Does my German-born child get German citizenship?

A German-born child will be considered a German citizen at birth if at the time of delivery (at least) one parent has German nationality or has been legally residing in Germany for (at least) eight years and holds a permanent residence permit ("Niederlassungserlaubnis"). "Legal" in this context means that you (or the other parent) have always had a residence permit throughout eight years of stay. Your stay during your asylum procedure is also considered “lagal” if your asylum application is accepted at the end of the process.

Along with German citizenship, your child can also have the citizenship of your home country. 

Please note: If you are not married and only the child's father has German citizenship (or has been legally residing in Germany for at least eight years and has a permanent residence permit), the father must officially recognise paternity so that the child can obtain German citizenship. Learn more about paternity recognition in the section "What is paternity recognition?".

If neither parents meet the requirements mentioned above, the child will not automatically obtain German citizenship, but you can have your child naturalised later.

Important: For children of stateless parents, there are particular requirements for acquiring German citizenship:

  • The child must be stateless from birth.
  • The child must have been born in Germany or on board of a German plane or ship.
  • The child must be legally residing in Germany for at least five years.
  • The child must not have been sentenced to more than five years' of imprisonment.
  • The child must apply for naturalisation before his/her 21st birthday.

Does my German-born child receive a residence permit?

Whether a German-born child is issued a residence permit depends on the residence status of the parents.

If a parent is already recognised as an individual entitled to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection, his/her German-born child will have two options:

1. If you can obtain a passport for your child from your home country or have your child’s name added to your passport, your child can obtain a residence permit according to §33 of Residence Act. To apply for the residence permit, you must go to your local Immigration Office and present your residence permit and the child's passport and birth certificate. Please note that as a recognised refugee or asylum seeker, you are not allowed to visit your home country's embassy or travel to your home country. You can find more detailed information about birth certificates in our chapter "Pregnancy".

2.  You can apply for asylum on your child's behalf. To do so, you must send an informal letter to the BAMF in Nuremberg (BAMF, Unit 716, Frankenstraße 210, 90461 Nuremberg) indicating that you would like to apply for asylum for your German-born child. The letter must be accompanied by your personal data and your BAMF file reference number and a copy of the child's birth certificate. In principle, the child will be granted the same status as you- so if you, for instance, are recognised as a refugee, your child will also be recognised as a refugee. As soon as the BAMF decides on your child's asylum application, you will receive a letter. You must then go to the Immigration Office responsible for you and present the mentioned letter along with your police registration notice, your child’s birth certificate, and a passport photo of him/her.

An asylum procedure will be automatically initiated for your newborn child if your asylum procedure is ongoing or your application has been rejected or in case you have been granted a residence permit due to a  national ban on deportation or "Abschiebungsverbot" (§25 Paragraph 5 Residence Act). Then, the child will be granted a temporary residence permit ("Aufenthaltsgestattung"). To initiate the asylum procedure, you must inform the Immigration Office about the childbirth by presenting them the birth certificate or the register extract from the Civil Registry Office ("Standesamt"). You can find more detailed information about birth certificates in our chapter "Pregnancy". The Immigration Office, then, informs the BAMF. Once the asylum procedure has been initiated for your child, you will be notified in writing. You will then be asked if you would like to cancel your child's asylum procedure. It is best to seek advice from a counselling centre or lawyer before replying, as this can be a tricky decision to make. The reason is that if your own asylum application is rejected, your child's asylum application is also likely to be rejected. However, your child's application will not be simply rejected ("einfache Ablehnung"), but will be dismissed as obviously unfounded ("Ablehnung als offensichtlich unbegründet"). Rejection as obviously unfounded has serious consequences for the designated departure deadline and any possible re-entry. You can read more about different types of rejection in our chapter "Rejected Asylum". You can find a counselling centre in your area on proasyl.de. To find a lawyer nearby visit rechtsberaterkonferenz.de. If you do not carry out an asylum procedure for your child, your child will be granted a tolerated stay permit or "Duldung".

Please note: If you have a tolerated stay permit or "Duldung", your child will be granted one as well.

Can I obtain a residence permit if my child has German nationality?

