Since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, 31600 British nationals have been granted German citizenship. The vast majority have retained their British citizenship which is possible with all applications accepted up to 31st December 2020.
German law states that dual citizenship should usually be avoided. However, there are some exceptions, for example, for EU citizens. Whilst Britain was an EU member, British citizens who gained German citizenship could do so without losing their British citizenship as they benefited from § 12 Abs. 2 of the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (StAG).
There’s good news if you already have dual British and German citizenship. You can keep both and after the Transition Period has ended you will not have to choose one over the other.
So is it too late now to get dual citizenship? What happens to people who apply for German citizenship during the Transition Period or applied before Transition started and are still waiting for a decision?
As the UK is now no longer an EU Member State, § 12 Abs. 2. StAG no longer applies. But there is still a chance to gain German citizenship without losing your British citizenship.
The Bundestag passed a law (Brexit-Übergangsgesetz) in 2019, which gives you the right to keep your UK citizenship if you apply and meet the other usual conditions for German citizenship before the end of the Transition Period. So if you think you meet the conditions and would like to get dual citizenship, now is the time to act.
Below is an unofficial English translation of the relevant part of this Brexit-Übergangsgesetz, § 3 Abs. 1 BrexitÜG. Please note, however, that the original German version is the only legally valid text.
§3 Naturalisation of British and German citizens
(1) For British citizens who make an application for naturalisation in Germany before the end of the Transition Period, the otherwise applicable requirement under the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (Citizenship Law) to renounce British citizenship will be waived, provided that all other naturalisation requirements were met by the end of the Transition Period and continue to be met at the time of naturalisation.
How long does the Transition Period last?
The Transition Period began on 1 February 2020 and is due to end on 31 December 2020.
The Withdrawal Agreement contains a provision (Article 132) which potentially allows a single extension of 1 or 2 years if that is requested by July 2020 but the British government’s position currently is that it will not request such an extension.
How can I find out about the requirements to apply for German citizenship?
Generally, you will need to have been resident in Germany for 6 or 8 years depending on your language ability. If you are married to or in a registered partnership with a German citizen then a shorter residence period is required.
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 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.
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 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. Usually Germany 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).