German citizenship is generally acquired automatically by birth according to the principle of descent if one or both of the parents are German. This means you can normally apply directly for a German passport or national ID card for your child.
If only the father is German, there must be a valid acknowledgement of paternity. For children born in the United Kingdom this is generally the case if the father is named on the birth certificate as the “father”, and both parents are named as “informants”.
In the case of German nationals born abroad on or after 1 January 2000, their children, if born abroad, only acquire German citizenship if the parents notify the relevant German mission abroad of the child’s birth within one year.
No, if your child automatically acquired two nationalities by birth (German nationality by descent), from a German perspective he/she will not have to choose between the two nationalities later on. In other words your child has permanent dual national status. However, in some circumstances, the law of the other country may require him/her to choose. In this case please contact the relevant authorities in the other country.
Since 1 January 2021, if you acquire British citizenship by applying for it yourself, without first having obtained permission to retain German citizenship from the Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt), you automatically lose your German citizenship.
Naturalisation in the German federation is primarily for people who also have their ordinary residence in Germany. Your partner is generally legally entitled to be naturalised once he/she has been living legally in the Federal Republic for three years, subject to certain additional criteria. You have to have been married for at least two years. For further advice, please contact the authority responsible for your place of residence in Germany.
If you and your partner live in the United Kingdom (or another foreign country), naturalisation is only possible if the criteria set out in section 14 of the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) are met. However, in the experience of the Federal Foreign Office and the German missions abroad, it is only permitted if – in addition to meeting the application criteria like being able to support yourself financially and possessing good German language skills – your naturalisation would be of particular public interest. Private interests are only a secondary consideration here. As a rule, being married to a German national is not on its own sufficient to demonstrate that naturalisation would be in the public interest.
To avoid submitting a naturalisation application with no prospect of success, for which you will still be charged, it is worth enquiring with the Federal Office of Administration, as the competent citizenship authority, before submitting your application via the diplomatic mission.
Frequently asked questions regarding citizenship after Brexit:
The Embassy cannot make a general recommendation as to whether it is advisable to acquire British citizenship. The adoption of foreign citizenship is an individual decision which depends on the person’s particular circumstances, and is subject in every country to certain criteria.
For questions about dual nationality/ permission to retain a nationality, see points 3c–g and 3k below.
The criteria that must be met to acquire British citizenship are based on British law. Further information on this can be found on the Home Office website.
Under the German Nationality Act (in force since 28 August 2007), a German does not lose his/ her German citizenship if he/ she acquires citizenship of another EU member state or of Switzerland. The United Kingdom has not been a member of the EU since 31 January 2020, and the transition period ended on 31 December 2020.
Under Section 3 (2) of the Transitional Brexit Act passed by the German parliament on 17 January 2019, Germans who have made an application for naturalisation in the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) do not lose their German citizenship pursuant to Section 25 (1), first sentence, of the Nationality Act, even if the citizenship ceremony marking the acquisition of British citizenship only takes place after the end of the transition period.
This means that, if you were naturalised by the British authorities or applied for naturalisation before the end of the transition period following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, you will not lose your German citizenship, and neither will you need permission to retain German nationality. It is the date of the application that counts here, not the date of naturalisation (citizenship ceremony). It is essential to retain proof of the date of your application (see question 3d).
However, if after 1 January 2021 you apply for and acquire British citizenship without having previously received permission from the Federal Office of Administration to retain German nationality, you will automatically lose your German nationality. You can find detailed information on Retention of German citizenship upon naturalisation in another country here.
When applying for a new German passport, you will have to state that you have applied for and acquired British citizenship. If naturalisation is after the Brexit date, you will also have to prove that you submitted the application before the end of the transition period and therefore, under the transition arrangements, have not lost your German citizenship.
There are three ways of proving this:
- If you applied for British citizenship online, you can use a printout of the dated receipt you received for your online payment; the receipt normally states that you have applied for British citizenship;
- If, alternatively, you submitted a paper application for British citizenship, you can use a printout of the dated application confirmation letter you received from the Home Office;
- If you submitted your application very close to the Brexit date, it was received by the Home Office prior to the Brexit date but the date of the confirmation letter is after the Brexit date, you can get written confirmation from the Home Office that it received your application before the Brexit date. You will have to contact the Home Office separately to ask it to issue this confirmation.
