There are several conditions to acquire German citizenship. In general, you must meet the following requirements to be naturalized:
- You must have lived legally and permanently in Germany for at least eight years.
- You must prove your identity.
- You must have an unlimited residence permit or a settlement permit.
- You must be able to support yourself and your family members without claiming social assistance or unemployment benefit II (Hartz 4).
- You must have sufficient knowledge of the German language.
- You must have sufficient knowledge of the legal and social system and living conditions in Germany.
- You must commit to the fundamental values of the free democratic constitutional order in Germany.
- You must be integrated into German living conditions.
- You must not be a criminal.
- You must accept the loss or renunciation of your current nationality.
The requirements for acquiring German citizenship in detail:
You must have lived legally and permanently in Germany for at least eight years:
“Permanent” means that you have had your center of life in Germany for the past eight years. So you have stayed here continuously and still live here.
“Legal” means that during this time you had a residence permit – for example, a residence permit or settlement permit. If you are an EU citizen without a special residence permit for Germany, you also meet this requirement.
Cases in which you can obtain German citizenship more quickly and easily:
If you have successfully participated in an integration course:
In this case, the required length of stay is reduced from eight to seven years.
If you have made special integration achievements:
The required length of stay can be reduced to six years. Special integration achievements that can be considered by the naturalization authorities in individual cases include, for example, a very good knowledge of German, outstanding school or professional achievements, a very good training degree or many years of honorary work in a non-profit association or federation. The naturalization authorities can also recognize other special integration achievements. Depending on the federal state and municipality, there may be different regulations. Please contact the responsible naturalization authority early on.
If you are internationally protected or recognized refugee or stateless:
As an internationally protected person or recognized refugee, you may be naturalized after six instead of eight years. The naturalization authority decides. Note: The duration of your asylum procedure counts towards these six years.
For stateless persons, too, the naturalization authority may reduce the required length of stay to six years.
If you are married to a German citizen or live in a registered partnership:
In this case, you can be naturalized after only three years of residence in Germany. If certain requirements are met, the authority may only reject your application in exceptional cases. If you are planning to divorce or dissolve the partnership or are already separated, you have no right to naturalization after three years.
If family members want to be naturalized together with you:
Your spouse or registered partner can be naturalized with you after only four years of residence in Germany. So you must have lived married or in a registered partnership in Germany for at least two years. For your minor children under 16 years of age, three years of residence are sufficient.
Proving Your Identity
The naturalization authority must verify your identity and current nationality. To do this, you must submit your biometric passport or other identification document with your photo (e.g. identity card). This is how the authority also checks your current nationality.
If you cannot provide a passport, there are other ways to prove your identity. In particular, with other official documents from your country of origin with biometric data. These include, for example, driver’s license, ID card, military ID or marriage certificate with photo. If these documents are also not available, submit other documents from the country of origin such as birth certificate, baptismal certificate, marriage certificate, registration confirmation or school certificates.
Stateless persons can prove their identity with a travel document for stateless persons.
You usually have to provide the identity documents yourself – unless you are recognized as a refugee.
Having an Unlimited or Permanent Residence Permit
You may be in one of the following cases:
You have unlimited right of residence in these cases:
•You have a permanent or long-term residence permit in the European Union.
•You are a citizen of the European Union or one of its family members – and therefore automatically have a residence permit.
•You are a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway – and have the same rights as EU citizens.
•You have the right of residence under the EU Withdrawal Agreement with the United Kingdom or the Free Movement Agreement between Switzerland and the EU.
•You are a Turkish citizen or one of his/her family members and have a right of residence under the Association Agreement between the EU and Turkey.
A temporary residence permit can also be sufficient to acquire the right to German citizenship. For example, if you work in Germany as a skilled worker or because the residence permit was granted for the purpose of family reunification. The same applies to refugees or persons with international protection and certain other humanitarian purposes, a temporary residence permit is sufficient.
If you are staying in Germany for study, training or certain humanitarian reasons, a temporary residence permit is not sufficient for naturalization. However, you have a good chance of soon meeting the requirements for German citizenship.
