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German citizenship eligibility

Michael Decker
Michael Decker

This article addresses German citizenship eligibility. At the end of June of this year (2021), the German parliament set new regulations for the process of obtaining German citizenship for victims of the Nazi regime and their descendants. Under the new regulations, the pool of eligible people has expanded significantly, and the vast majority of people with a Jewish connection to Germany in the middle of the previous century are eligible for a European passport. What are the conditions for eligibility for a German passport, and who is entitled to receive German citizenship? Find the answers in this article.

Obtaining German citizenship for descendants of Nazi victims according to the German citizenship law can be done with the help of our offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Our law office specializes in obtaining European citizenships based on family roots. If your family has a German background, you are most likely eligible to receive German citizenship.

Eligibility for German citizenship

Following the reforms legislated by the Austrian parliament in 2019 regarding the broadening of conditions for receiving Austrian citizenship for Nazi persecution victims and their descendants, the German legislature decided to follow suit, significantly easing the requirements for citizenship in a similar way. (For information on the history of Jews in Germany, see the linked page.)

The reforms signal the loosening of past restrictions, including nullifying restrictions based on dates of birth, forfeiting existing citizenships, army service, and gender discrimination. The nullification of the former gender discrimination has in fact opened the door to hundreds of thousands of people who were previously barred from declaring and obtaining citizenship.

Some details on the issue of gender discrimination: In the past, descendants of men who lost their citizenship during the years of the Third Reich regime in Germany were eligible for German citizenship at any age, but descendants of women were only able to obtain German citizenship if those descendants were born before 1953. As a part of the historic “amending grievances” policy in Germany, this restrictive clause has been canceled, even in cases where the mother was married to a foreigner.German citizenship eligibility

Who is eligible for German citizenship?

Any descendant of a Jew who was persecuted in Germany for being Jewish between the years 1933-1945 can apply for citizenship. This includes those who lost their citizenship in 1941 as a result of the racist policy which revoked the citizenships of most citizens who were not of “pure German” ancestry.

In addition, people who were permanent residents in Germany during the 1930s (even before 1933), but due to their ethnicity were not recognized as citizens by the German authorities, are also eligible to apply for citizenship, along with their descendants.

How does one obtain German citizenship?

First, you must make sure you have documents that prove the former German citizenship of the subject on whom the application is based. Documents such as a birth certificate, an old passport, a diploma from a certified German institution, a marriage certificate, etc. will be considered satisfactory evidence of a German connection.

If you do not possess such documents because they did not survive or because the subject was not able to take them when leaving Germany, documents can be found in the German archives. This service is also offered by our offices.

Afterward, a family connection between the applicant and the Nazi persecution victim must be proven by official documents in order to verify and clearly present a blood relation between the two.

How do you obtain German citizenship?

A significant portion of the required time is spent waiting for an available appointment at the German embassy for the interview you must undergo. You must contact the embassy, make an appointment, and prepare all the documents required for the process. The documents will then be sent by the embassy to Germany for processing, where they will be examined by a committee that is authorized to approve or reject the application.

Here we would recommend seeking the assistance of an experienced and expert attorney who is familiar with German bureaucracy and knows which documents are to be submitted, what needs to be translated, what needs to have an apostille stamp attached, etc.

The duration of the process for receiving citizenship–from beginning to end–is usually between a year and two years.German citizenship eligibility

German and Israeli citizenship

One of the most common questions our offices receive since the legislation update is whether it is necessary to forfeit Israeli citizenship in order to receive German citizenship. The answer is no.

One aspect of the special status granted to people with a Jewish connection to Nazi Germany is that they do not need to forfeit their existing citizenship, including citizenships other than Israeli. Eligibility for a German passport is open today to the vast majority of the persecution victims and their descendants, and the German legislature does not generally pose many difficulties in the process.

Conditions for German citizenship

There are important ground rules which are mandatory for obtaining German citizenship. First, the applicant must not have committed felonies that are more severe than the limit stipulated by German law. Another condition is that the applicant has not committed financial crimes on a large scale and/or taken part in terrorist acts in Germany.

German citizenship for grandchildren

Grandchildren of Holocaust survivors can obtain a German passport without their parents becoming citizens first. In other words, it is possible to skip a generation when submitting an application. The conditions applied to the grandchildren are the same as those for first-degree relatives of survivors.

In general, we recommend that family members submit a joint application and not individual ones. Today the German legislature allows all family members to apply jointly and in one file, something which can significantly shorten the process.

The duration of the process for obtaining citizenship is about a year and a half. If you are considering waiting until the completion of the citizenship process of a family member before ordering your own passport, it is important to take into account something which may become crucial as time passes: the process of obtaining citizenship in a foreign country is naturally subject to change. In other words, it is possible that in the future new restrictions will be applied, which may prevent you from receiving the passport in the convenient and easy manner that is possible now. By potential future restrictions, we mean requirements such as a comprehensive language test, residence in Germany for a year or longer, the need to travel to the country in order to register citizenship, and other possible obligations that may hinder the process of receiving the coveted passport in the future.

German citizenship rights

As one of the most desired passports in the world and the one most highly rated in Europe, once you have a German passport, you will have available to you a wide spectrum of exclusive opportunities.

First, you will be able to enter countries that are not accessible on an Israeli passport, such as Qatar, Venezuela, Malaysia, and more.

You will have the right to live and work freely in all the European Union countries and study in any of these countries with partial or even full subsidization. There are high-quality academic institutions throughout Europe that exclusively recognize members of the EU and ease the entrance requirements for such applicants.

Additional rights include entering the USA without the need for a visa and receiving medical care in the advanced departments in Germany or in other European Union countries. Another prominent advantage is the ability to invest in local businesses or purchase real estate.

Contact us regarding German citizenship eligibility

Contact our offices if you are interested in obtaining German citizenship. We assist people to obtain German citizenship under the new law. If you wish to find out whether you are eligible, contact us at the email or phone number below, and we will be glad to help.

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