What requirements do I have to fulfil for naturalisation?

To be eligible for German citizenship ("Anspruchseinbürgerung"), you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have a permanent residence permit ("Niederlassungserlaubnis") or a residence permit which entitles you to a permanent residence permit.
  • You have been legally residing in Germany for at least eight years.
  • You are not entitled to or receive any benefits from the Jobcentre or the Social Welfare Office.
  • You speak German at level B1 or higher.
  • You have passed the naturalisation test covering the German legal and social order or have a German school-leaving certificate.
  • You have not been convicted of any serious crimes.
  • You declare to the German Naturalisation Office (in writing and verbally) your commitment to the German Basic Law.
  • You have only one spouse.
  • You have a passport or other documents (driver's license, birth certificate or alike) which verify your identity or you can prove that your home country is refusing to issue you any papers.
  • You give up or have lost your previous citizenship. You can read more in this regard in the section "Do I have to give up my former citizenship?".

If you meet all these requirements, in principle, your application must be approved. In exceptional cases, your application may also be approved if you do not meet all the prerequisites- for instance, when the following happens:

  • Sudden unemployment due to compulsory redundancies
  • Inability to work because of childcare or vocational training

In these cases, you can apply for naturalisation despite receiving unemployment benefit II or social assistance. Please note: In general, unemployment benefit I, housing allowance ("Wohngeld"), BAföG or alike are not an obstacle to naturalisation.

Can I become naturalised in less than eight years?

Under certain conditions, you can obtain German citizenship after less than eight years.

  • If you have completed the integration course, you can obtain German citizenship after seven years.
  • If you are very well integrated, e.g. if you speak German very well or have been involved in voluntary work in Germany for many years, you can become naturalised after just six years.
  • You can also become naturalised earlier if you are married to a German citizen. You can read more in this regard in the section "I have a German spouse. Are there special rules which apply to me? "

Please note: Asylum seekers, recognised refugees and stateless individuals can apply for naturalisation by approval of the authorities ("Ermessenseinbürgerung") after six years in Germany. For more information on "Ermessenseinbürgerung", read the section "I do not meet the requirements - can I still become naturalised?".

Is the duration of my asylum procedure or my student years also included?

If you have been recognised as a refugee or asylum seeker, the months (or years) of your asylum procedure are also counted in the eight (or six or seven) years of the minimum residency required for naturalisation. The same applies to people with subsidiary protection.

In principle, the years you have spent in Germany with a student visa are also counted in every federal state but Bavaria: The Bavarian authorities do not recognise the years you spend in Germany with a student visa. In that case, you either have to wait or apply for an "Ermessenseinbürgerung".

I do not have a language certificate - what can I do?

If you do not have a certificate from a German course, you can also verify your language skills by proving that you have successfully attended a German school or by presenting a degree you have obtained in Germany. To do so, providing a document which proves one of the following suffices:

  • You have attended a German school for at least four years.
  • You have a "Hauptschulabschluss", a "Realschulabschluss" or an abitur from a German school.
  • You are currently attending (at least) the 10th Class of a secondary German-language school.
  • You have completed a vocational training programme in German.
  • You have obtained a degree in a university programme in German language.

If you do not have any of the documets mentioned above, you will usually have to pass a language test and submit the certificate. You can do the test at any language school.

Please note: If you do not speak German well enough due to a chronic illness or disability or because of old age, the naturalisation authorities may approve your request without proof of language proficiency. If this is the case, you must provide medical records as proof.

Do I have to give up my former citizenship?

In principle, you have to give up your former citizenship. For asylum seekers and recognised refugees, however, dual citizenship is usually accepted. If that is the case, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees will check whether the persecution still endures in your home country. If so, you do not have to give up your former citizenship.

How do I give up my former citizenship?

After the Naturalisation Office confirms that you meet the requirements, you will receive a so-called "naturalisation assurance" ("Einbürgerungszusicherung"). With this document, you must apply (to the relevant authorities of your country of origin) to be released from the citizenship of your home country. Once accepted, you will receive a confirmation which you must submit to the Naturalisation Office ("Einbürgerungsbehörde"). Then you will be naturalised.

If your home country refuses your application, contact your local Naturalisation Office in Germany.

Please note: In some countries, you automatically lose your citizenship when you acquire a new nationality. In this case, you do not have to apply separately.

I was convicted of a crime- Can I still become naturalised?

If you have been convicted of a serious crime, you will not have a chance of naturalisation. After a certain period, however, such offences are usually deleted from the criminal record. After deletion, you can be naturalised if you meet all other requirements.