Please retain this documentary evidence and keep it safe so that you are able to prove at a later date, for example when applying for a German passport, that, in acquiring British citizenship, you have not lost your German citizenship pursuant to Section 25 (1), sentence 1, of the Nationality Act. It is in any case generally advisable to retain and keep safe all documents connected with your application for British citizenship.
If you submit an application for British citizenship after 1 January 2021 and at the same time want to retain your German citizenship, you have to apply beforehand for permission to retain German citizenship. You can find the application form here
If your application for naturalisation was submitted before the end of the transition period following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, i.e. before 31 December 2020, under current German law you do not need a retention permit.
Yes! Under Section 15 No. 4 of the Passport Act and Section 27 (1) No. 4 of the Act on Identity Cards, holders of a German passport or national identity card are obliged to notify the competent passport office/ identity card office without delay (if your habitual place of residence is the United Kingdom then this is the Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh) that they have acquired a foreign citizenship.
When applying for a new German passport or identity card anywhere in the world, and whenever a German authority asks for your nationality, you must state that you have acquired British citizenship. Upon naturalisation, you can email a scan of your certificate of naturalisation and of the photo page of your German passport and proof that you have applied in due time where applicable.
It is important that you bring your British certificate of naturalisation (or proof of your application as described in 3e) with you to the passport appointment at the Embassy/Consulate General.
In some cases (which cannot all be listed here) you may also be under obligation to notify certain German domestic authorities. Please enquire with the authority concerned.
Children of German parents acquire German citizenship not by application, but automatically by descent. Further information on acquiring German citizenship can be found on our website.
If your child acquired German citizenship through birth, you can normally apply directly for a German passport or national identity card for your child, and do not need to apply for German citizenship beforehand. Further information on applying for a passport can be found on our website.
However, please check before booking a passport appointment whether you first need to make a name declaration for your child. All information on this can be found on our website under Naming law.
You only need to register the birth of your child or apply for a German birth certificate if you, as a German parent, were yourself born abroad after 31 December 1999. Further information on this can be found on our website (in German).
Under current German law, your child’s German citizenship is not affected if the child automatically acquires another citizenship through birth.
The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and the end of the transition period do not affect your existing German citizenship. If, on that date, you already held dual nationality, you do not have to decide between German and British citizenship.
Under current German citizenship law, naturalisation is only possible in exceptional cases for someone living abroad. As a rule, the spouses of German nationals cannot be naturalised if the family is living abroad.
The competent citizenship authority, namely the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne, has confirmed that being married to a German (even for many years) and wanting all the family to have the same nationality are not, on their own, adequate grounds for naturalisation.
In addition to the general naturalisation conditions (such as speaking very good German and having close ties with Germany), the naturalisation must be in the particular public interest as well as being in the applicant’s private interest. Unfortunately this condition is rarely met.
This often happens, for example, if the German passport was issued in a person’s unmarried name, but the person uses a new name after getting married without a formal married name declaration having been made under German law, or if a child was born out of wedlock in the United Kingdom, but is to take the father’s surname or a double surname. In these cases you have two options:
a) You change the name under British law to match the name in the German passport, for example by a deed poll name change. The fact is, it is easier to change the name on a British passport than on a German passport.
b) If, however, you or your child want to have the name that is on your British passport on your German passport as well, it depends on the individual case as to whether it is possible to change the name on the German passport and how this is done. Unfortunately a British change of name by deed poll will not be recognised. However, you can make a German name declaration and then apply for a new passport in the new name. General information on name declarations can be found on our website.
Unfortunately, since 1 January 2021, name declarations under Article 48 of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code (EGBGB) whereby it used to be possible to take a name from a British civil status certificate are no longer possible as, since Brexit and the end of the transition period, the United Kingdom is no longer treated as an EU member state. In the past, a declaration of this kind was used mostly, though not exclusively, in the following circumstances:
- a double surname (consisting of the surnames of both parents, with or without a hyphen) is to be chosen for a minor (or a child who has reached majority)
- a minor is to be given a surname which differs from the surnames of both parents (e.g. grandfather’s surname, father’s first name or even a made-up name)
Unfortunately this will be difficult now that Article 48 of the Introductory Act to the German Civil Code (EGBGB) (see answer to 3l. above) is no longer applicable. The safest way is to opt immediately for either the mother’s or the father’s surname and have this entered on the British birth certificate.
If one parent holds another nationality (other than British and German), it is worth checking whether an alternative kind of name declaration might be an option (opting for the law of another country).
If a name declaration is not possible, but you want to keep the double surname, there is also the option of a name change under public law. Please contact us if you would like further information on this.