Times change and so do people’s preferences. Every dawn of morning marks a new beginning, bringing with it newer choices and a renewed vigour. What once seemed to be the inevitable destination(s) to settle down may not however be so today. People have become more daring and are ready to take a leap of faith. They are willing to go out beyond the horizon, to explore and settle down in places which were unheard of in the past. The good old US and UK charm is slowly beginning to recede away. It was a bygone era when people’s thinking of going abroad was limited solely to either the UK or the US; the tried and tested spots. The new generation is more daring and enterprising, and makes smarter choices. It so happened, while reading the newspaper one fine morning I stumbled upon an article, which, I must say, got me hooked. It was about the benefits of holding a German passport. After reading it, I told myself firm and loud, if I am in Germany, I better be one of the Germans. So now for me, no more drooling over any other foreign passport. And here’s why I made up my mind about getting a German passport.
The German citizenship offers you the same inalienable rights as your natural German counterpart irrespective of how you acquired the citizenship, some of the many rights you enjoy are-
- the right to vote
- basic constitutional rights, like, freedom of assembly and association
- consular protection
- free movement across the EU
- exemption from certain visa requirements
- easy access to health, pension and unemployment benefits
- financial support for higher studies in public institutes.
- entitled to a work permit.
- eligible to become a civil servant
- shorter waiting period of three years for non-German spouse to apply for citizenship.
This list is even more enticing than a love letter and I can keep on looking at it for hours. But the vital question is, how to get German citizenship? Well, there are no short cuts to getting a citizenship of any country worth living, and Germany is no exception. Patience, determination and will power, will eventually lead you to your destination. Citizenship will happen, but within a stipulated time and a set of criteria need to fulfilled. During the intervening period, there will come trials, but you must hold on firmly.
On a lighter note, you don’t essentially have to shrug your shoulders while conversing, and simultaneously let out a blow of air from your mouth in a ‘phhuuu’ to become German. That was a joke by the way. Let’s hit the key points we need to consider for German citizenship. If you have been permanently residing in Germany for eight years, you are qualified to be a German citizen once you meet the required terms and conditions. Being a German citizen not only means that you are fully integrated or accepted in the German society but you are also granted the same rights and legal status, as other German nationals. Before you gain German citizenship, you must give up your former nationality with a few exceptions. Refugees, ethnic German re settlers or exiled persons of German origin along with their families who have been given shelter in Germany unquestionably become German.
The answer to the question of ‘how to become a German citizen’ has been broadly divided into the following categories-
German citizenship through naturalization
A foreigner or a stateless person can acquire German citizenship through naturalization. The process begins upon presentation of a naturalization certificate and involves an administrative order. To be naturalized, the applicants are required to take an hour-long naturalization test which is called Leben im Deutschland. The test covers the legal and social aspects of life in Germany. It has 33 multiple choice questions and you must score at least 17 out of 33 to get the certificate. A person is entitled to be naturalized in accordance with §10 of the German citizenship Act (StAG) after meeting all the needed requirements. If you are the spouse or registered same sex partner of a German citizen, your naturalization is governed by § 9 of the German citizenship Act. Sometimes, you might not fulfil all the needed criteria and yet be granted naturalization based upon discretion according to § 8 of StAG if it could be proven that your naturalization would be in the public interest. Besides, you are expected to meet certain basic requirements which are essentially uniform for all kinds of naturalization-
- have permanent residency at the time of naturalisation.
- been permanently and lawfully living in Germany for eight years (exceptions- seven years if you attended an integration course and six years in case of special integration like volunteer work etc.)
- self-sustaining and able to support your dependents without seeking any social welfare or unemployment benefits.
- sufficient spoken and written German language skills or holding DTZ Zertifikat (Deutsch test für Zuwanderer or German test for immigrant’s certificate equivalent to B1 level)
- have no past criminal record.
- allegiance to the constitutional principles of freedom and democracy with no evidence of anti-constitutional or extremist acts in the past or present.
However, not all are required to take the naturalization test. The exempted ones are:
- those below the age of 16
- those who have graduated from a German school or have higher German education in law, social, political or administrative fields
- those with serious health issues or disability or old age
Naturalization, however, is only performed on request.
German citizenship by marriage
All those who think marrying a German national is your lottery ticket to gaining German citizenship, think again! Section 9 of the Nationality Act permits spouses or registered same sex partners of German citizens to apply for German citizenship only after completion of three years of permanent residence in Germany. But they must have been married for at least two years at the time of application. However, if you get married after arriving in Germany, the process for citizenship will take longer. In addition, the general requirements for naturalization too apply here.
