Keys to the Castillo

Become International: 5 Steps to Get a German Passport by Descent

If you're patient. You can do it. You can get another passport.

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Re: Getting a German Passport Via Citizenship by Descent

For the longest time, I was in the dark.

It wasn’t until the truth was revealed to me that I realized just how different my life could’ve been if I had been exposed to the right information at the right time.

One simple fact, such as:

If you have a parent that was a German citizen at the time of your birth, and you can prove it using a document such as a German passport, birth certificate, or citizenship certificate, you may be eligible for German citizenship, and therefore, a German passport by descent.

It’s funny.

I attended a German language school on Saturday mornings for years and years.

I even took some tough tests that would be my ‘golden tickets’ to German universities – one of my goals at the time.

It wasn’t until years later that I found out…

I was a German citizen by descent this entire time!

A German citizen, with the same rights and privileges as any other EU and German passport holder.

  • I could’ve attended public school in Germany for a year
  • I could’ve lived in different European nations
  • My language skills could have been greatly improved at a much more rapid pace

Those are just a few of the possibilities for my life that might have been realized, had my family known about this.

They didn’t, unfortunately. Then again, I can’t blame them… they don’t teach you this in school. (Makes you wonder why…)

Hence, why I’m crafting this article about German citizenship by descent, and hot to get a German passport by descent.

Maybe you’re young and curious about your heritage, or you’re a parent and you want more options for your children.

You might even be further along in life and looking to retire somewhere besides the country you were born in…

Or, you might even be a young professional who wants to take advantage of working abroad and expanding your scope of opportunities.

After going through the lengthy process of getting my passport in 2019, I figured I’d write up this report.

I’m a foreign-born individual who successfully applied for and received a German passport by descent.

I really do hope you use this information, because it’s IMMENSELY valuable.

There are companies (such as a certain capitalist that is nomadic), that charge THOUSANDS to coach you through this kind of process… and not just for investigating getting a German passport by descent.

One glaring issue I found with many of the sites and accounts I read, is that they were either:

  • outdated
  • they weren’t actually written by someone who went through the process themselves
  • or the information was downright misleading!

In this article, I’m going to go over:

  • Advantages and restrictions of having a German passport
  • How to determine your citizenship status
  • Required documents for first time passport application
  • Questions, my advice, and things to avoid

Let’s get started.

A German Passport can yield incredible international experiences, like visiting huge castles

Perks and Drawbacks of Having a German Passport by Descent

  • Visa-free access to over 180 countries.
    Some notable countries that you gain easier access to as a German rather than, say, an American or Canadian, are: Vietnam, Australia (visa-free as opposed to e-visa), Turkey, Venezuela (not that I would recommend it), Bolivia, Paraguay, Equatorial Guinea, the United Arab Emirates, New Caledonia, Iran, Uzbekistan, the Gambia, and the Central African Republic.
  • Freedom of movement within all of the EU.
    That means you can legally live in any city, in any country in the European Union, for as long as you want!
    You can send your kids to school, and you can attend university freely.
    You can legally work, conduct business, and purchase property there as well.
    Basically, you have all the rights and freedoms as the citizen of an EU nation, minus the right to vote in elections.

The one drawback I can tell you, is that if you plan to naturalize as a citizen elsewhere, you may have to give up your German citizenship, since the German government wishes to discourage multiple citizenships. 

That means you would give up your German passport by descent, too.

With that out of the way, we can begin the process of determining your citizenship.

Determining German Citizenship for German Passport by Descent

You’ll need to confirm that your German parent was, in fact, German when you were born.

The reason you want to figure this out is that according to German citizenship law, if a German naturalizes in another country, they are considered to have forfeited German citizenship, unless they received permission to retain it.

Thing is, in my case, my dad immigrated to Canada and naturalized as a minor, so he was able to retain his German citizenship.

This was quite a few decades ago, so the law may have changed in this regard.

My number one piece of advice for you would be to call up the nearest German consulate in your area, or send them an email, and lay out the facts so that they can tell you for sure whether or not you received German citizenship by descent.

Check on Google for ‘German Consulate near me’, and you can get their contact information.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the law was changed in 1975.

Prior to that, you could only receive citizenship by descent through your father.

If you were born after 1975, then you could receive it by either your mom or dad.

Next step: Gathering Your Documents and Name Declaration for a German Passport by Descent

It is not uncommon for immigrants to English-speaking countries to change their surname to something more ‘Anglo’ sounding.

They may slightly alter the spelling to represent sounds found in special characters in other languages that are non-existent in the English alphabet, such as the German umlauts ä, ö, ü.

