How to get German Citizenship and retain (dual) US Citizenship

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Anything can happen as far as how long it will take. I have been waiting a bit more than two years, and I always think that it's going to be over each time they contact me, but then it drags on for mysterious reasons. They keep asking for the same information every six months.

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Greetings,

 

A few weeks ago, I was granted dual (US-German) citizenship. I just wanted to share what happened to me in this process in the hopes that it helps some of you out there. Reading these forums really helped me along the way.

 

I guess one of the most salient things I have to say here is that I invoked, but was still over, the income loophole… so if you’re wondering about this, read on.

 

I sent in my first paperwork at the beginning of October and was eingebürgert about 7 months later, at the beginning of July. I’m a resident of Neukölln.

 

My first tip to all of you who are hunting to keep your pair of snarks is to keep the pressure on. Call, inquire, email. I didn't use any lawyers or anything, though did have German friends proofread any official letters before I sent them in.

 

As has been my experience with the Ausländerbehörde, I was struck by the lack of transparency and clarity throughout the process, and generally got the impression that the clerk was making it up as she went along.

 

I was first allotted a clerk who basically went missing, first the other powers that be at the Amt told me she was on vacation, then they said she was just “abwesend”. After repeated inquiries, I was informed that I had been shunted over to another – ironically-named – clerk. It turned out that the petty tyrant granting (or really trying to prevent the granting of) foreigners’ citizenship is herself named ‘citizen’.

 

Because of corona, the office was closed, and Ms. Citizen and I had our requisite “first meeting” over the phone. I informed her that I would seek dual citizenship and she seemed well aware of the expensive-to-renounce loophole. She sent over a fading photocopy of the paperwork (seemingly specific to the Neukölln einbürgerungsbehörde?!) and I filled it all out, including a letter from the US Consulate here in Berlin stating the cost of renouncing allegiance to the red white and blue. (I requested it over email and they got it to me by mail quickly). I used a version of the “unzumutbar” text you can find on this forum, maybe even this very thread. After a lot of prevarication, I also decided to mention that I am German-Jewish. Wohlgemerkt, my (direct) ancestors did not leave during the NAZI’s reign of terror so I am not qualified to apply for “reinstated” citizenship (Article 116). I still felt and feel that this added to my argument for not giving up my American passport. Here’s the text I used:

 

Des Weiteren möchte ich meine jüdisch deutsche Herkunft hier erwähnen. Meine deutsch-jüdische Identität begründet jeweils meine Motivation deutscher Staatsbürger zu werden, sowohl auch meine Bedenken meine US-amerikanische Staatsbürgerschaft völlig aufzugeben.

 

Yes folks. Tried to play this card quite softly, though felt I had to play it. It certainly put Ms. Citizen’s hackles up. In her *first* response full of requests for financial paperwork not mentioned in the official requirements for getting citizenship or on her photocopied checklist, she included – in bold – this statement “Sie teilten mit, dass sie jüdisch – deutscher Abstammung sind. Bitte fertigen sie mir zunächst einen Stammbaum an über die maßgeblichen Personen und wann diese Deutschland verließen, für eine entsprechende Prüfung.“

 

Obvious Article 116 overtones here, though I didn’t claim it. Anywhoo I had a month-long deep dive into genealogy and found out a few more things about where my family came from. Fun. Also threw in a couple of letters “confirming” that I am a descendent from different town historians in Southwest Germany where my ancestors came from, and where any cousins who stuck it out for another few generations of antisemitism were summarily deported and murdered. Did I mention I wasn’t trying to claim ridiculously narrow Article 116?

 

A few months went by until Ms. Citizen’s next move, which was to aggressively question my visa status (and to ask for more financial paperwork, you know the drill). Where did think there was a sticky spot? Right now, I am doing a doctorate here and freelancing. Being a doctoral candidate is *not* synonymous with being a student here in Germany. Just ask the health insurance companies. Furthermore, being a doctoral candidate usually goes in conjunction with some work for the university, or other research institutions. The latter is basically my situation. The Ausländerbehörde also told me “clearly” (on more than one occasion, more than one clerk) that you can study on a freelance visa. Anyway, I applied for citizenship on my freelance visa. The fact that I was a doctoral candidate – OK we’ll give her a break and call me a doctoral student – clearly bothered Ms. Citizen’s sense of Ordnung and clarity. Students can’t be granted citizenship! Again, she hit the „fett markieren“ key in her low-grade state-acquired word processing software:

 

