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Expediting an application for German citizenship

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Lilian Granovsky

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Is expediting a German citizenship application possible? In light of the long waiting time for processing applications for German citizenship, which may reach 3 years or more, many wonder how it is possible to speed up the process. It is possible to contact the authorities in Germany to expedite an application that has been delayed for a long time, or alternatively to submit an expedition petition to the court in Germany.

Anyone who has ever dealt with German bureaucracy knows that the key word is “patience”. This is especially true for applications for German citizenship and German passports in recent years. Following the amendment of the Citizenship Law in Germany (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) from 2021, hundreds of thousands of descendants of German citizens who were persecuted by the Nazis were added to the list of those eligible for naturalization in Germany. Accordingly, there has been a significant increase in applications for German citizenship. The result has been the creation of significant queues and delays in the processing of applications.

The authorities in Germany do not commit to a specific processing time for citizenship and passport applications. Our experience shows that the processing time for citizenship applications ranges from 2 to 3 years on average, and the processing of passport applications takes several additional months. However, there are quite a few people entitled to citizenship who, due to their personal circumstances, cannot wait that long for their citizenship applications to be processed.

Complex life circumstances, such as advanced age or serious illness, may lead to a situation where the applicants may not be able to enjoy the citizenship to which they are entitled, and the many benefits it confers. For someone facing exceptional circumstances which they believe justify expediting of their application, it is important to know that oftentimes something can be done. The assistance of an attorney specializing in German immigration law may help advance the application. We will explain this in detail below.

Expediting a German citizenship application

A brief explanation of the process for obtaining German citizenship and a German passport

The citizenship law in Germany currently establishes the right to citizenship for people persecuted by the Nazis, who left Germany between 30.1.1933 and 8.5.1945 or whose citizenship was revoked due to their religion, race or political views. This entitlement applies as a general rule to the descendants of those persecuted (children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren). Those who are able to prove their right to citizenship may apply for naturalization in Germany.

Eligibility is proven through documents that show that the persecuted were indeed German citizens during the qualifying period. Those who do not possess the required proof can try to locate these documents in the German archives. After proving eligibility in principle, the complete citizenship application, which includes the application form, must be submitted to the authorities in Germany, providing all the relevant details about the applicants and their family background. Various documents must be attached to the form, as required by the authorities in Germany. Documents that were not originally written in German or English require a notarized translation into German.

After the application has been submitted, it is examined by the German Citizenship Department (Bundesverwaltungsamt), whose offices are located in the city of Cologne. If the application is approved, the applicants are invited to an official meeting where they are granted a certificate of naturalization. At this stage, the applicants become German citizens, and are able to apply for a German passport. The duration of the process depends, as mentioned, on the changing schedule of the immigration authorities in Germany, but also on how the applicants themselves handle the application. This includes obtaining all the relevant documents as soon as possible and submitting the application in accordance with the strict requirements of the German authorities. Those who do not act in accordance with these requirements may have their application delayed.

What does German law state regarding the processing time for citizenship applications?

It is important to understand that in many cases there is a significant gap between the provisions of the German law and its application in reality, as far as the time period for handling naturalization applications is concerned. Generally, the authorities in Germany are obliged to start processing citizenship applications that reach them within 3 months from the date of submission of the applications. However, today, in light of the heavy load faced by the immigration authorities, it may take a much longer time before the processing of a citizenship application begins. The authorities in Germany do not tend to prioritize applications on their own initiative, therefore automatic priority will not be given to applicants who were persecuted themselves or are Holocaust survivors, or alternatively, applicants suffering from a complex medical condition.

What can be done to expedite the process?

In cases where there are circumstances that require expediting the process, you can first try and contact the citizenship department in Germany and ask the application to be prioritized, if the process is delayed. As a general rule, as long as two years have passed since the application was submitted and no update has been received from the German authorities, you can submit a request to expedite the processing.

Another possible solution is to file an administrative petition in the court in Germany, in which an order is requested obliging the authorities to expedite the start of processing the request. This is in accordance with the law, according to which applications must be processed within 3 months. It is important to emphasize that the courts in Germany are well aware of the load the immigration authorities are dealing with these days, and so this route is not relevant for everyone. It will be necessary to provide evidence of the need to examine the application more quickly, in order to maximize the chances of the petition being accepted. It is recommended to consult with an attorney specializing in immigration law and handling German citizenship applications.

How can the processing of applications for German passports be expedited, after obtaining citizenship?

As we mentioned above, an application for the issuance of a German passport can only be requested after receiving a German naturalization certificate. The process of issuing the passport is conducted through the immigration office and takes about 3 months on average. For those who do not want to or are unable to wait, it is important to know that there is a fast track for processing passport applications. An application can be submitted in a fast-track procedure at the German Embassy, and it will usually be processed within a few weeks. Alternatively, you can come to Germany and submit the application there. In these cases, the passport will be issued within about 7 days.

Expediting an application for German citizenship and a German passport – contact an attorney specializing in German immigration law

For any additional questions regarding German citizenship applications, you can contact us and an attorney specializing in German immigration law will be glad to provide you with comprehensive and professional assistance. The attorneys from our office, in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have extensive and proven experience in handling German citizenship and German passport applications for Nazi victims and their descendants, as well as German citizenship applications for family members.

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