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Key questions about naturalisation

There are many questions you might have about how to obtain German citizenship. You can find answers and more information about naturalisation here.

Yes, if you are 16 years of age or older, you submit the application yourself. Children and young people under the age of 16 must have their legal representative apply for naturalisation on their behalf. This is usually their parents.

You submit the application to your local nationality authority (Staatsangehörigkeitsbehörde). If you are unsure which authority to contact, ask your town/city or district administration (Stadtverwaltung or Kreisverwaltung), borough office (Bezirksamt) or foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde), or a migration advice centre in your area.

If you meet all of the requirements for naturalisation, you should first obtain information about the application forms from the nationality authority responsible for you, or find them on the authority’s website. Then fill out the forms and assemble the necessary documents. Finally, take the application and all of the documents to your nationality authority. Some authorities also allow you to apply online. For more information on the application procedure and the required documents and other evidence, see the section “Procedure

Naturalisation costs €255 per person. For underage children without their own income who are naturalised together with their parents, naturalisation usually costs €51.

If you are unable to pay the costs, please ask the staff at the authority directly whether lower costs or payment in instalments are possible for you.

You may also have to pay other costs, e.g. for the naturalisation test, proof of identity or a language certificate.

Once you have submitted the application and all supporting documents, the nationality authority will check them. Processing times can vary and depend on the individual case. Expect a processing time of 18 months or longer. In some cases, the authorities will also ask you to provide further supporting documents.

You must have been living legally in Germany as your main place of residence for at least five years. This means that you have lived here for this period without interruption and still live here. It does not matter if you have left the country for short holiday trips.

Any time that you lived in Germany with a temporary suspension of deportation (Duldung) is not counted towards the five years.

The duration of your asylum procedure is only counted if you have been recognised as a person entitled to asylum within the meaning of Article 16a of the Basic Law, as a refugee under the Geneva Refugee Convention or as a beneficiary of subsidiary protection.

If you have made a particular effort to integrate in Germany, you can apply for German citizenship after a minimum of three years instead of five.

As a rule, you need sufficient language skills, i.e. level B1 (according to the CEFR) on the German Test for Immigrants (DTZ). If you have successfully completed an integration course or, for example, if you have obtained a school-leaving certificate or university degree in Germany, the authorities will usually assume that you speak German well enough.

If you already have a command of German at level C1 or higher and you meet additional requirements, you can also become naturalised after less than five years.

If you entered the Federal Republic of Germany on or before 30 June 1974 as a guest worker, or entered the German Democratic Republic (GDR) on or before 13 June 1990 as a contract worker, it is sufficient if you can communicate verbally in German in everyday life and can prove this to the authorities.

This exception also applies to your spouse if they subsequently joined you in Germany.

If you have made a serious and sustained effort to learn German to level B1 but are unable to achieve this, you can still obtain German citizenship in some exceptional cases. Exceptions are:

  • You are ill or disabled. If this is the case, you will need a medical certificate as proof.
  • You are of advanced age and this makes it very difficult for you to learn German.
  • The nationality authority classifies your situation as a case of hardship (Härtefall). For this exception, you must prove that you are unable to learn German to level B1 due to your life circumstances, for instance because a relative requires permanent care.

In these cases, however, you must at least be able to communicate verbally in everyday life. The nationality authority will check whether an exception applies in your specific case.

No. According to German law, you can hold multiple citizenship after your naturalisation.

However, the country or countries that you are already a citizen of may have other legal regulations – so, for example, you might automatically lose your previous citizenship when you become naturalised in Germany. If you have questions about this, contact the embassy or a consulate of the country or countries that you are already a citizen of.

If you are between 16 and 67 years old, you must take and pass the test, unless one of the exceptions listed below applies to you. Passing the naturalisation test proves that you have knowledge of the legal system, society and way of life in Germany.

You do not have to take a naturalisation test in the following cases:

  • You have successfully completed an integration course and passed the Life in Germany test. This demonstrates your civic knowledge.
  • You have a German school-leaving certificate.
  • You have a German university degree, even if you did not go to school here. In this case, please ask your nationality authority whether you have to pass the naturalisation test.
  • You entered the country as a guest worker on or before 30 June 1974, or as a contract worker on or before 13 June 1990. This exception also applies to your spouse if they subsequently joined you in Germany.
  • A doctor certifies that you are unable to take a naturalisation test due to illness, disability or old age.

