How to Apply for German Citizenship by Descent and Ancestry

German citizenship by descent and ancestry is the most simple way to acquire citizenship in Germany. You don't have to have residence or work in Germany; you must just have your parent(s) or grandparent(s) who were born in Germany at the time of their birth. The process takes as little as seven days and requires a small fee, but it doesn't cover everything.

How to Apply for German Citizenship by Descent and Ancestry

When do I need residency? You must be outside Germany with no intention of returning before the application process starts (i.e., June 1). What documents do I need? For adults over 18, information such as date and place of birth, names of parents/grandparents, current address (or if lived abroad for more than three years), occupation, and marital status are required. Does my spouse automatically become a citizen? No! Your spouse has to apply separately if they want to become citizens.

Can I bring family members along with me?

If so, ensure they understand how much time will be needed for this application process alone - not counting any other documentation needed, such as school diplomas from foreign schools! How much does a fee cost? Citizenship applications are accessible under certain circumstances (such as for minors under 16 years old). There may also be reduced fees for applicants who can provide proof of disability or belong to an ethnic minority group based on ancestry or religion."

If you are a citizen of another country and would like to apply for German citizenship by descent or ancestry, you must have lived in Germany for eight years. This could be as long as three years if your parents were born in Germany. You will also need to pass a citizenship test and language test. You must also have no criminal record that would prevent you from becoming a German citizen by naturalization.

How Do I Determine If I Am a German Citizen by Descent?

You must examine your family tree to determine your eligibility for German citizenship. Look for the following responses to the following questions:

  • Which of your ancestors was born in Germany?
  • What nationality laws were in effect at the time of your ancestor's birth?

For example, suppose your German grandparents moved from Germany to the United States in the 1960s, where your mother was born. In this case, your mother (who was born in wedlock to two German nationals) would have been automatically granted German citizenship, which she would have passed on to you. Even if you were born and raised in the United States, you may be eligible for German citizenship as well.

However, keep in mind that German nationality laws can be complicated; it can be difficult to determine whether you meet all of the requirements or not. Many applicants find it beneficial to consult with immigration lawyers like Schlun & Elseven before beginning the process of reclaiming their German citizenship.

How Do I Determine Whether My Ancestors Were German?

The rules to German nationality can be confusing. The three main factors determining a person's claim to German citizenship are:

  • Whether they were born in or out of wedlock.
  • The date on which they were born.
  • Which parent was a German citizen? (the mother or the father).

Read about some of your ancestors who may have been granted German citizenship and passed it down to you.


If They Were Born in Wedlock

In the following circumstances, a child born in wedlock is considered a German citizen:

  • They were born to at least one German parent after January 1, 1975. It makes no difference which of the parents was German.
  • They were born to a German father before January 1, 1975.

Generally, a child born in wedlock to a German mother (and foreign father) before 1975 could not obtain German citizenship. The child was only granted German citizenship if they were otherwise on the verge of becoming stateless.

German Citizenship Restored (Gender Discrimination Grounds)

Individuals who are eligible to reclaim their German citizenship include:

  1. Children born to German parents but not granted German citizenship. This includes, for example, children born in wedlock to a German mother and a foreign father before 1975.
  2. Children born to a German mother who married a foreigner before giving birth and thus lost her German nationality. Prior to 1975, German women who married foreigners had to renounce their citizenship.
  3. Children who were born with German citizenship but lost it due to "legitimation" by their foreign father. For example, if the mother was German at the time of the child's birth (out of wedlock), she passed on citizenship to the child. However, after the child was born, the German mother married the foreign father, and both the mother and the child were forced to give up their nationality.
  4. Descendants of children numbered from one to three.

How to Regain German Citizenship through Descent

To reclaim your German citizenship, you must submit an application to the German Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt). If you are not in Germany, you can send your declaration to the nearest German diplomatic office, which will forward it to the Federal Office of Administration.