So, if your ancestors chose to change their surname when settling in their new country, you might need to make a name declaration (German: Nameserklaerung).

Again, get on the phone or send some emails, so that you can be certain whether or not you need to complete this step.

For example, if your surname is Heinrich, then you should be fine.

However, all you Müllers/Muellers out there would be advised to dig into this. Why? Because not figuring this out early can mean more delays down the road for you.

Here’s more info pulled straight from the consulate’s website:

“If one of the following statements applies to you, you will have to declare your surname for the German jurisdiction by submitting a Name Declaration before you apply for a German passport by descent.

  • You are born after August 31, 1986, your parents were married at the time of your birth, and your parents have different surnames or one of your parents uses a hyphenated or compound surname.
  • Your parents were not married at the time of your birth and you would like to use the surname of your father.
  • You got married after March 28, 1991 and you would like to use the surname of your spouse.
  • You got married before March 28, 1991, you marriage has been divorced, and you would like to use your surname from before your marriage.
  • You are born in Québec or your parents got married in Québec.” (For the Canadians reading this)

Take my word for it. I filed my application successfully, only to have the consulate call a few weeks later to inform me that I needed to make the name declaration. Only problem was they were booked weeks in advance, so the arrival of my German passport by descent was delayed A LOT.

So, you’ve got the name declaration out of the way, you’ve determined that you’re a citizen. Awesome. Now, you have to gather all relevant documents and submit them.

Documents Required to Get Your German Passport

At the time, the consulate back in Canada required the following original or certified copies, plus a photocopy of each:

  • Valid passports of both parents
  • birth certificates of both parents
  • Naturalization certificates, if applicable
  • Your birth certificate
  • Your current passport
  • Parents’ marriage certificate, if applicable
  • Passport photos – head to Costco or something and just tell them you want a picture for a German passport and they’ll know what to do
    Shop around a bit first, though. Some places charge obscene amounts for a passport photo. Generally speaking it shouldn’t cost more than $15
  • German passports of your German parent, issued both before AND after your birth

(Attention: I was able to get around this. My dad had a few German passports issued before I was born, but he never got a new one afterwards.
I brought all three in and just told the officials that my dad simply travels on his Canadian passport and has no use for a renewed German passport.
Check if this will work or not, because even though rules and regulations appear ‘iron-clad’, exceptions are made here and there.)

*If your other parent was born in a country where they speak a language other than German or the language of the country you’re in (ie English), then you’ll need to translate their birth certificate into either German or the official language of the country you’re in.”

Now, if you can’t get your hands on your parent’s former German passport(s), you’ll need to apply for a certificate of nationality, which I do not have experience in and thus cannot advise you on.

And finally, the last step is the application itself. Depending on where you are, the nearest German Consulate might be booked up quite a few weeks in advance.

Unfortunately, prior appointments must be made in order to make the application.

Book the appointment online. Depending on what your schedule is like, you might have to take the day off.

Now, you’ve made your appointment online, you’ve got all your documents, or at least, as many as you could gather.

I highly recommend bringing cash with you in order to pay for the processing fees for your German passport by descent.

The consulate I visited did not accept credit cards at the time, and I’m not even sure if debit was available, either.

Depending on the exchange rate, we’re looking at about $60-$90 USD, plus any other fees, such as a name declaration.

Keep in mind also, that if you want to save yourself a trip, you can give them a pre-paid envelope which they will then send your passport in when it’s ready.

This is what you can buy in Canada, in any case.

A German Passport can also open doors to new and exciting cuisine

Questions, My Advice, and Things to Avoid When Getting Your German Passport by Descent

How long will this take?

My answer is not a one-size-fits-all.

The first factor you have to take into account is the response time from the consulate, which might take a few days to confirm whether or not you’re a German citizen by descent.

Next, you’ll have to gather your documents, which might take a while to find, if they’re even available at all.

With that in mind, once you make your application and everything goes smoothly, the average estimated wait time is eight weeks.

What’s the total cost?

Here’s a breakdown of what this cost me to get my German passport by descent.

Two trips downtown to the consulate – $30 on public transit and a few hours of my time

Name Declaration – $50

Certified translation of my mom’s birth certificate into English- $100

Passport Application – $60

Envelope – $15

Passport Photo – $11

Total: $266 CAD

Why bother?

Most people aren’t very aware of the facts regarding holding multiple passports and citizenships.

Perhaps you won’t plan on using it for anything, but there’s a saying I think is quite applicable in this situation:

Better to have it, and not need it

Than to need it, and not have it

After all, once you determine that you are, in fact, eligible for a passport, you must consider that it is your birthright, just as your current passport is.

