Great that you have decided to obtain the German citizenship. You should first seek advice at the naturalization authority that is responsible for you. There you will also receive an application form and a list of the documents you need to submit. The naturalization process can take several months and costs EUR 255.
These are the requirements according to § 10 of the German Nationality Act (StAG), which you generally have to meet:
- One must confirm his or her commitment to the free democratic constitutional system enshrined in the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Basic Law is in essence the German Constitution, providing special protection for human rights, the rule of law, the sovereignty of the people, and the separation of powers.
- One must be able to ensure his or her own subsistence and the subsistence of his or her dependents without recourse to unemployment benefits in accordance with Book Two or Book Twelve of the Social Code. Exceptions may be granted if you are unable to work due to an illness or because you are a single parent.
- One must not have any significant criminal record; minor convictions are not preclusive.
- One must prove sufficient knowledge of the German language at B1 level.
- In the absence of a school leaving certificate in Germany, one must successfully take a naturalization test, demonstrating knowledge of the legal and social order and of the living conditions in Germany. The naturalization test contains a total of 310 questions. Of these, 300 questions relate to the entire Federal Republic and ten questions to the respective federal state. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees combines 33 test questions into one questionnaire. 30 questions relate to the topics of democracy, history and responsibility, and people and society. All questionnaires are equally difficult. The questionnaire must be completed within one hour. Four possible answers are given, one of which is correct. You pass the test if you answer 17 questions correctly. The naturalization test can be repeated as often as you like. You can find out more about the test here: einbuergerungstest-online.eu
Even for German citizens, some questions are quite difficult……
- One must demonstrably give up the previous nationality. There are exceptions to this, depending on which country you come from. The naturalization authority can provide information on this right at the beginning. If the foreigner cannot give up his or her previous nationality or can do so only under particularly difficult conditions, an exception can be made (Section 12 (1) StAG). If the law of the country of origin of the person concerned does not provide for a renunciation of citizenship or if the country of origin regularly refuses the renunciation, such an exception must be granted. This applies in particular to the following countries: Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, Algeria, Eritrea, Cuba, Morocco and Tunisia.
- Generally, habitual and legal residence in Germany for at least 8 years are required. If you have successfully completed an integration course, the period can be shortened to 7 years. If you can show special integration achievements (especially language skills), the period can even be shortened to 6 years.
The periods of the asylum procedure are included if you have been recognized as a refugee, i.e. if you are entitled to asylum within the meaning of the German Basic Law or if an obstacle to deportation has been established and you have therefore been recognized as a refugee under the Geneva Refugee Convention.
Persons with a temporary residence permit
Persons who, at the time of naturalization, have a temporary residence permit (e.g. subsidiary protection) issued for a purpose that could justify permanent residence in Germany meet the requirements for naturalization. In several cases, the Federal Administrative Court has stated that:
„A foreigner has his habitual residence in Germany if he lives here not only temporarily, but for an unforeseeable period of time, so that a termination of the residence is uncertain. This is the case if, according to the actual circumstances, he has his center of life here. This requires more than the mere presence of the person concerned for a certain period of time.
It is not necessary, however, that the residence is basically intended for an unlimited period of time with the will of the foreigners’ authority and that the residence has solidified into a settlement that is expected to be permanent; even a residence title that is limited in time and a mere waiver of measures terminating residence do not preclude habitual residence. A prognosis directed to the future is required.“
If an end to the residence is foreseeable according to the provisions of foreigners’ law and the orders of the foreigners’ authority made on the basis of these provisions, the assumption of a habitual residence is also excluded in nationality law. If, on the other hand, the foreigners’ authority de facto accepts the residence for an unforeseeable period of time, permanent residence is possible. Should you be in possession of a permanent residence title, you can apply for naturalization.
(BVerwG, 26.04.2016 – 1 C 9/15, BVerwG, 18.11.2004 – 1 C 31/03, BVerwG, 23.02.1993 – 1 C 45/90).
Persons with an exceptional leave to remain
Persons who only have an exceptional leave to remain (Duldung) are not entitled to apply for naturalization.
To obtain a permanent residence title, you may also refer to this kohero-article (German).
The following documents are usually required by the naturalization authority:
- Residence permit or settlement permit
- Current certificate of registration
- Passport photos
- Birth certificate
- Employment contract and salary certificate (for self-employed persons: income tax assessment and BWA), for students: Bafög assessment; for unemployed through no fault of their own: Job Center assessment or social welfare assessment / basic income support assessment or pension statement)
- Handwritten curriculum vitae
- Transcript from the family register
- Marriage certificate if married
- Proof of B1 language level
Application for discretionary naturalization
However, if you do not meet the requirements named above, you are generally not entitled to German citizenship. In this case, however, you can apply for discretionary naturalization according to § 8 StAG. Germany is obliged under international law to facilitate the naturalization of refugees within the meaning of the Geneva Refugee Convention and stateless persons.
For the latter, even 6 years of residence in Germany are sufficient. The naturalization authority can grant naturalization if there is a public interest in naturalization and certain minimum requirements are met.
Finally, if all this has been accomplished and the naturalization assurance has been issued, one usually receives the naturalization certificate in a small ceremony. Then you are a German citizen with all rights and obligations.
Good luck and success!
This article was published in German first.