Acquisition of German citizenship

A child who is born in Germany generally has the same nationality as its parents or one of its parents. The residence status of the child also derives from the residence status of its parents or one of its parents.  

If one of the parents is a German citizen, the child will also acquire German nationality by birth (Nationality Act, section 4). This likewise applies if the child is not born in Germany.    

Depending on the particular right of domicile to which the parents are subject in their home country, the child will additionally acquire their citizenship if the citizenship law of the parents’ home country provides that a child who is born abroad acquires its parents’ citizenship. Under such circumstances, the child is not required to choose one nationality upon attaining legal age. In this case, the child may possibly have one or two nationalities in addition to German citizenship.

If only the father is a German citizen at the time of the birth and if the parents are not married at the time of the birth, the father has to acknowledge paternity first. Only then, German citizenship can be conferred to the child.

In Germany, recognition of paternity does not necessarily require that the father who acknowledges paternity is also the biological father. Legal regulations are explicitly designed to also protect relationships in which a father who is not the biological father takes on responsibility for the child and acknowledges paternity.

But even if none of the parents are German citizens, a child who is born in Germany will acquire German citizenship, namely if

1) one of the parents has been residing lawfully in Germany for eight years and

2) holds an unlimited residence permit, also called settlement permit.

This definition does not apply to the period of the asylum procedure which is usually not considered as lawful residence, but only as permitted residence. Once that asylum has been granted, however, this period will be retroactively declared as lawful residence. Since persons whose asylum procedure is still pending cannot acquire a settlement permit, they are unable to meet the abovementioned requirements, even if their asylum procedure has been pending for years.

If both parents are not of German nationality, and if the parents’ nationalities are different from each other, and neither of them has been residing in Germany long enough, then the mother’s citizenship will be conferred to the child. If the mother is married to the father and if the father acknowledges paternity, then both parents’ citizenships will be conferred to the child. In this context it is important to take heed of the citizenship laws of the countries in question. Problems often arise when parents cannot prove their citizenship by means of valid passports. As long as this is the case their citizenship cannot be determined.

The following sections start from the premise that the woman who is seeking advice has not (yet) secured a residence permit. If, however, the woman or mother holds a residence permit or perhaps even German citizenship, this situation might entail slightly different consequences for the father whose residence permit is, in turn, dependent on the child’s status. In this case, the father’s relationship to the child will be a matter of particular importance.