In this blog entry I am breaking about my only rule of blogging – namely that I should only blog about the things I know. Here I am going to try to blog about German law, something I do not understand or know. This prospect scares me, and I am NOT a lawyer, let alone a German lawyer, so take all of this with a very large pinch of salt. But I cannot find any proper investigation of this issue anywhere online, so I am going to have a go. Please comment below, or tweet me, if all of this is rubbish, and I will update the piece accordingly!

So you have been warned.

Anyway, here goes.

Brexit – when it eventually, legally happens – will have an impact on the 105000 Brits who live permanently in Germany. They have been in Germany for varying lengths of time but if they do not have some other passport (or, ideally, a German one) they could potentially be impacted by Brexit. I have been permanently resident in Germany for 3 years, and I have only a British passport. This issue will impact me, and hence this blog entry.

We do not know what rights Brits will have in Germany after Brexit but many Brits have taken matters into their own hands and started to investigate how to get a German passport as an insurance policy. But how does this process work? This is what I am going to endeavour to answer.

The basic rules for becoming German are set out on the BAMF website here. There are two main and important pieces of information on that site – firstly that citizenship can normally be granted after 8 years of permanent residence in Germany, and that this can be shorted to 7 years if you take an integration course, and to 6 years if you show a special effort at integration (besondere Integrationsleistung), and secondly that you have to give up your original nationality (although there are exceptions).

So let’s look first at time limits. The Grüne – and Volker Beck, Katrin Göring-Eckhardt and Özcan Mutlu in particular – have been making quite a stir by suggesting that citizenship for Brits endangered by Brexit should be speeded up. Kate Connolly has a write up of the Bundestag debate about it in The Guardian here.

The Greens have tabled a resolution (PDF here) and a proposal for a law (PDF here) – welcome, but considering they are in opposition I do not see these things as likely to come to pass.

I am instead more interested in the legal situation in this area now, and how it works.

Beck and others posed questions (Kleine Anfrage) to the Federal Government about the issue on 14th July – PDF of the questions here. The Federal Government answered on 1st August – PDF here.

Answers to questions 2 and 3 provide clarification on the time issue, making it clear that the standard time frame is 8 years, and 6 years with a besondere Integrationsleistung, and also mentioning that it is just three years if your partner or husband/wife is German.

But the answer to question 2 is where it gets really interesting, and damned complex.

There are 2 pieces of law that are relevant here – the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (StAG) (consolidated text here) and the Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Staatsangehörigkeitsrecht (StAR-VwV) (consolidated text here). The StAR-VwV sets out how the StAG is to be implemented.

The answer to Question 2 points us towards 8.1.2.2 and 8.1.3.5 of StAR-VwV.

8.1.2.2 explains how the time of your stay in Germany is calculated. Notably it does not have to be in one uninterrupted period – up to half the total can be from previous stays in Germany if these can demonstrably have contributed to integration.

8.1.3.5 sets out a set of exemptions to the 8 years / 6 years limits – that can apply to people working in science, research, business, art, culture, media, sport or public service. It however also states that the reducing the limit to fewer than three years is not foreseen.

Both 8.1.2.2 and 8.1.3.5 and hence potentially significant – for those who have spent multiple periods of time in Germany, or for people whose work is in the categories stipulated. Anything under three years is not possible. After three years – if married or in civil partnership or if working in the right sectors it might work in individual cases. If not then six, seven or eight years is the norm.

Then we come to the issue of dual citizenship.

This is very clearly and categorically allowed as long as the UK remains in the European Union. It is stipulated in § 12, para 2 of the StAG that dual nationality is allowed with the rest of the European Union, and with Switzerland. When the UK leaves the EU British citizens would then, by extension, not be covered by this.

That then leaves UK citizens trying to work out if they comply with one of the general exemptions from the ban on dual citizenship outlined in § 12, para 1. These are:

  1. the state whose citizenship you hold does not allow you to renounce it (not the case for the UK – details of how to renounce UK citizenship here)
  2. the state in question regularly prevents citizenship being renounced (cannot imagine this applies to the UK – it applies to places like Afghanistan and Iran according to this)
  3. if attempts to renounce citizenship fail for some reason in a two year period (also unlikely to apply to the UK)
  4. if it the procedure to renounce is too complex, or the costs to do so are too high (this is the one that applies to the USA, but this costs £272 for the UK currently (prices in PDF here), so this also is not applicable)
  5. if the person is a refugee (Brexit is not that serious, yet!)
  6. if the person is over 60 and for health reasons cannot renounce (will apply to some UK citizens)

So – in short – if I have interpreted this correctly, and in the case that Germany does not change its StAG in light of Brexit, trying to get dual nationality UK-German after Brexit is not going to be a simple task. Note that if you already have dual citizenship (i.e. for those that apply for a German passport before Brexit), that cannot be withdrawn from you. So the conclusion on that point is pretty clear – get on and apply before the legal Brexit happens.

