“half-German”

Not least due to my FAQ on German citizenship law and my corresponding infographic on German citizenship law, which have established this blog as the no. 1 resource on the internet for questions on German citizenship, I receive a lot of questions almost every day.

Most of these questions are written by non-lawyers, so they are often not formulated very precisely. In fact, you’d be shocked to learn how little information some people believe they have to include. I have received questions like “Hey bro, I am 23 years old and a student. Can I get German citizenship?” Many people forget to include their parents’ citizenship or their place or year of birth, all relevant factors. Today I got an especially funny one: “My surname sounds German. Can I get German citizenship?”

But this post is devoted to only one issue which pops up again and again, even in articles I read. It’s the issue of being “half-German”, by which people mean that they have one German parent and one non-German parent. It annoys the hell out of me because it violates all laws of logic. There is no such thing as being half-German or half-Iranian or half-Mexican.

“Sorry, you are only half-American.”

It’s a citizenship. It cannot be split in half. How do you think that would work? Would you only be German in the morning and French in the afternoon? Or would you only be allowed to vote in every second election? Or would you only have to pay half as much in taxes in Germany (“Yes, I want that,” I hear many of you scream.), but receive half the public services? Could you use your passport for only six months out of each year?

Citizenship is like pregnancy. Either you have it or you don’t. (And if you don’t have it yet, but you want it, I can tell you how to get it.) You may have other citizenships besides it, but that doesn’t make the other one a half or a third one. You just have two or three full citizenships. Lucky you.

If this is too legalistic for you, think of this: Most probably you have one female and one male parent, but that doesn’t make you half-female and half-male. You are either female or male.

We are not arithmetic results of what our ancestors were, but each of us is an individual. Citizenship is nothing more than a legal criterion, in most cases a completely arbitrary one. Knowing how easy it is to change your citizenship, I would also argue that it’s one of the least important criteria to make up a person.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in German Law, Germany, Immigration Law, Language, Law, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to “half-German”

  1. List of X says:

    A person can’t legally half-German citizen as you say, but “half-German” is an acceptable informal term for someone who has one German parent. A person can be a Basque or a Kurd (or a half-Basque or half-Kurd) even though there isn’t anyone in the world with a Basque or Kurdish passport.

  2. Anonymous says:

    More importantly, why do you receive these questions? Why all these people want German citizenship? If it’s a matter of wanting to get an EU citizenship, I would think there are countries in the EU where it’s easier to get citizenship than in Germany.

  3. Harold Seddon (known as "Harry") says:

    Hello Andreas
    I was born in 1950 in Wuppertal (British Military Hospital); my mother was German (although I’m not certain if she had at that stage relinquished her nationality, by marriage or otherwise) and my father a Brtish soldier in the BAOR.

    My maternal grandpaernts lived in Duisburg (Oma having formally been Dutch, became German on marriage).

    Between 1984-1991 I was in the Royal Air Force, based in Germany, but am gussing that this is not relevant to the period of residence required for citizenship. Since November 2010 I have been working for an EU Agency, based in Cologne, and live mostly in the city (although we do still have a house in UK). I also purchased a property in the vicinity of Saarburg (Serrig) in 2009, and from time to time live there to escape from the city to the countryside.

    Stadt Koeln have recently realised that all employees of my EU Agenct should have been registerd with them since beginning their employment; this process has just been completed and I await with interest the demands for a host of local taxes. I am also a contributor to the VG Saarburg in the form of taxes related to my property.

    Does any of this have relevance or enhance my prospect of gaining German citizenship?

    Kind regards

    Harry Seddon

  4. dino bragoli says:

    If I was half of anything I would prefer to be the half that eats…

  5. Greg says:

    I was born in1964 to an u.s service man and a mother who was german citizen in u.s “married” my oldest brother was born in Germany and was german citizen, however before he turned 18 he had to give up his german citizenship or be deported back to Germany , thus our mother never let us apply for dual citizenship! I am older now and would like to do it , is there a chance I can get it? I called Germany embassy and the said no without looking at my paperwork , Are they right?

