10 FAQ on Reclaiming German Citizenship

The FAQ on German Citizenship are the most popular post on my blog. But some aspects are so complicated that they deserve their own list of FAQ, like those on applying for naturalization without living in Germany and the following ones on reclaiming German citizenship that had previously been lost (the citizenship, not the FAQ). Some of these sections also extend to descendants of former Germans.

Before asking a new question, please read through the comments which may already answer your questions. And do you see the “Make a Donation” button on the right-hand side of your screen? If you find these FAQ useful or if you ask a question, it would be very nice of you to make use of it.

1. Why would someone lose German citizenship in the first place?

The main ways to lose German citizenship are applying for and receiving citizenship of another country without prior permission from Germany (§ 25 StAG), voluntarily serving in the armed forces of another country (§ 28 StAG) and renunciation (§ 26 StAG).

But it becomes endlessly more complex because different laws were in place at different times. Until 1949 or 1953, depending on the specific circumstances, German women who married a foreign man automatically lost German citizenship. Until 1913, German citizenship could be lost by living abroad for more than 10 years and not registering with a German consulate. And then, between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis stripped many people of German citizenship as an act of punishment or because of their anti-Semitic ideology.

2. I am a history buff. Tell me more about that Nazi policy.

Ok. In November 1941, the German Reich passed a law that deprived all Jewish Germans who were living abroad at the time (or moved abroad later) of their German citizenship.

In addition to that, since July 1933 there had been a law that allowed the individual revocation of German citizenship, which was mostly applied to opposition activists and intellectuals. If your ancestors were among the 39,006 victims of that policy, they were in the good company of people like Albert Einstein, Willy Brandt, Hannah Arendt, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht and others.

3. I am a descendant of someone in one of these two groups of people. Does this mean I can now apply for a German passport?

Generally yes.

Art. 116 II of the German Constitution states that all people who were deprived of their German citizenship on “political, racial or religious grounds” between 1933 and 1945 can reclaim Germany citizenship. What is of more interest to you is that Art. 116 II GG extends to descendants.

4. Why did you say “generally yes”? That sounds like there are some caveats.

In law, there are always exceptions.

You will be treated as if your parent or grandparent had never been deprived of German citizenship, but that doesn’t guarantee that you will receive German citizenship and a passport. For example, until 1975 and if the parents were married, only fathers could pass on German citizenship. If you were born to a (former) German mother before 1975, the reinstatement according to Art. 116 II GG does not help you because even without the Nazi-era discrimination, you wouldn’t have been born a German. (Although there is another route for these cases, detailed in no. 8 of my FAQ on naturalization from abroad.)

5. But if I qualify, this also extends to my children?

Yes.

6. What about the non-Nazi related cases, for example when I lost German citizenship because I applied for US/Jamaican/Australian citizenship without prior permission from Germany, but now I want to move back to Germany?

First of all, you don’t need German citizenship in order to move to Germany (§ 38 II AufenthG).

But § 13 StAG allows for the discretionary renaturalization of former German citizens (and their minor children). You are not entitled to it, though, and thus need to present a compelling case.

7. Can you help me with that?

Yes, I can.

The minimum requirements are that you speak German at B1 level, that you can financially support yourself and that you have close ties to Germany (family, professional, business, academic or otherwise). Even then, you’ll need to show that it would be in the national interest of Germany to renaturalize you.

8. Will I have to give up my existing citizenship?

Generally yes, but there are exceptions.

Before you ask: I’ll have to write a separate list of FAQ on dual citizenship in Germany. I am just waiting for a few more donations to my blog before I do that.

9. I lost German citizenship when I was a child because my family moved to another country and my parents filed for British/Brazilian/US citizenship for me. I was never asked. This is unfair!

We cannot undo everything that your parents did on your behalf when you were a child. Or do you want to return all these bicycles and Commodore computers?

But it is worth looking into the exact circumstances. I’ve had cases where only one of the parents signed the petition for a new citizenship although the parents had joint custody. In this case, German law treats you as if you never lost German citizenship in the first place and you can simply apply for a new passport without having to go through renaturalization.

10. I am half-German …

No, you are not!

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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, Law and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to 10 FAQ on Reclaiming German Citizenship

  1. Pingback: 10 FAQ on citizenship law in Germany | The Happy Hermit

  2. ALEJANDRO EDELMANN says:

    I was born in Argentina in 1966. My father was also born in Argentina, but had German citizenship as well and got me my German citizenship in 1989. In 2005 I became a citizen of Mexico, since we’ve been living here for over 20 years. Next year my German passport expires.
    Questions:
    1.- Will Germany renew my passport? Do they cross-check citizenships automatically?
    2.- If not, due to my Mexican citizenship, is there an exception that I can apply for?
    3.- If I lose my citizenship, would I be able to reapply if I renounce my Mexican citizenship?

    Thanks,

    • Unfortunately, you lost the German citizenship when you applied for and received Mexican citizenship.
      Germany cannot check automatically with all other countries, but they will make you provide a statement from the Mexican authorities or sign an affidavit.

      You can reapply, but as I write in no. 6, it’s not that easy. And you would need to give up both your Mexican and Argentinian citizenship.

      • ALEJANDRO EDELMANN says:

        Hi Andreas,

        Thank you for prompt response. Love your sense of humor. Some of your responses are hilarious :-)

        I agree on the need to give up my Mexican citizenship, as I’ve acquired it by naturalization, but as far as the Argentinian goes, I cannot renounce that by law and Germany understands that. I was Argentinian by birth when my father requested my German citizenship by descent.

