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Acquiring German Citizenship

German citizenship by descent

German citizenship can be acquired by descent, although it is not always acquired automatically by descent. Please check the cases below and refer to the section that applies to your individual case.

If you probably acquired German citizenship automatically, you can book a passport appointment. For more information, please go to Passports.

I. Birth to married parents

My father was German at the time of my birth.
You probably acquired German citizenship automatically.

My mother was German at the time of my birth.

I was born on or after 1 January 1975.
You probably acquired German citizenship automatically.
My mother was German at the time of my birth. I was born before 1 January 1975.

You will probably not have acquired German citizenship automatically, but you might be eligible for discretionary naturalisation.

Please go to Renaturalisation and discretionary naturalisation

II. Birth to unmarried parents

My mother was German at the time of my birth.
You will probably have acquired German citizenship automatically.

My legal father was German at the time of my birth.

I was born on or after 1 July 1993.
You will probably have acquired German citizenship automatically.

My legal father was German at the time of my birth.

I was born before 30 June 1993.

You will probably not have acquired German citizenship automatically, but you might be eligible for discretionary naturalisation.

Please go to Renaturalisation and discretionary Naturalisation

III. Non-acquisition of German nationality for children born abroad to German parents

(section 4 (4), first and third sentences, of the Nationality Act)

Children born abroad do not acquire German nationality by birth if their German parent(s) were themselves born abroad after 31 December 1999 and at the time of the child’s birth were ordinarily resident abroad, provided such children acquire another nationality upon birth.

Children that fall into this category may acquire German nationality retroactively from birth if their parents register the birth with the German authorities before the child’s first birthday. More information on birth registration can be found here. To do this, they must apply to the competent registry office in Germany or to the competent German mission abroad to have the birth of their child included in the register of births. For more information, please see the information sheet below.

Case study

Mr A relocates to Spain for work purposes in 1999. His daughter Klara is born there on 1 February 2000. The family returns some years later to Germany. In 2018, Klara meets an American citizen and moves to the US with him. Her son is born in the US on 1 January 2020. Although his mother is German, he does not acquire German nationality by birth, since he acquires US citizenship by virtue of being born in the US. In order to obtain German nationality for the child, Klara or the father would have to apply to the competent registry office in Germany or to the competent German mission abroad to register the birth of their child. If the application is submitted on time and with all the necessary supporting documents, the child may be issued with a German passport upon application.

Please note: All Germans (expats and emigrants) who were born abroad and who give birth abroad, regardless of the reason for or duration of their residence abroad, need to be aware of this rule.

Click here for more information

German citizenship through birth on German territory

A child born in Germany on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents may acquire German citizenship under certain conditions:

  • At least one of the foreign parents must have been permanently resident in Germany for at least eight years and – for children born on or after 28 August 2007 – the parent must also possess indefinite leave to remain in Germany.

Children born to foreign parents in Germany before 1 January 2000 did not acquire German citizenship and cannot retroactively apply for citizenship.

If you are Ger­man ac­cord­ing to these pro­vi­sions, on reaching age 21 you will receive a letter from the competent authority asking you to declare whether you wish to keep the Ger­man or the for­eign cit­i­zen­ship (so-called ‘opt­ing pro­ce­dure’, sec­tion 29 of the Na­tion­al­i­ty Act), un­less

  • you have been habitually resident in Ger­many for eight years,
  • you have at­tend­ed school in Ger­many for six years,
  • you hold a school-leav­ing cer­tifi­cate or have com­plet­ed vo­ca­tion­al train­ing in Ger­many.

You are ex­empt from the opt­ing pro­ce­dure if you only have the citizenship of an­oth­er EU coun­try or Switzer­land in ad­di­tion to your Ger­man citizenship.

German citizenship by marriage

Foreign women who married a German citizen between 1 April 1914 and 31 March 1953 automatically acquired German citizenship.

Foreign women who married a German citizen between 1 April 1953 and 31 December 1969 could have acquired German citizenship under certain conditions.

If this applies to you, please contact the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh.

German citizenship by adoption

If you were legally adopted under the age of 18 by at least one German citizen on or after 1 January 1977, you are a German citizen. If the adoption took place outside Germany it has to meet certain requirements.

If this applies to you, please contact the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh.

German citizenship on another basis

Citizens of the former German Democratic Republic are usually considered citizens of the reunited Federal Republic of Germany as well. German minorities in central and eastern Europe may also have received German citizenship under certain circumstances during the Second World War.

If this applies to you, please contact the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh.


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