Thinking about applying for German Citizenship?

On 27 June 2024, the changes to the German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – (here in German) will come into force.

The bottom line for British citizens living in Germany is that the updated law reduces the length of time needed to qualify for German citizenship from 6 or 8 years to 5 or even 3 years for those who are especially well-integrated into German society.

And Germany’s restrictions on holding multiple citizenships are being removed completely.   This will allow many thousands of foreign nationals resident in Germany to keep their original nationality while becoming German. So Brits who could not apply for German citizenship before the end of the Brexit transition period will also be able to become dual citizens. 

So big changes afoot, but where to start?

It can be hard to find clear and reliable information about how to prepare and what to expect from the process.  Although the same law applies across Germany the decentralised federal structure means that each individual state is responsible for how the law is implemented. So things like how you can apply, exactly what documents will be requested, and how particular cases are decided may vary from one city, town or district to another.

So note that this article is intended as general information only and it’s worth being across the federal and local guidance documents that authorities will publish once the law has changed.  You’ll find those at the citizenship or naturalisation offices in your local area or you could consult a local immigration advice service  (Migrationsberatung).

Generally speaking here are the key things to be aware of.

Main eligibility requirements
  • documented identity and nationality
  • legally resident in Germany for at least 3 and in most cases 5 years
  • permanent right of residence
  • able to make a living for yourself and your dependent family members (not receiving certain government benefits e.g Bürgergeld)
  • no criminal record
  • a  sufficient knowledge of German (B1)
  • basic civic knowledge as shown by Einbürgerungstest
  • committed to the free democratic constitution of Germany
  • able to fit into German living conditions

To see whether you might qualify for citizenship, you could try the “Quick Check“ provided by the Bavarian government (and recommended also by other local authorities in other Bundesländer). Berlin has its own Berlin Citizenship Quick Check

This has been updated to reflect the changes to the law and gives you an initial idea of whether or not you would currently qualify for citizenship.  But remember how decisions are made does vary from office to office and state to state. 

What documents do I need?

Your local naturalisation office will tell you exactly which documents they need from you. This will vary depending on your individual circumstances.  For instance, if it’s clear you speak fluent German you may not have to do the German test.  Some of the things that you may be asked for include:

  • Passport
  • Birth, marriage certificates etc.
  • Your residence title (e.g. Aufenthaltsdokument-GB card)
  • Language test certificate (B1 or above)
  • Citizenship test certificate
  • if you rent: tenancy agreement, evidence of how much rent you pay, confirmation from your landlord that you are not in rent arrears.
  • if you live in your own property: copy of the Grundbuch (title deed), evidence of mortgage payments and payments to your building’s management company where applicable.
  • if employed: employment contract, last three payslips, written confirmation from your employer that you are still employed.
  • if you are freelancer: evidence of your earnings (e.g. a BWA from your accountant)
  • evidence of your spouse’s income or e.g. child support payments, if applicable.

If, for any reason, you are told that you are not eligible to apply for German citizenship, it is worth getting the office to give you a written statement explaining why. You can use that to clarify and, if relevant, to try again or to challenge the logic.

Can I apply online?

Some areas of Germany have introduced online application forms. We know this includes Berlin, Hamburg and all of Bavaria, but undoubtedly there are other towns and states where we don’t have the feedback.  The online application form will guide you through what documents you need to upload.

In other areas of Germany citizenship applications may still need to be submitted on paper. Where this is the case, your local citizenship office may ask you to attend an initial consultation meeting. At this meeting they will probably do an initial check of whether you are likely to meet the requirements for citizenship. They will also tell you exactly what documents you should submit and give you an application form to take away to complete.

Why get German citizenship?

Some of the advantages:

  • Right to vote in Germany
  • Full EU citizenship and freedom of movement rights in EU
  • Right to stand as a candidate in elections in Germany
More information locally and nationally

Go to this page on our site for a list of links related to naturalization and citizenship. It is not an exhaustive list, but it should help you find a starting point.  Let us know how you get on.  

Additional Information

Germany’s New Citizenship Law