Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community


Becoming a German citizen by naturalization

What are the requirements for becoming a naturalized German citizen?

Section 10, para. 1 of the Nationality Act

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. Persons wishing to become naturalized citizens must also declare their allegiance to our constitution and have a sufficient command of the German language. Knowledge of German is an essential prerequisite for integration into our society. Candidates for naturalization must be able to support themselves without recourse to social assistance or unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld II), unless this is due to circumstances beyond their control; nor can they have committed any serious criminal offences. In addition, they must give up their previous citizenship. In certain cases or for certain groups of persons, however, multiple nationality may be considered.

Special rules apply to persons with special status (displaced foreigners and stateless persons), making it easier for them to become naturalized citizens.  

Your local naturalization authority will be able to tell you whether you are eligible for naturalization and how to apply. They will also determine whether you are eligible for discretionary naturalization.

What is discretionary naturalization?

Section 8 of the Nationality Act

Discretionary naturalization rests not on entitlement derived from law but on a decision made at the legal discretion of the relevant authority. Persons who wish to become naturalized but are not yet legally eligible to do so may, under circumstances defined in Section 8 of the Nationality Act, become naturalized citizens at the discretion of the authorities.

What is derivative naturalization?

Section 10, para. 2 of the Nationality Act

Spouses who are not yet eligible for naturalization and minor children may apply for naturalization along with their eligible spouse or parent, which gives families of foreigners the possibility of acquiring German citizenship together.

Apart from the minimum residence requirement, the requirements for derivative naturalization are the same as for naturalization on the basis of legal entitlement.

Are spouses or registered partners of German citizens eligible for early naturalization?

Section 9 of the Nationality Act

Spouses or registered same-sex partners of German citizens are eligible for naturalization after three years of legal residence in Germany. They must have been married or in a registered partnership for at least two years at the time of application. The general requirements for naturalization also apply.

For more information, please contact the naturalization authority responsible for your place of residence.

How well do naturalization applicants have to speak German?

Applicants for naturalization are required to have a sufficient command of the German language. Sufficient command is defined as being able to cope in German with daily life in Germany, including dealing with the authorities, and being able to conduct conversations commensurate with one’s age and education. As a rule, this includes being able to read, understand and orally reproduce a German text on a general topic.

The ability to speak German is an absolute necessity. Being able to communicate in German is essential for social and economic integration.

For more information on proof of sufficient command of German, please contact your local naturalization authority.

Can extremist or criminal foreigners become naturalized citizens?

No.First of all, the overwhelming majority of foreigners permanently living in Germany are just as law-abiding as their German counterparts. This is documented by official crime statistics and the information gathered by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Since 1 January 2000, nationality law contains a clause prohibiting naturalization when there is factual evidence of anti-constitutional, extremist or terrorist activity. Before granting citizenship, the authorities regularly check with the police, security authorities and authorities for the protection of the constitution for such evidence. Further, all applicants over 16 are required to declare their express and binding allegiance to the free and democratic principles of the Basic Law.

What is the fee for naturalization?

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. According to Section 38, para. 2, fourth sentence of the Nationality Act, the state and local naturalization authorities may reduce or waive the fee entirely if appropriate or in the public interest.