    • It sounds like you might fall under no. 8 of my FAQ on naturalization from abroad, but I am not sure I understand all the details of your case correctly. There is no application for dual citizenship without naturalization and I am not sure if any of you ever applied for naturalization (in the US?).
      It might be best if you contact me directly with a more detailed and coherent description of your case.

      • Greg says:

        No application was ever made , after the issues that happen with my brother “being deported”my mother was worried that it could happen to me or my sister ” even though we were born in u.s.” I never really understood the whole issue with the right to dual citizenship !

  6. aline c barber says:

    i have a different question for you. My parents were Polish holocaust survivors. At the end of the war they came to Berlin as many displaced persons did. I was born in Berlin 1946 in a section called Zellendorf? I only have a small birthcertificate located somewhere in one of my boxes. In 1949 we immigrated to the U.S. leaving Germany on a ship called the General Holbrook which took us to Boston. Eventually they and I became naturalized citizens of the U.S. What are the German laws pertaining to citizenship. In the U.S. one can just be born here and qualifies..is that the same in Germany? I’m just curious. Thankyou.

    • Germany only introduced this “ius soli” component (i.e. that children of foreign citizens who are born in Germany can get German citizenship from birth) in 1999. Before that, there was no such possibility; German citizenship could only be derived from German parents.

      You’ll find more details in my FAQ on German citizenship.

  7. Greg says:

    You talk about being able to speak German to apply , at what level would you need to speak and would you also be able to write German?

    • It depends. There are different levels of German language requirements for different applications for immigration or citizenship.
      I’d be happy to put up a separate list of FAQ on German language requirements once someone mails me one of the books from my wishlist to do so.

  8. TR says:

    Dear Andreas,
    I am a 50 years old permanent resident of Germany 8 years from USA. My boyfriend of 4 years is a Ghana national living and working in Gambia. I also work part of the year in Gambia. We applied once for a tourist visa so he could visit me here on his holidays, but despite all papers being in order, it was denied. People have suggested since we are both resident foreigners in our respective adopted homes, that our case is simply too complicated. I had purchased a kaution document for €2000 as the authorities deemed my regular income too small to sponsor an african visitor( My boyfriend and I are both education and relief workers). I intend to continue living and working in Germany with no plan to return to USA. Now we would like to marry and both have freedom of movement back and forth from Germany to Gambia seasonally. I believe I am now eligible and I would like to apply for German naturalisation. Are our chances better that we can be together in Europe as well as in Africa if we marry now or wait until I am granted German citizenship?

    • Once you will be a German citizen, your chances will indeed be much greater to receive a visa for family reunion (§ 28 AufenthG). However, there is no harm if you get married before you will be naturalized as a German.

  9. Robin says:

    Hi Andreas,

    I am a US citizen living in Germany with my husband (Dualnational first German added US with Beibehaltung). I would like to become a dualnational now as well. I have read that I would not profit from renouncing my US citizenship and would like to keep it as I have family in the US and can’t say I am not interested in going back one day. But I am missing out on a few things in Germany – voting for my husband (he is politically active), etc. Do you think there is a case for exception? Would you suggest looking into legal support in seeking dual-citizenship?

    • Unless you can argue that you would suffer disproportionately (in comparison with other US citizens applying for German citizenship) from having to give up your US citizenship, Germany will require that you give it up if you want to naturalize. The wish to return to the US is not a strong enough argument.

      • robin says:

        And if my husband were to have to return for job related reasons? And I could not stay more than 3 months? That would be against the proctection of family? And if my mother needed to be cared for in the States? To me that all sounds like a finacial burden that excees that of most other Germans.

      • No, it doesn’t. These are the same consequences which are borne by everyone else who gives up US citizenship in order to obtain German citizenship. – By the way, you CAN stay in the US for more than 3 months as a German citizen. You only need to apply for a visa.

  10. Hannah says:

    Hello Andreas,
    My mother is a German citizen, and my father is a British citizen. They have lived in the UK since 1990, and I was born in the UK in 1995. I believe I used to have a German passport as a child, but no longer have it. Would I be able to apply for a renewed one at the Embassy using just my British passport and birth certificate etc? And would I have to speak German very competently? I can easily hold a conversation, but as my only day to day German conversation is with my mother, my vocabulary is not particularly extensive, especially with legal words.