If you meet all of the requirements, the Federal Office of Administration will determine your eligibility. If you answer yes, you will be given a certificate confirming your acquisition of German citizenship through declaration (Urkunde über den Erwerb der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit durch Erklärung).

Please keep in mind that if you or an ancestor are eligible for German citizenship by declaration, you have a 10-year window from the date the law was passed. As a result, the deadline for declaring German citizenship is August 19, 2031.

Although it sounds simple and quick in theory, sorting through piles of paperwork and dealing with German bureaucracy can be a daunting prospect. A good immigration attorney can help you navigate the process of reclaiming your German citizenship.

How Do I Prove My Eligibility?

To apply for reclaiming your German citizenship by descent, you must:

  • Submit your birth certificate and/or your ancestors’ birth certificates. You must prove the link between yourself and your ancestors.
  • Submit any other documents that prove your eligibility for German citizenship, such as old German passports.
  • Prove that you have not lost your citizenship after already gaining it once.
  • Prove that you are not a German child who was born abroad after December 31, 1999, and was not registered in accordance with Section 36 of the Civil Status Act.
  • Prove that you do not have any criminal convictions.
  • Complete any relevant forms required by the Federal Office of Administration.

German Citizenship for Victims of Nazi Persecution

Victims of Nazi rule during WWII who had to forfeit their German nationality between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945 because they were prosecuted on political, racial, or religious grounds can now reclaim it. If you meet the following criteria, you can acquire German citizenship by a declaration:

  • You surrendered or lost your German citizenship before 26 February 1955 to acquire a foreign nationality or marry a foreigner.
  • You were banned from acquiring German citizenship through marriage, legitimisation, or naturalisation of individuals with German ethnic origin.
  • You were not naturalised as a German citizen, even though you were eligible for citizenship when you applied.
  • You were banned from applying for naturalisation, even though you were eligible for citizenship when you applied.
  • If you surrendered or lost your German citizenship, provided that residency was established before 30 January 1933 – for children, even after 30 January 1933.
  • As a result, children and grandchildren of the individuals listed above may also be eligible for German citizenship.

How Can I Obtain German Citizenship Through Descent?

You must apply for German citizenship by descent through the German embassy in your home country or the German Federal Office of Administration (BVA). Before submitting your application, you must have all required proof of paternity and family history (birth certificates, family books, etc.).

Although the application process should be streamlined (especially with the new nationality law amendments), the requirements and documentation can be difficult and time-consuming. Because of the significance of this procedure, many applicants chose to delegate power of attorney to immigration law experts.

If you are confident that you are entitled to German citizenship through ancestry, the lawyers at Schlun & Elseven can help you maximize your chances of success because they have years of experience with German nationality and immigration law.


Application Fees of German Citizenship by Descent

You do not have to pay a processing fee when applying for German citizenship by descent. However, that’s not to say it is an entirely free process since you will have to pay to have your documents translated, notarised, and maybe even sent by post. In many countries, you have to pay fees to obtain the necessary documents from archives.

Benefits of Obtaining German Citizenship by Descent

If you are eligible for German citizenship by descent, the main benefit is that it is very quick: you can have a citizenship certificate within two to three years.

Once you are a German citizen, you can:

  • Live, work, study, and retire in Germany and anywhere in the EU.
  • You can open and operate a business in Germany and anywhere in the EU.
  • Take advantage of the German healthcare scheme and social security.
  • Get a German passport, and travel visa-free to more than 145 countries.
  • Vote in Germany.
  • Raise your children in Germany and pass on German citizenship to them (if you have or plan to have children).
  • Germany is known for being one of the best and safest countries in the world.


If you are of German descent or ancestry and want to apply for citizenship, then the first step is to contact an immigration lawyer who specializes in these types of cases. They will be able to help you determine if you qualify for citizenship based on your family history.

Once that has been established, they’ll work with the consular office at your home country’s embassy (or consulate) in Germany to process your application and make sure everything goes smoothly during the process.

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