German nationality and citizenship law
The German Law on Nationality and Citizenship is rather complex and has undergone many changes in the past. However, some aspects have remained the same. Please also read the information in the FAQ-Section on the website of the Federal Foreign Office (see right side).
Please make sure you read and understand the information provided before contacting the German Embassy. This will help us to assist you better. Thank you!
The Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz)
The German rules on citizenship were thoroughly revised with the entry into force of the amended Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) on January 1st, 2000. The rules underwent yet another revision with the entry into force of the Immigration Act (Zuwanderungsgesetz) on January 1st, 2005.
German citizenship by descent
German citizenship is mainly acquired and passed on through descent from a German parent. The parent has to be German citizen at the time of the birth of the child. Children who are born to former German citizens do not acquire the German citizenship. In addition, for children born before January 1st, 1975 to parents who were married to each other at the time of the birth, it was mandatory that the father was a German citizen in order for the child to acquire the German citizenship.
As an example: If your father was once a German citizen, but was naturalized Singaporean before you were born, he automatically lost his German citizenship when he accepted the Singaporean citizenship and was therefore unable to pass on the German citizenship to you. One or Two Citizenships?
Persons who were born in Germany before the year 2000 to non-German parents did not obtain German citizenship at the time of their birth and are not eligible for a German passport. Only children born in or after the year 2000 to long-term residents of Germany could or can under certain circumstances receive the German citizenship. They must however decide between the ages of 18 and 23 whether to retain their German nationality or the nationality of their parents.
As a general rule, foreigners now have the right to become naturalized after eight years of habitual residence in Germany, provided they meet the relevant conditions. The minimum period for spouses of German nationals is usually shorter. For naturalization, it is necessary to prove adequate knowledge of German. A clean record and commitment to the tenets of the German Constitution are further criteria. The person to be naturalized must also be able to financially support him-/herself. Requirements for applicants residing abroad are more extensive than for residents of Germany.