Your nationality authority will tell you where you can take the test at a test centre in your area. You can also find a list of test centres in your Land (federal state) provided by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The naturalisation test costs €25.

You can review test questions to prepare for the naturalisation test on the BAMF website.

You must have been in this marriage – or registered civil partnership – for at least two years when you apply for naturalisation. Furthermore, you must have already been living legally and ordinarily in Germany for three years. You are then entitled to naturalisation. Aside from the above, the same requirements apply as to standard naturalisation.

If you have already been in your marriage or partnership for three years or longer, you can be naturalised for reasons of public interest even after less than three years of residence in Germany.

Naturalisation under this regulation is not possible if the marriage or partnership has already ended or failed at the time of naturalisation. Nor is it possible if a divorce or separation is planned and you and your spouse or partner are living separately.

Your underage children can generally be naturalised with you if all of the following points apply:

  • You have custody of the children and live with them in Germany.
  • The children are under the age of 16.
  • The children can communicate in German in everyday life.

Children up to the age of 6 must have been in Germany for half of their lives. Children over the age of 16 can only be naturalised with you if they also meet all of the requirements for German citizenship.

Your spouse or registered partner and your underage children can generally be naturalised together with you. However, they must also meet all of the requirements – with the exception of the residence period.

In order to obtain German citizenship, you must be able to financially support yourself and your dependent family members independently. This means, for example, that you must be able to pay for food, clothing and accommodation for yourself and your dependent family members from your income. Generally speaking, you cannot be receiving citizen’s benefit, social assistance (Sozialhilfe) or social allowance (Sozialgeld). There are exceptions to this rule for:

  • former guest or contract workers and their spouses who subsequently joined them in Germany, if they have to claim benefits from the job centre or social welfare office through no fault of their own,
  • foreign nationals who work full-time and have done so for at least 20 months within the last 24 months preceding the application,
  • spouses or registered civil partners who live in a family unit with a underage child and a person who works full-time.

Exceptions also apply in the following cases, for example:

  • You are a single parent and/or you are caring for small children at home who have special care needs, and because of this you cannot yet begin or return to work, or you can only work part-time.
  • You receive a low pension and are therefore reliant on supplementary benefits, even though you have a history of continuous gainful employment.

An exception may also apply to people with a disability or illness if they are unable to financially support themselves completely independently. The responsible authority will examine their application for naturalisation and can decide at its discretion whether to grant them German citizenship.

Yes, if your spouse is employed full-time and has been for at least 20 of the last 24 months, then naturalisation is generally possible. In this case, as long as you meet all of the other requirements to be entitled to naturalisation, you can become naturalised even if you do not earn enough to support yourself.

If you have received a final and binding conviction for a criminal offence in Germany or abroad, naturalisation is generally not possible.

If you have only been convicted of a minor (petty) offence, naturalisation is possible in the following cases:

  • One-off convictions or warnings and fines e.g. for a minor traffic offence
  • Financial penalties of up to 90 daily rates
  • Suspended prison sentences of up to three months, if you successfully completed your suspended sentence order and, for example, received a remission (Straferlass) from a court.

However, if it is ruled that you committed the offence for racist or antisemitic reasons or other motives evidencing contempt for humanity, it is not possible for you to obtain German citizenship.

If you are currently the subject of criminal proceedings or an investigation, you must wait until the investigation has been completed or the court has made a decision. This also applies for criminal offences abroad. It is your obligation to inform the nationality authority that you are currently subject to criminal proceedings or an investigation.

Yes. You must report any changes to your original details by writing directly to your nationality authority. For example

  • if your address has changed,
  • if you have a different surname because you got married,
  • if you have changed or lost your job, or
  • if other information in your application has changed.

In most cases, you also have to sign a declaration in which you undertake to notify the authorities of such changes.

Yes, you need valid documents for naturalisation. This also applies if your naturalisation procedure is currently ongoing. Therefore, please renew your old documents.

The brochure My Path to a German Passport provides comprehensive information on the requirements you must fulfil in order to become a German citizen, how to apply, and how the naturalisation procedure works.

See here for a quick overview of the requirements for naturalisation, as well as answers to the most important questions about the German citizenship.

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