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Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, StAG)1

In the version published on 22 July 1913 (Reich Law Gazette I p. 583 - Federal Law Gazette III 102-1), as last amended by the Act of 23 July 1999 (Federal Law Gazette I pp. 1618 ff.)

Reform of Nationality Law

On 21 May 1999 the Bundesrat gave its assent to the Act to reform nationality law. The essential parts of the Act come into force as from 1 January 2000.

At the heart of the reform is the supplementing of the traditional principle of descent (jus sanguinis) by the acquisition of nationality by birth. For children born in Germany of foreign parents, this makes it easier for them to identify with their home country of Germany. They are given the chance to grow up as Germans among Germans.

Enshrined in the new Act is a further important opportunity for integration: the shortening of the naturalisation period for foreigners who have lived in Germany for a long time. Since integration is not a one-way street, this opportunity entails certain minimum requirements. Anyone wishing to live permanently in Germany must respect our constitution and our legal system. It also goes without saying that he or she will have to learn German. Integration can only succeed where there is a will on both sides – among Germans and among the foreigners living in Germany.

Admittedly, the new framing of German nationality law cannot bring about integration "by order". What it does do, however, is give those fellow citizens from abroad who live here permanently a clear sign of our care and concern and of our resolve to foster the peaceful co-existence of all men and women, irrespective of their cultural origin.

Otto Schily, Federal Minister of the Interior
(Foreword to the booklet "Staatsangehörigkeitsrecht",
published by the Official Federal Government Representative
for Matters relating to Foreigners, Federal Ministry of the Interior,
Press and Information Office of the Federal Government,
August 1999)


The law as from 1 January 2000

German by birth

As before the principle still applies: a child becomes a German at birth if at least one parent is a German national (principle of descent).

As from 1 January 2000 there will also be entitlement by birth. From that point onwards, children born in Germany of foreign parents will automatically become Germans at birth if one parent has been permanently and legally resident in Germany for at least eight years at the time of the birth, and has an entitlement to residence or has had for at least three years an unrestricted residence permit.

These children will become German nationals at birth – with all accompanying rights and duties. In addition, they will also in most cases acquire at birth the nationality of their parents.

The "option model"

Persons who become Germans by right of birth and who at the same time acquire the nationality of their parents, must after attaining the age of majority and at the latest by their 23rd birthday opt for one nationality:

The young persons in question will be informed about the option model by the authorities on attainment of the age of majority.

Transitional provision for children

Children up to the age of 10 years have, from 1 January 2000, a special claim to naturalisation in keeping with the requirements of the new entitlement by birth:

For these children, too, the option model shall apply when they attain the age of majority.

German by naturalisation

The road to German nationality for foreigners living permanently in Germany is naturalisation. Unlike entitlement by birth, naturalisation does not happen automatically: it must be applied for.

The legal provisions on discretionary naturalisation remain largely unchanged. Where improvements have been made is in respect of statutory claims to naturalisation under the Aliens Act.

Claims to naturalisation under the Aliens Act

A claim to naturalisation is subject to the following essential requirements as from 1 January 2000:

Multiple nationality

As a rule, the foreign nationality must be surrendered. Exceptions apply as in the past where the nationality cannot be given up, or where it is only possible to do so with particular difficulty. New or more extensive exceptions apply inter alia

The same exceptions apply for regular claims to naturalisation made by the spouses of Germans.

(From: "Staatsangehörigkeitsrecht", booklet published
by the Official Federal Government Representative for
Matters relating to Foreigners, Federal Ministry of the
Interior, Press and Information Office of the Federal
Government, August 1999)


Chapter I

General Provisions

Section 1

A German is any person possessing citizenship in a federal state (Bundesstaat) (sections 3 to 32) or direct citizenship of the Reich2 (sections 33 to 35).

Section 2

(no longer applicable)

Chapter II

Citizenship in a federal state

Section 3

Citizenship in a federal state shall be acquired

1. by birth (section 4);
2. by a declaration pursuant to section 5;
3. by adoption (section 6);
4. by the issue of a certificate pursuant to section 15 subsection 1 or 2 of the Federal Expellees Act (section 7);3
4a. by transfer as a German without German citizenship within the meaning of Article 116 paragraph 1 of the Basic Law (section 40a);4
5. for a foreigner by naturalisation (sections 8 to 16 and 40b).