If you have been convicted of a small offence, however, you can still be naturalised. If you have received one of the following penalties, you can still apply for German citizenship immediately, i.e. you do not need to wait for deletion of the records:

  • Monetary fine up to 90 days of your personal income.
  • Imprisonment up to three months, but only in case the sentence was on probation and has been waivered after the probation period so that you actually have not not be imprisoned.
  • Disciplinary measures for juvenile delinquents (e.g., anti-aggression training) or means of correction (e.g., a warning or detention of juvenile delinquents) under the Juvenile Court Act.

Do I have to take the naturalisation test?

If you passed the exam at the end of the orientation course/integration course or if you have a German school-leaving qualification, you do not have to take the naturalisation test. For all others, passing the naturalisation test is a prerequisite for naturalisation. People with a severe illness or disability and the elderly are the only exceptions. In these cases, you must present a medical certificate as proof.

If you need to pass the naturalisation test, you can either attend a naturalisation course or prepare yourself for the test independently. In the test, you have to answer questions about German history, culture and legal system. On the online test centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), you can prepare for the naturalisation test and also complete a sample test.

You can contact your local Naturalisation Office ("Einbürgerungsbehörde") to learn where and when the test takes place. In addition, you will find a list of all the test centres which give the test in your state on bamf.de. If you would like to take a course, the Migration Counselling Office or a Youth Migration Service in your area can suggest some schools nearby.

I do not meet the requirements - can I still become a German citizen?

If you do not meet the "eligibility requirements" ("Anspruchseinbürgerung") mentioned above, you can apply for a "naturalisation by approval of the authorities" ("Ermessenseinbürgerung"), but whether one becomes a German citizen as a result is a case by case decision made by the authorities. In the case of an "Ermessenseinbürgerung", the Naturalisation Office can give you German citizenship, but they do not have to. A favourable decision is usually made when there is a public interest in your naturalisation. However, certain conditions must be met for "Ermessenseinbürgerung":

  • You must not have been convicted of a serious offence.
  • You must be legally residing in Germany.
  • You have an apartment or some other form of accommodation.
  • You can earn a living or own assets and can provide for yourself (and your family).
  • You have only one spouse.
  • You have a passport or other documents (driver's license, birth certificate or alike) which verify your identity or you can prove that your home country is refusing to issue you any papers.

If you do not meet these requirements, naturalisation is only possible in absolute exceptional cases, for instance, when you have severe disease or disability or are unable to work because of old age. In such cases, talk to the staff of your local Naturalisation Office. You can read more in this regard in the section "Where and how can I apply for naturalisation?".

I have a German spouse. Are there special rules which apply to me?

Individuals who are married to a German citizen can be naturalised sooner than other foreign citizens. For such early naturalisation, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have been legally residing in Germany for at least three years.
  • You must have been married to a German citizen for at least two years.
  • You must have a valid passport or passport substitute.
  • You must have accommodation.
  • You must not be entitled to or receive any benefits from the Jobcentre or Social Welfare Office.
  • You must speak German at level B1 or higher.
  • You must have passed the naturalisation test covering the German legal and social order or have a German school-leaving certificate.
  • You must not have been convicted of a serious crime.
  • You must declare your commitment to the German Basic Law before the Naturalisation Office verbally and in writing.
  • You must have given up or lost your previous citizenship. You can read more in this regard in the section "Do I have to give up my former citizenship?".

Please note: If your spouse is a national of another EU country, such regulation does not apply to you.

Where and how can I apply for naturalisation?

The office responsible for naturalisation varies from state to state. To find the appropriate authority seek advice from the District Office ("Bezirksamt"), the city administration or the Immigration Office. You can also ask the Migration Counselling Office or Youth Migration Service in your city for the correct address. You can even use Google to find the appropriate office by searching for the name of your town and the term "Einbürgerung".

You will find an application form for naturalisation at the competent Naturalisation Office. This form can be obtained either on-site or online at the Naturalisation Office's website. Before you submit your application, you should seek advice from the staff at the Naturalisation Office. The staff can tell you exactly what documents you need to submit along with the application.

Please note: You are only allowed to apply if you are older than 16. If you are under the age of 16, a parent or guardian must apply on your behalf.

How much does a naturalisation application cost?

When applying, you have to pay 255 euro. If you are also applying for your children, currently you have to pay 51 euro per child. In exceptional cases, this fee can be reduced. That may be the case, for instance, for a family with several children or those who do not earn much.

Can I lose my German citizenship later?

In principle, your German citizenship can only be revoked (against your will) if its loss does not result in you becoming stateless. You can lose German citizenship if one of the following scenarios apply to you:

  • You renounce your German citizenship.
  • A foreign citizen adopts you.
  • You are also a citizen of another state and join the armed forces of (or a militant organisation controlled by) that state voluntarily and without the consent of the German authorities. 
  • You acquire a different nationality and have not applied for the retention of your  German citizenship at the Naturalisation Office- or your application for retention is rejected.

Please note: If you have lost your German citizenship and do not have any other European citizenship, you will need a residence permit for staying in Germany.