“Sofern Sie sich wieder in einer Ausbildung befindend sind Sie verpflichtet dies auch der Ausländerbehörde mit zu teilen und eine entsprechende Änderung ihrer Aufenthaltserlaubnis beantragen. Aktuell sind Sie in Besitz einer Aufenthaltserlaubnis für eine freiberufliche Erwerbstätigkeit. Ich bitte daher um Klärung mit der Ausländerbehörde und um Vorlage der geänderten Aufenthaltserlaubnis gebeten. Sofern keine Änderung der Aufenthaltserlaubnis notwendig ist wird eine entsprechende Bestätigung durch die Ausländerbehörde benötigt.“

 

Well, I’m up scheiß’s bach, thought I to myself. I needed to retrieve some non-standard paper from the most mercurial Behörde in the land? I started calling (ha, try calling Mars) and emailing the Ausländerbehörde. Finally, one of my dozen or so emails got to someone. I couldn’t believe my eyes:

vielen Dank für Ihre Anfrage. Auf Grund Ihrer Aufenthaltszeiten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland ist Ihnen die Erwerbstätigkeit vollständig zu öffnen. Daraus folgt, dass die Promotion auch mit der Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur freiberuflichen Tätigkeit vereinbar ist.

I’ll chalk this one up to luck. Needed some luck in this whole game one does. Sent in my stuff to Ms. Citizen and held my breath for another month or so. Meanwhile I went on a trip to the US since everyone over there was vaxed. There, I got this friendly missive via email:

 

in Ihrem Einbürgerungsverfahren habe ich Sie leider unter der angegebenen Telefonnr. mehrfach nicht erreichen können. Das hier eingereichte Deutschzertifikat ist leider nicht ausreichend, da das XXXX XXXX [medium-sized Berlin language school] nicht zugelassen ist im Rahmen des Einbürgerungsverfahrens. Ich bitte daher DRINGEND um Ihren Anruf in der Zeit von 6:30 - 14:00.

 

I thought to myself, OK she’s really grasping at straws now. Also, she writes like the Bild Zeitung. And, what kind of office hours are those? Why don’t they post that on their official website? Also, it would really be nice to have had a list of the accredited institutions that they (apparently) have on the inside. But hey, at least she took it upon herself to test my German, saying in her next email that a chat would be enough:

 

“zunächst würde mir ein Gespräch ausreichen. Das hatten wir bis jetzt noch nicht.”

 

Sure, I get it, they have a lot of applicants, but don’t they realize that this stuff is extremely important to us, can alter the course of our lives significantly? I informed her that we had indeed spoken on at least two previous occasions and provided the dates, and that I would call her as soon as I was back in ALDI-Talk coverage.

 

During our nice chat in which I spoke standard German and Ms. Citizen spoke largely in Berlin dialect, she informed me after about 30 seconds that my German was fine and then we got into the nitty gritty of my finances.

 

She claimed, having seen my 2020 tax return, that I earn too much to go through the renunciation-is-damn-expensive loophole. I told her that now that I am a PhD candidate, I can’t expect to earn nearly as much this year, but that my finances are secured because I have a stipend, and she can clearly see that from all the paperwork. She said that she didn't care about the future or my estimations, that ‘it’s all well and good that you have kept up German culture in your family, but they left 200 years ago,’ (she could have seen from my family tree that there were direct ancestors here into the 20th century, but hey), and that she was going to recommend that the Senat deny my application for dual citizenship. Then she griped for a while that the Senat never listens to her recommendations, and *listen up you pretenders to the throne* claimed that they are being lax because of the elections in September (so you might want to get your applications to decision sooner than later, if you can).

 

A couple of weeks later I got accepted! The letter is excellent, a truly passive construction, something along the lines of “your application for citizenship can now be completed by your being given a certificate of citizenship.” No congrats, no nothing.

 

I was even a little nervous because it made no mention of dual citizenship. Anyway, all was well. I showed up at the appointed time and met smug Ms. Citizen in the flesh. I won’t say she seemed disappointed exactly, but there was certainly an undertone of irony to the whole ‘ceremony’.

 

I asked her directly, why do you think I was approved for the dual, even though you recommended that I be rejected? She told me that the Senat doesn’t inform them and reiterated that she thinks they are being lax because it's a voting year. She also told me that each application is different and that the Senat receives the whole application, that they look at the “gesamtpaket” – the whole picture. She said that she thought it didn’t really have to do with my “kulturellen Umfeld.” She just couldn’t/wouldn’t bring herself to say “you are Jewish”. I guess that’s fine, she’s being careful. I guess this was the most wild-card part of my application. I wish I could write here (and for that matter, in the major newspapers) that I had managed to set a precedent and that being German Jewish, or even just Jewish is enough to force them to accept dual citizenship. I wish this could be extended to all minorities viciously persecuted by the NAZIs. It just doesn't make sense to me that the (nachfolger)state that actively went after Jews and other minorities still wants us to renounce. Unfortunately, there was no smoking gun that said that this was the reason, but still I encourage dual citizenship applicants to call attention to this fact.