Temporary residence permits or residence permits do not entitle you to acquire German citizenship.
Even if you have one of the following permits under the Residence Act, you do not yet have a right to naturalization:
This list is not exhaustive. If you are unsure whether your residence permit is sufficient for naturalization or not, please consult the naturalization authority or an immigration advisor early on.
Being Able to Support Yourself and Your Family Members
Simply put, this means that you are able to pay the costs of food, clothing and housing for yourself and your family from your income. Income includes, for example, the salary you receive from your work, income as self-employed or maintenance that your ex-partner has to pay you after the divorce.
However, you may not receive any amounts from the employment office or social welfare office (social assistance, unemployment benefit II or social money). This only applies if you have no income of your own through no fault of your own. For example, if you are unemployed because you were dismissed for operational reasons and can prove that you have made great efforts to find a new job. Or if you are at home caring for young children and therefore (again) cannot work. In this case, you may still be entitled to German citizenship.
Other social benefits such as orphan’s pension, pension, unemployment benefit I or vocational training assistance do not affect your naturalization entitlement.
If you are unsure whether you meet this requirement, please consult the naturalization authority or a migration counseling center early on.
Having Sufficient Knowledge of the German Language
For this you need at least level B1 in the German test for immigrants. B1 means that you can apply German independently, but it is not necessary to speak and write fluently in German.
You can prove that you speak and understand German at level B1 with the following documents:
•A certificate from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) showing that you have successfully participated in a German course.
•A certificate of the German test for immigrants or an equivalent or higher language certificate.
•A certificate showing that you have successfully attended a German-speaking school for at least four years.
•A leaving certificate from compulsory schooling or equivalent German certificates.
•Proof that you have been transferred to the 10th grade of a German-speaking secondary school.
•Your degree certificate from a German university or college.
You cannot provide any of this evidence? If the naturalization authority itself determines your German language skills, it can waive the need for proof. If she has doubts, she can demand a language test. This test can be carried out, for example, in a Volkshochschule.
Exceptions for People with Disabilities, Illnesses or Older Persons
If you are ill or have a disability and therefore cannot reach level B1, you need a medical certificate confirming your illness or disability.
If it is very difficult for you to learn German due to your age. This applies from 65 years of age.
If you are over 60 years of age and have already lived in Germany for twelve years. In this case, a lower level of language proficiency may be sufficient.
Supporting the Free Democratic Basic Order of the Federal Republic of Germany
Human rights and democratic principles form the heart of the constitution, the German constitution. This constitution protects certain principles in particular, such as human rights (e.g. freedom of expression and press freedom, freedom of religion, equality of women and men), self-determination of the people, separation of powers, rule of law and the right to parliamentary opposition. These principles are intended to prevent authoritarian rule.
Above all, this means: freely elected representatives represent the interests of the population in parliament, make political decisions and control the government.
When acquiring German citizenship, you must declare your loyalty to the free democratic basic order of the Federal Republic of Germany. This confirms that you respect the Basic Law and the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany and will not harm the Federal Republic of Germany. Before you are handed your naturalization certificate, you must also orally confirm your written declaration in a formal declaration.
Unconstitutional Activities and Convictions in the Past
If you have violated the constitution, you cannot obtain German citizenship. The naturalization authority will speak with the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and check this. Contact the naturalization authority if you have any questions.
A person who held unconstitutional convictions in the past can only obtain German citizenship if they can convincingly prove to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the naturalization authority that they have abandoned these convictions. If the authority is not convinced, naturalization will not take place.
Integration into German Society
This means that you not only know the German law and the rules of the legal and social system in Germany, but also accept them. For example, a person who is married to more than one person at the same time according to foreign law (so-called polygamy) is not compatible with living conditions in Germany.
No Prior Convictions
If you have been convicted of an offense in Germany or abroad, obtaining German citizenship is not possible.