Section 4

(1) A child shall acquire German citizenship by birth where one parent possesses German nationality. Where at the time of the birth only the father is a German national, and where for proof of descent under German law recognition or determination of paternity is necessary, the claim for acquisition shall require a determination of paternity which is valid under German law; the declaration of recognition must be made or the procedure for determination commenced before the child has attained its 23rd birthday.

(2) A child found in the territory of a federal state (foundling) shall be deemed to be a child of a citizen of that federal state until there is proof to the contrary.

(3) A child of foreign parents shall acquire German citizenship by birth in the domestic territory if one parent

  1. has legally been normally resident in the domestic territory for eight years and
  2. possesses a right of residence or has possessed for three years a residence permit for an unlimited period.

The acquisition of German citizenship shall be recorded by the registrar responsible for certifying the birth of the child. The Federal Ministry of the Interior shall be empowered, with the consent of the Bundesrat, to issue on the basis of a statutory order regulations for the procedure for the registration of the acquisition of citizenship in conformity with the first sentence of this subsection.5

(4) German citizenship shall not be acquired in keeping with subsection 1 in the case of a birth abroad where the German parent was born abroad after 31 December 1999 and is normally resident there unless the child would otherwise become stateless. The legal consequence contemplated by the preceding sentence shall not ensue where the German parent reports the birth to the competent diplomatic representation within one year. Where both parents are German nationals, the legal consequence contemplated by the first sentence of this subsection shall only ensue where they both fulfil the conditions there stipulated.

Section 5 Right of declaration for children born before 1 July 1993

By declaring a wish to become a German national, a child born before 1 July 1993 of a German father and a foreign mother shall acquire German citizenship where

  1. there has been a recognition or determination of paternity which is valid under German law;
  2. the child has legally been normally resident in the federal territory for three years; and
  3. the declaration is made before attainment of the 23rd birthday.

Section 6

As a result of adoption by a German in a manner valid under German law a child that has not yet attained its eighteenth birthday at the time of application for adoption shall acquire citizenship. The acquisition of citizenship shall extend to the descendants of the child.

Section 76

A German within the meaning of Article 116 paragraph 1 of the Basic Law not possessing German citizenship shall acquire German citizenship with the issuing of the certificate pursuant to section 15 subsection 1 or 2 of the Federal Expellees Act. The acquisition of German citizenship shall extend to those children who derive their status as Germans from the person enjoying the benefit contemplated by the preceding sentence.

Section 8

(1) A foreigner who has settled in the domestic territory may upon his making application be granted citizenship by the federal state within whose area such settlement has taken place if he

  1. has legal capacity as specified in section 68 subsection 1 of the Aliens Act or enjoys legal representation;
  2. does not meet any of the grounds for expulsion under section 46 nos. 1 to 4, section 47 subsection 1 or 2 of the Aliens Act;
  3. has his own dwelling or has found accommodation at the place of settlement and
  4. is able to provide for himself and his dependents at that place.

(2) Prior to naturalisation the local authority of the place of settlement shall be heard in respect of the requirements under nos. 2 to 4. Where this authority does not itself constitute an independent association for the care of the poor and needy, such association7 shall also be heard.

Section 9

(1) The spouses of Germans shall be naturalised in keeping with the requirements set out in section 8 where

  1. they lose or give up their previous nationality or a ground exits for accepting multiple nationality in accordance with section 87 of the Aliens Act, and
  2. it is certain that they will conform to the German way of life,

unless serious interests of the Federal Republic of Germany, in particular such as concern external or internal security and international relations, speak against naturalisation.

(2) The provision made in subsection 1 shall also hold where naturalisation is applied for before the expiry of one year after the death of the German spouse or after that point in time where the judgment dissolving the marriage acquires final and binding force, and where the applicant is entitled to custody of a child issuing from the marriage and already possessing German citizenship.

(3) Minors shall enjoy parity of treatment with persons who have attained the age of majority.

