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German Citizenship through naturalisation

Naturalisation refers to the legal process of attaining citizenship of a foreign country. The requirements for becoming a naturalised German citizen are governed by Section 10, para. 1 of the Nationality Act.

On January 19, 2024, the German Bundestag passed the law to modernize nationality law – this is not expected to come into force until May 2024. We publish this page to help you understand the new changes and to prepare for your citizenship application.

Acquiring German citizenship through naturalisation is the most common path for South Africans. Understanding the procedure is crucial to make an informed decision.
The process requires specific documents, language and integration tests, and proof of financial stability.

This article does not apply to the so-called “Gastarbeitergeneration“.

Step 1. - Check if you qualify

To be eligible for naturalization, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least 5 years and possess the appropriate residence permit.
For people who have integrated particularly well, naturalisation is possible after
3 years. For example, if you achieve outstanding performance at work or do voluntary work, speak German very well and can independently support yourself and your family.
Persons wishing to become naturalised citizens must declare their allegiance to the German constitution and have a sufficient command of the German language.
Candidates for naturalisation must be familiar with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany (naturalization test) and be able to support themselves without recourse to social assistance unless this is due to circumstances beyond their control; nor can they have committed any serious criminal offences.

Below is a list of the minimum requirements.

RequirementNormal pathWell integrated pathSpouse of a German citizen
Right of permanent residence at time of naturalization.5 Years3 Years3 Years
Your identity and nationality have been clarified.Beratungsgespräch, see belowBeratungsgespräch, see belowBeratungsgespräch, see below
Familiarity with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of GermanyEinbürgerungstestEinbürgerungstestEinbürgerungstest
Ability to support oneself without recourse to social assistanceBeratungsgespräch, see belowBeratungsgespräch, see belowBeratungsgespräch, see below
Oral and written German language skillsEquivalent to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for LanguagesEquivalent to level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for LanguagesEquivalent to level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages
Criminal convictionsNo criminal convictionsNo criminal convictionsNo criminal convictions
Commitment to the constitutional principles of freedom and democracy.You accept the Basic Law (Grundgesetz)You accept the Basic Law (Grundgesetz)You accept the Basic Law (Grundgesetz)

Naturalisation is not the only option to obtain German citizenship, more information on the link below.

German citizenship

Please note: Although the information on this website has been prepared with the utmost care, we cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein. Always

Step 2. - Pre-check (Beratungsgespräch)

It is a good idea to start preparing well in advance for your application. The naturalisation authority responsible for you may request additional documents from you, other than those listed.
It is therefore advisable to make an appointment (Beratungsgespräch) with your local authority to find out what documentation they might need, and if they need any documents translated
During this appointment, they will also check your general eligibility.

Step 3. - Prepare for your German Citizenship application

During your Beratungsgespräch, you will get a list of documentation that you will have to submit with your application. Make sure you know which documents must be translated into German.

At a minimum, you will need to submit proof of the following:

  • language proficiency (B1 level or higher).
  • Familiarity with the legal system, society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany. You can prove this by showing a German school-leaving certificate or by passing a naturalisation test.
  • Identity and Nationality. This will be defined by the naturalisation authority where you apply, therefore it is so important to have a “Beratungsgespräch”.  If they require an Unabridged Birth certificate from South Africa, apply for this well in advance.
    You might also be asked to submit the following:  Marriage certificate / civil partnership certificate/copy from the family register.
    If you have been married before. Divorce decree or death certificate of the spouse/life partner, Custody decision / negative certificate given by the Youth Welfare Office (“Jugendamt”) or documents of an adoption decision.
  •  Financial means. This can include work contracts, Tax statements, etc, and will depend on your situation and the requirements of the authority you apply at.
You will also need:
  • a valid identification document (passport, travel document or similar).
  • Passport photo.
  • Valid residence permit.
  • Completed Application form.
Here is an example of a “Merkblatt” from the Stuttgart Einbürgerungsbehörde 

Einbürgerungstest and Leben in Deutschland

Leben in Deutschland The Leben in Deutschland tests your knowledge of the legal and social order and the living conditions in Germany. If you apply for Permanent residence, you must use the test to demonstrate knowledge of the legal and social system and living conditions in Germany. You need a minimum of Level A2 to B1 to understand

Step 4. Retention of South African citizenship

Before you apply for German citizenship, you need to decide if you want to retain your South African citizenship. If you do want to keep your South African citizenship, you need to apply for retention of South African Citizenship. The following information is from the South African Embassy in Berlin.