    • You received German and British citizenship at birth and I can’t see that you have done anything to lose either. As a German citizen, you can of course apply for a new passport. You do not need to speak fluent German for that, many Germans who received the citizenship while being born in another country don’t.
      You might need to provide your mother’s German passport o any other proof of her German citizenship as well, depending on whether the Embassy still has a record of your last German passport or on how thoroughly they want to check your application. It may take a while and require some paperwork, but you will get a German passport again. I think it might also help if your mother accompanies you there, although this is of course no legal requirement.

  11. Tomas Placido Koetz says:

    Good day Andreas,

    I am a son of German Citizen and a Filipina (Philippines), I was born and raised in the Philippines, I have a German Passport (which is already expired), would I still be considered as a German Citizen? If yes, would my children be also eligible to be German citizens even if I’m not married?

    Thank you in advance

    • Yes, you are (still) German. The passport has nothing to do with your citizenship, it is only a travel document. You can always apply for a new one at the German consulate.

      And yes, if your paternity for your children is established, then you passed on German citizenship to them.

  12. Kevin Karwel says:

    Hi Andreas
    Father was born in Germany, I was born in Australia in 1972 , I believe my Father became an Australian citizen at the time of my birth, my Grandfather was German.
    Am I eligible for a German passport and citizenship?

    Thankyou

  13. Brian Mack says:

    Hello Andreas,
    I appreciate your answers. I was born in the UK on March 1, 1975 to a US service man and my mother who always retained her German citizenship since birth. My dad registered me as a US citizen with the US Consulate shortly after birth, since I was born off base in a UK hospital. I am now 40 years old, and have not lived in Germany since we came to the US in 1981 (6 years old). I vaguely remember a friend of mine who was the same age having to register for military service if he was claiming German Citizenship when we were teenagers in the early 1990s, so I am unsure if I had to claim my citizenship at that time, or if I am a citizen automatically by birth. Did not claiming citizenship and registering for military service preclude me from being a citizen? Am I able to claim citizenship now? Thank you very much for your time.

    Brian

  14. Jennie Macfarlane says:

    Hello. I am a duel citizen of Germany and the US. I am currently working on my undergraduate degree and serving in the Army National Guard. My question is: if I renounce my German citizenship to get commissioned as an officer in the Army, can I get it back when I retire? And will they allow me to keep my US citizenship? My father is American and my mother is German.

  15. Tracy Mueller says:

    Wondering if I am able to apply for German Citizenship. My father was born in Roumania in 1938 and his parents were born in Zuckmantel Roumania. My father came to Canada in 1952. I was born in 1963. My father did not become a Canadian Citizen until after my birth in 1965. At the time of my birth my parents were married and my mother was a Canadian Citizen. Am I eligible to obtain German Citizenship ?

  16. SarahB says:

    Hi Andreas,
    I’m interested to hear your thoughts on whether I could claim German citizenship:
    My grandmother (born to 2 German parents in Germany), had a relationship with a British soldier and gave birth to my father in Germany in 1946 as an unmarried mother. My father lived in Germany for 5 years before he and his mother moved to the UK to reunite with his British father. My grandparents married in the UK and resided there until their recent deaths. My father also remained in the UK where he married my British mother and I was born (in 1972). My father passed away in 1987. Thank you.

    • I’ll be happy to answer your question as soon as I receive a donation. Thank you!

      • SarahB says:

        Sent with thanks.

      • Thank you for your donation, Sarah!

        Your father received German citizenship from his mother because she was unmarried at the time. (Had she been married, the British citizenship would have prevailed under German citizenship law at the time.)
        The question is whether your father ever did anything to give up or lose German citizenship. If your father applied for British citizenship and was naturalized, he would have lost his German citizenship in the process. (This would not be true today as Germany now accepts dual citizenship between EU countries.)

        So, in order to answer your question, you need to find out if and when your father was naturalized in the UK. If he never was, he was still German when you were born, making you German too. If he was naturalized before you were born, he was no longer German at the time of your birth and you were thus born to two British parents in the UK. If he got naturalized after your birth, it has no effect on you.

