Naturalisation

Einbürgerung
Update 11.06.2024

Can I become a German citizen?

The new Naturalisation Act has been passed. It comes into force on 27 June 2024. 

Many people who come to Germany think about applying for German citizenship eventually. With German citizenship, you can vote and also run for political office in Germany. Furthermore, you will be able to benefit from freedom of movement within the EU and can live and work in other countries in the European Union without a residence permit. With a German passport, you can also travel to many countries without a visa. Inside Germany, having German citizenship saves you from some administrative obligations, as you no longer have to go to the Immigration Office.

If your parents are German citizens or if you were born in Germany (provided your parents meet specific requirements), you will be automatically granted German citizenship. You will learn more in our chapter "Born in Germany". You can also obtain German citizenship without being born here or having parents who are German citizens. To do so, you need to go through a process called naturalisation ("Einbürgerung").

What do I need to know?

What requirements do I have to fulfil for naturalisation?

You must meet the following requirements to be eligible for German citizenship ("Anspruchseinbürgerung").

General requirements + innovations valid from 27 June 2024:

  • 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 8 yearsFrom 27 June 2024: You have been living legally in Germany for at least 5 years.
  • You are not entitled to or receive any benefits from the Jobcenter or the Social Welfare Office.

    From 27 June 2024, the people mentioned below will not have to prove they can secure their own livelihoods when applying for naturalisation, thanks to the new ‘hardship clause’ (“Härtefallregelung”):

    Former guest workers and contract workers can be naturalised under certain conditions without having to prove they can independently secure their livelihoods. This also applies to their spouses who came to Germany during the same period– but it is important that spouses do not claim any social benefits (e.g. “Bürgergeld”) as they must be able to secure their livelihood to get naturalised. 

    Persons in full-time employment also do not have to prove they can secure their own livelihood if they have worked full-time for at least 20 months in the last 24 months.

    Spouses of full-time employees are also favoured by the regulation– if you live together with your spouse (or registered partner) who works full-time and a child, you do not have to show you can provide for your own living expenses.

    People who look after children

  • 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 in writing and orally to the naturalisation authority your commitment to the German Basic Law and the free and democratic basic order. From 27 June 2024: You also acknowledge Germany's responsibility for the Holocaust, in particular for the protection of Jewish life (Section 10 (1) sentence 1 no. 1a Naturalisation Act).
  • You have only one spouse.
  • You have a passport or other documents (driving licence, birth certificate and such) 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/ From 27 June 2024, you do not have to give up your previous nationality. You can read more about this 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 "Bürgergeld" 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 8 years?

Under certain conditions, you can obtain German citizenship after less than 8 yearsfrom 27 June 2024 naturalise after less than 5 years:

 

  • If you have completed the integration course, you can obtain German citizenship after 7 years, if all other requirements are met / From 27 June 2024: If you have successfully completed the integration course, you can be naturalised after a maximum of 5 years.

  • If you are considered “particularly well integrated”, e.g. if you speak German very well or have been involved in voluntary work in Germany for several years, you can become naturalised after 6 yearsFrom 27 June 2024: If you are ‘particularly well integrated’, e.g. speak German very well or have been involved in voluntary work for several years, you can apply for naturalisation after 3 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? "

  • If you apply for naturalisation at the same time as your family (spouse and, if applicable, children), you will have a shorter wait. 

Please note: Asylum seekers, recognised refugees and so-called “stateless individuals” can apply for naturalisation by approval of the authorities ("Ermessenseinbürgerung") after 6 years in Germany. For more information on "Ermessenseinbürgerung", read the section "I do not meet the requirements - can I still be 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 8 (or rather 6 or 7) years of minimum residency required for naturalisation. The same applies to people with subsidiary protection.

From 27 June 2024: The months or years of your asylum procedure will be included in the 5 (or 3) years minimum stay if you have been recognised as a refugee or person entitled to asylum. The same applies to people with subsidiary protection. 