German citizenship by birth
A child becomes German through birth if at least one parent holds German citizenship. A child born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents automatically gets German citizenship if at least one parent has a permanent residence permit, and has been residing in Germany for at least eight years or a Swiss citizen. However, a child born to German parent (s) abroad doesn’t acquire German citizenship if the German parent (s) themselves were born abroad on or after January1, 2000, and continue living outside Germany unless it means, the child would be stateless or if the birth is registered with a German embassy or consulate within one year. If the biological father of the child is German and the child is born out of wedlock, acknowledgment or legal establishment of paternity is required before the child turns 23 to claim German citizenship. The citizenship of the other parent doesn’t matter as concerns the German citizenship. This suggests that any child born to one non-German parent or to a parent holding dual nationality usually acquires the foreign citizenship of the other parent by birth thus carrying multiple nationality. But only temporarily unless you meet the requirements of dual citizenship. If you do not meet the criteria, then children who hold one or more nationalities through their parents must decide between the ages 18-23 whether they desire German citizenship.
It is expected once you get German citizenship you cede your original nationality. However, German law allows certain people to hold two citizenships upon fulfilment of following terms and conditions-
- children who have one German and one foreign parent, or a parent holding two citizenships naturally acquire parents’ citizenships by the principle of descent.
- children with Optionspflicht can temporarily hold multiple nationalities, but they must choose whether to retain German citizenship between the ages of 18 and 23.
- children born to immigrants are permitted to hold two passports according to the new law, if they meet the criteria listed below-
*must have been raised in Germany, more precisely by the time they turn 21 they must have lived for eight years in Germany, even if they weren’t born here.
*attended a German school for at least six years or must have completed some vocational training.
*a school diploma or a training certificate is needed as a proof.
The law concerns only those born after 1990 and those who fail to meet any of the above requirements must opt for a single citizenship.
- as per Section 7 of the German Citizenship Act ethnic German re settlers and their families (that come along) do not have to renounce their previous citizenship on getting German citizenship.
- Germans who take up the citizenship of any other EU country or Switzerland do not lose their German citizenship according to Section 25 of StAG.
- those from EU member states, Switzerland or former Soviet Union, do not have to surrender their former nationality.
- people from countries like Algeria, Iran, several Latin American countries among others which do not annul the citizenship of their emigrants.
Holding dual citizenship doesn’t give you an edge over other citizens nor does it undermine your rights and duties. You are totally on a par with other citizens and won’t be treated any differently. However, if you prefer to live in your home country (or any other country apart from Germany where you hold corresponding citizenship), in such a case, you will lose your right over consular protection. The other country will treat you as its citizen and their services will apply on you.
Applying for German citizenship-
1) Parents of under 16 children can apply on their behalf. Those aged 16 and above should apply themselves.
2)Depending upon your based location you will get an application from your local immigration office, youth migration service or the town council or local authority. Your local citizenship authority will provide you the needed information.
3) In case you are outside Germany when applying for German citizenship, in that case you should consult German Embassy/Consulate.
Who is prone to losing German citizenship?
German citizenship can only and only be declared null and void under certain unavoidable conditions approved by the Constitution. According to the German citizenship Act, German citizenship is revoked in the following cases-
- If you acquire a foreign nationality while holding German citizenship (except the nationality of one of the EU States or Switzerland) you automatically lose your German citizenship.
- If the other state has agreed to granting citizenship, then German citizenship is revoked upon request.
- In case of adoption by a foreigner resulting in their citizenship being acquired.
- Cancelation of naturalization obtained through fraudulent means like bribery, incorrect information or deception.
- If the person who has been offered Optionspflicht declares that they do not wish to retain their German citizenship or fail to submit a declaration.
- If a conscript voluntarily joins the armed forces of another country whose citizenship they hold as well without the approval of the district board.
Losing German citizenship means losing all the rights and duties which were previously conferred upon you like the other German citizens. You will legally be treated as a foreigner.
As reported by The Telegraph, German citizens possess the world’s most powerful passport according to an annual survey. Both the UK and the US passports, have slipped down in global rankings. The ranking by Henley and Partners, a citizenship and planning firm takes into consideration the number of visa free countries which can be travelled anytime of the year. With German Passport one can easily travel to 177 countries out of a possible 218. Isn’t that stupendous!! Britons can visit 175 and the US folks 174.
Settling down in Germany is not easy, nevertheless, once you start living here it just grows on you. From the moment, you decide- “I am settling down in Germany, period”, you realize you have a gold trophy ahead of you but to lift it up you must get past the language barrier. Ahhh!!! The not so friendly German language. But I kid you not, once you learn the language, Germany becomes the best abode. Once the awkwardness, that comes along with the lack of communication, is gone, trust me, Germany becomes far too riveting. My stance on the topic of citizenship is as steady as can be. After all, it is the law of nature- all that fascinates doesn’t come easy but through struggle. So, that years later when you look back at your life, you are proud of your choices. At the end of the day, what we all want is; stability, security and satisfaction in our lives, and Germany is worth striving for.