Residency permits For Members

EXPLAINED: What rights do I have if I'm married to a German citizen?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: What rights do I have if I'm married to a German citizen?
Being married to a German comes with simplified residence and working rights. Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

If you’re a non-EU foreigner married to a German citizen, some of the bureaucracy that comes with living in Germany is just a little bit easier than it would be otherwise.


Plenty of foreigners move to Germany for love – and hopefully, that love is strong enough to stand the test of not just time but also German bureaucracy.

Even though marriage to a German makes some residence and other rules a little easier, there are still plenty of caveats to be aware of, so it’s best to know exactly what your rights are.

Will Germany recognise my marriage or partnership?

If you and your German partner were married in Germany, this question is pretty straightforward. Your German marriage certificate will provide pretty airtight proof of your commitment for the purposes of things like residency.

If you were married abroad though, you may need to bring your foreign marriage certificate to your local authority to be recognised. In applications for citizenship, for example, you will also have to provide a certified translation if it’s in a language other than English or German.

Registered partnerships between same-sex partners are also recognised under German law for the purposes of family reunification due to the fact that marriage equality isn't legal everywhere. However, registered partnerships no longer exist in Germany, and between opposite-sex partners, only marriages will be considered valid for family reunification.

EXPLAINED: How to have your marriage abroad recognised in Germany


Residency in Germany

Non-EU partners of German or EU citizens can typically apply for a “D-Visa” or residence permit to both enter and reside in Germany - provided both are at least 18 years old.

If the non-EU partner has a passport from a country whose nationals enjoy visa-free access to Germany, they can come to Germany without a visa and apply for the residence permit within three months. Otherwise, they’ll need to apply for a D-Visa with their responsible German mission abroad.

The residency permit may require regular renewal, but it generally comes with unrestricted access to the German labour market. This includes the right to work in Germany without having to meet a minimum salary threshold. Holders of this permit are also not limited to working in the area of their education or training, as holders of many other German residence permits are.

Germany recognises marriages performed abroad, and registered partnerships between same-sex spouses, for the purpose of family reunification. Photo by Patrick HAMILTON / AFP

Under this permit though, non-EU spouses still have a few things to prove. They will have to prove that they have German language skills at an A1 level – which is the lowest possible level of proficiency in German.

They'll also need to prove that they have health insurance - although they can often typically be covered under their partner's insurance - and the family needs to be able to support itself financially.

The non-EU spouse will need to provide proof of all these requirements, along with their valid passport, their partner’s passport or other valid proof of nationality, and their marriage certificate.


Automatic dual citizenship for your kids

If you are married to a German national, any kids you have with them will automatically be entitled to keep both their German passport, plus yours.

German nationality law is generally restrictive on dual citizenship at the moment - although the government is planning to change this through its new draft law. However, one of the cases where it is already allowed concerns children who are born to both a German and a foreign parent.

Marriage between a German and a foreigner can typically result in children having dual citizenship. (Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash)

German fathers who have children out of wedlock with foreign mothers will typically have to legally acknowledge their children in order to pass on citizenship. If the couple is married though, a German father will automatically pass on his citizenship to his child without this step.

READ ALSO: What are the next steps for Germany's long-awaited dual nationality law?

German citizenship through marriage

You cannot simply become German by marrying a German citizen.

In fact, you will still have to fulfill the requirements that any other applicant for German citizenship would have to fulfill in order to receive a German passport. This includes B1 German language skills, for example.

There is one edge non-EU nationals married to Germans get though: they can apply for permanent residency and citizenship in Germany after a shorter time. Most foreigners living in Germany become eligible for permanent residency after five years of continuous residence and citizenship after eight years - although the government's planned draft law will reduce the wait for citizenship to five years.


Spouses married to German citizens, however, can apply to naturalise as German or get permanent residence after three years - provided they still live with their spouse at the time.

At the time of applying, you also have to have been married to your partner for at least two of those three years.

Foreign spouses who divorce their German partners after getting permanent residency can still remain in Germany. There are also cases in which a spouse that left their marriage due to abuse may still be permitted to stay in Germany.

READ ALSO: Six surprising German citizenship rules you should know about


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