Discretionary naturalisation (including renaturalisation of former German citizens)
In exceptional cases, foreign nationals may be naturalised under Section 14 of the Nationality Act and former Germans under Section 13 of the Nationality Act if specific criteria are met, even if they are living abroad.
German citizenship law generally provides for naturalisation for foreign nationals who have their habitual place of residence in Germany. In exceptional cases, foreign nationals may be naturalised under Section 14 of the Nationality Act and former Germans under Section 13 of the Nationality Act if specific criteria are met, even if they are living abroad. The decision on naturalisation is at the discretion of the competent citizenship authority, the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne. There is no legal entitlement to naturalisation when living abroad unless Article 116 II of the Basic Law applies to you.
In the experience of the Federal Foreign Office, discretionary naturalisations (including renaturalisations of former Germans living outside of the EU or Switzerland) are only granted if they can be shown to be of particular public interest, and private interests are only a secondary consideration. For example, it is unlikely that being married to a German citizen or having lived in Germany for a long time would be sufficient to demonstrate that naturalisation would be in the public interest.
In addition to providing proof of particular public interest, there are other naturalisation criteria to be met. These include good German language skills, close ties with Germany, a secure income and a clean criminal record. In addition, the Federal Republic of Germany is committed to the principle of avoidance of dual nationality. Hence, in the case of discretionary naturalisation under Section 13 or Section 14 of the Nationality Act it is generally necessary to give up your previous citizenship if this is possible, unless your citizenship is of another EU member state or of Switzerland. Exceptions may be allowed. In this case, detailed reasons must be set out as part of the application process.
To avoid submitting a naturalisation application with no prospect of success, for which you will still be charged, it is worth enquiring in advance with the Federal Office of Administration as the competent citizenship authority or with the relevant German mission abroad. All applications have to be submitted by post or, by prior appointment, through the relevant German mission abroad.
Information and application forms:
Further information and the relevant application forms and factsheets can be found on the website of the Federal Office of Administration
Questions for the Federal Office of Administration can be emailed to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The German Embassy in London and the Consulate General in Edinburgh can be contacted using our Contact