Category Archives: British in Germany

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

UK election – LAST DAY TO REGISTER!

Deadline

To vote in the British election on 4th July, you must register to vote by midnight UK time on Tuesday 18th June/

Remember now all British citizens can vote, wherever you live or however long you’ve lived outside of the UK.

Once you are registered, you need to organise your proxy or postal vote.  By the way, proxy is much more reliable.

Key points:

  • No time limit for overseas voters

Even if you have been out of the UK for 40 years or more, you can register and vote in the general election

  • Registration is online and easy

Here is the link to the registration website Register to vote Remember latest 18th June

  • Once you are registered, you can apply for a proxy vote

Someone in the UK (Your Proxy) can vote for you. No need to rely on slow overseas post. Proxy registration is also online Proxy request

If no-one is available in the constituency to be your proxy, someone can vote by post as a proxy for you from anywhere else in the UK. UK post obviously more reliable than overseas post.

  • UK government actions impact your rights: have your say

Now and in the future, as a British citizen your rights are affected by UK policies and actions

More information

Got questions? Need more information?  See British in Europe’s Q&A  here: British in Europe voting FAQ

Your question not answered? Try our Facebook group: British in Germany FB group 

Pass it on

If you have friends or relatives outside the UK, make sure they don’t miss out on making their voice heard. Pass the information on.

Encourage them to register as soon as they can.

Germany’s New Citizenship Law

After the 2021 Bundestag election, the socially-liberal Ampel coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised to modernise Germany’s citizenship law, including ending the restrictions on dual citizenship.

On 19 January 2024 the reform received approval from the Bundestag by a margin of 382-234 votes. The new legislation is designed to simplify the naturalization process, attract skilled workers to address labour shortages, and foster a more inclusive society.

On 22 March 2024 President Steinmeier signed off on the ‘Law to Modernize Nationality Law’ (Gesetz zur Modernisierung des Staatsangehörigkeitsrechts). It was published in the Bundesgesetzblatt on 26 March 2024 and will come into force on 27 June 2024.

The updated law reduces the length of time required to qualify for citizenship to five years, or three in the case of those who are especially well-integrated into German society. Children born in Germany will also automatically obtain citizenship if at least one parent has been a legal resident for five years.

Germany’s restrictions on holding multiple citizenships are being removed completely. Previously exemption to this was granted for example for EU citizens or to those unable to renounce their previous citizenship. UK citizens were able to benefit from this rule if they had submitted their application before the end of the Brexit transition period.

Now, Brits living in Germany who were not able to apply for German citizenship before Brexit will be able to join the tens of thousands who are already dual German-British citizens.

Becoming a German citizen has several benefits including the right to vote (or even stand for election), as well as having no restrictions on your residence. This would allow British citizens to move to the UK for several years, perhaps to care for relatives, without fear of not being allowed to return to Germany at a later date. German citizenship also means full freedom of movement in the EU, with the ability to live, work and study across Europe.

Here we answer some of the most common questions about these significant changes to Germany’s citizenship law:

What will the new law mean for me?
The new law removes the previous rules restricting dual or multiple citizenship.

If you are hoping to become a German citizen, under the new law Germany will not make you give up your previous citizenship(s). UK citizens will no longer be required to renounce their British citizenship as they have been since the end of the Brexit transition period.

Germans living in the UK will also be able to become British without losing their German citizenship or needing to apply for permission to keep it.

If you already have both German and UK citizenship then of course you will also be able to keep both.

Can I already apply for citizenship?
If you choose to apply now, it is likely that the new rules will be applied to your application as processing times are usually at least several months (and in many parts of Germany they are much longer).

I have already applied for German citizenship. Which version of the law will be used?
If you receive German citizenship after the new law comes into force, the new rules will apply to your application, regardless of the date of when you applied. Until the new law comes into force, the old rules continue to apply.

I am already at the end of the application process for German citizenship. I have received a Zusicherung and been told I now need to renounce my British citizenship before I can become a German citizen. What should I do?
You may wish to contact the local office who gave you the Zusicherung and ask if you can wait for the new law to come into force so that you can keep your British citizenship.