If you have a child with German nationality, you can obtain a residence permit for the family reunification or "Familiennachzug zu Deutschen" (§28 paragraph 1, sentence 1, no. 3 Residence Act). You can obtain this type of residence permit even if you are already in Germany. The prerequisite is that you actually take care of the child, which you can prove by presenting a declaration of joint parental custody ("gemeinsame Sorgerechterklärung"). Having such a document means you share the custody of your child with your partner. The one who has custody rights is responsible for taking care of the child. He/she decides, e.g. which kindergarten or school the child attends, with whom the child interacts and where he/she lives. When the parents have had a civil marriage, however, they both automatically hold joint custody of their children. Otherwise, the mother has sole custody. If the mother wishes to share custody rights with the child's father, both parents must hand in a so-called "custody statement" ("Sorgerechtserklärung") to the appropriate Youth Welfare Office. You can find the Youth Welfare Office responsible for you on jugendaemter.de. In addition to "custody statement" ("Sorgerechtserklärung"), you will also need to present the following documents when applying for a residence permit:

  • A valid passport
  • The birth certificate of the child in which your name is indicated as mother/father (Learn more about how to obtain a birth certificate in our chapter "Pregnancy".)
  • A statement from the other parent or other evidence that proves you are actually taking care of the child (in case you and your child are not living under the same roof).

You do not have to prove that your livelihood is secure; which means you can obtain a residence permit even if you receive benefits from the Jobcentre or the Social Welfare Office.

Please note: To obtain a residence permit in the framework mentioned above, you must not have been issued an "Aufenthaltsverbot" or residence ban (e.g. due to a previous deportation).

After three years of living in Germany with such a residence permit, you can apply for a permanent residence permit according to §28 paragraph Residence Act. The prerequisite of obtaining a permanent residence permit is that you continue to look after the child and can prove that you have a basic knowledge of the German language.

If you do not fulfil the requirements specified in §28 Residence Act- e.g. because you do not have custody of your child- you can obtain a residence permit according to § 25 paragraph 5 Residence Act. To do so, however, you must also meet some requirements. You can read more in our chapter Tolerated Stay Permit (“Duldung”), section "Residence permit for humanitarian reasons".

Can I obtain a residence permit if I have a child with a residence permit?

If your child has a residence permit through the other parent, you may also obtain a residence permit; but whether you succeed depends on the specifics of your case. Seek advice from a counselling centre or a lawyer to learn more about your chances. You can find a counselling centre nearby, for instance, on Pro Asyl’s website. To find a lawyer in your area, visit www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de.

The basic requirement for obtaining a residence permit as a result of your child's residence permit is that you take care of the child. As a father, you must also have recognised paternity and have signed a declaration of joint parental custody. Having such a document means you share the custody of your child with your partner. A parent with costudy rights is responsible for taking care of the child. He/she decides, e.g. which kindergarten or school the child attends, with whom the child interacts and where he/she lives. When the parents have had a civil marriage, they both automatically hold joint custody of their child. Otherwise, the mother has sole custody. If she wishes to share custody rights with the child's father, both parents must hand in a so-called "custody statement" ("Sorgerechtserklärung") to the appropriate Youth Welfare Office. Read more about paternity recognition in our chapter "Pregnancy".

Please note: If your minor child has been recognised as a refugee or asylum seeker, the family reunification regulations apply to you. Find out more in our chapter "Family reunification".

What does paternity recognition ("Vaterschaftsanerkennung") mean?

If you are not married, the child's father can acknowledge paternity, i.e. officially accept the child as his biological child. Only when the father recognises paternity is he obliged to provide maintenance and only then can the child have the citizenship of the father. To recognise paternity, the child's parents must go to the Youth Welfare Office of their place of residence together. The paternity recognition service is free of charge. The mother has to bring along her "Mutterpass", ID card and birth certificate. The father also has to present his ID card and birth certificate. Foreign birth certificates must have been translated by a certified interpreter. If you are trying to go through paternity recognition after childbirth, you must also present your child's birth certificate. Without the required documents, paternity recognition is usually not possible. If that is the case, seek advice from a counselling centre or a lawyer. You can find a counselling centre nearby on Pro Asyl's website. To find a lawyer who specialises in refugees' and asylum seekers' issues, visit www.rechtsberaterkonferenz.de.

Please note: The Youth Welfare Office can report your application for paternity recognition to the Immigration Office if they suspect that you only recognise the paternity to obtain a residence permit for yourself, the mother of the child or the child. The Immigration Office will then check your case- but they can only do so if you are not the biological father of the child. Seek advice from a counselling centre or lawyer if the Immigration Office is investigating your case.

What can I do when the father does not recognise paternity?

If the father of the child does not want to recognise the paternity, you can apply to the Family Court for determination of paternity ("Antrag auf Feststellung der Vaterschaft"). The Family Court will then order a "paternity test" ("Vaterschaftstest"). A paternity test compares the DNA of the alleged father and the child to prove whether he is the child's biological father. You can find the Family Court responsible for you on gerichtsverzeichnis.de.