German citizenship For Members

Do you need permanent residency to apply for German citizenship?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Do you need permanent residency to apply for German citizenship?
New German citizens gather for a naturalisation ceremony in Frankfurt am Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Molter

When you apply for German citizenship, one of the first questions you'll be asked is what type of residence permit you have. Will you run into problems if you don't have permanent residency rights?


If you've lived in Germany for a while, you may have already considered one day naturalising as German. If so, you've probably heard of the main requirements: having at least B1 German, completing a citizenship test and proving that you can support yourself and your family financially.

But did you know that you also need a certain type of residence permit to be eligible to apply?

When it comes to naturalisation, the rules around visas and residence permits can be confusing for foreigners, and many people assume that they won't be able to obtain a German passport without first applying for permanent residence.

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

While this isn't strictly true, there are some cases where your visa may disqualify you from citizenship (at least for now).

Here's how to find out if you're eligible for naturalisation in Germany on your current visa or residence permit.

What residence permits make you eligible for German citizenship?

According to German citizenship law, one of the criterion for naturalisation is that foreigners have "an unrestricted right of residence in Germany" at the time of applying.

This includes people who are EU citizens, third-country nationals with permanent residence (i.e. a Daueraufenthaltserlaubnis) and British citizens who received an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement. 


All of these groups are allowed to stay in Germany for an unlimited period of time without needing to renew their permits - though they can lose their residence rights if they are abroad for too long.

READ ALSO: How long can you leave Germany for without losing permanent residency?

But what about people who don't have this kind of unrestricted residence right? Are they still able to apply for German citizenship? 

In many cases, yes - but not always. 

The law states that, as well as people with an unrestricted right of residence, foreigners can also apply for citizenship if they hold "an EU Blue Card or a time-limited residence permit which in terms of its purpose may also lead to permanent residence". 

Two Blue Cards for foreign skilled workers are on a table at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Bavaria.

Two Blue Cards for foreign skilled workers are on a table at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

That excludes temporary visas such as student visas or visas for research or vocational training, but includes other forms of residence permit like an employment or skilled worker visa or a family reunification visa. 

As mentioned, people with either time-restricted or unrestricted EU Blue Cards are also eligible to apply for citizenship. 

How do I find out if I'm eligible for German citizenship?

If you're unsure whether you are currently eligible to apply for German citizenship, there are several ways to check before submitting an application.

The simplest is to get in contact with your local immigration authority, which is usually responsible for handling citizenship applications in your city or municipality. 

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

If the Ausländerbehörde doesn't handle citizenship applications, they will at least be able to tell you who does.


Once you make contact with your local authority, you'll generally be offered a telephone consultation with an advisor who will check your eligibility. 

Alternatively, some larger citizenship offices such as those in Berlin and Bavaria have online 'quick check' tools that tell you whether you can currently apply.

In more complicated situations, it may be worth making contact with an immigration lawyer, who will be able to offer more tailored advice. 


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