure.
- Voluntary and compulsory contributions have been paid for no less than 60 months, including into the
- statutory pension scheme.
- They are allowed to work.
- They have sufficient knowledge of the German language.
- They have a working understanding of the social and legal system in Germany and its way of life.
- They have an adequate living area for themselves and any family members.
4. What are the Requirements for a German Residence Permit?
The requirements are that you:
- possess a legal passport from another country;
- have no criminal record;
- are fluent in German to the B1 level;
- possess German health insurance;
- pass health checks to prove you have good enough health to enable you to work or study;
- are able to financially support yourself and your family;
- can provide a letter from your potential employer showing the position and the job offer;
- can provide a letter proving you have a place to study; and
- can provide proof of your marital status, if you are a spouse joining your partner.
5. How Long Does it Take to Get Permanent Residency in Germany?
A German permanent residence permit can normally be applied for after 5 years working or living in Germany, but if you are from a non-EU country and are married to a German citizen, after 3 years you may be able to submit an application for permanent residency.