In general, German citizenship is not established through birth on German territory but by descent from a German legal mother and/or a German legal father.
German citizenship may have been obtained through the following:
- by birth in wedlock
- by birth out of wedlockby birth on German territory (only for children born on or after 01.01.2000)
- by adoption
- by legitimation
- by marriage of a foreign wife to a German (only until 03.31.1953)
- by other reasons
For more information please see below.
German citizenship by being born in wedlock
Children born in wedlock between 01.01.1914 and 31.12.1963 acquired German citizenship only if the father was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
Children born to a German mother in wedlock between 01.01 1964 and 31.12.1974 only acquired German citizenship if they would have become stateless otherwise.
Children born in wedlock after 01.01.1975 acquired German citizenship if either of the parents was a German citizen at the time of their birth.
Children born abroad whose German parent was born outside Germany after 31.12.1999 only acquire German citizenship if their birth is registered at a German foreign mission within one year. In case the German parent was born before 31.12.1999 and/or born in Germany, his or her children still automatically acquire German citizenship by descent.
Children born in wedlock between 01.04.1953 and 31.12.1974 to a German mother and a non-German father did not become German citizens by birth. However, during the years 1975, 1976 and 1977, their parents could claim German citizenship for them. The deadline for this procedure irrevocably ended on 31.12.1977.
German citizenship by being born out of wedlock
Children born out of wedlock to a German mother after 01.01.1914 acquired German citizenship.
Children born out of wedlock to a German father after 01.07.1993 acquired German citizenship if (among other requirements) paternity had been established according to German law.
Children born out of wedlock to a German father before 01.07.1993 may acquire German citizenship by declaration before their 23rd birthday, if paternity has been established and if they have resided in Germany for at least three years. The declaration can only be made in Germany at the child's residence.
Children born abroad whose German parent was born outside Germany after 31.12.1999, only acquire German citizenship if their birth is registered at a German foreign mission within one year.
German citizenship by birth on German territory
A child born in Germany on or after 01.01.2000 to non-German parents may acquire German citizenship under certain conditions:
At least one of the foreign parents must have had his legal domicile in Germany for at least eight years and – for children born on or after 28.08.2007 – the parent must also hold indefinite leave to remain in Germany.
Children born to foreign parents in Germany before 01.01.2000 did not acquire German citizenship and cannot retroactively apply for citizenship under the above regulation.
German citizenship by adoption
If you were effectively adopted as a minor by at least one German citizen on or after January 1, 1977, you are a German citizen. If the adoption took place outside Germany it has to meet certain requirements.
Children who had been adopted by a German parent between 01.01.1959 and 31.12.1976 could have become a German citizen by declaration until 31.12.1979.
German citizenship by legitimation
The marriage of the parents of a child born out of wedlock was called „legitimation“. Children born out of wedlock between 01.01.1914 and 30.06.1998 could have acquired German citizenship through the marriage of their parents.
German citizenship by marriage
Foreign women who married a German citizen between 01.04.1914 and 31.03.1953 automatically acquired German citizenship.
Foreign women who married a German citizen between 01.04.1953 and 31.12.1969 could have acquired German citizenship under certain conditions, esp. through declaration at the time of marriage.
Since 01.01.1970 the acquisition of German citizenship by marriage does not exist anymore. A foreign spouse can only apply for naturalisation if certain requirements are met.
German citizenship by other reasons
Other reasons for acquisition of German citizenship include naturalisation. Please refer also to our special section for re-naturalisation of persons deprived of their German nationality due to political, racial or religious grounds between 30.01.1933 and 08.05.1945.
Citizens of the former German Democratic Republic are usually considered citizens of the reunited Federal Republic of Germany as well. German minorities in middle and eastern Europe may also have received German citizenship under certain circumstances during the Second World War. Please contact the German Embassy in London or the Consulate General in Edinburgh should you belong to one of these special groups.
Should above information not fully answer your questions, please also consult the Federal Foreign Office’s FAQ on citizenship matters.
Although the information on this website has been prepared with utmost care, we cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein.