Keep Your German Citizenship?
Would you like to become a U.S. citizen but retain your German citizenship? Generally, this is possible, provided you have obtained a so called “Beibehaltungsgenehmigung vom deutschen Bundesverwaltungsamt”. In the following, please find the legal basis, the requirements and its consequences.
According to §25 of paragraph 1 of the German Citizenship Act (StAG), a German citizen automatically loses their German citizenship upon the acceptance of the citizenship of a foreign country. (§§17 Nr.2, 25 Abs.1 StAG).
This means that when an opportunity is presented the German passport will be seized. This may for instance happen, when one must renew their passport. The passport will not be renewed, and the old passport will not be returned.
However, according to §25 paragraph 2 of the German Citizenship Act, one may petition to retain their German citizenship BEFORE the acquisition of foreign citizenship and upon approval of that petition, one can obtain a foreign citizenship without losing the German citizenship.
The decision of the Federal Administration Office whether or not to grant your petition to retain your German citizenship is “Ermessensentscheidung”, which means that the German authority has the discretion to grant your petition based on all circumstances and reasoning that you provide. What does this mean for you?
In case your petition is denied, you can appeal that decision only on the basis of the following arguments: “Ermessensfehlgebrauch” and “Ermessensnichtgebrauch”.
Due to changes in the German Citizenship Act on 01/01/2000, it is now much easier to petition to the Federal Administration Office to retain your German citizenship.
Pursuant to the “old law”, one had to show that it is in the public interest that you can retain your German citizenship. Overall, the provision was interpreted very restrictively, and it was almost impossible to obtain an approval to retain your German citizenship.
Pursuant to the “new law”, the decision of the German Federal Administrative Office remains a “Ermessensentscheidung”. However, now pursuant to §25 of paragraph 2 of the German Citizenship Act, both public and private interests will be looked at and evaluated.
This includes that if a petitioner that resides outside of Germany, it will be looked at whether they still have close ties to Germany. In order to answer this question, the Federal Administrative Office looks at:
- Whether one has close family ties to relatives in Germany.
- Whether one has real estate property in Germany.
- Whether one has an apartment for its own use.
- Whether one receives pensions and insurance benefits in Germany or has to remain in the U.S. temporarily for business purposes.
In order to ensure a consistent decision-making process, the decision making process is now the responsibility of the German Federal Administration Office in Cologne.
What do the above changes mean to you?
Despite the simplification of the German Citizenship Act, it is important to crucially think and evaluate your arguments to retain your German citizenship because as stated previously, the decision is still a “Ermessensentscheidung” and the decision can be appealed only on the basis of “Ermessensfehler”.