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German citizenship For Members

Who's exempt from taking a German citizenship test for naturalisation?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Who's exempt from taking a German citizenship test for naturalisation?
A woman holds German citizenship test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

Most people need to sit the citizenship exam if they want to naturalise as German citizens - but not everyone has to. These are the lucky groups who can skip that part of the process.

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When reeling off a list of things you need to become a naturalised German, some things are treated as standard: the birth certificate, proof of residency, B1 German and a completed citizenship test. 

But while it's often the case that applicants need all these things, the rules are actually less clear-cut than they first appear. 

In the case of language, for instance, there are more ways to prove your skills than a classic B1 test at a language school.

Studying German at university, or studying in German at university, will often be more than enough to prove you have the language skills needed to integrate, so if you've got this kind of degree, you're unlikely to need a formal certificate.

READ ALSO: What do I need to apply for German citizenship under the new law?

It's a similar story with the citizenship test, or Einbürgerungstest in German. 

It goes without saying that anyone who automatically qualifies for German citizenship - i.e. a German by descent - doesn't need to take the test.

But though most people do need to book and take this test if they want to naturalise as Germans, there are several instances where you can get your hands on a passport without it.

Why can some people avoid the citizenship test?

That's a very good question, and to understand it, we need to go back to what German citizenship law actually sets out as requirements for naturalisation. 

Rather than specifying the need for a citizenship test in particular, the law states that applicants need "proof of knowledge of the German legal and social system", immigration lawyer Sven Hasse told The Local.

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The citizenship test, or Einbürgerungstest, is one of the ways to prove this - and may well be one of the easiest - but there are other routes applicants can take.

What do I need instead of a citizenship test? 

According to Hasse, the following would count as proof of knowledge of Germany's legal and social system without the need to take a citizenship test:

  • The Leben in Deutschland ("Life in Germany") test.

Aside from the name, the test is almost identical to the Einbürgerungstest, with 33 questions covering aspects of German politics, history, and society. The only difference is that the test at the end of an integration course is called Leben in Deutschland, while the citizenship test functions more as a standalone test for citizenship applicants. 

Citizenship test Germany

An applicant for German citizenship takes the citizenship test in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

That means that, if you have passed a Leben in Deutschland test, you don't need to take a citizenship test as well.

  • Degree in politics, law or social science from a German university 

If you studied for a Bachelors, Masters or Doctorate at a German university, you may well be eligible to skip the citizenship test - depending on what subject you took.

According to Hasse, subjects that fall under the umbrella of law, social, political or administrative sciences will likely be accepted as proof of your knowledge of German society, though you will usually need to have completed your degree in German. 

READ ALSO: When and how can I apply for German citizenship?

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  • Vocational training in politics or social sciences

A so-called Berufsschulabschluss (vocational school leaving certificate) will also count as proof of your knowledge of the German legal and social system, provided either politics or social studies were listed among your courses. 

  • German school leavers' certificate

If you attended a German school as an older student and have either a vocational training certificate (Berufsbildungsreife), middle-school leaving certificate (mittlerer Schulabschluss) or A-Levels (Abitur), you'll also be exempt from the test. 

That's because pupils at German schools are also taught the basics of the constitution and the political and social system, so they're assumed to have enough knowledge to naturalise as Germans. 

If you're unsure if your situation counts, the best thing to do is to contact your local citizenship office with details of your qualifications and ask whether you would need to submit the test. Different regions may apply slightly different rules, so the easiest way to be certain is to ask.

Unsure of what the citizenship test is or whether you'd stand a chance of passing it? Then check out our explainers below: 

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