Updated Feb 2023
Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, over 40,000 British nationals have been granted German citizenship up to 2021. The vast majority have retained their British citizenship which was possible with all applications filed up to 31st December 2020. There are now around 75,000 British citizens, who have have obtained German citizenship. (In 2021 168,000 Brits were registered as living in Germany) This is quite unprecedented in German/British history and comes as a direct result of the Brexit referendum.
German law states that dual citizenship should usually be avoided though there is now draft legislation in place to ease up the rules on dual citizenship – that we expect to be agreed upon some time in 2023.
How can I find out about the requirements to apply for German citizenship?
The rules at present are that you will need to have been resident in Germany for 6 or 8 years depending on your language ability. The draft legislation is suggesting that the number of years is lowered. If you are married to or in a registered partnership with a German citizen then a shorter residence period is required – presently 3 years.
You can find more information about the residence and other requirements and how to go about applying for citizenship on these BAMF website pages: https://www.bamf.de/EN/Themen/Integration/ZugewanderteTeilnehmende/Einbuergerung/einbuergerung.html
If I want to apply for German citizenship, what do I do?
If you want to apply for German citizenship (Einbürgerung), you first need to contact your local Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) to get advice. You can find your office via the following link: https://www.bamf.de/DE/Service/ServiceCenter/BeratungVorOrt/Auslaenderbehoerden/auslaenderbehoerden-node.html
The process is basically the same in all parts of Germany, but the time it takes to get appointments and to process your application may differ.
What is the advantage of getting German citizenship? Surely my rights to stay in Germany are covered under the Withdrawal Agreement.
The Withdrawal Agreement provides a lot of rights for those of us who will be living in the European Union at the end of the Transition Period. These include the right to continue to reside in our host country, i.e. Germany, but that right is limited to our host country. So you will lose the entitlement to move to or work in France, Spain, Sweden or elsewhere in the EU. As a German citizen, you would maintain that right. Another example is the right to vote in national German elections or to stand for political office at local and national level. This is only available if you have German citizenship.
A decision about whether you would like to apply for German citizenship is personal. It will depend on a lot of factors which are different for each individual.
I have citizenship of Ireland (or another EU country) and UK citizenship. Why would I need German citizenship?
Irish or any other EU citizenship will mean you keep your EU rights including onward freedom of movement after the end of the Transition Period.
You will not have the right as an EU citizen to vote or stand in national elections in Germany. But you can vote and stand in some local elections.
Is there a difference in the law on citizenship depending on the German Federal State where I live?
No. Citizenship law is a German Federal competency and the law is the same everywhere in Germany. However, each State (Land) is responsible for the process for naturalisation. This means there may be differences in the details of the application form or the name of the office you need to go to.
There is also a degree of discretion as to whether, for example, a recent Germany-issued certificate of language competency is required or whether qualifications gained at school in the UK are considered acceptable.
I already have dual German-British citizenship. Will I have to give up my British citizenship at the end of the Transition Period?
No. If you already obtained German citizenship whilst the UK was a member of the European Union or during the Transition Period, then the rules that were valid at the time you obtained your citizenship apply. You do not need to renounce your UK citizenship.
I will not qualify for German citizenship before the end of the Transition Period. Can I apply later?
Yes. However, you will no longer have the right to keep your UK citizenship so will probably have to relinquish it in order to take German. As stated above, this stipulation may change with the onset of new legislation in the Bundestag around dual citizenship.
It seems that there are different requirements for citizenship in different EU countries. How can that be?
The requirements for obtaining citizenship of an EU country are decided by each individual country rather than at EU level. So there are indeed big differences between the countries.
I have citizenship of another non-EU country (e.g. Canada, India, Australia) as well as of the UK. Will I be able to keep both if I apply for German citizenship?
German law states that dual citizenship should be avoided, but allows some limited exceptions, for example, for EU citizens. At the moment Germany often requires citizens of other countries to give up that citizenship when obtaining German. However, sometimes exceptions are made to this rule. It is best to check for your specific case with the local Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde).