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New Rules Governing German Citizenship by Jewish Descent

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

Prior to the rise of the Nazis in the 1930s, German Jews were one of the most prosperous diaspora communities. But as the Holocaust unfolded, many of the Jews had to flee the country to save themselves. Many of the descendants of those German Jews residing in other countries can now get back to their German roots and receive a German passport. Though Germany allows descendants of those stripped of their citizenship due to political, religious, or racial reasons to have it restored, many Jews have not been able to enjoy these benefits due to gaps in the legislation.

Thankfully, the German government has decided to bring about some changes to the citizenship law that will help people seeking German citizenship by Jewish descent.

New Rules Governing German Citizenship by Jewish Descent

What was the original law for obtaining German citizenship by Jewish descent?

According to Germany’s post-war constitution, Article 116, former citizens who were stripped of their citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds, between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945, shall have their German citizenship restored. This also included German citizenship by descent Jewish people can apply for. But a lack of legal framework deprived many Jewish descendants of reconnecting with their German roots for more than 60 years.

Some German Jewish descendants were denied citizenship on the ground that their ancestors had attained citizenship in another country before their German citizenship was revoked. Others were denied because, until 1953, citizenship could only be passed on through fathers. So anyone who had only a German mother (Grandmother, Grand-grandmother) was not eligible to regain German citizenship.

The new law addresses all of these gaps and flaws in the original legislation, making it easier for applicants to obtain German citizenship by descent.

Who are considered rightful descendants under the new German citizenship law?

According to Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law, the meaning of descendants will also include –

  • any child born in wedlock before April 1, 1953, to a German mother who had been forcibly stripped of her citizenship and a father of foreign nationality
  • any child born out of wedlock July 1, 1993, to a German father forcibly deprived of his citizenship and a mother who is a foreign national

In other words, any person born to a German parent who was deprived of their German citizenship and born before the parent’s citizenship was restored is eligible to apply for German citizenship by Jewish descent.

What does the new law say about German citizenship by Jewish descent?

The Fourth Amendment of the Nationality Act of Germany came into force on August 20, 2021. The new law presents provisions for the renaturalization of people who were denied citizenship or stripped of their German nationality due to Nazi persecution. The law also applies to German citizenship by descent Jewish people of German origin can apply for.

Under the Nationality Act, the following cases are eligible for naturalization as German citizens –

  • Anyone who lost or surrendered their German nationality before February 26, 1955. This could be through the acquisition of foreign citizenship on application, release on application, or due to their marriage with a foreign national.
  • Anyone who was denied or excluded from legally acquiring German citizenship through marriage, legitimization, or collective naturalization of people with German origins.
  • Anyone denied naturalization even after application or excluded from naturalization that was possible upon application.
  • Anyone who was forced to surrender or lost their home in Germany, established before January 30, 1933. Children are applicable even after this date.

All of these rules apply to descendants of German Jews as well.

What are the required German citizenship by Jewish descent legal documents?

To apply for German citizenship by descent Jewish applicants will have to complete the application form for naturalization under Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law. Anyone over 16 is required to fill up their individual application and sign under it themselves. Apart from the application, applicants are also required to submit all the supporting documents that prove their eligibility. Each individual case being different, the list of necessary documents may vary for each applicant.

But there are some mandatory documents that need to be enclosed with every application. These are –

  • Complete and correct birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Birth and marriage certificate of the parent/ grandparent (ancestor) who was deprived of German citizenship
  • Any evidence of their former German citizenship
  • Documents related to compensation received against their persecution, if any
  • All evidence supporting the relationship between the German ancestor and the descendant applying for naturalization

If several members of a family are applying, all the German citizenship by Jewish descent legal documents and the application forms need to be submitted together. Only one set of documents relating to German ancestry should be enough in such a case.

How can an immigration lawyer help?

As is evident, citizenship laws keep changing quite often. Particularly when it comes to complex cases like citizenship by descent for Jewish applicants, the process can be a little overwhelming. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you read the fine text in the law and ensure that your application is accepted sooner.

Consult our immigration lawyers before you apply for German citizenship by Jewish descent. Our experienced lawyers are well-versed in German citizenship laws and can help you navigate through the process with ease. Give us a call to learn how we can help.

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