 

So that’s that. Just took my first trip outside the EU on my German passport. Wild.

 

I would encourage every American to apply for dual citizenship (giving multiple reasons beyond the cost of renunciation seems advantageous) and just try your luck. Blather to your clerk, it's the Senat who decides! My clerk said no. The Senat didn’t care. Get your clerk to forward your application ASAP. Ask them to do so directly. Don’t give up. Persevere!

 

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Very entertaining. I wonder if the problem is that the law is unclear and open to interpretation? There are so many different constellations, perhaps hardly any two applications are comparable.

 

Dual citizenship was introduced by the Schröder regime, I shall be reading up about it.

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18 hours ago, Fietsrad said:

Dual citizenship was introduced by the Schröder regime, I shall be reading up about it.

 

Correction: It was proposed, but then torpedoed by Roland Koch, who was then premier of Hesse.

 

It was never codified in law and probably never will be.

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Interesting story. It's funny how in Berlin a 30 second chat is deemed proof of satisfactory German. My mid sized Berlin language school C1 cert was rejected by Landkreis Havelland. I had to resit an exam at a Brandenburg VHS so you lucked out there too.

 

Congratulations on your citizenship :-)

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Perhaps her 30 second chat was more interesting and simply had more of an impact than your mid sized school C1 cert, your  know it all / bitter, combination is so sad sometimes.

 

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On 7/26/2021, 6:36:48, Wasteland said:

Perhaps her 30 second chat was more interesting and simply had more of an impact than your mid sized school C1 cert, your  know it all / bitter, combination is so sad sometimes.

 

 

On 7/26/2021, 8:44:06, murphaph said:

I guess wasteland refers to what's between your ears.

 

Haha, you two. Stop.

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UPDATE: application accepted

 

I would say my situation and experience was most similar to what the qzen described in their post from October 2, 2018. Here's the rundown:

- Freelancer

- BA in German from a university in the US, C2 language exam from Goethe Institute

- Residence 5 years with EU-Daueraufenthalt permit at the time of submission + approx. 7 years living in Germany two other times in the past

- July 2020: Application submitted in Berlin-Kreuzberg, including request to keep US citizenship. My average gross monthly income (Reingewinn in this case) for the past several tax years was above the threshold meeting the "unzumutbar" criteria discussed repeatedly in this thread, but I argued that because I bear 100% of my Vorsorge costs (KK, Rentenversicherung, Berufsunfähigkeit, etc.) Reingewinn is not comparable to an employee's Bruttoeinkommen. (See my first post in this thread for more on this). 

- April 2021: Case worker e-mailed me that my income indeed exceeded the threshold needed to keep my US citizenship but still asked me to submit my 2020 Steuerbescheid or income statement from my tax advisor. My average monthly income in 2020 was below the threshold, and I submitted my 2020 Bescheid a few weeks later.

- July 2021: E-mailed my case worker to inquire about the status of my application (12 months to the day since submitting my application) and received a reply that all loose ends were tied up and my application would now be passed on to the Senatsverwaltung. No financial inquiries were made for 2021.

- August 2021: Application and request for Beibehaltung accepted! I can pick up my certificate next week.

 

Not sure this adds anything new to the discussion here but hopefully it provides at least a frame of reference.

 

Best of luck to everyone else grinding through the process here.

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I'm glad to see people posting about their success in applying for dual citizenship.

 

Unfortunately, may family is now in month 28 of the process with no end in sight -- for some reason it just isn't happening. I am guessing that corona is really slowing down the work for the Berlin-Pankow office. People are perhaps using their spare time to submit applications and that is just creating a longer waiting list.

 

The Pankow office is supposed to be slow (18-22 months for the entire process according to the survey conducted by the Senat), but it is mysteriously taking longer than it should in our case. No info from our lawyer or the Bezirksamt as to why they don't just finish up the process. Having this hanging over our heads, and particularly having it limit our options for the future, is very stressful. What I wouldn't give just to have this over with! 

 

All of you who got this done in a year or less are really fortunate.

