German citizenship For Members

EXPLAINED: Who can currently get dual citizenship in Germany?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Who can currently get dual citizenship in Germany?
A British and German passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

With Germany's hotly anticipated draft law allowing dual citizenship facing delays, many are wondering precisely when they should apply to take advantage of it. But some might already be eligible.


Dual citizenship is currently designed to be difficult and restricted in Germany, which the current traffic light government is looking to change through a draft law many foreigners resident in the country are following closely.

Right now, naturalisation often comes with an obligation to renounce previous citizenship, but the children of German nationals married to foreigners already have a right to dual citizenship, for example.

Although the new draft law is designed to make dual citizenship available to everyone, its consistent delays have left people wondering when they should apply for German citizenship in order to retain their current passport as well.

Here’s a rundown of the most common cases where dual citizenship is already allowed in Germany.


Dual citizenship at birth

Someone who is born German and another nationality is allowed to keep both passports without having to choose between them at any point in their life.

Since German citizenship follows the jus sanguinis principle of citizenship by bloodline, rather than the jus soli principle of citizenship through being born in a country, this often means a German child with dual citizenship is born to one German parent and one foreign parent. In this case, the child inherits both citizenships right from birth automatically.

It is important to note here that a child born to a German father but a foreign mother out of wedlock must have the father acknowledge parentage in order to pass on German citizenship. If the parents are married, this requirement is waived.

German dads who aren't married to their children's mums need to acknowledge paternity to pass on citizenship. Marriage between a German and a foreigner can often result in children having dual citizenship. (Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash)

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

Being born on German soil, where neither parent is German however, can entitle the child to dual citizenship under certain conditions.

Namely, at least one parent must have lived in Germany for eight years and hold permanent residency and the child must have been born on or after January 1st, 2000. If a child in this situation spends at least eight years in Germany, or six years in a German school, or completes occupational training in Germany by their 21st birthday, they can retain their German passport and their foreign one.

While being born to one German and one foreign parent might be a particularly straightforward way of a child getting the right to dual citizenship, there are other possibilities.

A child born to two German parents, but in a country that confers jus soli citizenship – i.e. citizenship by birth - would have both German citizenship and the nationality of the place they were born. For example, as Canada confers citizenship by birth there, a child born in Canada to two German parents – even if the parents weren’t themselves Canadian citizens – would be entitled to both German and Canadian citizenship.

A child born to a parent who themselves is a dual citizen with German nationality would also get to keep both passports.

READ ALSO: Who is entitled to German citizenship by descent and how to apply for it


Citizenship restoration

Another case where dual citizenship is allowed is for those who apply for German citizenship through the restoration route available to victims of the Nazis and victims’ descendants.

Those who were deprived of German citizenship from January 30th, 1933 to May 8th, 1945 on political, racial, or religious grounds - plus their descendants - are able to apply to have their citizenship restored, while keeping any other citizenship they may have.

Documents belonging to Noah Rohrlich's grandfather, Fritz Rohrlich who fled Nazism. Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP

While those applying to restore their German citizenship under this provision may often be Jewish - or had Jewish ancestors - others who were persecuted under the Nazis may also apply.

They may have been targeted for other reasons, including political ones such as their support for democracy in Germany.

READ ALSO: 'We reclaimed what was taken from my Jewish grandparents - German citizenship'


State approval

If someone naturalises as German or a German naturalises somewhere else, they may be able to get state approval to retain both nationalities in certain cases. The document required for this is called a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung.

This occurs if it's considered to be in the interest of the German state, or if the applicant can demonstrate that a potential hardship might come from having to give up citizenship. These could include financial penalties for renunciation or loss of work opportunities - if the applicant already has employment ties to both countries, for example.

Heidi Klum, for example, was allowed to retain her German nationality while also becoming American, as she works in both countries

Heidi Klum

Heidi Klum is one of the most famous German dual nationals, holding both German and American citizenship and continuing to work in both countries. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Invision/AP | Chris Pizzello

However, these cases are exceptional and permission must be applied for beforehand.

HISTORY: What's behind the push to reform dual citizenship laws in Germany?

EU nationals

People who are nationals of other EU member states, EEA states like Norway and Iceland, or Switzerland are already allowed to naturalise as German and keep their EU/EEA or Swiss passport - provided the other country allows dual citizenship. If they are a national of a non-EU country as well, they would still need to give up that passport.

At the same time, A German citizen who naturalises in another EU country can already do so while remaining German - again, provided that country also allows dual citizenship.


Nationals of countries where renunciation is impossible

At the moment, naturalising as German generally requires you to present proof that you've renounced any other non-EU citizenships you may hold. However, some countries, such as Brazil, do not allow renunciation or have no legal avenue for it. If this is the case, the applicant may become German without having to give up Brazilian nationality.

Refugees are also able to keep their original citizenship since the government assumes it will be logistically difficult to give up their existing one. 

EXPLAINED: Who are the people taking German citizenship?


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