        Also, being that Germany recognizes citizenship mainly by “jus sanguinis”, which is my case, and without sounding pretentious or entitled, could Germany deny my “jus sanguinis” right, if I would like to re-apply after I give up my Mexican citizenship?

        BTW, I just happily made a donation to the cause :-)

        Vielen Dank!

      • Hello Alejandro,

        thank you very, very much for your donation!
        And I am glad you discovered some of funny replies. Many people overlook my legal FAQ and look for my short stories for humor, but some of the cases/answers about citizenship or divorce law are indeed funnier than any fiction.

        Now to clarify your situation:
        – If you re-apply for German citizenship, it’s an application for a new naturalization. You will be treated like any other applicant and if you previously could have maintained dual citizenship unfortunately plays no more role. (You have to consider that you could have kept German citizenship even you applied for Mexican citizenship if you had obtained permission from Germany in advance, § 25 II StAG).
        – If it’s legally impossible to renounce Argentinian citizenship, then that’s a completely different matter. In that case, Germany accepts dual citizenship (no. 8.1.2.6.3.1. VV-StAG).
        – You are right that Argentina is one of these countries. Others are Afghanistan, Eritrea and Uruguay (GK-StAR § 8 Rn. 223).
        – Unfortunately, Germany can deny your application if you do not meet the requirements because you lost German citizenship through a voluntary act of your own volition when you were already an adult. Also, you are not stateless, so you are not considered to be in a disadvantaged situation. Former Germans do therefore not have an entitlement to re-naturalization (GK-StAR § 13 Rn. 33 m.w.N.). Obviously, your connections to Germany will be evaluated, but descent is only one factor. You would need to show that you speak German fluently and that you have other family/professional/business/academic/cultural ties to Germany.
        – If you wish to move to Europe, it might be easier to apply for a residence permit in accordance with § 38 II AufenthG, which is a special clause for ex-Germans, and then apply for regular naturalization after living there for several years.

        I am sorry that it’s so complicated.

  3. ALEJANDRO EDELMANN says:

    Hi Andreas,

    I have no plans to move to Europe for now, but I’ve always been proud of my German heritage, I went 12 years to the Goethe Schule and the Steiner Schule (Waldorf) in Buenos Aires and traveling around the world with the most powerful passport in the world has been very easy.

    Do you think that I could ask for permission to keep my German citizenship now by apologizing for my lack of knowledge of the consequences of acquiring the Mexican citizenship? I cannot renounce it for a few years, as my work visa in the United States is based on my Mexican passport through NAFTA. I’ve read somewhere that if I could be seriously affected financially by giving up my acquired Mexican citizenship, Germany would consider that as well.

    Again, thanks for what you do :-)

    • The information about the German schools is positive, that will count for a lot when Germany will make a discretionary decision.

      The problem with the Mexican citizenship is this: If you say that you need it to stay in the US, you will be asked what on earth you need German citizenship for if you don’t want to live in Germany. I agree that it’s a very useful passport for traveling, but that’s not a compelling reason for an exception.
      The hardship exceptions for keeping another citizenship when getting naturalized as a German are usually cases from countries where you lose property or inheritance rights when you give up citizenship.
      And if you are planning to apply for US citizenship, then you have the same issue again of losing German citizenship unless you get a permission in accordance with § 25 II StAG. Lastly, this is all complicated by the fact that applications for German citizenship from abroad currently take at least 2 years to process because of the huge number of applications due to my FAQ ;-) – and due to Brexit, to be honest. And if you get US citizenship first, Germany will ask you to give it up upon naturalization in Germany.

  4. Afia says:

    Hi Andreas
    I was born in Germany in 1981 from a GhanaIan parents and they move to ghana I just received my Germany birth certificate how do I apply for passport pls am worried

  5. YUNITA Anzarni says:

    Hallo andreas.

    I am yunita from Indonesia. I have relationhip with the refugee status in germany. We love each other so much. We want to know how we can married.
    He didn’t have german pasport. So his lawyes just give him 2 choices. There are married with german girl or change his religion to christiani.

    I don’t have any idea now. I’m really confused. I’m pregnant and this is our baby.

    Do you have idea for us ?

    Thanks Andrean.

  6. Jim says:

    Hi Andreas,

    Thank you for this great source of information. I am a 55 year old US citizen living most of my life in Japan. Some very sketchy research indicates that my great great grandfather, born in 1879 came to the US from Germany when he was a young man and fathered my grandfather in 1906 in Camden New Jersey who then fathered my father in 1929. None of them signed up for any wars although my father was conscripted to Korea. I don’t know if my great great grandfather naturalized or not. I think he came through Ellis Island. Was naturalization part of the process? Anyway, I am interested in finding out if I have a chance for German citizenship or not. Would appreciate any info or ideas you could provide.

    • Naturalization was not done at Ellis Island because it required several years of residence in the US.
      In your case, we would need to find out when your great great grandfather came to the US and if he was naturalized before 1906. None of the subsequent forefathers would have been naturalized because they received US citizenship due to being born in the USA.
      Because you have a fully paternal line of ancestors, you’d be German if everything checks out all right in the first immigrant generation.

  7. Natalia says:

    Danke schoen Andreas! Sehr hilfreich!

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