Many people with German heritage, who are spread all over the world, are actually German citizens – without even knowing it! They were born dual citizens with the same rights as any other German citizen and are entitled to a German passport, granting them the freedom to live and work in all 28 EU countries, as well as visa-free travel to a total of 177 countries. It is only a question of having their German citizenship officially confirmed, which can be a tricky process with a lot of bureaucracy involved.
Here is a quick overview of the German citizenship legislation, which can help you determine whether or not you were born a German citizen.
- You were born as the legitimate child of a German father
- You were born as the illegitimate child of a German father after 1 July 1998 and your father acknowledged paternity
- You were born as the illegitimate child of a German father after 1 July 1993 and your father acknowledged paternity before you turned 24
- You were born as the illegitimate child of a German mother
- You were born as the legitimate child of a German mother after 1 January 1975
- You were born as the legitimate child of a German mother between 1 January 1964 and 13 December 1974 and you would otherwise have become stateless
- You were adopted as a minor by a German parent after 1 January 1977
Possibly, your German heritage goes back further than your parents’ generation. This is not an issue at all; in general, there is no limit as to how far you can go back to claim your German citizenship. You could even claim your German citizenship after your great-great-great-grandparents! The only prerequisite is that the German citizenship was never lost along the way. There are certain circumstances that made people lose German citizenship:
- Generally, German women were not able to pass on German citizenship to their children born in wedlock until 1 January 1975. An exception is if their child was born between 1 January 1964 and 31 December 1974 and would otherwise have become stateless.
- Generally, German men were not able to pass on German citizenship to their children born out of wedlock until 1 January 1975. Between 1 July 1993 and 30 June 1998, they were able to pass on German citizenship if they acknowledged paternity before their child turned 24. From 1 July 1998 onward, they are able to pass on German citizenship as long as they acknowledge paternity, regardless of the when this happens.
- Germans obtaining a foreign citizenship will automatically lose their German citizenship unless they apply for and are granted the right to retain it. They would be issued with a special permit in this case. As of 28 August 2007, Germans obtaining the citizenship of another EU member state or Switzerland will not lose their German citizenship.
- German women who married a foreigner before 23 May 1949 lost their German citizenship.
- German women who married a foreigner between 23 May 1949 and 31 March 1953 lost their German citizenship only if that didn’t make them stateless (meaning only if they acquired their husband’s citizenship through marriage).
- Germans who voluntarily joined foreign armed forces automatically lost their German citizenship, unless they obtained an official permit from the German government beforehand. As of 06 July 2011, this permit is automatically given to dual citizens who hold the citizenship of another EU member state, an EFTA member state, a NATO member state, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Republic of Korea, New Zealand or USA.
- German citizens who had their permanent residence abroad for more than 10 years before 1914 automatically lost their German citizenship unless they registered themselves at the German consulate, renewed their German passport, obtained a German travel permit or traveled back to Germany every 10 years. Thus, this law is relevant for people whose ancestors left Germany before 1904.
Please note that there was also a law in place during the Nazi regime that stripped all Jewish people residing abroad or leaving the country off their German citizenship. This was later declared unlawful and while their descendants were not born German citizens because of this law, they are entitled to a facilitated naturalisation procedure that makes it very easy for them to reclaim their German citizenship. The same goes for descendants of Germans who were not Jewish, but left Germany because of the war and the persecution.
If none of your German ancestors lost their German citizenship due to any of the above-mentioned laws, they probably passed on their citizenship to you and you might be a German citizen by law!
This means the next step is having your German citizenship confirmed!
As you can see, preparing and lodging an application for confirmation of German citizenship involves a lot of bureaucracy and can be very complex. In addition, you will have to have all foreign documents apostilled or legalised as well as translated by a certified translator. If you decide to lodge your case with Polaron’s help, all of this will be taken care of for you.
Our aim is to submit your application as complete as possible so that the German authority can reach a decision fast and confirm your German citizenship. In case an incomplete application is submitted, the German authority might have to conduct further research, which would significantly increase the processing time, or even reject your application because you failed to provide sufficient documentation.
This can be avoided by working with Polaron, as we have significant experience in this field!
Contact us if you require more information.