Loss of German citizenship

Can I automatically lose my German citizenship?

Section 25 of the Nationality Act

Yes. Any German citizen who applies for and acquires foreign citizenship, whether in Germany or abroad, automatically loses his or her German citizenship. This occurs automatically by law; you do not have to make a special declaration or notify the German authorities. And it makes no difference how you acquired German citizenship. To avoid losing your German citizenship in this way, you must apply for and be granted permission to retain your German citizenship before acquiring foreign citizenship. When issuing passports, registering births, processing the subsequent immigration of family members, etc., the authorities make sure the persons in question are still German citizens. Possessing a German passport or identity card does not in itself constitute proof of citizenship. In case of doubt, a test to determine nationality can be carried out.

Can I give up my German citizenship?

Sections 18 to 24 of the Nationality Act

German nationality law allows its citizens to give up their citizenship, as long as they can show that they have applied for citizenship from another country whose responsible authorities have provided assurance that acquiring such citizenship is possible.

The loss of citizenship is effective when the person in question is issued a document to this effect, as long as he or she can demonstrate that he or she has acquired another citizenship within a year of the document being issued.  

Persons employed in the public service and still in an official relationship with public law functions, other than persons acting in a voluntary capacity, may not be released from their German citizenship. Persons subject to compulsory military service must receive approval from the Federal Ministry of Defence.

Can I renounce my German citizenship?

Section 26 of the Nationality Act

Anyone with multiple citizenship may renounce his or her German citizenship. Doing so requires official permission and goes into effect when a document to this effect is issued.

What does the obligation to choose citizenship mean?

Section 29 of the Nationality Act

Anyone with multiple nationality who has acquired German citizenship according to the principle of birthplace (Section 4 para. 3 of the Nationality Act) or by naturalization in accordance with Section 40 b of the Nationality Act* must choose between his/her German and foreign citizenship upon reaching the age of majority and before his/her 23rd birthday.

* Under a special time-limited entitlement to naturalization, this also applies to children who were not yet ten years old on 31 December 2000.

By choosing the other citizenship, he or she loses German citizenship. The same is true if he/she fails to declare a choice before his/her 23rd birthday.

Those wishing to retain their German citizenship must declare this in advance of their 23rd birthday. They must also officially renounce their foreign citizenship before their 23rd birthday, otherwise they will automatically lose their German citizenship.

If it is clear that it is not possible to give up the foreign citizenship, or to do so before the deadline, or that doing so would cause unreasonable hardship, then the person in question may apply for dual nationality before his/her 21st birthday. Persons eligible to apply for naturalization may also apply for dual nationality if it might be justified in their case.

What about German children who are adopted by foreigners?

Section 27 of the Nationality Act

German children who are adopted by a foreign parent and acquire the parent’s citizenship lose their German citizenship. This does not apply if they maintain a legal relation to their German parent.

What about serving in the armed forces of a foreign state?

Section 28 of the Nationality Act

Anyone with more than one citizenship who enters the service of the armed forces of a foreign state without prior approval by the Federal Ministry of Defence or its designated representative, or without being entitled, on the basis of a bilateral treaty, to join the armed forces of this state voluntarily, will thereby lose his or her German citizenship.

What can I do if I have lost my German citizenship?

Losing German citizenship also means losing all the rights and obligations associated with it. Even if you still have your German passport, in legal terms you have become a foreigner and require a residence and work permit to live and work in Germany. 

You may regain your German citizenship through re-naturalization. Please contact your local naturalization authority for more information.

Dual citizenship- multiple nationality

Is it possible to have another citizenship in addition to German citizenship?

In certain cases, German nationality law allows its citizens to have or acquire an additional citizenship. Multiple nationality may result from the following situations:

  • As a rule, children born to a German and a non-German parent, or to parents with dual nationality, acquire the nationalities of both parents at birth, according to the principle of descent.
  • Ethnic German repatriates and family members admitted with them acquire German citizenship when they are issued a repatriates certificate, in accordance with Section 7 of the Nationality Act; they do not have to give up their previous citizenship. If allowed by their countries of origin, their children born in Germany then acquire at birth both German citizenship and that of their parents.
  • In certain cases, German citizens may apply for dual nationality, allowing them to acquire foreign citizenship while retaining their German citizenship.

Those who have multiple nationality for one of these reasons normally pass multiple nationality on to their children. In such cases, German law allows children to retain their multiple nationality permanently; i.e., they do not have choose between their German and foreign citizenship upon reaching the age of majority.Persons with multiple nationality may, however, choose to give up their German citizenship (Section 26 of the Nationality Act).

The number of German multiple nationals is unknown because in Germany they are treated exclusively as German nationals and cannot invoke their other nationality when dealing with the authorities. Multiple nationality is no longer a rarity and does not cause any special difficulties.

Can I become a naturalized citizen without giving up my previous citizenship?

Section 12 of the Nationality Act

As a rule, no. One aim of German nationality law is to avoid creating multiple nationality through naturalization as far as possible. However, there are exceptions for cases of special hardship, specifically:

  • for victims of political persecution and recognized refugees, the requirement to obtain release from previous citizenships are generally waived;
  • when applicants cannot reasonably be expected to meet the conditions for release from their nationality, including unreasonable fees or humiliating practices to obtain release;
  • for elderly persons, if being released from their foreign nationality would cause unreasonable difficulties, and being denied naturalization would constitute a special hardship;
  • or if being released from previous citizenship would cause significant disadvantages, particularly in terms of finances or property rights.

In addition, candidates for naturalization from EU countries are subject to special rules.

Do special rules apply to EU citizens?

Given the aim of increasing European integration, the law contains special rules for EU citizens: They are not required to give up their previous citizenship in order to become naturalized German citizens, if their country of origin does not require Germans to give up their citizenship to become naturalized citizens of that country. According to Section 25 para. 2 of the Nationality Act, Germans who become naturalized citizens of another EU country may receive permission to retain their German citizenship.

This rule currently applies to the following EU countries: Greece, the UK, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, France, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Malta and Cyprus. With regard to the Netherlands and Slovenia, it applies only to certain categories of persons.

Do multiple nationals have special rights?

In Germany, a person with foreign citizenship in addition to his/her German citizenship (a multiple national) has exactly the same rights as all other German citizens.

German multiple nationals cannot claim additional rights in Germany through recourse to their other nationality, nor can they avoid any obligations, such as compulsory military service.

Additional rights may result in relation to the other state whose nationality they have. Whether they may exercise these rights (such as the right to vote) depends on the laws of the other state and does not affect policy, society or the individual in Germany.

When German multiple nationals are in the other country of their citizenship, the German embassy or consulate there may be able to provide them only limited protection, as such persons are regarded by the other country primarily as their citizens and treated accordingly. For this reason, multiple nationals in the relevant age groups should inform themselves in advance of rules regarding compulsory military service.

Information for persons subject to compulsory military service

As a rule, male German nationals are required to perform military service in Germany; the same applies to German multiple nationals. If a multiple national has fulfilled his German military obligations, this is normally recognized by his other country of citizenship, on the basis of numerous international treaties, bilateral agreements or the relevant national law.

If the person has already fulfilled his military obligations in his country of origin before becoming a naturalized German citizen, the actual length of service will be recognized in Germany. For example, a Turkish national who completed the one-month military service in Turkey may, after becoming a naturalized German citizen, have his compulsory military service in Germany reduced by one month; the remainder must still be served.

A German multiple national who voluntarily enters the armed forces of his other country of citizenship will lose his or her German citizenship.

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