Will my future children be able to have both citizenships?
If you were born in the UK then your children will usually automatically be British at birth, even if they are born outside of the UK. If you were born outside of the UK, then the situation may be different. You can find out more information on the Citizens Advice website.

Under the new law here in Germany, if neither parent is German but they have been living in Germany legally for five years, a child will normally automatically acquire German citizenship at birth.

The so-called “Optionspflicht” (where some dual national children had to decide whether to keep their German citizenship or their other one at the age of 21) is being abolished entirely.

What about existing children?
You can include your underage children on your application for naturalisation.

I’ve already renounced my British citizenship, can I get it back?
It is possible to resume British nationality if you have previously renounced it. Unfortunately it is a costly process. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/renounce-british-nationality/resume-your-british-nationality

Do you have further questions or concerns?
Consider joining the British in Germany Facebook Group to connect directly and share experiences with others applying for German citizenship or those already going through the process.

More Information

THINKING ABOUT APPLYING FOR GERMAN CITIZENSHIP?

LINKS: STATE AND FEDERAL LEVEL NATURALISATION AND CITIZENSHIP INFORMATION

Sources:
[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/1/19/germanys-parliament-approves-easing-citizenship-laws
[2] https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-parliament-approves-easing-dual-citizenship/a-68030714
[3] https://se-legal.de/german-citizenship-bill-2023-what-you-need-to-know/?lang=en
[4] https://www.germany-visa.org/german-citizenship/benefits-and-responsibilities/

British High Court Ruling: EU in UK will not lose their status

Earlier in the  year you may have heard in the news that a decision has been made in the British High Court that EU citizens with pre-settled status will not lose their status if they do not apply for ‘settled status’. The Home Office confirmed that it will not appeal the High Court ruling that found that mandatory re-application is unlawful.

The organisation the3millon played a strong advocacy role in this ruling and the Home Office confirmed that it will not appeal the High Court ruling that found that mandatory re-application is unlawful.

British in Germany e.V. is delighted that the threat of EU citizens losing their rights has been removed from the 2.6 million EU citizens in the UK who currently have pre-settled status. For more on the story and the background to the case go to the 3 million webpage.

This is also good news for British citizens living in the EU countries that have taken a similar “constitutive” approach to Withdrawal Agreement rights.  (‘Constitutive’ meaning the mandatory requirement to re-apply by a deadline for the new status under the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) )

 

If this ruling by the British High Court had not taken place, there would certainly have been a risk that those EU countries, where re-application is required, might consider themselves justified in taking a similar line to that of the UK. Germany took the declaratory route rather than the constitutive. (‘declaratory’ meaning those who fulfil WA conditions are beneficiaries without a mandatory application – but in practice need to register for a residence card to go about their daily lives), so risks here in Germany are much lower.)

For more background on the story in Germany see: https://britishingermany.org/2020/07/20/posttransitionupdate/

According to the UK Government, the number of concluded applications to the EU settlement scheme by July 2022 was 6,473,830.  Of those, 51% (3,281,950) were granted settled status and 41% (2,627,770) were granted pre-settled status.

Life Long Voting Rights for all Brits Abroad!

SOME POSITIVE NEWS: ALL US BRITS, HOWEVER LONG WE’VE LIVED OUTSIDE OF THE UK NOW HAVE THE LIFE LONG RIGHT TO VOTE IN THE UK

***LAST UPDATE – Since 16th January 2024, all British citizens living outside of the UK can vote. Don’t delay in registering. See here for all the details you’ll need.

** UPDATE The final run of secondary legislation took place in the Lords evening of 12th December and the date of Tuesday 16th January 2024 for that legislation to be active is now locked in.

Nov. 2023 we wrote…

As you may have heard in the news recently, draft secondary legislation to implement the Elections Act 2022 and re-enfranchise around 3 million overseas British electors was ‘laid’ before both UK Houses of Parliament on 23 October and published on 25 October 2023.

