Information about German citizenship

Certificate of nationality

Certificate of nationality, © Ute Grabowsky / photothek.net


All citizenship applications are processed by the Federal Office of Administration (BVA) in Cologne, which is responsible for the citizenship concerns of people living abroad. The embassy is your local contact and will forward your applications to the BVA.

The Foreign Office has also listed many important questions and their answers on the subject of German citizenship on the website. This will give you a good first impression.

Acquisition of German citizenship

German nationality law is fundamentally based on the so-called descent principle. This means that German citizenship is acquired primarily based on descent from a German parent. Since 2000, it has also been possible to purchase a child if you were born in Germany or with foreign parents.

There is also the possibility of acquiring it through declaration, naturalization, legitimation, acquisition or adoption.

Acquisition through legitimate birth

Marital children born between January 1, 1914 and December 31, 1963 only acquired German citizenship through their German father.

Marital children of a German mother who were born after January 1, 1964 and before December 31, 1974 acquired German citizenship if they would otherwise have become stateless.

Marital children born since January 1, 1975 acquired citizenship if one of the two parents was German.

Marital children of a German mother who were born after April 1, 1953 and before January 1, 1975 and who already had citizenship had the opportunity to make a declaration from January 1, 1975 that they wanted to receive German citizenship. This declaration period initially ended on December 31, 1977. Since August 20, 2021, these children and their descendants have once again had the opportunity to submit a declaration to obtain German citizenship within 10 years. More information can be found here.

Acquisition through birth outside of marriage

Children born out of wedlock of a German mother have received German citizenship through their mother since January 1, 1914.

Children born out of wedlock of a German father have acquired German citizenship since July 1, 1993, provided that, among other things, a valid recognition or determination of paternity takes place before the child turns 23.

These children may have the option of naturalization.

Acquisition of German citizenship for children born abroad whose German parents were born abroad after December 31, 1999 (Section 4 Paragraph 4 StAG)

When born abroad, children whose German parents were born abroad after December 31, 1999 and at the time of

If the child has his or her habitual residence abroad, they do not acquire German citizenship by birth if they acquire foreign citizenship by birth.

Only if the parents submit an application for the child's birth to be certified in the birth register at the relevant registry office in Germany or at the relevant German diplomatic mission within one year of the child's birth will the child acquire German citizenship retroactively to the time of its birth.

You find more information here.

Acquisition through adoption

Since January 1, 1977, German citizenship can also have been acquired through adoption by a German parent. If you have any further questions, please contact the German diplomatic mission responsible for you.

For children who were adopted by a German parent between January 1, 1959 and December 31, 1976, there was the possibility of acquiring German citizenship by declaration until December 31, 1979.

Acquisition through legitimation

Legitimacy is the subsequent marriage of the parents of a child born out of wedlock. The legitimation can also be provided by the child's declaration of marriage by a court. The acquisition of German citizenship is fundamentally based on the regulations applicable to children born in wedlock. Since July 1, 1998, the legal concept of legitimation no longer exists in German law.

German citizenship could also have been acquired through legitimation from January 1, 1914 to June 30, 1998.

Acquisition at birth in Germany and foreign parents

Since January 1, 2000, children of foreign parents, at least one of whom meets certain residency criteria, acquire German citizenship upon birth in Germany.

Acquisition through marriage of a foreigner and a German

Foreign women who married a German automatically acquired German citizenship from January 1, 1914 to March 31, 1953.

Special regulations applied to foreign women who married a German between April 1, 1953 and August 23, 1957.

If you married between August 24th, 1957 and December 31st, 1969, you had the option of acquiring German citizenship by declaration at the time of marriage or afterwards.

Since January 1, 1970, marriage is no longer an automatic reason for employment. However, spouses of German citizens can apply for naturalization from abroad under certain conditions.

Other reasons for citizenship

German citizenship can also have been acquired through naturalization or conferment.

If, after reading this information, you come to the conclusion that you have German citizenship, please contact us using our contact form to arrange a personal consultation.

Loss of German citizenship

The most common reason for losing German citizenship is acquiring foreign citizenship on your own application. You can find detailed information on this in the information sheet from the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne.

Retention permit

If you are a German and want to naturalize in Ghana and do not want to lose your German citizenship, you must apply for and receive a retention permit in advance. (§§ 17 No. 2, 25 StAG).

The processing time by the BVA currently takes around a year.

The key points of the application review are the nature and extent of the ongoing ties to Germany and the expected disadvantages if you forego naturalization in Ghana.

The Federal Office of Administration in Cologne is responsible for issuing retention permits for Germans living abroad, and has published a leaflet on the procedure.

Appointment for Citizenship questions

You can book an appointment here

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