Naturalization, i.e. applying for and being granted German citizenship, is usually meant for persons who currently live in German and have lived in Germany continuously for several years. Naturalizations of persons living abroad on the basis of discretion are rare and need to be of special interest to the Federal Republic of Germany.
In general, those applying for naturalization must give up their foreign nationality. There are exceptions for nationals of EU member states and Switzerland as well as for those whose German citizenship is restored.
The following exceptions allow naturalization of persons living outside of Germany:
Former German citizens who between January 30, 1933 and May 8, 1945 were deprived of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds are entitled to (re-)naturalisation. This also applies to their descendants (children, grandschildren, great-grandchildren) if those would have become German citizens if their ancestor had not been deprived of his or her German citizenship.
More Information regarding restoration of citizenship in these cases can be found
Aquisition of German citizenship by declaration pursuant to Section 5 of the Nationality Act
The Fourth Act Amending the Nationality Act, which entered into force on 20 August 2021, has created a ten-year right of declaration (Section 5 of the Nationality Act), granting children born to a German parent after 23 May 1949 (entry into force of the Basic Law) who, under the version of the Reich and Nationality Act valid at the time of their birth, were excluded in a gender-discriminating manner from acquiring German citizenship by descent at birth have the option of obtaining German citizenship by making a simple declaration to the competent citizenship authority. The option of acquisition by declaration also applies to their descendants.
The group of persons affected includes:
- children born after 23 May 1949 to a German parent who did not acquire German nationality by birth (children born in wedlock prior to 1 January 1975 to a German mother and a foreign father or children born out of wedlock prior to 1 July 1993 to a German father and a foreign mother),
- children born after 23 May 1949 to a mother who lost her German citizenship through marriage to a foreigner pursuant to Section 17 (6) of the Reich and Nationality Act (old version) before the birth of the child prior to 1 April 1953,
- children born after 23 May 1949 who lost their German nationality acquired by birth through legitimisation effected by a foreigner and valid under German law pursuant to Section 17 (5) of the Reich and Nationality Act (old version) prior to 1 April 1953, and
- descendants of the children in paragraphs 1 to 3.
Former German citizens who lost their citizenship by applying for a foreign citizenship after January 1st, 2000 can apply for (re-)naturalization while retaining their foreign citizenship. This application has to be handed in via the Consulate General in Toronto and the process requires proof of substantial ties to Germany, very good command of the German language and, in some cases, passing a citizenship test. Further Information is available here (in German language only): Wiedereinbürgerung
Former German citizens who lost their citizenship by applying for the citizenship of another EU-Country or Switzerland and who continue to live in the European Union or in Switzerland, can apply for (re-)naturalization while retaining their foreign citizenship. This also applies to minor children applying together with a parent.