      • SarahB says:

        Thank you for confirming my understanding of his status re being born to an unmarried mother. To the best of my knowledge, he never underwent any naturalization – his assumption being that he became British by virtue of being raised and continuing to reside and marry there. I’m not sure how I can check this, but shall endeavour to do so. Thanks again.

      • If he did apply for naturalization, there should be a Home Office record. If he continued to be German, maybe he still had German passports. Did he serve in the British Army? Then he must have been British.
        Like this, we’ll have to look at every possible indicator or evidence. I know it’s a lot of work after such a long time, but there is no way around it unfortunately because the German consulate will ask for it once you apply for your certificate of German citizenship.

      • SarahB says:

        Thank you. My father never served in the military and severed all ties with his parents aged 16 to enable him to marry my mother. He never owned any passport. I have my fathers German birth certificate and a birth registration document from the Consulate General in Dusseldorf dated 5 years later and naming my British grandfather as my fathers father. I will enquire with the Home Office as advised. Many thanks for your help.

      • Esmeralda says:

        When the grandparents married, how was the German citizenship not lost through legitimization?

  17. Dennis Owusu says:

    My question is I’m asylum seeker but l have a child with Germany lady , do I have to pay any amount for my father “shaft” or and how long does it take to finish everything before leaving can have it? Thank you

  18. Ingrid hingst says:

    Good day
    My father a German citizen, living in south Africa working for volkswagen his whole life.
    Married my stepmother 12 years ago.
    Is she still able to get his pension?

    She claims she gets nothing. He passed away last week.
    Thanking you
    Ingrid hingst

    She has a south African passport.

    • Ingrid hingst says:

      Sorry Andrews
      One more question.
      My brother qualified for a German passport about 10 years ago. He was born in 1973.
      I want to obtain a German passport too as my only family are living in Germany after my father’s death.

      My question is my son born out of wed lock in 1993. He is now 23. Do you think he might qualify too?

      I speak German he however grew up in south Africa, and speaks.but is not fluent.

      I’m wanting to join my uncles in Germany as I have no living family in south Africa with my son.

      Vielen dank
      Ingrid

  19. Ants says:

    I’m a thirty four year old American male with two younger sisters at the ages of 28 and 20. Our American mother is getting married to a German Citezen. He has a 15 year old daughter. My question is; what are all of our options for obtaining duel-citizenship?

  20. Sabine Bond says:

    Dear Andreas, I just stumbled on your blog while trying to find out if there are any new laws in favour of my getting the German Citizenship. I was born in Hamburg in 1970 to a German mother and Nigerian Father. At the time since my parents were married, I was not eligible for the German passport. So my father got me the Nigerian passport. I lived in Hamburg till my father left for Nigeria in 1979, taking me along with him. When I finally returned to Germany in 1992 and I tried to apply, I was told that it was too late for me. Some factors being that since my father is a foreigner married to a German, I was not eligible. Secondly I was told that I missed the 1975 window of opportunity when applications for persons born before 1975 could apply and so I lost out again. Lastly since I didn’t live in Germany till my 10th birthday and so having not lived there for 10years, I had lost out on all counts. It has been a deep pain for me. Naturally since I don’t converse very often in German I do not have all the vocabulary, but I listen to and read German excellently. I would be able to hold a conversation too. I was given admission to study in the Hamburg Fachhochschule to study Biotechnology. I didn’t take it up as I was totally unhappy about my citizenship status and returned to Nigeria. I regret that now. What are my chances now? Thank you. Sabine