In principle, half the years you have spent in Germany with a student visa are also counted.

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

If you do not have a German language certificate, 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, hand in a document which proves one of the following:

  • 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 university degree in the German language.

If you do not have any of the documents 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, disability or 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.

From 27 June 2024: Former guest workers and contract workers who have been living in Germany for decades do not have to provide written proof of their German skills. It should be sufficient for them to be able to communicate orally in everyday life without major problems. It’s worth remembering that when they came to Germany, there were no language courses available, and most of them had a difficult start as migrant workers.

Do I have to give up my current 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 other citizenship.

From 27 June 2024:

When the new naturalisation law comes into effect, you do not have to give up your other nationality (or nationalities). However, please consider the nationality laws of the other country of which you count as a citizen to make sure they allow the holding of 2 or more nationalities. 

Good to know: There are also countries where it is not possible to renounce your nationality. According to the current legal situation, people from these countries cannot give back their nationality: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Lebanon, Maldives, Morocco, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay.

 

How do I give up my current 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 old citizenship when you acquire a new nationality. In this case, you do not have to apply for renunciation of your previous citizenship separately.

There are also countries where it is not possible to give up citizenship. According to the current legal situation, people from these countries cannot give back their citizenship: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Eritrea, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Cuba, Lebanon, Maldives, Morocco, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay (as of June 2024).

From 27 June 2024: With the entry into force of the new Naturalisation Act, dual nationality or multiple nationality will be generally permitted in Germany. If the country of which you currently are a citizen also allows it, you do not have to renounce your former nationality.

Good to know: With the new Naturalisation Act, you can also take back your former citizenship if you had to give it up for German citizenship. You can then have dual nationality or multiple nationality. Please note: The state whose citizenship you have given up must allow you to become a citizen again, as you need the former state’s permission for it.

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 the 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 been 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?

You do not have to take the naturalisation test if you: 

  • passed the exam at the end of the orientation course/integration course, 
  • have a German school-leaving qualification or 
  • have successfully completed a course of study in law, social sciences, political sciences, or administrative sciences at a German university. 

Tip: The integration course consists of an orientation course and a language course. The test at the end of the orientation course is called ‘Leben in Deutschland’. You can prepare for the test with the VHS orientation course test trainer.

For everyone else, passing the naturalisation test is a prerequisite for naturalisation. Exceptions are made only for people with a severe illness or disability or for the elderly. 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 personally. The test contains 33 questions. You must answer at least 17 of the 33 questions correctly to pass the test. 30 questions relate to general topics such as history, politics, society and culture in Germany. The other 3 questions have to do with the federal state in which you live. On the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees's (BAMF) online test centre, 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 can suggest some schools nearby.

From 27 June 2024, certain naturalisation applicants will be exempt from passing the naturalisation test; that is, the so-called “guest worker generation”, who have lived in Germany for many decades. In recognition of their contributions, the naturalisation test will no longer be held for them in future, and only an oral language test will be conducted.

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 a flat 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 (driving licence, 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 exceptional cases, for instance, when you have a 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.

Good to know: Some federal states have digitised the application process for naturalisation. This means that you can/should fill out an online application form and submit your documents digitally. Payment of the application fees is also carried out digitally. If you wonder whether the naturalisation application has also been digitised in your city, you can ask our community managers on our ‘Together in Germany’ community platform. They will support you in your search for further information. 

How much does a naturalisation application cost?

When applying, you have to pay €255. If you are also applying for your children, currently you have to pay €51 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. From 27 June 2024, this rule will no longer apply, as dual or multiple citizenship will be possible with the revised naturalisation law.

  • 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. From 27 June 2024, this rule will no longer apply, as dual or multiple citizenship will be possible with the revised naturalisation law.

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

Important

A declaration of commitment to the free democratic basic order (fdGO) is generally made in writing. In some federal states, the commitment can also be made orally before the competent authority.

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