If you have a criminal record or criminal proceedings or criminal charges are pending against you, you must inform the naturalization authority. Then it is waited until the investigations are completed or the court has decided. Exceptions are only possible for minor convictions, such as penalties under the Youth Courts Act or fines of 90 days or less, or imprisonment of three months or less suspended on probation, if the sentence is lifted after the probation period expires. This does not apply if racist, international terrorist, anti-Semitic or inhumane motives were confirmed during the conviction for an offense. In this case, obtaining German citizenship is not possible. Deleted convictions are not taken into account.
Renunciation of Your Previous Nationality
As a rule, you must renounce your previous nationality in order to obtain German citizenship. However, there are some exceptions:
•Citizens of EU member states and Switzerland can retain their previous nationality.
•In some cases it may be difficult or impossible to renounce previous nationality. For example, if the process of renouncing nationality takes too long, is too expensive or is rejected by the authorities of the country of origin. In such cases, dual citizenship may be permitted.
•Persons who are at risk of losing their fundamental rights if they renounce their previous nationality for political, legal or personal reasons may also receive an exception.
Speak to the naturalization authority to determine whether one of these exceptions applies to your situation.
To acquire German citizenship, you must be able to provide for yourself and your family without relying on social assistance or unemployment benefits. However, there are some exceptions:
•If you are unemployed but actively looking for work and have a reasonable chance of finding employment.
•If you cannot work due to illness, disability or age and therefore receive social assistance or unemployment benefits.
•If you are recognized refugees, asylum seekers or subsidiary protection beneficiaries and have not yet found work.
How to Get German Citizenship?
There are several steps to obtaining German citizenship:
•Ensure that the requirements for naturalization are met. These include, for example, the duration of residence in Germany, German language skills and a secure livelihood.
•Submit an application for German citizenship to the responsible immigration authority. The application must contain all necessary documents such as birth certificate, proof of identity and police clearance certificate.
•Complete a test on knowledge of law and society. These tests are intended to show that you have sufficient knowledge about the political system and society in Germany.
•Conduct a personal interview with an employee of the immigration authority. During this interview, you should give convincing reasons for your wish to obtain German citizenship.
•Renounce your current nationality or prove that this is impossible or unreasonable. This can be a prerequisite for German citizenship.
•Participate in an official naturalization ceremony and sign a declaration of loyalty to the German constitution. After that you have obtained German citizenship.
•Entry in the civil register and application for a German passport or identity card.
These steps can take between 8 and 24 months, depending on the situation at the local immigration authority. It is therefore important to submit the application early to avoid delays in the process.
How Much Does it Cost to Apply for German Citizenship?
The costs for applying for German citizenship vary depending on the personal situation. In general, however, you can expect the following costs:
•Application fee: Currently 255 euros for adults. This amount is due upon submission of the application for German citizenship.
•Translation costs: If you submit documents in a language other than German, you need a certified translation. This costs between 50 and 100 euros per page, depending on the translator.
•Fees for acknowledgements of receipt and other administrative costs: For example, when submitting the application by registered letter with return receipt.
•Fees for the German citizenship test: If you decide to take an official citizenship test, additional costs will be incurred. Fees are usually around 200 euros.
•Costs for renouncing previous nationality: If you have to renounce your current nationality, this process may involve fees. The amount depends on the country of which you are a national.
•Document costs: Fees may be charged for some documents such as birth certificates or police clearance certificates. These costs vary from place to place.
Overall, the costs for applying for German citizenship can range from 500 to 1500 euros or more, depending on the personal situation.
Important Links to Facilitate Access to Documents and Competent Authorities for Naturalization in Germany:
Official website of the German government for acquiring German citizenship:
Information on the requirements and procedures for German citizenship from the German Federal Ministry of the Interior:
Information on the tests required for naturalization, including knowledge and language tests:
Link for booking an appointment for the knowledge test:
List of fees for acquiring German citizenship:
Information on naturalization ceremonies and signing the declaration of loyalty:
Links to further information on acquiring German citizenship for various categories such as children or spouses:
Online forums and support groups for people applying for naturalization: