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Naturalization and Article 116 of the German Constitution

Previously, the number of applications for naturalization on the basis of Article 116(2), first sentence, in the German Constitution was somewhat modest. However, applications have grown significantly within the few last years. Requests from the United Kingdom, for example, have increased nearly tenfold – highly probably due to the results of the 2016 EU Referendum.

The purpose of Article 116(2) in the German constitution is to right the wrongs of expatriations based on political, racial and religious grounds by the Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945.

Those entitled to naturalization

Former German nationals who had their citizenship taken away, and their descendants, may apply for naturalization. Now, natural children born out of wedlock wishing to make a claim due to genetic links to not only their mother but also their father may apply for German naturalization as ruled recently by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court on 20 May 2020.

Competent authority and application

Germany’s Federal Office of Administration (the BVA) is the competent authority for processing citizenship claims for people living abroad. Helpfully, the BVA provides two application forms in English (forms A, and AK). However, according to the BVA’s own website, these have to be completed in the German language.

The application has to be accompanied by a certified copy of a valid identity document, a certified copy of the birth certificate, and the applicant’s parents’ marriage certificate (with a German translation produced by a sworn translator).

Documentation proving right to naturalization

It must be demonstrated that a right to naturalization actually exists for the child of a person who had their German citizenship revoked between 1933 and 1945. Therefore, certain documents need to be provided:

First, records are required to show the once German citizenship of the applicant’s parent.

Second, the applicant must provide papers indicating that there were political, racial and religious grounds for removing German citizenship from the applicant’s parent. To this end, birth certificates indicate a child’s parents’ religion and can still be requested from the German city or town of birth (for people born in Germany prior to 1945).

Third, the applicant’s family lineage to the former German citizen must be proven.

Procedure of application

Typically, the application has to be submitted in person to a German embassy as the applicant’s signature must be officially certified. However, in our experience, the BVA is currently placing less emphasis on this due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

After the application has been filed, the competent BVA will confirm receipt of the application and issue a file number. Applications are processed in the order in which they have been received. One should be aware that delays may occur due to the large number of applications.

The BVA holds that the examination of the application is so complex, with each case being unique, that the production of a final list of required documents and information is not possible. Processing the application may also encounter delays due to necessary investigations conducted with other German authorities. The BVA will only make a decision on the application if all necessary documents and information are available.

How long does the process last?

The current waiting period prior the application being processed is approximately 24 months. Processing the application takes a further three months. Therefore, the application should be filed as soon as possible… and then, some patience is required.

Costs of the application

The application itself does not cost money. However, with the production of certain certified documents and with signatures needing to be certified at a German embassy, moderate fees may come into play.

Tax consequences

Acquiring German citizenship does not trigger immediate German tax consequences. However, a move to Germany could be one reason for the application; moving to Germany has various German tax consequences, in particular, when it comes to German income, and gift and inheritance tax. Due to the German citizenship, this remains an issue even after one moves away from Germany. Therefore, comprehensive tax planning should be conducted prior to moving to the country.

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    Philipp Windeknecht ist Rechtsanwalt, Steuerberater, Maître en droit und Assoziierter Partner am Standort Frankfurt.

    T +49 69/717 03-0
    philipp.windeknecht@fgs.de