This article discusses German citizenship by descent (CBD), its eligibility requirements, benefits, and application procedure.
The German CBD program allows many German descendants who left the country under no good circumstances to have a chance to become European citizens.
It’s relatively quick, and it’s definitely many times cheaper than obtaining European citizenship by investment.
Do you have German ancestry that you think could make you eligible to apply for German citizenship? You might be right. German Americans are the largest of the self-reported ancestry groups in the United States.
With over 44 million people who have full or partial German ancestry, you too could claim this European passport that is the sixth-best travel document in the world, opening doors and opportunities that you never knew existed.
By having a second citizenship, you can enrich not just your personal life but also your wealth management options too.
But first, you’ll need to work through your family tree, determine if you’re eligible to apply, take care of the extensive paperwork, and play the waiting game.
From our experience in guiding clients through getting citizenship by ancestry in multiple European countries, getting citizenship by descent can get super tricky and frustrating.
That’s why we’ve established our new, all-inclusive Citizenship by Descent service, where we’ll do all of the work for you. We’ll take care of everything from eligibility checks to the application process so that you can enjoy your German passport as soon as possible. Set up a call with us today to get your Tier-A European passport.
What Is Citizenship by Descent?
Citizenship by descent is granted to people who can prove that their bloodline connects them to a certain foreign country (that grants CBD).
For example, let’s imagine you had a German great-grandfather who arrived in the United States, then had your grandfather, who later had your father.
All three generations that came before you could be German citizens, as would you.
Citizenship by descent helps one reclaim a citizenship that’s rightfully theirs but, due to various circumstances, has been lost throughout the years.
Various countries around the world allow people to claim citizenship this way, but most of them are located in Europe.
German Citizenship by Ancestry
Germany is one of the countries that offer the members of its diaspora the opportunity to get its citizenship by way of ancestry.
The program is not as well-known as the programs in Italy or Ireland, but it still attracts a fair few applicants every year.
Germany allows people to apply on the basis of their parent(s), grandparent(s), or great-grandparent’s ancestry.
Demonstrating your connection to your parents should be easy for most. But things can get tricky when it comes to grandparents and especially great-grandparents.
Claim German Citizenship by Descent
How do you determine that your ancestors were German citizens? How can you uncover the paper trail that connects you to the country of Germany?
It’s not always easy, but it is the most important part of the entire citizenship-by-descent process.
That’s exactly why you should spend the most time establishing your eligibility to avoid disappointment a few years down the line.
Eligibility Requirements for German CBD
Did you know you could be eligible for acquiring German citizenship even if you’ve never visited the country and do not speak the German language at all?
As we already mentioned, you could be eligible if your parent(s), grandparent(s), or great-grandparent(s) are/were German citizens.
However, it is not always automatic that citizenship gets passed down. That’s where eligibility requirements come in.
German citizenship by descent can be claimed if any of the following conditions are met:
- German citizenship is earned and passed down primarily through ancestry from a German parent. The parent must be a German citizen at the time of the child’s birth, i.e. if a parent naturalized in other citizenship before the applicant was born, then the applicant is not eligible. Children born to former German citizens are generally not granted German citizenship.
- If you were born after January 1, 1975, to married parents, and one of your parents (mother or father) was a German citizen at the time of your birth.
- If you were born between January 1, 1914, and December 31, 1974, to married parents, and your father was a German citizen at the time of your birth.
- You were born out of wedlock to a German father and a foreign mother before July 1993.
- If you were born after January 1, 1914, to unmarried parents, and your mother was German at the time of your birth.
- If you were born between January 1, 1914, and January 1, 1975, and did not acquire German citizenship because your German mother married your foreign father before your birth (and consequently had to forfeit her German nationality), you can reclaim your citizenship. This is valid only until 2031.
- If you were born between January 1, 1964, and December 31, 1974, to married parents, and your mother was German, but your father was not, you would otherwise have been stateless. During this time, women who married foreign citizens were required to lose their German citizenship and so could not pass it on to their offspring.
- You lost your German citizenship as a result of “legitimization” (i.e. after you were born, your German mother married your foreign father and had to forfeit her nationality).
- You are a direct descendant (child or grandchild) of one of the people mentioned above.
Children Born to Unmarried Parents
- If you were born to unmarried parents after July 1, 1993, and your father was a German citizen who established paternity in accordance with German law.
- If you were born after January 1, 1914, to unmarried parents, and your mother was German at the time of your birth.
- If you were born to unmarried parents prior to July 1, 1993, your father was a German citizen who established paternity, and you declared German citizenship by your 23rd birthday, you are eligible for German citizenship.
- You were born between January 1, 1914, and June 30, 1998, to unmarried parents, but your parents married after you were born.
The laws of German citizenship are strict, so if your scenario isn’t one that’s set out above, it’s highly unlikely that you’re eligible to apply. For example, children born to former German citizens are not granted German citizenship by the German nationality law.
The Restoration of the German Citizenship Program
Let’s talk about the first scenario in more detail.
Germany has set up a special program for people to re-obtain/ acquire German citizenship if it was lost due to persecution on political, racial, or religious grounds between May 8, 1945, and January 30, 1993.
This special provision mostly includes Jews but can apply to many other people too. For example, those who lost their German citizenship because they were from the political parties that opposed the Nazi rule (e.g., Communist or Social Democratic parties) can also qualify.
Not only are the people who directly lost their citizenship eligible to apply but also their descendants.
To determine if you might be eligible, you should be able to answer the following question positively:
Had your ancestor in question not been deprived of his/her German citizenship, would you – a direct descendant – have acquired citizenship by birth according to the applicable German citizenship law?
