If you are a student or are working in Germany, you may be considering the possibility of getting a German citizenship. This would allow you to be more fully integrated into German society and would give you access to the legal status and same rights as other Germans. 

Here is everything you need to know about how to get German citizenship

To keep things simple, there are 3 sections:

  • Who can apply?
  • Requirements for becoming a German Citizen through Naturalization
  • How to Apply for German Citizenship.

Section 1:

Who can apply for German citizenship?

  • EU, EEA or Swiss citizens

Fortunately, if you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you won’t need to apply for citizenship as the Freedom of Movement Act allows you to live in any Schengen country for as long as you’d like.

  • Other permit holders

The option of permanent residency has been attractive for people who have adequate German skills, can support themselves financially, have health insurance and have no criminal record.

Those who qualify:

  • “Highly qualified” immigrants, such as instructors, scientists or researchers, who have firm job offers, receive immediate permanent residence.
  • People who have lived in Germany under a limited residence permit like a work permit can apply for permanent EC residence.

Some opt for a settlement permit which can sometimes be obtained in less than 5 years but does not give you flexibility to move around the EU in the same way. Students from German Universities can apply two years after graduation, some EU Blue Card holders can also apply and self-employed people with a successfully established business can also apply within three years for this permit.

The bottom line:
If you have held a permanent residency for the last eight years, you can apply for German Citizenship.

Section 2:

Requirements for becoming a German citizen through Naturalization

Becoming a German citizen means that you are making a commitment to integrating into German society and benefiting from all the rights and privileges Germans citizens have.

In most cases, you will be required to:

  • relinquish your current passport,
  • brush up on your general knowledge skills pertaining to social and legal aspects of living in Germany
  • and pass a one hour naturalization test

Requirements to apply for German Citizenship:

You must have:

  • been permanently and lawfully residing in Germany for eight years (this can be reduced to seven or six if you have taken an integration course or have special integration circumstances)
  • at the time of naturalization have right of residence
  • can support yourself and any dependants without the assistance of unemployment benefits or welfare
    support constitutional principles of democracy and freedom
  • have no criminal convictions
  • have sufficient written and oral German language skills measured to level B1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

Discretionary naturalisation can be offered in cases where even if you do not fulfil all the requirements you can show that naturalisation would beneficial to the public.

German language skills are important if you want to be naturalized as it plays a big role in your integration into German society. These are 3 ways to demonstrate adequate language skills:

  • Having a Zertifikat Deutsch (or other equivalent language certificate)
  • Having a high school certificate or university diploma from a German education institution
  • Taking an integration class and receiving a certificate for the ‘DTZ – German test for immigrants’ to show that your German skills are adequate
  • The integration course is a good idea because it covers many of the topics that are found on the naturalisation test. You can find the nearest venue for courses here.

Is it possible to be exempt from taking the naturalization test?
When it comes to taking the naturalisation test, an exemption is possible if:

  • you are unable to meet testing requirements due to age, disability or illness
  • you are a graduate from a German school or have German higher education in law, social, political or administrative sciences
  • you are under 16

To get German citizenship, do I have to give up my former nationality?
Generally speaking, yes. You would be allowed to keep your former Nationality are if:

  • your parents are from the US
  • you are from the former Soviet Union or from an EU member state
  • you are from a country that does not allow citizens to relinquish their citizenship like Morocco, Syria or Iran, in which case you will require dual citizenship

Does marrying a German national automatically entitle me to German citizenship?
No. In order to become a German citizen in this case you have to meet certain criteria, including being married for two years and legally residing in Germany for 3 years. The process involved in attaining citizenship can take longer if you get married after arriving in Germany.

Are all children born in Germany automatically German Citizens?
No. Children born to at least one German parent, even outside the country, are eligible for German citizenship.
Children born inside of Germany to non-German parents – on or after January 1st 2000 – can obtain citizenship under certain circumstances. At least one parent must have permanent right of residency and have lived in the country regularly and legally for at least eight years.

Section 3

How to apply for German citizenship

Parents can make an application for children who are younger than 16, and those aged 16 or older can submit their own application.

Depending on where you live, you’ll need to get an application form from:

  • your local immigration office
  • youth migration service or the town council or local authority
  • city council
  • regional district office (if you live in an administrative district in Germany)
  • city council (If you are located in an urban municipality)

To find out which authority handles the citizenship process in your area, you can ask your local advice office, regional advice office or local foreign affairs office. The information and documents that are required for your specific case will be provided by your local citizenship authority.

Tip: Make an appointment for an advice session with the authority, prior to submitting your application. To get detailed information on naturalization in Germany, click here.

If you are applying for German citizenship while you are abroad, you need to seek advice from your local German embassy or mission.

Preparing for the German naturalisation test

The best way to prepare for the naturalisation test is by using the government’s Online Test Centre. You can also check with your local naturalization authority about Federal Länder naturalisation courses to help you prepare. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) has more information about the test including how to prepare, free online tests, and where to take it.

More about the German naturalisation test:

  • You have one hour to answer 33 multiple choice questions and you have to answer at least 17 questions correctly to pass the test (you can re-sit if you do not pass)
  • Topics covered include: ‘Living in a democracy’, ‘History and responsibility’ and ‘People in society’ as well as some specific questions about the particular state in which you live
  • The local naturalisation office in your area will tell you where your nearest test centre is so you can register
  • The cost of the test is EUR 25
  • When you pass, you will get a certificate which you can present to the naturalisation authorities

German citizenship costs

German settlement permits cost around EUR 260. The cost to acquire citizenship via naturalisation is EUR 225 (or EUR 51 for accompanying children). You may benefit from a lower fee or payment in instalments if you are a low-income earner or have a large family. Fees can be lower for citizenship via marriage or birth.

Dual citizenship

While most nationalities must give up their nationality in order to get German citizenship, German law does permit certain people to hold two citizenships if:

  • Children with a parent who has two citizenships, or has one German and one foreign parent will automatically acquire all the citizenships their parents have.
  • You are a re-settler of ethnic German descent. You and your family members (admitted along with you) can keep your previous citizenship when acquiring German citizenship.
  • You are a German who acquires citizenship of another EU country or Switzerland. You get to keep your German citizenship.
  • Children who acquire German citizenship by right of being born in Germany or through naturalisation and who have dual citizenship must decide by age 23 whether to keep their German citizenship or give preference to the other citizenship.
  • If you carry dual citizenship, you are viewed as a German citizen by German law and have the same rights as any German citizen. You will lose your right to claim German consular protection if you chose to live in your home country (or any country where you hold citizenship). In this case, you will be viewed by your home country as one of its citizens and their services apply.

So, there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about Getting German citizenship in a nutshell. You now have all the information you need to make an application with confidence, if you decide that German Citizenship is for you!