 

I guess I'm not adding much info in this post, but it's cheaper to post here than to talk to a therapist.

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18-22 months might be an average (mean, median, mode?).

 

Mine took 17 months, not in Berlin, but I moved to another Bundesland in the meantime. When you get citizenship that is not the end, you must apply for a Personalausweis, €37. Takes weeks and weeks because the Bundesdruckerei is busy.

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Mine (Landkreis Havelland) took two years and I was already an EU citizen, not looking for any shortened periods of residence exemptions or anything, the easiest possible case for them to handle. I had a legal right to citizenship and to retain my other citizenship. Still took that long.

 

These offices are staffed by just a few people. If one goes off sick for a while I can imagine there's a big impact on all applications as even if they get a replacement, it would take some time to train them in, further slowing down the office as a whole.

 

Personally I blame the politicians. They could hire more people to process our applications more swiftly. They take about a Willkommenskultur but in the area where they have direct control and could make a real difference, they fail.

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12 hours ago, Fietsrad said:

18-22 months might be an average (mean, median, mode?).

 

Mine took 17 months, not in Berlin, but I moved to another Bundesland in the meantime. When you get citizenship that is not the end, you must apply for a Personalausweis, €37. Takes weeks and weeks because the Bundesdruckerei is busy.

I got mine in about two weeks, maybe a bit less. I suspect they run batches of Persos rather than printing them on demand so if your application goes in just as they are finishing up a batch, you'll have a longer wait. The printing equipment is presumably very expensive so I'm guessing it's used for all the different types of cards the Bundesdruckerei might need to produce and may need to be set up for each different card type. 

 

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My lawyer says the German citizenship papers for my family are now to come in one to three months. I really hope this is the end of the struggle. It will then be a total of close to 30 months. I will likely have to argue my case separately and am getting ready for it to take at least another year.

 

By the way, the process for people naturalizing as US citizens in the United States is typically 15 months (just for comparison), although I suspect that the process in the US has also come to a standstill. When we recently tried to renew a passport in the US they told us it would be 12 weeks, but only if we paid the rush fees. We ended up renewing our US passports at the US embassy in Berlin, and they delivered new passports and passport cards in 2 weeks with no rush fees, strangely enough. I guess you get priority when living abroad.

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1 hour ago, Berlinexpatnine said:

I guess you get priority when living abroad.

 

Indeed. It's automatically rush processing as you need your passport ASAP when abroad (in general, as of course dual citizens, etc., might be ok without the US passport).

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Hello to the community,

 

After living almost 30 years in the Munich area, my wife (British) now starts thinking about to become a German :)

 

She already passed all required tests and prerequisites for the "Einbürgerungs-Antrag" (application for naturalisation) but to become a German, it requires to give up your previous citizenship.

 

And now comes the challenge: my wife also wants to keep her british nationality.

 

I have read the thread with the success of US citizens for dual citizenship, but since Brexit, for my wife this now seems to be impossible or only with a lot of "hurdles"

 

To get the german and keep the british nationality is only possible under "certain circumstances"

 

And this is typical for the german authorities - there is no exact explanation what exactly these circumstances are or can be.

 

Was (or is) anyone of you in the same situation recently and was successful in explaining the reasons to keep your british citizenship in addition to the the german?

 

In other words, what did you write to them to convince them?

 

Really looking forward to your replies

 

Cheers

 

Paulaner

 

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Germany does allow dual citizenship in exceptional circumstances, however this is not at all common.

 

Your wife would need to demonstrate that relinquishing U.K. citizenship would cause significant financial hardship.

 

Some US citizens use this loophole because giving up US citizenship costs a huge amount of money, but it’s unlikely to be the case for U.K. citizenship

 

Or she has to prove that she has an overwhelming need to retain her U.K. citizenship, and that would be at the discretion of the official handling the application.

 

Nothing you wrote suggests that your wife has an "exceptional" case, rather it just sounds like she regrets not getting an application in before Brexit closed the door. 

 

I might be wrong! 

 

 

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Yeah it's going to very very difficult claiming some exceptional hardship here. There are no serious disadvantages to non-citizenship for say property ownership or inheritance, which is a classic hardship used. The costs are also not high enough to warrant any leniency I would have thought. Simply missing the deadline is not a hardship in of itself.

 

By any chance does your wife have Irish blood? Irish citizenship is almost on a par with British citizenship in the UK. For example no visa is required and Irish citizens are not considered foreigners in the UK. Voting rights are the same. Irish citizens can even stand for election to parliament. It would certainly be a good replacement for UK citizenship.

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