Keep in mind that this only applies to cases where one was persecuted based on political, racial, or religious grounds, and had to flee the country.
Applying for citizenship by descent under the Restoration of German Citizenship program follows the same application process as do the other routes of citizenship by descent in Germany.
German Citizenship by Descent Application Process
Luckily, Germany’s citizenship by descent process is one of the most straight-forward ones out there – thanks to the German government. There’s no comparing it to Poland or Italy’s bureaucratic programs.
Germany does its best in processing applications for citizenship by descent.
Known worldwide as a country of punctuality and order, it also does a great job of keeping you informed as to what’s happening at all times.
That said, even though the country has clearly set criteria for its citizenship applications and you won’t get bureaucrats coming back to you and asking for more paperwork, the process is still lengthy.
Since you’ll only need to pay €25 to apply, the government obviously won’t bend over backward or hire more people to process these applications. It can take as long as two or even three years to hear back about your citizenship status in Germany.
We couldn’t stress the importance of making sure you’re eligible to apply, but if you’re absolutely sure and have connected all of the historical dots, you’re now ready to lodge the actual citizenship application.
You can do so at your nearest German embassy or German consulate, as well as in the country itself.
Acquire German Citizenship with These Documents
The documents that are needed for the certificate of citizenship are:
- Your birth certificate
- The birth certificate of the relevant ancestor
- A pedigree chart – a recorded ancestry or lineage of your family
- The marriage certificate of the applicant (you), if applicable
- The marriage certificate of the relevant ancestor
- Family books, a form of German record that’s a booklet which denotes the relationships within a family
- Foreign personal documents (passport, identity card, alien card)
- Applicant’s residence permit in the country of residence, if applicable
- Documents concerning the non-acquisition of another foreign nationality, if applicable
- Proof of the acquisition/possession of other nationalities, if applicable
- Name change documents, if applicable
You will also need to complete an Appendix V form for every generation of your family until you get to a relative who:
- Possesses/possessed a certificate of nationality issued by a German authority
- Was born in Germany before 1914 or was a German citizen who emigrated from Germany before that date
- Acquired German nationality by any other way than descent (e.g., marriage or adoption)
The Pros and Cons of German Citizenship
Every citizenship in the world has its pros and its cons, and German citizenship is no different. Before you make any such move – for instance, obtaining an additional citizenship or moving abroad to reside in a foreign country – you should weigh up both sides.
So, here are a few things you should consider when it comes to German citizenship by descent.
There are numerous benefits to having German citizenship, way too many to list here.
However, it all boils down to the power of the German passport – it’s currently ranked as the sixth most powerful passport in the world.
Not only does it pack a punch when it comes to visa-free travel but it also gives you free access to all of the European Union and everything that it has to offer.
Want your children to study art in France? They’ll be able to, pretty much for free.
Want to have a holiday villa in Corsica to spend your summers in? You got it.
Your time in the European Union will be unlimited, and you’ll be free to not just reside but also legally work anywhere in the region too.
That’s why it’s also a great Plan B.
Germany is a huge economy that’s stable and could offer you a great place to live if you ever wanted to, or if it ever came to that. Top-notch healthcare, education, and industry are some of the most valued things about Germany.
German’s are stereotyped as people who love punctuality, order, and stability. Sound like your cup of tea? Then your ancestral homeland might be just for you.
With all the free public services come… the taxes, of course.
Germany’s tax environment is quite unfavorable to the high-net-worth Nomad Capitalist, but as always, there are multiple legal ways around it.
If you just claim your citizenship in Germany and do not become its tax resident, you won’t be liable to pay any tax.
That’s because Germany, unlike the United States, uses the tax-friendly system of territorial taxation.
However, if you ever decide to move to Germany for the long term, be prepared for personal income tax going all the way up to 45% and corporate tax rates of 20.5%, plus many other miscellaneous taxes and levies.
And then there is the case of dual citizenship. Germany isn’t the most liberal of places when it comes to its citizens holding additional citizenships.
Only in certain cases does the German law allow people to hold more than one citizenship.
Specifically, children born to a German and a non-German parent will acquire the nationalities of both parents at the time of birth.
In other cases, Germans can apply to be considered for dual nationality, which would technically allow them to acquire some other citizenship but retain their German one too.
However, this is more of an exception than a rule, so don’t count on it when it comes to building your global passport portfolio if you’re an aspiring or an existing Nomad Capitalist.
To sum it up, if you voluntarily apply for and accept some other nationality – for example, by way of citizenship by investment – you will lose German citizenship automatically.
Is German Citizenship by Descent Worth Your While?
Whenever free citizenship is on the table, we will generally advise our clients to take it. However, that’s not before we weigh up the impact that this additional citizenship would have on their lifestyle and wealth management choices.
Luckily, Germany is a pretty great country to have ancestry in and from which to obtain citizenship by descent. Although the process can take a few years, it’s pretty inclusive and straightforward too.
A German passport will be worth your while if you’ve always dreamt of having European citizenship but have never had the means of getting one by investment.
For example, if you do business in Europe and would love to spend more than 90 days there, then a German passport would be extremely beneficial to you.
As for dual citizenship – that will highly depend on your nationality and ancestry.
Getting citizenship by descent is the cheapest way to get a second passport, but it’s not the most straightforward. Gathering relevant documents can take years, and the governments usually aren’t in a hurry to process your application either.
However, for some people, a tier-A EU passport will be worth it all.
If that’s you, set up a call with our team today to discuss your situation and discover if you’re eligible for second citizenship in Europe.