How to become a German citizen as an expat


Updated on Apr 10 • 4 minute read

It might still be years away, but German citizenship is the final result of your migration to Germany. So, why would you want to get German citizenship? What are the requirements to become a fully-fledged citizen if you’re an expat? Let’s get your questions answered to get you started on the road to your new German Nationality!

Benefits of becoming a German citizen

If you’re already on a permanent residence permit, why would you go all the way (full German, if you will). Well, citizenship comes with many rights and privileges, most interestingly for you, this means you get: Unrestricted access to the German job market: you’re allowed to work with a residence permit, but as soon as that expires, or you’re no longer working, your presence in Germany would be in jeopardy. As a German citizen, that’s no longer the case!

  • The right to vote: With a residence permit, you’re allowed to vote in some local elections, but now that you have the German nationality, your voice will be heard in the same way as any other German!
  • The right to work for the German government as a civil servant: this opens up a wealth of new career opportunities in service of the German government and its people!
  • The right of free movement: passport power! Now that you’re really German, you get to go anywhere your German passport allows you to go. And that’s a lot of places, because Germany’s passport is actually the most ‘powerful’ passport in the world, allowing you visa-free access to 99 countries in the world!
  • German Consular protection: Now that you’re a German citizen, you’re entitled to help and advice by the German diplomatic service while you’re travelling or living abroad.

German citizenship requirements

So, what are the requirements for German citizenship? Well, first of all, there exist 3 grounds upon which you can claim German citizenship:

  • Citizenship by Blood: Most Germans manage to do it this way. Well, by being born to German parents in Germany, of course! So, you must be a direct descendant of German citizens by way of your parents.
  • Citizenship by Soil: you’re a little late for this method because citizenship by soil means you get citizenship by being born on German sovereign soil. However, it’s good to keep in mind if you’re thinking about starting a family.
  • Citizenship by naturalization: To obtain citizenship by meeting the naturalization requirements. This is probably the most likely way you as an expat will obtain your shiny new German passport. Because this is the most likely route to citizenship for you, we’ll focus on this method in particular.

Citizenship by naturalisation

So, In order to be able to get your citizenship as an expat, you must first integrate as a permanent resident for a number of years, as well as meet a number of requirements. Let’s take a look at the naturalization requirements

Naturalization requirements

These are the requirements that essentially everyone needs to meet in order to be granted German citizenship.

  • you must have lived in Germany for 8 years with a valid resident permit
  • you must have lived in Germany for 7 years with a valid resident permit and have successfully completed an integration course. This timeframe can be further reduced due to meeting special requirements or circumstances. For example, if you’re working in Germany on a Blue card residence permit, you can become a citizen after as little as 5 or 6 years, depending on your language proficiency.
  • You must be able to prove your German language proficiency is B1 or better. You can meet this requirement by taking language courses, but also by attending a German school for at least 4 years and/or a degree from German higher education.
  • You need to be able to financially provide for yourself and your family without relying on public resources.
  • You may not have a criminal record.
  • You must renounce any previous citizenship (with some exceptions).

Citizenship by marriage

You can also be eligible for German citizenship by marrying someone who already has the German nationality. That’s not all, though, because you still need to complete the naturalization process and pass the naturalization test. Also, to curb fake marriages, you’ll also need to be married for at least 2 years and having lived in Germany for at least 2 years as well.

Myth: Citizenship by investment

Some people think that being rich is a quick way to German citizenship. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. However, you can actually get a residence permit through the German Entrepreneurial Residency Program. You need to invest at least €360.000, so getting a permit by getting a job might be the easier option! If you get your residence permit through this route, you still need to take the regular naturalization route in order to become a full German citizen.

Dual citizenship

Generally speaking, you need to renounce any previous citizenship in order to accept the German citizenship, with some minor and relatively rare exceptions:

  • Germany allows dual citizenship for EU nationals.
  • Germany allows dual citizenship for people with one German and one U.S. parent.
  • Germany allows dual citizenship if your home country doesn’t allow you to renounce your citizenship (such as morocco or Ecuador).
  • The German government can give you permission to retain your previous citizenship.

However, if you do have dual citizenship, you can only make use of your rights as a German citizen while living in Germany. So, if you’re a dual citizen in Germany and the USA, but you live in the states, your rights as a German citizen are suspended. Also, you’ll always have to meet the obligations that you have as a citizen of the German state, such as paying taxes.

The German naturalisation test

So, you meet all the requirements and you’ve been in Germany for as long as you have to be! That means the only thing standing between you and your German passport is the naturalization test. So, let’s take a look at what this test looks like.

This test consists of around 30 multiple choice questions (in German, obviously), focused on your knowledge of German society, rules, customs and laws. You have one hour to complete the test and you need at least 17 correct answers to pass the test. When passing the test, you will get a certificate that proves that you’ve integrated successfully.

How to prepare for the German naturalisation test

Over your years in Germany, you’re probably pretty familiar with what life is like in Germany! However, there might be some law- or customs related knowledge you might feel insecure about. Thankfully, you can take an integration course to help you prepare. If you don’t need that much help, but just want to know if you‘re ready, the German government offers some Naturalization practice tests (fully in German) for you to try before you tackle the real thing.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about becoming a true German citizen! Immerse yourself in the language and the culture, after all, that's part of the fun of living in Germany. When the time comes for you to take the naturalization test, you'll be ready!

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