The draft statutory legislation (SI) has to go through a scrutiny process before both houses of parliament, but we expect that to be done and the SI to be ‘made or adopted before the end of the year and hopefully come into force by 16 January 2024 (this is the date proposed in the draft secondary legislation) More details on this here.

Very significantly, this will re-enfranchise around 3 million Brits living outside of the UK, many of whom had been dis-enfranchised due to the 15 year rule.

The Electoral Commission is already preparing for the registration of this large number of newly re-enfranchised British voters in their relevant constituencies. British in Europe has already been working on a secondary legislation advocacy project about the implementation of the changes since last year and will partner with the Electoral Commission on its awareness raising campaign. Generally, British in Europe and British in Germany e.V. plan to play an active role in getting word out to Brits across Europe, that they can vote again in the UK.

If you’d be interested in supporting that campaign in any way please get in touch at info(at)britishingermany.org

So many extra votes added to the current electorate could have a significant impact on forthcoming national elections and in strengthening the representation of British democracy.

The next UK General Election, the date of which will be decided by the present government, must take place latest by January 2025.

More positive news …….read here about the British High Court that EU citizens with pre-settled status will not lose their status if they do not apply for ‘settled status’. were 306,300 refusals, 133,000 withdrawn or void outcomes and 124,560 invalid outcomes in the same period, representing, combined, 9% of total outcomes.

British in Germany e.V. is run by volunteers all giving their time and their expertise for free. We therefore value your membership for 15 Euros a year, which goes towards expenses incurred in running the organisation. You can join here.

BiG Summer Conference in Braunschweig June 4th 2023

Would you like to attend British in Germany’s Summer Conference?

The BiG Summer Conference and AGM will be held on Sunday 4th June in Braunschweig.  This was something members proposed at the successful BiG Autumn Conference last year in Berlin.

When:   Sunday 4th June
Time: 10am – 6pm

E mail: membership@britishingermany.org (Subject: 4th June) 

We welcome newcomers to the organisation, so if you would be interested in getting involved in on a local or national/international level please get in touch by e mail for more information.

This year’s summer conference in Braunschweig, near Hannover, will be a a great opportunity to meet up with Brits from across Germany to dissect, discuss and make decisions on issues that, post Brexit, are continuing to affect our lives in Germany.    All nationalities and partners welcome.

You can attend as a paid up member (15 Euros a year)
which allows you to vote in the AGM, or as an observer and then participant in the rest of the day’s conference.

We can also make suggestions for accommodation in Braunschweig, depending on where you’ll be travelling from.

New Report: Identity, Belonging and Representation Post-Brexit

Who are the British in Europe post-Brexit and how do they see themselves?

The report “Identity, Belonging, and Representation Post-Brexit among British citizens among British Citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland” by Tanja Bueltmann draws on a detailed survey of British citizens living in Europe to review the impact of Brexit on British citizens’ sense of identity and belonging.

Through qualitative research, the author explores how Brexit has affected how individuals understand and identify with their nationality, as well as their perceptions of representation in the UK and Europe.

Main findings and key themes:

  • Survey respondents constitute a relatively highly mobile group, with around a third having previous migration experience.
  • A plurality of respondents moved to the EU/EEA/Switzerland for work and/or personal reasons, such as moving with a partner/family.
  • Only 17.7% of survey respondents moved to the EU/EEA/Switzerland to retire, providing further evidence that the common characterisation of British citizens in the EU as a group primarily comprised of ‘expat retirees’ is misleading at best.
  • 76.6% of respondents plan to live in the EU/EEA/Switzerland permanently.
  • 65.7% of respondents agree that Brexit has increased the likelihood of them staying in the EU/EEA or Switzerland.

The study also highlights the complexities of national identity and how this has been challenged and reshaped by Brexit.

Download now: Identity, Belonging and Representation Post-Brexit

For more facts and figures related to British in Germany see here.

 

British in Germany e.V. is run by volunteers all giving their time and their expertise for free. We therefore value your membership for 15 Euros a year, which goes towards expenses incurred in running the organisation. You can join here.