An adult South African citizen who intends to apply for foreign citizenship, but who does not want to lose his/ her South African citizenship, must first apply for the retention of South African citizenship, which must be done and approved before the acquisition of the other citizenship.
The following documents must be submitted when applying for the retention of South African citizenship:

  • Form BI-1664 to be fully completed in block letters and black ink
  • Form BI-529 to be fully completed in block letters and black ink (if you do not have an ID or passport) 
  • Certified copy of your South African ID or passport
  • Certified copy of South African birth certificate
  • Proof of permanent residency in the foreign country
  • Proof that you haven’t acquired citizenship in that country (Negativbescheinigung

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) has ruled that the automatic loss of South African citizenship after gaining citizenship of another country is unconstitutional. See more information here. Our advice is to still apply for retention to cover all your bases.

 You may apply to have your South African citizenship reinstated if you are a former citizen by birth or descent and you have returned to South Africa permanently.

Step 5 - Apply for German citizenship

You must submit a written application (Antrag auf Einbügerung) for naturalisation. You can obtain application forms from the responsible naturalisation authorities. Some authorities (Einbürgerungsbehörde) allow you to apply online. This will of course depend on the individual Authority and you will need an activated E-Residence card to make use of the service. 

If all the naturalisation requirements are met, you will receive a temporary naturalisation guarantee.

Where to apply

You can find out which authority is responsible for your naturalization from the city or district administration of your place of residence, from the immigration office, the migration advice for adult immigrants or the youth migration services.
In general, if you live in an urban district (Stadtkreis) the naturalisation authority is the city administration (Stadtverwaltung) and if you live in a rural district, the district office (Landratsamt).

As a rule, applications are handled by the Bürgerdienste or Standesamt,  but confirm this with the authority responsible for you.
Tip – To search online, search for “Einbürgerung als Ausländer mit Einbürgerungsanspruch beantragen” + the city or district.
You can also make use of the BAMF Website

Timeframe and costs

The process usually takes between 8 and 12 months.
The 2024 costs are €255 per adult and €51 per child

Children

All children born in Germany to foreign parents should receive German citizenship without reservation and be able to retain the citizenship of their parents if at least one parent has lived legally in Germany for more than five (instead of the previous eight) years and has a permanent right of residence. 

Important information

Anyone who wants to be naturalized in Germany must commit to the values of a free society. This particularly includes the dignity and equality of all people. Anyone who does not share these values or even acts contrary to them is not allowed to become a German citizen.
The following sentence is therefore expressly included in the Nationality Act: “Anti-Semitic, racist or other inhumanely motivated actions are incompatible with the human dignity guarantee of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany and violate the free democratic basic order within the meaning of this law.” Such actions preclude naturalisation.
Concrete reasons for exclusion instead of the vague “classification into German living conditions”: Naturalisation is excluded in the case of plural marriage or if the foreigner shows through his behaviour that he disregards the equal rights of men and women stipulated in the Basic Law.

Forum

We started a forum where you can ask questions and discuss topics

Personal Experience - progress

One of the admins is in the process of preparing to apply for German citizenship through Naturalisation. The progress will be shared via the page below.

Disclaimer

In accordance with the German law governing legal advice and services (RDG, section 2 subsection 1) this page does not include any legal advice.

Assistance with documentation

A big thank you to the team at Apostil who provided us with information about the retention process. They can assist clients with obtaining documents from South Africa, as well as the application for retention of their South African citizenship

Apostil

Get South African apostilles, police clearances, birth/marriage certificates, legalisations and much more quickly and efficiently through our legal service. We have helped thousands of people

Official Information on the web

Legalising Documents

Depending on the situation, you might need to have documentation authenticated, certified, or make certified copies thereof. Document authentication South Africa and Germany are both

Certified Translators in South Africa

The German mission in South Africa has a list of certified translators. The list can be found here.

Translation services in on our Website

Angela Goosen – Sworn Translator

Based in Cape Town South Africa. I am a born South African, stayed in Munich for 13 years and am back in SA I am a sworn translator for the languages German, English, and Afrikaans

Birgit Böttner – Sworn Translator

Based in Johannesburg South Africa. I’m a qualified sworn translator for English & German, registered with the German Consulate in Pretoria Trained in Germany in German and English and sworn in by the High Court

Linguistika

A Multifaceted Language Service founded by Stephanie Schaffrath TAILORED ONLINE LANGUAGE TUITION: With over 12 years of experience teaching languages, Linguistika is committed to providing high-quality language instruction to individuals of all ages and levels

Helge Mayer translations services

Based in Germany. Helge Mayer (MA) – accredited/sworn translations German to English and English to German Masters Degree in Translations from the University of Heidelberg (Germany)  

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Please note: Although the information on this website has been prepared with the utmost care, we cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein. Always

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