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German citizenship For Members

EXPLAINED: The different routes to obtaining a German passport

James Jackson
James Jackson - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: The different routes to obtaining a German passport
A German passport on a desk in the home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

If you see your future in Germany then you might be considering applying for German citizenship. From fulfilling residency requirements to taking shortcuts through marriage or descent, we look at what counts towards your application.

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Becoming German is a big step but it gives you all sorts of benefits from the practical - no more renewing residency cards - to more intangible benefits such as being able to play an active role in the democracy of your new home and a feeling of belonging in your community.

READ ALSO: 8 reasons why German citizenship trumps permanent residency

For a long time, dual citizenship allowing you to keep your other passport as well as gain a German one was only allowed for EU and Swiss citizens, or those with German parents. But that will likely change some time next year.

But when can you make your application? And what will change through the new citizenship reforms?

First of all, it depends on how you are applying - through descent, through marriage or through residency.

Descent

The quickest route to German citizenship is through family ties. Having a German parent, grandparent or even great grandparent could allow you to qualify for German citizenship by descent.

However, if the parents are unmarried and only the father is a German national, the child only attains German citizenship if the father effectively recognizes his paternity according to German law, according to the Auswärtiges Amt (Foreign Office).

They also add that “German nationals born abroad on or after January 1st 2000 should note that any children of theirs born outside Germany will acquire German nationality only if the parents report the birth to the competent German mission abroad before the child's first birthday.”

Under the proposed new laws, children will automatically be granted German citizenship if their parent has been living legally in Germany for five years. Under the current law, the length of time is eight years and the parent needs to have permanent residency when their child is born.

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READ ALSO: Germany to ease citizenship rules for children of foreign parents

Marriage

If you are applying for naturalisation through marriage, being married to a German is not enough. In general, you or your spouse is entitled to naturalization after three years of legal residence in the Federal Republic if you have already been married for two years.

Being married to a German will lower the amount of years you need to live in Germany to qualify for citizenship. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Residency

The most common way for foreigners to apply for German citizenship is through residency. For now it is necessary to have eight years of residency, counted by how many monthly pension contributions you have made. Time spent studying also counts!

Read more: What foreign students need to know about applying for German citizenship

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However, in the latest draft of the citizenship reforms, you will only have to spend five years in Germany with B1 German, or in cases of special integration alongside volunteering and professional achievements with C1 language skills there is a “fast track” of just three years to become a newly fledged German.

Currently the requirement for fast-track citizenship requires B2, while B1 is necessary for regular naturalisation.

READ MORE: What's the difference between B2 and C1 German for the new fast track citizenship requirements?

You must also take a citizenship test, which assesses your understanding of Germany's legal framework, society, and way of life. There are 33 questions in total, of which 17 must be correct to pass.

You can apply to take the test at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees’ test centres (which costs €25).

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