Dual Citizenship: German government planning new law

A draft law aimed at making it easier to acquire German citizenship for people who have lived in Germany for 5 years or more is currently being prepared by the German federal government.

The proposed law, if enacted may permit applicants to retain their original citizenship, while getting German citizenship in addition.  It is also being proposed to allow people to gain German citizenship after just three years living in Germany if they are especially well integrated and speak good German.

Currently, the process of obtaining citizenship in Germany often requires individuals to reside in the country for up to eight years and for non-EU citizens to surrender their original citizenship.  Over 70,000 Brits in Germany now have dual British-German citizenship, as they applied for German citizenship before the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020, allowing them to keep their British citizenship.  That is now no longer possible.

The proposed changes to the law have been welcomed by British in Germany because they offer an opportunity for those who were not able to benefit from gaining EU/German citizenship before the Brexit transition period, to potentially still do so, creating less of a division in rights amongst British citizens living in Germany.

The new law, if passed, would bring numerous benefits for British citizens if they acquired dual citizenship  including the right to vote in all elections and the right to free movement to live and work in other EU member states, something that British citizens have lost as a result of Brexit. At the same time, it would allow British citizens to preserve their rights in the UK, allowing them for example to work in the UK or if they needed to return to care for older relatives, which is quite often the case.

The German coalition government has expressed its intention to enact the law by the summer of 2023. British in Germany will be following developments closely and keeping our members updated.

To find out more about current citizenship regulations see here.

Some recent press coverage of the changes:

https://www.dw.com/en/germanys-dual-citizenship-reforms-way-overdue-say-immigrants/a-63987066

https://www.iamexpat.de/expat-info/german-expat-news/what-written-germanys-dual-citizenship-draft-law

https://www.ft.com/content/9c3782ef-4ae0-4294-8be5-49d37c4867e1#comments-anchor

https://www.thelocal.de/20221216/explained-who-are-the-people-taking-german-citizenship

British in Germany e.V. is run by volunteers all giving their time and their expertise for free. We therefore value your membership for 15 Euros a year, which goes towards expenses incurred in running the organisation. You can join here.

Driving in Germany

Holders of a British driving licence can drive in Germany if they are visiting temporarily (e.g. on holiday).

If you are resident in Germany and intend to continue driving here, then you need to exchange your UK driving licence for a German one.

UK driving licence holders living in Germany can drive on their valid UK licence for 6 months after moving to Germany. After this time, your UK licence is not valid for driving in Germany.

You can exchange your UK licence for a German one at any time after moving to Germany. The Fahrerlaubnisbehörde” (driver licencing authority) in your local Stadt or Kreis are responsible for exchanging licences.

You do not need to take a theory or practical driving test to exchange your licence. You may need to undergo an eye test or present a medical certificate, depending on your driving licence category.

You cannot use an International Driving Permit (IDP) instead of exchanging your licence.

What do you need to do to exchange your licence?

  1. To apply, contact the “Fahrerlaubnisbehörde” (driver licencing authority) in your local Stadt or Kreis.
  2. You will be charged a fee.
  3. You may need to provide a notarised translation of your UK licence.

What if you return to live in the UK later?
The UK government Living in Germany information confirms that if you return to the UK in future, you can exchange your German driving licence for a UK licence without taking another test: Driving in Germany

Useful resources:
In 2022, the UK was added to the fact sheet  for holders of foreign driving licences from states outside the European Union and the European Economic Area: Driving-licence-provisions-fact-sheet

Information from the UK government about living in Germany and driving licences is here: Driving in Germany

Additional links:
A good and authoritative general source regarding driving licences in Germany is the English-language web page of the German transport ministry: Validity of foreign driving licences in Germany 

If you hold a licence from another EU country, then this should continue to be valid without needing to be exchanged for a German licence. Further information on driving licences in the EU is here: EU-driving-licence-recognition-validity

There is also a German fact sheet for holders of licences from EU and EEA states: Fact-sheet-EU-EEA-driving-licences