(NOTE: I am a member of the Grüne and opposed to Brexit. Read this in that light! Özcan Mutlu MdB sent me some links for this piece)

26 Comments

  1. Andrew Bennett

    Hi Jon, I’ve been married to my German wife for 3 years last August, living in Germany for 6 years and can meet all the criteria to apply for German citizenship except that I lost my job last August, have received benefits for a year but now my wife is supporting me (she’s a high earner). I was going to apply when I found a new job but do you think it’s worth taking the chance now, given that a possible brexit is getting nearer.

    • Michael Green

      Hi
      You could ask for advice at the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband.
      (or just take any short-term job?)

  2. Alexander

    Interesting post, thank you.

    I am British, living in the UK, and my great-great-grandfather was German. Eager to create my own ‘exit from Brexit’, I applied for German citizenship by descent (the ‘jus sanguinis’ principle).

    This method can only succeed if either everyone in the chain is male or if a woman with German citizenship has an illegitimate child. The principle is, therefore, that women lose German citizenship on marriage to a national of another country.

    Sadly, my application was unsuccessful because I have two women in my chain – I was very disappointed.

    Positively, hiwever, I have uncovered stories that had been covered up by my family during both workd wars because of the shame of havi g German connections. I have decided to write this all up to ensure that the stories are not lostvto history.

  3. Paul Scott

    Hi Jon
    i myself served in Germany from 1980 – 1986. 1987 – 1988, 1989 – 1994 and 1996 – 2000, I have 2 German kids to my German partner who i am still supporting from the Uk,My question is that i am looking to relocate to Germany to retire and be a grandparent with my German partner who will also be relying on my income from my pension,will i be able to move to Germany after GB leaves the EU

  4. Sheila

    What is the situation if you are over 60 years of age and have lived here for many years ie well over 8? I have been told that you then dont need to take the Einbürgerungstest or the Sprach test (B1) – in which case a lot of us would be saved a lot of stress and money!

  5. Mark Townsend

    Interesting blog Jon. In light of Brexit, l was wondering if l could apply for a German passport? I was station in Germany with the RAF between 1993-1996, and then worked for a German company until 1998. I married my German wife the same year before moving to the UK.

    • I *think* you could only count 3 of those years, and you need 6 years total. So you’d have to move to Germany and stay 3 years before you could apply. BUT as your partner is German you’d have no problem were you to want to ever live in Germany.

      (note: I’m not a lawyer so don’t take that as legal advice)

  6. Although I was born and raised in the UK and have only a UK passport my father is a German national.
    He moved here around 1964 when he was 22 and has never sought a dual passport or British nationality.
    Would it be easier for me to get a German passport/ dual nationality in this respect?

    • It’s my understanding that you will have German Citizenship by birth and therefore can just apply for a German Passport provided you have your father’s birth certificate and passport, your birth certificate and UK passport. That’s the situation I am in.

      • Christopher John Schlender

        Thanks for the reply David,
        What stage are you at with obtaining a German passport? Need to get things under way but not sure best way to proceed.

    • Hi Chris, Today I’ve been to the German Embassy to hand over my passport application and the usual documents which were my UK passport, my birth certificate, my father’s passport and birth certificate and photo and obviously completed form which I got off the German embassy website. It took 5 minutes. You need to make an appointment which you can do online. Everything was fine and surprisingly simple.

  7. John Barron

    Hello! I have lived here in Bavaria 43 years now, and I have just taken the “Sprachprüfungs” Test! (in order to aply for German Citizenship) I must say I didn’t find it that difficult, having said that I must add I don’t get the result for another 6 weeks. I now need to take the Einbürgerungs Test( which doesn’t look difficult) and then when I have all my papers together I can apply for Citizenship. I was told at the local Landratsamt that I don’t need to give up my British Citizenship, I must say I hadn’t thought about what will happen after Brexit. I just didn’t want to have to rely on Boris Johnson or Theresa May to hope for a bright future. English friends here have already done it and have had no problems.

  8. Michael Green

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for your post. I am a UK citizen, living in the UK. I lived, studied and worked in Germany for 32 years, returning to the UK 12 years ago. I have a son in Germany and am married to a German. I have a permanent residence permit for Germany (which states “für Mitglieder der EWG”). I would love to get dual nationality for when this beautiful island finally sinks into its sea of stupidity. Maybe I’m no longer eligible as I don’t live in Germany and anyway I was always under the impression that dual nationality was grundsätzlich not possible, but now i’ll look into it again.

  9. Kate Green

    My friend was forced to return to Canada 4 years ago because she wouldn’t give up her Canadian passport. She’s German by birth and upbringing but married a Canadian when she was a young woman, and had a family with him, 2 of which live here in Germany, 1 in Canada.
    She was 67 years old when after a 3 year battle to stay in Germany she was forced to return, and most of her family lived here in Germany.

    • This is a fairly common problem – Germans taking another citizenship and thus losing their original citizenship. As one never knows what the future holds, what people should do is apply for a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung (a “Retention Certificate”). People can get this by showing that you have ongoing links to Germany (e.g. close family, work or property connections). This route might not have been open to your friend when she opted to become Canadian, but (even had it been available) she might simply have not been aware of it. In any case, it’s too late for your friend.

