German citizenship For Members

How good does your German have to be for the different paths to citizenship?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
How good does your German have to be for the different paths to citizenship?
Alberto Sarno, in Frankfurt, runs a language café where people can practice their language skills over a coffee - just one example of the language-loving German culture. It's also another option for practicing language skills for citizenship. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

There are a few different routes to German citizenship. As the rules have changed, here's a guide to what level of German you'll need to have for four broad paths to citizenship.


The standard route to German citizenship through naturalisation - B1 German

When it comes to the typical way of applying for German citizenship, there are a few changes in areas other than language. Potential applicants will be eligible after five years in Germany rather than eight and as with any applicant after June 27th 2024, dual citizenship will be allowed.

Most other requirements essentially remain the same - including having to pass a B1 language test.

B1 is the third level out of a possible six and someone who has achieved it is classified as an "independent user" under the Common European Framework for Languages. 

This means the speaker can handle most aspects of their daily life - shopping, getting around, and basic topics around work, school or living.

A B1 speaker won't necessarily be expected to discuss advanced medical issues with their doctor or the finer points of tax law with their financial advisor. But they should be able to call to make appointments and have more basic conversations with frontline staff like shopkeepers, receptionists, and nurses.


They should also be able to get through most appointments at the Bürgeramt without assistance and manage basic workplace discussions - even if they still present or tackle tougher topics in English or another language.

A B1 speaker will also be able to have simple discussions on certain topics they may be familiar with - such as their line of work. B1 exams will often ask test-takers to discuss the pros and cons of something.

READ ALSO: A language teacher's guide for passing the German tests for citizenship

The special integration route - C1 German

Applicants who can demonstrate exceptional effort to integrate into Germany - or who have made big contributions to German society through their professional career, volunteering or otherwise might be eligible to naturalise after just three years.

However, these applicants will also have to speak German at a C1 level - the second highest level possible.

C1 speakers are typically able to understand longer and more challenging texts – including those that are not within their area of expertise. They can also express themselves fluently on complex issues and even make academic arguments that follow a certain structure. They will typically be able to make a presentation at work in German - for example.

Employees have a chat at a coworking space in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony. Workplace chat should be possible for a B1 German speaker, while a C1 speaker will be expected to be able to make presentations. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

C1 topics aren't necessarily everyday topics - with test-takers at a C1 exam expected to be able to have discussions on topics from globalisation to climate change to financial planning. People taking a C1 exam may need to even brush up on their knowledge in general before taking the test.

READ ALSO: How hard is the C1 language test for Germany's upcoming fast-track citizenship?


The simplified route for hardship cases and guest workers

Applicants who come from the guest worker generation of the 1950s and 1960s, or contract workers in the former East Germany, will not have to take a language test to naturalise as German. The same is true for certain hardship cases - where age, disability, or another factor may prevent an applicant from being able to study up to the B1 level.

In these cases, no specific language requirement exists - but applicants must be able to communicate sufficiently with their case workers, unaided by a translator.

Certain people - but not all - in this situation may also be exempt from taking the German citizenship test.

READ ALSO: How can over-60s get German citizenship under the new dual nationality law?


German citizenship by descent or restoration - no German required

There is one group of applicants that doesn't need to demonstrate any German knowledge at all - those who apply by descent from a German parent or descent from victims of the Nazis through the restoration route.

These applicants also don't need to pass the citizenship test - as they are technically already considered citizens who simply need to claim their passports. 

The rules for this group remain completely unchanged by the new law - and applicants who apply by descent or restoration are already allowed to keep other citizenships they were born with.

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


Comments (1)

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Elvis 2024/05/23 19:27
What about those who come to Germany under the family reunion law. Do they need B1 as well.
  • Rachel Loxton 2024/06/28 14:24
    We can look into this in more detail for you. Do you mean a settlement permit for spouses of skilled workers?

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