Section 10

(repealed)

Section 11

(repealed)

Section 12

(repealed)

Section 13

A former German who has not settled in the domestic territory may upon his application be naturalised by the federal state of which he was previously a citizen if he meets the requirements of section 8 subsection 1 nos. 1 and 2; equivalent to a former German shall be any person who is a descendant of or has been adopted by a former German. Prior to naturalisation the Reich Chancellor8 shall be informed; naturalisation shall not take place where the Reich Chancellor expresses reservations.

Section 14

A foreigner who has not settled in the domestic territory may be naturalised subject to the other requirements of sections 8 and 9 where ties with Germany exist which justify naturalisation.

Section 15

(1) (repealed)

(2) Where a public employee is resident abroad for purposes of work and receives an emolument from the public purse (Reichskasse), he must be naturalised by the federal state to which he makes application; where he does not receive an emolument from the public purse (Reichskasse), he may be naturalised with the consent of the Reich Chancellor.

Section 16

(1) The registration (Aufnahme) or naturalisation shall become effective with the handing over of the certificate made out for this purpose by the higher administrative authority. The Land governments shall be entitled to designate by statutory order a competent authority other than that referred to in the preceding sentence. They may transfer this entitlement to the supreme Land authorities.

(2) The registration or naturalisation shall extend, unless a reservation is made on the certificate, at the same time to the wife of the registered or naturalised person and to those children whose legal representation he is entitled to exercise by virtue of right of parental custody. Not included shall be daughters who are married or have been married.

Section 17

Citizenship shall be lost

  1. by release (sections 18 to 24);
  2. by the acquisition of a foreign citizenship (section 25);
  3. by waiver (section 26);
  4. by adoption by a foreigner (section 27);
  5. by joining the armed forces or a comparable armed group of a foreign state (section 28) or
  6. by a declaration (section 29).

Section 18

A German shall upon his application be released from citizenship if he has applied for the acquisition of a foreign citizenship and the competent body has assured him of such award.

Section 19

(1) The release of a person who is under parental custody or guardianship can only be applied for by the legal representative and only with the approval of the German guardianship court. Appeal from the decision of the guardianship court may also be lodged by the public prosecuting authority, who shall be informed of the decision; from the ruling of the court of appeal a further appeal shall be allowed without any restriction.

(2) The approval of the guardianship court shall not be required where the father or the mother applies for release for himself or herself and at the same time by virtue of the right of custody for a child and the applicant is entitled to custody for that child.

Section 20

(no longer applicable)

Section 21

(no longer applicable)

Section 22

(1) Release shall not be granted to

  1. civil servants (Beamte), judges, Bundeswehr soldiers and other persons employed in a professional or official capacity under public law for as long as their professional or official capacity is not terminated, with the exception of persons exercising an honorary function;
  2. persons liable for military service for as long as the Federal Ministry of Defence or an office designated by it has not stated that there are no reservations about release.

(2) (repealed)

Section 23

(1) Release shall take effect with the handing over of a certificate of release made out by the higher administrative authority of the state of origin. The certificate shall not be handed to persons who have been arrested or whose arrest or seizure has been ordered by a judicial or police authority. The Land governments shall be entitled to designate by statutory order a competent authority other than that referred to in the first sentence. They may transfer this entitlement to the supreme Land authorities.

(2) If it is intended that the release should at the same time relate to the wife or the children of the applicant, these persons must also be named in the certificate of release.

Section 24

Release shall not be deemed to have taken place where the released person has not acquired within one year of the handing over of the certificate of release the foreign citizenship of which he has been assured.

Section 25

(1) A German shall lose his citizenship upon the acquisition of a foreign citizenship where such acquisition results from his application or from the application of the husband or of the legal representative. The wife and the person represented however shall only suffer such loss where the requirements are met which under section 19 permit the making of an application for release.

(2) Citizenship shall not be lost by any person who before acquisition of the foreign citizenship has received upon his application the written approval of the competent authority of his state of origin for retention of his citizenship. Before the granting of the approval the German consul shall be heard. In taking the decision pursuant to the first sentence there shall be a weighing of the public and private interests. In the case of an applicant normally resident abroad special consideration shall be given to whether he can show convincing proof of continuing ties with Germany.