  10. My friend was forced to return to Canada 4 years ago because she wouldn’t give up her Canadian passport. She’s German by birth and upbringing but married a Canadian when she was a young woman, and had a family with him, 2 of which live here in Germany, 1 in Canada.
    She was 67 years old when after a 3 year battle to stay in Germany she was forced to return, and most of her family lived here in Germany.

  11. John murray

    OK Jon, I am 70 years old, lived here for 25 years and been married to a German for 14 years. I have just got my application papers for citizenship – what do I have to do to maintain my British Citizenship and (brand new ) Passport?

    Regards

    John

    • There’s no special dual nationality process. Just apply for German citizenship as normal, and point them to the part of the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz if you are ever asked about giving up the UK passport.

  12. Hi Jon,
    great entry, very informative. So looks like it is possible to apply for Dual Nationality then? I have so far been advised that I need to renounce my British passport first – That sounds like it is not true?
    Does one simply apply for a German citizenship, or is there special application application for Dual Nationality?
    Regarding timing, once the Article 50 has been submitted at the end of March does this affect the status of Britains EU membership while applying for Dual Nationality? Or is the EU membership timing based on the estimated 2 years exit process?

    • Many officials *keep* on saying this – that you have to give up your second passport – but it is wrong. You DO NOT. It is clear as the light of day in the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz. So if you are ever asked about that point, take a copy of the part of the law along with you. The UK is still today in the EU, and will be until 2019 at least, so keeping your UK passport is allowed. Full stop.

  13. Richard

    Hi Jon, you wrote:

    “Note that if you already have dual citizenship (i.e. for those that apply for a German passport before Brexit), that cannot be withdrawn from you. ”

    I’d like to know where you’ve got that information from because it’s my burning question but I haven’t read that fact anywhere. In fact it’s also a contradiction of what I was told today in the Einbürgerungsamt. I was told that if and when Britain finally leave the EU I will have to renounce my British citizenship.

    This is a critical issue that I want to have clear, because that’s just not an option for me. Before forking out over €300 (incl. exams) for German citizenship I want to know that my right to dual nationality won’t later be revoked. Otherwise, there’s no more reason to apply today than there was 10 years ago, when I first qualified (I’ve been here 18 years).

    Cheers.

    • I had a long conversation with a diplomat at the UK Embassy in Berlin about it, plus there is no German law to force anyone to renounce a passport after they are 18. So it’s pretty solid. The only way this could change – in the German case anyway – would be if the German government changed the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz. If the Einbürgerungsamt pushes you on this, ask them to explain how, in German law, they could do that – they would have no legal evidence whatsoever. So in your shoes go ahead and do it, now.

      • Hey Jon and anyone thinking of applying, just thoughts I’d give a quick update…
        Shortly after writing here in March I went to introduce myself and get the form. Applied in April with most (not all) paperwork, got letter back in May, confirming what I still need to send. Sent it in end of May, had The Test in June, result of test in July, forwarded it on and couple of days ago, received confirmation of Einbürgerung on 28th Aug!!
        How cool is that? Less than 6 months from idea to realisation. And that in Berlin! 😉
        Should even be able to vote in September now 🙂

    • John Barron

      I don’t see why it should be revoked after Brexit, afterall there are millions of Turks living in Germany with dual nationality. and now I am pretty sure they will never be members of the EU at least not in my life time.

  14. Nigel R

    I’ve spent a few years paying close attention to the law here, in the UK, Germany and Canada.

    The real rule is that whilst you can, and should, work all this out for yourself, then you must pay for good legal advice in the relevant jurisdiction. (I am not a practicing lawyer anywere – I merely have the academic qualifications to be one in the UK).

    The one lesson to learn from this is that nationality law is complex and has unexpected consequences — ultimately leading to statelessness in some extreme cases.

    Lawyers have specific rules about how to apply the law.

    And those rules are different in German and in the UK. In the UK (and common-law countries like Ireland, the US, Canada) they are applied “literally”, whilst in the civil law countries of Europe they are applied “teleologically”. That is, a statement of grand purpose and the court seeks to apply the purpose of the legal provision.

    Ideally, perhaps the Greens could sponsor a simple amendment to the StAG which includes “former member of the European Union” in the EU clause, both from the point of view of UK citizens in Germany (or married to Germans) seeking German citizenship (as I am, though via a different, discretionary route).

    Otherwise, I fear many Germans in the UK are going to be caught out unexpectedly.

    Where I live in the British Isles, for example, aliens are not allowed to own property except by permission of the Lt. Governor. The relevant law was amended in 1973 to include what was then the EEC In the definition of ‘not alien’ (as a consequence of the non-discrimination provision of the Treaty of Rome).

    We could find this could easily be changed back once Britain is no longer legally a member of the EU

  15. Campbell Kennedy

    Great summary Jon.

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