With the imminent date of Brexit looming, the status of Germans in Britain hoping to naturalise in the UK and that of British nationals in Germany looking to obtain German citizenship has been cast in uncertainty.
Exceptionally, those with ancestry-based claims may not be affected by the UK’s departure.
As a rule, Germany does not allow dual or multiple citizenships. Under the current German citizenship law, those who wish to acquire German citizenship must be prepared to renounce their existing citizenships. The same applies to Germans who generally forfeit their citizenship upon the acquisition of another nationality under German law.
However, there are certain exceptions.
Citizenship Based on Residency
Since 28th August 2007, German citizens have been allowed to naturalise in other EU member states and Switzerland without losing their German citizenship. Therefore, German citizens who live in the UK have been able to acquire British citizenship while remaining citizens of Germany.
This exception applies both ways and, conversely, British citizens who live in Germany have been able to apply for German citizenship and have not been required to give up their British citizenship by the German authorities.
Unless Germany changes its nationality law, the UK will no longer be exempt to Germany’s dual nationality restriction. As a result, German citizens could forfeit their citizenship if they naturalise in the UK post-Brexit without first obtaining the express permission of the German government (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung). Similarly, British citizens could have to give up their citizenship to naturalise as German.
What exactly the future will look like in these scenarios remains unclear for the moment.
Under German nationality law, ancestry-based claims may also lead to dual or multiple citizenships (s). These cases apply to foreign nationals with German ancestors who are eligible for German citizenship by descent. This generally applies to the following groups of people:
- Former German citizens and their eligible descendants who were deprived of their German citizenship by Nazi-era laws. Provided for by Article 116 (2) of the German Constitution, this process is known as ‘Restoration of German Citizenship’, the effect of which is the restoration of the subject’s citizenship as if it had not been deprived as a matter of restitution.
- Children of German citizens who missed out on citizenship due to gender discrimination in the law. This route is known as ‘Discretionary Naturalisation’ and usually applies to people who were born in wedlock to German mothers before 1st January 1975 or out of wedlock to German fathers before 1st July 1993. They can acquire German citizenship through naturalisation at the discretion of the German authorities and, if successful, are not required to give their original citizenship as a matter of restitution.
- Those who have acquired German citizenship and other citizenship(s) automatically (e.g. by birth or descent). Germany’s restrictions on multiple citizenships are focused on those acquired by application (e.g. naturalisation or registration) and does not apply if they were acquired automatically. Therefore, those who have inherited German citizenship from one of their ancestors but were unaware or simply never had acquired a German passport, are also exempt and may apply for a Confirmation of German citizenship or German passport without giving up their current citizenship(s).
Germany’s dual nationality laws are far from straight-forward and the status of those hoping to obtain British-German dual nationality through naturalisation after Brexit is unlikely to be clarified before the UK’s exit from the EU on the 29th of March 2019.
Those with ancestry-based claims may not be affected. However, it is strongly recommended that those interested in acquiring British-German dual citizenship seek specialist legal advice or consult their German Consulate.
Consult an Expert
Passportia’s German citizenship advisors are native German speakers and experts in their field. In combination with our leading British nationality practice, we offer specialist advice to those affected by either country’s nationality laws.
To find out if you are eligible, contact Passportia on +44 (0) 20 3695 5383, or using the form in the sidebar if using a desktop.
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