German citizenship by descent – New rules allow for simplified Acquisition

On August 20, 2021, a new law became effective in Germany that opens the door for many persons with a German parent or grand parent, to become German citizens. A number of discriminatory rules previously prevented certain persons with a German mother, father, or grand parent from becoming a German citizen at birth. For example, a child born in wedlock – during certain periods when these laws were in place – would acquire only the father’s citizenship at birth. In case of child born in wedlock to a German mother and a foreign father, this meant that the child would only acquire the father’s foreign nationality at birth. Similarly, a child born out of wedlock would usually acquire only the mother’s nationality at birth. Consequently, a child born out of wedlock to a German father and a foreign mother would acquire only the foreign mother’s nationality. Under current nationality laws, a child will always acquire German citizenship at birth, if one parent is a German citizen, regardless whether the child is born in or out of wedlock. Therefore, it will be sufficient if the mother or the father is a German citizen for the child to also become a German citizen at birth (it may also acquire another nationality through the other parent who is not a German citizen).

There is a large group of persons who, at the time of their birth, did not acquire German citizenship because the old rules described above, or other, similarly discriminatory rules, that were applicable at that time. Article 3 of the German Constitution (the “Grundgesetz”), which became effective as of May 23, 1949 states that

“(1) All persons shall be equal before the law.

(2) Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.”(…)

Despite these clear promulgations of the German Constitution, for many years the acquisition of German citizenship hinged on whether a child was born in or out of wedlock, and it was considered arbitrary by many that in some cases a child would become a German citizen only if the father was German (if the parents were married) and in some cases it would become a German citizen only if the mother was German (if the parents were not married). To eliminate this unequal treatment under the law, a new section 5 of the Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) was introduced in August of 2021, which allows persons who did not become German citizens at birth due to the discriminatory laws described here, to become German citizens by declaration.

The procedure is fairly straight forward. A form needs to be filled and submitted to the German authorities, along with certain documentation. There is no fee associated with this procedure.

Persons entitled to acquire German citizenship by declaration are those who did not acquire German citizenship at birth because either of the following applies:

1. No acquisition of German citizenship from a German mother

  • Date of Birth after May 23, 1949
  • Mother was a German citizen at time of birth
  • Father was not a German citizen on the day of my birth
  • Applicant’s parents married before applicant’s birth.

2. No acquisition of German citizenship from a German father

  • Date of Birth after May 23, 1949
  • Mother was a not German citizen at the time applicant’s of birth
  • Father was a German citizen at at the time applicant’s of birth
  • Parents were not married at at the time applicant’s of birth

Additional requirements: The father legally acknowledged parenthood or the legal procedures to his parenthood were initiated before applicant’s 23rd birthday.

3. No acquisition of German citizenship due to loss of citizenship through marriage

  • Date of Birth after May 23, 1949
  • Mother lost her German citizenship by marrying a foreigner before 1 April 1953
  • Father was not a German citizen at at the time applicant’s of birth
  • Applicant was born after his/her mother had lost her German citizenship

4. Loss of German citizenship through legitimation

  • Date of Birth after May 23, 1949
  • Mother was a German citizen at the time of applicant’s birth
  • Applicant’s parents married after applicant’s birth, but before April 1, 1953
  • Father was not a German citizen at the time of applicant’s birth or at the time of his marriage applicant’s mother
  • Applicant lost German citizenship due to Mother’s marriage

If you have any questions regarding the acquisition of German citizenship by declaration, or if you would like to be assisted or presented by counsel, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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