    • It would be very interesting to hear the outcome of this Sabine. Your circumstance mirror very closely that of me and sister (born 1963 and 1968 respectively in London) to a Nigerian father and German mother (from Hannover), married for 48 years until his death 6 years ago. My mother has always kept her sole German nationality whilst my father, my sister and I had and have U.K nationality and passports. My German, like yours, remains pretty good despite not too much practice but was learnt mainly as a child and so mainly retains a child’s vocabulary. Although I do watch lots of German documentaries to maintain things. In great part, in response to Britain’s frankly crazy recent ‘Brexit’ vote (of which I’m ashamed!) but also because of Britain’s poor assistance to and treatment of refugees of global conflicts, of which we are also ashamed, both my sister and I would like to become German citizens. However, reading the advise on the official application, it seems we all fall into an anomalous loophole? Had our fathers been German that would be “ok” any time after 1914…or even OUT of wedlock anytime after 1993. Had our mothers borne us OUT of wedlock at anytime after 1914 that would also be “ok”! But, because of the fact that they actually had the ‘decency’ to get married…and in our case remain married for nearly half a century, “until death do them part”…actually seems to count for the opposite that one would think (!), in that it only counts between 1964 and 1974…or after 1975 in any event! How can that be construed, in this day and age, as anything other than, in the first instance, “anti-family” and secondly and perhaps more importantly, “gender discriminatory”? I know the U.K. is not ‘flavour of the month’ with many of us right now, but even here it seems gender discrimination was eliminated from Nationality Laws back in the early 1980’s? Does it really persist, in such a blatant fashion, as I have seem to have read it, in Germany?

      • I would be very happy to respond to your questions in detail, but because I need to tailor it to every single case and because the legal explanation would be rather complex, I would appreciate a donation of at least 50 EUR before I do so. Thank you!

      • Hi Andreas
        Many thanks indeed for your kind offer.
        However, I’ve read Appendix V (last updated 2011) of the application document which I downloaded as it relates to obtaining German nationality by descent. It seems very clear, unequivocal and not very complex to me, from both that document and the same advice on the German Missions in the United Kingdom, that mine and my sister’s applications would definitely be rejected. I quote:
        “German citizenship by being born in wedlock
        Children born in wedlock between 01.01.1914 and 31.12.1963 acquired German citizenship only if the father was a German citizen at the time of their birth.

        Children born to a German mother in wedlock between 01.01 1964 and 31.12.1974 only acquired German citizenship if they would have become stateless otherwise.

        Children born in wedlock after 01.01.1975 acquired German citizenship if either of the parents was a German citizen at the time of their birth.

        Children born in wedlock between 01.04.1953 and 31.12.1974 to a German mother and a non-German father did not become German citizens by birth. However, during the years 1975, 1976 and 1977, their parents could claim German citizenship for them. The deadline for this procedure irrevocably ended on 31.12.1977.”

        The last paragraph is the crucial one as it applies to my sister and I. We were both born in the 1960s…so right in the middle of that time between 1953 and 1974. My mother did not claim German citizenship for us during that 3 year window of 1975, 1976, 1977. And that option ended on 31.12.1977.

        So, unless someone has, since the last update in 2011, challenged that rule on the basis of pure gender discrimination and had it changed, and I am not aware of any such change having taken place, then it is quite clear that whether we like it or not, our applications would fail and be rejected.

        We could try, and it will cost us only 18 EUR each for a failed application ( or 25 EUR in the very unlikely event of a successful application!), but as I read it, it seems so crystal clear that it’s probably not worth spending the 18 EUR…better to donate 18 EUR each directly to a refugee fund to help someone who really needs it?

        Many thanks again.

        Derin

      • Your way would be through § 14 StAG and an application for naturalization. See no. 8 of my FAQ on getting naturalized as a German citizen while living abroad.

  21. Carla says:

    Hi Andreas,

    My maternal grandmother was born in Germany and moved to England with her English husband probably sixty or so years ago, my mother was born in England and so was I. My grandfather passed away before I was born and my grandmother passed around 20 years ago. I’m 28 and I have sisters who are 18 and 16 – would we be able to apply for German citizenship on the grounds of our ancestry? Any help really appreciated, thank you! x

    • It would be good to have the exact dates of when everyone was born. I would also appreciate a donation of at least 50 EUR to my Paypal account before I delve into your case. Thank you!

  22. Fernando Moyano says:

    Hi i born in Argentina my grandfather, grandmother and my mother born in. Dusseldorf Germany before Second World War my grandfather emigrated for Argentina. Just i want know if i have some right .

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