German citizenship For Members

Reader question: Can I apply for German citizenship from abroad?

Rachel Stern
Rachel Stern - [email protected]
Reader question: Can I apply for German citizenship from abroad?
A German passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

Seeking German citizenship can be a complicated enough process when you live in Germany. If you plan on doing it from a foreign country, expect it to be even more so. But the good news is: it is not impossible.


Generally anyone seeking a German passport has to live in Germany themselves to apply - but there are a few exceptions. We break down the most common ones, and how (and if) you can gain German citizenship without residing in the Bundesrepublik.

Who most commonly qualifies for German citizenship from abroad?

Anyone born to a German citizen, anywhere in the world, can receive a German passport. However if the German parent(s) were also born abroad after January 1st, 2000, they'll need to register their child's birth with German authorities by his or her first birthday.

To have their child's birth included in the German birth registry, they should get in touch with a registry office in Germany or report the birth to the nearest German mission abroad. 

Furthermore anyone who lost citizenship as a result of National Socialism between 1933 and 1945 - or is a descendant of someone who did - can receive a German passport.

For those who lost German citizenship as a result of Nazi persecution, no prior knowledge of German is required and dual citizenship is allowed under all circumstances (assuming that the person's home country also allows it).

This is in contrast to the normal naturalisation process, which requires at least B1 German skills and specifies that non-EU citizens have to give up their previous nationalities (though this is soon due to change). 

In 2021, Article 116 of Germany's basic law was amended to make it easier for descendants to apply for a German passport.

READ ALSO: British Jews take German path to Europe after Brexit


What about if I'm married to a German citizen and we live abroad?

If you've tied the knot with a German, you generally also have to live in Germany to qualify for citizenship - setting the Bundesrepublik apart from other European countries like Switzerland. In fact, the general rule of thumb according to Germany's Foreign Ministry is that you need to have lived in Germany for three years and have been married to a German for at least two of those.

Dual citizenship is also not generally allowed, although as mentioned this is likely to change soon under new citizenship legislation green-lighted by Germany's cabinet earlier in August.



Are naturalisations possible from abroad?

In most cases, no. Usually those who gain German citizenship without any sort of family or ancestral connection have already been living in the country "for a longer period," wrote the Foreign Ministry. Currently, that's around eight years, but shorter through a number of exceptions such as marriage or being a Blue Card holder.

That doesn't mean there aren't a limited number of cases when people can be naturalised abroad.

"Naturalisations of people living abroad on the basis of discretion are very rare and need to be of special interest for the Federal Republic of Germany," according to the Foreign Ministry.

A woman takes her German citizenship.

A woman takes her German citizenship. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

For these individual cases, they wrote, it's important for applicants to demonstrate their mastery of the German language, connection to Germany, and that they won't be reliant on state funds.

And in diplomatic language, the Ministry wrote that potential applicants should contact their nearest consulate about their case first to avoid wasting time and money.

"You are advised to contact the competent German mission abroad to avoid submitting an application that cannot be accepted but which is nevertheless subject to a fee."

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much does it really cost to apply for German citizenship?


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