Are you fluent in German? Did you study German in Germany? Did you fall in love with the Federal Republic of Germany and decide life in Germany as a citizen was for you?
Before you dive into the various ways to become German, you should test your knowledge of Germany.
Do you know that Germany is a federated state? Do you know what that means for everyday life?
Do you know your German history? Do you know what the Stasi was?
For those wanting to stay in Germany, do you know what you need to do? What are the conditions for becoming German?
Are you familiar with the German job market?
There are so many questions you need to answer before you decide to become a German citizen.
Whether you want to work in Germany, learn German, become an expat, or just learn more about German culture, we’ve a few things to tell you about naturalisation, residency permits, the German job market, and the rules you need to follow before you take your first German lessons.
If you're thinking about learning German and want to live in Deutschland, you'll need to more than just the language. You'll need to know how the German government works.
Germany is a federated state comprised of 16 Länders that each have their own constitution, parliament, and government. There are 3 cities in Germany that are also Länders: Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg.
What is a federal German state?
It’s a type of state in which the territories have some autonomy while respecting the powers shared at a federal level.
Each of the 16 federal states has a government and a statue of powers guaranteed by the federal constitution. However, these states have no power in terms of foreign politics or international rights.
The 16 states of Länder are: Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, North Rhine- Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia.
The German states have independent jurisdiction and total control over the police, municipal law, media, teaching, culture, and worship. For those with a different language, each state can adopt a specific law but it mustn’t go against the federal law.
What Was the Stasi?
The GDR was a totalitarian state maintained by the Stasi (Ministerium für Staatssichercheit) which came about in 1950 after the end of the war and were inspired by the methods of the KGB.
The Stasi’s objectives were to guarantee the Communist Party’s control over the German population. This resulted on keeping tabs on all of society whether in schools, factories, business, or shops.
The goal was simple: know what everyone thought and what they were doing in order to eliminate all opposition. For the Stasi, everyone was a potential suspect and it wasn’t uncommon for Stasi agents to check post and tap phones.
Just like the NSA in the US or the Investigatory Powers Act in the UK when it comes to email and web browsing, the Stasi infiltrated the private lives of Germans in order to collect as much information as possible on anyone they considered a potential threat. The Stasi was made up of around 274,000 employees and 174,000 informants and accounted for 2.5% of the population.
The scandal revealed by Edward Snowden concerning the NSA has brought similar practices to the fore but on an international scale. The work done by spies in the Second World War is now done by computers and algorithms.
The Rights of EU Nationals in Germany
Now that you’ve brushed up on your knowledge of Germany and its history, do you know what rights European Union nationals have in Germany?
Do they have a different status? Are there ways to stay or work in Germany? Is there a particular procedure that needs to be followed?
If you live in the European Union, you can enjoy freedom of movement. This means that you can freely travel to any country in the EU, including Germany. You can also live and work either as an employee or a freelancer in Germany.
For families and EU citizens who aren’t students, you can also move to Germany as long as you have health insurance and sufficient financial means to do so. All EU citizens can enter and leave Germany as they please without a visa for a period of less than 3 months. They can stay for 6 months if they’re looking for work.
The German Jobs Market
Germany offers a number of interesting benefits for workers. With some of the highest salaries in the world, 35 hours per week with 30 days paid holiday, Germany is one of the best countries for working.
The unemployment rates outside of the biggest cities has been 7% since 2016. The unemployment rate is lower in east Germany (3% in some regions) with the exception of Berlin.
While the construction industry isn’t in huge demand, the research industry is constantly looking for workers.
Lots of businesses are looking to foreign workers. The most sought-after positions are for engineers, technicians, and exporters. Germany voted to set their minimum wage at €8.50 an hour. There are many advantages to working in Germany.
The first hurdle is often the German language since you’ll have to speak it. You can take private German tutorials or German classes to help you with this and show that you’d like to integrate into both German culture and the German workplace.
How Do You Become German?
Nationality through Birth
A child born on German soil will automatically be a German national as long as one of their parents is, too. If both parents are German citizens, the child will also be a German national if one of their parents has lived in Germany for over 8 years.
There are a few conditions that must be met in order to become a German citizen:
Request the necessary forms and provide the necessary supporting documents.
Have lived in Germany for 8 years
Be a law-abiding citizen with no criminal record
Be financially able to support yourself and your family without any help from the state
Know the German constitution and requirements of a German citizen
You must prove German language proficiency of at least B1 (why not spend some time in Berlin to do this?)
You must pass a citizenship test which consists of 33 questions on German economics, politics, history (check out these 10 famous Germans), and society like “What is the role of the opposition to the German parliament?”, “What is the average age in Germany?”, and When was the RFA created?”. Each candidate can take this test as many times as they like even though 98% of candidates pass it the first time.
If you become German, you need to renounce your previous citizenship. However, certain EU and Swiss nationals can keep their passports and gain dual nationality. This can be done from 16 years old through the Foreign Office.
Since 1970, it is no longer possible for a foreigner marrying a German national to gain German citizenship. However, they can benefit from the same right to naturalisation if they complete all the following requirements...
Conditions for Naturalisation
Here are a few examples of the conditions for naturalisation.
My parents are German. Can I get a German passport?
A German national can get a German passport but if your parents were previously German or are no longer alive (or are no longer German because they renounced their citizenship), it's not enough to get German nationality. At least one of your parents must be German on the date of your birth.
I was born in Germany but my parents weren’t German. Can I get a German passport?
A child born in Germany must have at least 1 parent with a permanent residence permit. This applies to children born after 1 January 2000.
Can I become a naturalised German citizen without living there?
This is possible in theory but it does require an absolute mastery of the German language which would probably require spending time in Germany or another German speaking country. You’ll also need to be able to support yourself as stated in the previous section.
How can you lose German nationality?
If you acquire a new nationality (from outside the European Union or Switzerland), you’ll automatically lose your German nationality. You can only keep it if you obtain permission from the German authorities before getting your new nationality.
As you can see, becoming German is subject to certain conditions depending on whether you live in the European Union, whether your parents are German, or whether you were born in Germany.
It’s important to make sure you’re aware of all the conditions, have all the necessary supporting documents, and, if you’re not a native German speaker, can speak German well.
Going to a German university, doing an Erasmus year in one of Germany’s many student towns, and learning more about German culture through podcasts and media are all great ways to help you master the German language.
You should also check out some of the best German writers!
Find a private german tutor to help you master the language: