In general, it takes at least eight years for a person to become eligible to apply for German citizenship. However, this can be shortened to as short as seven, six, or even three years in some cases.
Among other countries in Europe, Germany has strict citizenship rules, which require expats to live in the country at least for eight years before being eligible to apply for its citizenship in a normal scenario.
How do I become a German citizen?
If a person has lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possesses the appropriate residence permit, they are eligible to apply for German citizenship.
Applicants for naturalization must also declare their allegiance to the constitution of Germany and know the German language well. For integration into German society, German language knowledge is essential. A candidate for naturalization must understand the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany and be able to support themselves without social assistance, unless circumstances beyond their control prevent them. There should also be no serious criminal offenses on the candidate's record.
Additionally, when you apply for German citizenship, you must renounce your previous citizenship. However, multiple nationalities may be considered in some cases and for certain groups of people.
How to get German citizenship by derivative naturalization
It is also possible to speed up your citizenship application by applying for derivative naturalization. This basically means that, in a registered relationship, someone who has not completed the required period of residence in Germany can still apply for citizenship at the same time as their other partner who has completed all citizenship requirements. Similarly, minors can apply with their parents at the same time.
Read more about Derivative naturalization in the Federal Ministry of Interior and Community’s website
Apply for German citizenship after seven years
You have the possibility to apply for German citizenship after completing 7 years in Germany if you pass the German integration course.
In this special integration course, you will gain a thorough understanding of German culture, laws, and everyday life.
Moreover, you may be exempt from the integration course costs. To apply, you must write to your contact person at the Federal Office for Migrants and Refugees. Local integration course organizers can be found by searching for integration courses (available only in German). Alternatively, you can obtain their addresses from the Foreign Nationals Authority or a migrants' advice center.
Otherwise, a 700-hour German integration course would cost €1,540, which is about 2.20 per teaching hour.
Apply for German citizenship after six years
The refugees and specially integrated are the two groups eligible for citizenship after six years.
Asylum seekers, refugees, and stateless adults who have lived legally in Germany for at least six years, including the period of time they waited for a decision on their asylum application, are considered refugees. Additionally, this group of people benefits from the fact that Germany generally allows dual nationality.
In the second category of applicants, those who can pass a B2 level of German language examination will generally be eligible to apply for citizenship after six years.
Additionally, you can still try to apply for citizenship if you hold a master's degree or doctorate from a German university, complete a vocational training in the country or showcasing high professional or academic achievements even if you don’t have a B2 certification.
Apply for German citizenship after three years
You will be eligible to apply for German citizenship if you marry a German citizen. However, you must be in a registered partnership or have been married to a German citizen for at least two years when you file the application. Additionally, other citizenship requirements, such as proficiency in the German language and passing a citizenship test, also apply.
Finally, the coalition government parties pledged in the election campaigns in 2021 that the residency requirements for citizenship would be reduced from eight to five years, and that the residency requirements for exceptionally integrated people would be reduced from six to three years.
It's unclear when this legislation will become law, but it's considered a priority project by the Interior Ministry. Which means, as long as all other requirements are met, people with B2 German language skills may be eligible to apply for citizenship after just three years in the country.