German citizenship is highly regarded globally — owning a German passport grants you visa-free entry to 188 countries, making it the second-best in the world — but acquiring it isn’t easy. We’ll walk you through the bureaucratic madness and tell you the most important things you need to know about the naturalization process. We’re also going to focus on the personal stories of two Brits close to Babbel and their journey to obtain German citizenship.
The obvious motivation for many Brits to gain German citizenship is Brexit. What would happen to Brits who were currently living in other member states? This was the case for two Brits close to us, David and Ed. They’ve both worked at Babbel for a long time and participated in several language challenges — whether it be learning French or Norwegian or even trying their hand at Austrian German.
Individuals hoping to acquire German citizenship generally have emotional, personal or political reasons for doing so. For Ed, this desire came immediately when he learned the results of the referendum. He lived for many years in Spain and Germany and so he feels as at home on the European continent as he does in England. Meanwhile, David thought initially of the consequences for foreign and domestic policy. His decision to become German was motivated by practicality: He pays taxes here and wants to maintain his right to live throughout Europe. Luckily, as Great Britain is currently still an EU member state, Ed and David didn’t have to choose between their nationalities (as Germany typically requires). Even with these strong motivations, specific criteria must be fulfilled for the naturalization process — and language skills are at the top of the list.
What Are The Requirements To Obtain German Citizenship?
If you are not German by descent or Jus soli (citizenship by being born on German soil), you will need to fulfill certain requirements for naturalization. All potential German citizens must start with the same step: You must inform the appropriate official bodies, i.e., the naturalization agency (Einbürgerungsbehörde) or naturalization department (Einbürgerungsabteilung) in your place of residence. There you can find all the up-to-date and detailed information. Here is the short form:
- You have unlimited residency in Germany
- You’re responsible for your own livelihood — so you don’t receive social aid or unemployment benefits
- Exceptions are possible, like if you received a stipend during schooling, training or studying.
- You’ve lived in Germany legally for at least eight years
- The time spent living in Germany can be reduced to seven or six years if you have successfully completed an integration course, have a German spouse or have performed specific integration achievements. These integration achievements include a period of voluntary work for a non-profit or German language skills at a B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference or higher.
- You have sufficient knowledge of German (meaning at least level B1 of the CEFR)
- You can demonstrate your language skills in various forms, such as by successfully participating in a language course within an integration course, with a German certificate or other language qualification, by having attended a German-speaking school for at least four years and having graduated from it, with a secondary school diploma or Abitur (general qualification for university entrance), by successfully completing vocational training in German or completing studies at a German-speaking (technical) secondary school.
- You have basic civic knowledge
- You can demonstrate this with a diploma from a German secondary school, a qualification from a vocational school, a qualification in legal, social, political or administrative sciences or by carrying out a naturalization test.
- You have lost your previous citizenship or have forfeited it
- Exceptions are possible, notably for citizens of other EU member states.
- You do not have a criminal record
- You are familiar with the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
What Documents Will You Need To Complete?
The specific documents and forms that are required for naturalization in Germany differ on a case-by-case basis. Your personal advisor in the relevant naturalization authority will be able to tell you more about this.
How Much Does It Cost?
Naturalization costs 255 euros for adults.
And What About Our Two Brits?
Both Ed and David met all of the qualifications listed above. They had permanent residency at the time of applying, had lived in Germany for seven years, studied here and both speak German very well. They have fixed jobs and no criminal record. They accept the democratic beliefs laid forth by the Basic Law. Still, adopting another nationality is not merely a bureaucratic issue. It is a very personal decision (especially if you have to relinquish your previous nationality) and is associated with several moral dilemmas and identity issues.
David, in particular, was timid about broaching the topic with his parents, and they initially couldn’t understand why he wanted to become German. Eventually, they had to accept that their son was serious about naturalization — if not when he immortalized his love of Berlin with a tattoo of the Berlin Bear, then when he stood before them holding a yellow rose and a German citizenship certificate in his hand.