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How to get German citizenship as an expat?

Updated: Aug 20, 2022

Living in Germany for a certain period of time may grant you the opportunity to apply for German citizenship upon fulfilling additional criteria.

There are a couple of ways you can acquire your German citizenship. However, we discuss only the options that are relevant to an expat living in Germany on a residence permit for a long period.

If you plan to apply for German citizenship, you need to meet and follow a few strict requirements and guidelines.

Rights I get through German citizenship

German citizenship comes with many rights including but not limited to

  • The right to participate and vote in the national as well as state elections.

  • The ability to enter and leave the country freely.

  • The right to apply for a German passport.

  • The right to be a civil servant.

Additionally, you will automatically get European Union citizenship with the right to freedom of movement.

German citizenship by naturalisation

Although it involves undergoing several processes and longer waiting periods, expats who wish to obtain German citizenship usually choose this option as it is more meaningful and approachable to them.

Requirements to obtain German citizenship by naturalisation

To be eligible for naturalization, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possess the appropriate residence permit. Foreigners who have successfully completed an integration course are eligible for naturalization after seven years.

Even if you do not fulfill any of the requirements mentioned below, you may still apply for a Discretionary naturalisation (including renaturalisation of former German citizens). However, the final decision is taken by your local authorities.

In general, consider yourself eligible if you satisfy below listed criteria. The local authority will let you know if additional requirements have to be met according to your particular situation.

  • You can or are willing to give away your previous citizenship (s)

  • You should have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years and possess the appropriate residence permit.

  • You can financially support yourself as well as your dependents without the supporting benefits from the federal government (unemployment benefits, child benefits or Housing benefit, etc)

  • You’ve successfully passed the German naturalisation test.

  • You do not have a criminal record or you are not an extremist.

  • You have sufficient German language skills (B1 level)

Even though it is required to complete eight years to apply for the citizenship, it is not required if you have a local like German proficiency with more than six years living in Germany


if you are married to a German citizen (by birth or by naturalization) for more than two years and you are living in Germany for more than three years,


if you live in Germany for more than seven years and you’ve done a German integration course in a Volkshochschule.

Documents required for German citizenship application

While each person’s individual situation demands additional documents to support their German citizenship application, below listed are the generally applicable documents.

  • Current passport

  • Proof of financial stability (your salary slip,investment statement,bank statement,etc)

  • Birth certificate

  • Marriage / partner registration certificate (if applicable)

  • German language proficiency certificate

  • Naturalisation test certificate

How to apply for German citizenship?

Once you find out that you satisfy all the mandatory criteria and you have all the documents, you need to contact your Ausländerbehörde (Local Foreigners’ Office) or the citizens’ office (Bürgeramt).

Which authority in Germany is responsible to process your application depends on which Land (federal state) you reside. Therefore, it is best to ask your municipal or district authorities or foreigners authority to make sure that you are applying to the right body.

The citizenship authority responsible for people who do not have their habitual abode in Germany is the Federal Office of Administration, a subordinate agency of the Federal Ministry of the Interior ( If this applies to you, please seek initial advice from the German Embassy or Consulate-General responsible for your place of residence. Numerous German missions abroad have information about citizenship issues on their websites.

The citizenship authority which is responsible for you will then invite you for an initial sitting and provide you with all the necessary information and forms. Then you can follow the guidelines, fill the forms and finally submit your application.

You can request for your children under the age of 18 years to be naturalised along with you to get German nationality for them too.

German citizenship application cost

The fee for regular or discretionary naturalization is €255. A reduced fee of €51 applies for each dependent minor child naturalized along with a parent.

Fees may be reduced or waived completely in certain cases depending on each individual’s situation.

How long does it take to process the German citizenship application?

Depending on the federal state where you’ve applied, your application can take from a couple of weeks to months to get a decision on your application.

Decision on German citizenship application

If your citizenship application is successful, you will get a notification by post with in few weeks of your application. You must follow a guideline and finally attend a citizenship awarding ceremony to complete the process. Your letter will contain instructions on how to complete this process.

You swear an oath of faithfulness to Germany’s custom and laws in the event.

What to do if my German citizenship application is rejected?

If your application was unsuccessful, you will receive notification by post detailing the reasons behind the rejection.

You can speak to your citizenship authority or local foreigner’s office to see if you can go for an appeal. In that case, you may have to contact a lawyer to help you file the appeal.

Please check the benefits of having legal insurance in Germany.

Retention of your old citizenship

Upon receiving German citizenship, you may have to surrender your passport and citizenship from your home country. However, you can still keep your previous citizenship if

  • You are a European Union or Swiss national.

  • If you get the permission from the German officials to keep your previous citizenship under special cases..

  • Your country doesn’t allow you to surrender your citizenship due to a special reason.

There could be other reasons that can prevent you from surrendering your previous citizenship. Please check with your foreign ministry office if you can still keep your citizenship.

On your way to Germany

You can find all the information you need about living and working in Germany at

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