Not to mention also that anything can happen, so you ought to be prepared for an emergency.

What if your country suffers and economic meltdown, or an armed conflict that directly endangers you? You’ll have a way out.

(Update 2020: HAHAHAHAHAHA CAN YOU BELIEVE I MANAGED TO GET THIS DONE BEFORE SHIT HIT THE FAN?!)

Lastly, even if you don’t use it at all, if you decide to have children, you’ll want to afford them as many options as possible for living an amazing life.

It’s a gift with a lot of upside, and very little downside.

Are German citizens required to serve in the military?

As of July 1st, 2011, Germans are no longer required to perform military service.

Will I be required to pay more taxes?

I am not a financial advisor. I am not authorized to advise anyone on legal matters.

However, from what I can see, Germany only taxes you based on residency.

If you’ve grown up abroad and never even set foot in Germany, you will have no tax obligations.

So, even if you have a German passport by descent, you won’t have to pay taxes to Germany if you don’t live there, or own any assets there.

How long are German passports valid for?

Applicants under 23 can apply for a Passport of 6 years validity.

Those over 24 can apply for a passport of 10 year validity.

Can I enter another country in which I am a citizen on my German passport?

Again, I’m not a legal professional.

However, I can strongly advise you against entering a country you’re a citizen in on a different passport, as some nations have strict regulations on that.

For example, entering the U.S. on another passport besides your American passport, if you hold one, is a violation of the law.

Is the German passport biometric?

Yes, the German passport is biometric.

That means it contains a microchip with your personal information stored on it, in addition to the information printed on the physical passport.

Border security has access to your fingerprints, photo, travel history, criminal history, employment status, and even the hotels you’ve checked into. (They don’t want you to know that…)

Biometric passports are indicated as such by the rectangular symbol with a circle in the center located on the bottom of the front cover of a German passport.

Do I need to speak German in order to apply for the German passport by descent?

Understanding the German language is not required at all for getting your passport, so if your language skills are rusty or non-existent, don’t stress.

All consular officials in your country are supposed to be able to speak your language – although generally, you can expect to be treated better and have things move faster, if you conduct the process in German.

You can probably get your German passport by descent faster that way.

Can I sponsor family members for citizenship if I get my passport?

I have no personal experience with this.

If I have a German passport and I have children outside of Germany, will they automatically gain German citizenship by descent?

From the official website of the German consulate: Children born abroad do not acquire German nationality by birth if their German parent(s) were themselves born abroad after December 31, 1999 and at the time of the child’s birth were ordinarily resident abroad, provided such children acquire another nationality upon birth.

Children who fall into this category may acquire German nationality retroactively from birth if their parents register the birth with the German authorities before the child’s first birthday.

To do this, they must apply to the competent registry office in Germany or to the competent German mission abroad to have the birth of their child included in the register of births.

If I have a German passport by descent, can my partner gain citizenship by marrying me?

Since 1970, the husband or wife of a German citizen could be naturalized by residence in Germany after a period of 3 years.

How long can I stay in the Schengen zone with a German passport by descent?

There is no time limit for how long you can remain within the borders of an EU member state, although some countries will require you to formally apply for residency after a specific period of time.

Does Germany permit multiple citizenships?

This is a bit of a grey area. What I can tell you is that it’s perfectly legal to hold both German citizenship and other nationalities if they are acquired at birth.

For example, if you were born to an American father and a German mother, you would have both.

Things get a bit myopic when we turn to naturalizing in other countries. If you only have German citizenship and you naturalize elsewhere, such as the U.S., you will need to formally renounce your German citizenship, unless you can provide reasonable justification for keeping it.

However, conceivably, that would only happen because if you only hold one nationality at birth, there’s no way to hide the fact that you have acquired another nationality from your current government.

On the other hand, if you have multiple nationalities, you could theoretically naturalize elsewhere using a passport that freely permits dual citizenship, such as the United States.

The authorities in Germany probably wouldn’t have any idea because an extended or complete absence from spending time in Germany could be explained by the fact that you live in one of the other countries that you have birthright citizenship in.

I can’t advise anyone try this, but it might be worth a try.

A Few Words of Advice:

  • Make sure you show up to your appointments a few minutes ahead of schedule
  • Bring a copy of every single document you have
  • Bring cash for any fees
  • Bring an envelope
  • Be patient, since the officials might make things a bit hard for you

I sincerely hope that this guide covered everything you need to know about acquiring your German passport by descent.

Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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