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“Ethnic Germans” are people who are of German origin and who consider themselves German – typically, they are living/have lived in Eastern European states, mainly in the Soviet Union or other Comecon countries. These are people who have suffered from the consequences of WWII and persecuted because of their German heritage. This is also the largest immigration group in Germany.

Since 19 June 1953, ethnic Germans who were exiled or relocated from their existing homes and their descendants have in certain cases a claim to citizenship. The Basic Law of 1949 §116(i) allows anyone “who has been admitted to the territory of the German Reich within the boundaries of 31st December 1937 as a refugee or expellee of German ethnic origin” to reclaim their German citizenship. This is also extended to their spouse or descendant

Up until 1993, Aussiedler were

  • German citizens who lived in former German territories and remained there after 1945, and their descendants and their spouse
  • German citizens who moved to Germany from a Communist country, as well as their family members who accompanied them.

Spaetaussiedler are people who moved to Germany after 1 January 1993.

These immigrants used to be mostly from Poland and Romania, but are now overwhelmingly coming from the former Soviet Union.

From 1992 this claim is limited to those who were born before 1 January 1993 and needs to follow a list of requirements. Individuals have to demonstrate that they had suffered discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity and that they are sufficiently proficient in German, having retained strong ties with their German heritage.

In reality it is now very difficult to claim citizenship on this basis due to a series of reforms. However, the relatives (spouses and children) of those who have settled in Germany as ethnic Germans are still able to apply for citizenship if they are under 18 or if they can show that their level of German is sufficient.

See also Former German Territories and German citizenship  and  Germans in South West Africa (now Namibia).


To discuss an assessment of your claim to German citizenship, call +1 (305) 770 6530 or complete the Contact Us form on the right