(3) With the consent of the Bundesrat the Reich Chancellor can order that persons who have acquired citizenship in a particular foreign state may not be granted the approval contemplated by subsection 2.

Section 26

(1) A German may waive his nationality if he possesses several nationalities. Such a waiver shall be put in writing.

(2) The written waiver shall require the approval of the authority competent under section 23 for the making out of the certificate of release. Approval shall be withheld where release could not be granted under section 22 subsection 1; this shall not apply however where the person making such waiver

  1. has been constantly resident abroad for at least ten years or
  2. has as a person liable for military service within the meaning of section 22 subsection 1 no. 2 done military service in one of the states whose nationality he possesses.

(3) The loss of nationality shall take effect with the handing over of the certificate of waiver made out by the approving authority.

(4) For minors section 19 shall apply mutatis mutandis.

Section 27

A German shall lose his citizenship as a result of an adoption by a foreigner which is valid under German law if by this he acquires the citizenship of the person adopting. There shall be no loss if he remains related to one German parent. The loss shall extend to those descendants who are minors and for whom the adopted person has sole custody where the acquisition of citizenship by the adopted person pursuant to the first sentence also extends to the descendants.

Section 28

A German who as a result of a voluntary commitment without consent under section 8 of the Act to regulate liability for military service joins the armed forces or a comparable armed group of a foreign state whose citizenship he possesses, shall lose German citizenship. This shall not apply where he is entitled to such citizenship by virtue of an international agreement.

Section 29

(1) A German who after 31 December 1999 has acquired citizenship pursuant to section 4 subsection 3 or through naturalisation pursuant to section 40b and possesses a foreign citizenship shall be required to state after attaining the age of majority and after being advised in keeping with subsection 5 whether he wishes to retain the German or the foreign citizenship. The statement shall be made in writing.

(2) Where the person incurring the obligation contemplated by subsection 1 states that he wishes to keep the foreign citizenship, German citizenship shall be lost upon the statement being received by the competent authority. It shall also be lost where no statement has been made by the 23rd birthday.

(3) Where the person incurring the obligation contemplated by subsection 1 states that he wishes to keep German citizenship, he shall be obliged to furnish proof that he has given up or lost the foreign citizenship. Where such proof is not furnished by his 23rd birthday, German nationality shall be lost unless the German has already received upon application the written approval of the competent authority to retain German citizenship (retention approval). The application for the granting of retention approval, including as a precautionary measure, may only be made up to the 21st birthday (exclusion limit). The loss of German nationality shall only take effect when the application becomes the subject of a final rejection. The possibility of provisional legal redress under section 123 of the Rules of the Administrative Courts shall remain unaffected.

(4) The retention approval pursuant to subsection 3 shall be granted where giving up or losing the foreign citizenship is not possible or cannot reasonably be expected or where multiple nationality would have to be or could be accepted or in the case of naturalisation in accordance with section 87 of the Aliens Act.

(5) The competent authority shall advise the person who is subject to the requirement contemplated by subsection 1 of his obligations and of the possible legal consequences as set out in subsections 2 to 4. The advice shall be formally served. Such service shall be made immediately after the 18th birthday of the person who is subject to the requirement of section 1. The provisions of the Act to regulate service in administrative proceedings shall be applied.

(6) The continuation or loss of German nationality under this provision shall be determined ex officio. The Federal Ministry of the Interior may, by statutory order and with the consent of the Bundesrat, issue provisions regulating the procedure to determine the continuation or loss of German nationality.

Section 30

(no longer applicable)

Section 31

(no longer applicable)

Section 32

(no longer applicable)

Chapter III

Direct citizenship of the Reich

Section 33

(no longer applicable)

Section 34

(no longer applicable)

Section 35

(no longer applicable)

Chapter IV

Final provisions

Section 36

(1) In respect of cases of naturalisation annual surveys, relating to the previous calendar year and beginning in 2000, shall be carried out as federal statistics.

(2) The surveys shall include for every naturalised person the following data:

  1. year of birth;
  2. sex;
  3. marital status;
  4. place of residence at the time of naturalisation;
  5. length of stay in the federal territory in years;
  6. legal basis for the naturalisation;
  7. previous citizenships and
  8. continuation of previous citizenships.

