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How to become a German

The German naturalisation process for UK nationals and others

According to a recent report by the BBC the number of UK nationals applying for citizenship in other EU countries has risen by tens of thousands in the year after the Brexit referendum. The motivation to do so is high, considering the inability of the British government to make sufficient concessions not only to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK but also of British citizens living in the EU.

How to apply for German citizenship

The process to apply for citizenship in EU countries is relatively straightforward compared with the complex procedure and endless documentation required by the UK for EU citizens wishing to apply for permanent residence or British citizenship. If you gain citizenship before Britain leaves the EU you will usually be able to retain both nationalities.

Brexit - no more free movement

The benefits for UK citizens resulting from citizenship of another EU country include: the ability to vote, free movement across all EU countries and no need for residence permit. It also makes life easier for families where some members hold UK passports and others only EU passports. 

The prerequisites for obtaining an EU passport vary among the 27 remaining member states. In order to obtain German citizenship for example, applicants generally have to have been living in Germany for a minimum of 8 years. This could be reduced to 7 following attendance at a specific language course. People married to a German only require three years’ residency in Germany and must have been married to the German partner 2 years before application. All applicants must additionally prove that they are financially independent and have no criminal record.

Before the application process is officially started, it is advisable to meet with an adviser at the town hall to discuss the chances of your application being approved and make sure you know exactly what you need to submit. Generally at this appointment you only need to take along some form of identification.

German citizenship is cheap

Naturalisation costs EUR 255 per person - a real bargain compared to the costs faced by EU citizens wanting British citizenship which are well over 1,000 pounds. Children under 18 only have to pay EUR 51 if they apply for German citizenship with their parents, but if applying alone this fee increases to EUR 255.

The German language test

In order to obtain German citizenship you will have to prove that your German language skills are equivalent to the B1 language level. This may involve taking a German course and passing the corresponding exams. If you have attended a German school for at least 4 years you automatically qualify as having the standard of German required.

The naturalisation test, do you know your ABC?

The next and perhaps greatest hurdle to be crossed is the naturalisation test (“Einbürgerungstest”) which tests your knowledge of the German political, legal and social system. Questions vary from state to state, but a database with 300 standard questions is available online to practise: https://www.einbuergerungstest-online.eu/. You will only have to answer 33 multiple choice questions within an hour in the actual test. In order to pass you only need to get 17 answers right. There is a fee (EUR 25) to register for this test. You are sent the results by post from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees about six weeks after your test.

Gather all your documents including translations

Once you have gathered all the necessary documentation, such as your birth certificate, passport, proof of residence in Germany for 8 years (or less if married to a German citizen), financial evidence such as tax returns, proof of health insurance, language test results and your successful naturalisation test certificate, you can make an appointment at your town hall to officially apply for German citizenship. All documents which are not in German will need to be translated by a certified translator.
At this appointment copies will be made of your original documents. You may also be asked some basic questions about the constitution and be required to confirm you are willing to uphold its basic principles.
 

German citizenship in five weeks

If your application for German citizenship is successful - which might take 5 weeks or several months, you will be notified by post and invited to a small naturalisation ceremony which is free. (in contrast, the Home Office in the UK would require you to pay extra 80 pounds in advance for this compulsory naturalisation ceremony for the privilege of receiving your certificate!). Once you are a German citizen you can apply for a German passport or the very handy cheque-card size ID card (Personalausweis) which can be used in place of a passport in many countries.


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