(3) Supplementary data in the surveys shall be

  1. the designation and address of those obliged under subsection 4 to give information;
  2. the name and telecommunication numbers of the person available to answer questions;
  3. the registration number of the naturalised person at the naturalisation authority.

(4) In respect of the surveys there shall be a duty to give information. This duty shall be incumbent upon the naturalisation authorities. The naturalisation authorities shall provide the competent offices of statistics of the Länder with the information by 1 March. The data relating to subsection 3 no. 2 shall be voluntary.

(5) Transmission of tables with statistical results, including where a field in a table only shows a single case, may be made by the Federal Office of Statistics and by the offices of statistics of the Länder to the competent highest federal and Land authorities for use in respect of the legislative bodies and for planning purposes, but not for measures dealing with individual cases.

Section 37

Section 68 subsections 1 and 3, section 70 subsections 1, 2 and 4 (first sentence) of the Aliens Act shall apply mutatis mutandis.

Section 38

(1) Official measures in citizenship matters shall, insofar as there is no other statutory provision, be subject to costs (fees and expenses).

(2) The fee for naturalisation under this Act shall be 500 Deutschmark. It shall be reduced to 100 Deutschmark for a child that is a minor, is naturalised at the same time, and does not have an independent income for the purposes of the Income Tax Act. The acquisition of German citizenship pursuant to section 5 and the naturalisation of former Germans who have lost German citizenship by marriage to a foreigner shall be free of charge. Where there are grounds suggesting that it would be reasonable or in the public interest, the fee referred to in the first sentence may be reduced or waived.

(3) The Federal Ministry of the Interior shall be empowered, by statutory order and with the consent of the Bundesrat, to determine the additional circumstances in which fees are necessary and to make provision in respect of the fee levels and the covering of expenses. The fee for release shall not exceed 100 Deutschmark, for retention approval 500 Deutschmark, for the certificate of citizenship and for other forms of certification 100 Deutschmark.

Section 39

The Federal Ministry of the Interior shall issue, with the consent of the Bundesrat, general administrative regulations for the implementation of this Act and other Acts containing provisions in respect of nationality, for certificates of naturalisation, release and waiver, and for certificates which serve as confirmation of citizenship.

Section 40

(1) (no longer applicable)

(2) The competences of the authorities and the procedure shall be determined by Land legislation and, in the absence of Land legislative provisions, by sections 20, 21 of the Trading Activities Code (Gewerbeordnung).

Section 40a10

Any person who on 1 August 1999 is a German within the meaning of Article 116 paragraph 1 of the Basic Law without possessing German citizenship shall acquire German citizenship on that day. For a late emigrant (Spätaussiedler), his non-German spouse and his descendants within the meaning of section 4 of the Federal Expellees Act, this shall only apply where they have been issued before that date with a certificate in accordance with section 15 subsection 1 or 2 of the Federal Expellees Act.

Section 40b

A foreigner who is legally normally resident in the domestic territory on 1 January 2000 and has not yet attained his tenth birthday shall be naturalised upon application if at his birth the requirements set out in section 4 subsection 3, first sentence, were met and continue to be met. The application can be made up to 31 December 2000.

Section 41

[Entry into force]


Footnotes:
1. The amendments of or supplements to provisions not specially marked enter into force on 1 January 2000.
2. The passages printed in italics still correspond to the legal position applying at the time of entry into force of the Act to regulate citizenship of the Reich and nationality (1 January 1914) and are now obsolete.
3. Enters into force on the first day of the calender month following promulgation.
4. Enters into force on the first day of the calender month following promulgation.
5. Section 4 subsection 3, third sentence, enters into force on the day after promulgation.
6. Enters into force on the first day of the calender month following promulgation.
7. Now "body responisble for social assistance".
8. Now "Federal Minister of the Interior".
9. The insertion of the words "for the implementation of this Act and other Acts containing provisions in respect of nationality" shall enter into force on the day following promulgation.
10. Enters into force on the first day of the calendar month following promulgation.

Translation provided by Inter Nationes and reproduced with kind permission.