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Old 02-23-2020, 10:55 PM   #1
Linguofreak
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I recently looked over https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nationality_law , in particular, the "Descent from a German Parent" section, and have come to the ridiculous conclusion that I may, on a technicality, actually carry German citizenship:

My great^2 grandfather emigrated to the US in the mid 1890s, and brought his family with him, including my great-grandfather, who was 10 at the time. Those two were both German citizens. When my great-grandfather married, his wife lost her US citizenship because he was a German citizen, and US law at the time was that a woman lost her citizenship if she married a foreigner. They were both eventually naturalized (renaturalized in her case) as US citizens, but I don't know when. My grandfather was born in 1911, fairly early in their marriage, my dad was born in '49, and I was born in '86.

If I understand the Wikipedia article correctly:

1) As long as my grandfather was born before my great-grandfather was nationalized as a US citizen, he would have inherited German citizenship.
2) As long as all citizenships involved were acquired at birth, there does not seem to be any impediment in German law to multiple citizenship, so my grandfather's US citizenship (by virtue of being born in the US) would not affect his German citizenship. This is probably the weakest part, because I know that attitudes towards dual citizenship used to be much more negative across the West, so there may be old laws, that I have not yet found reference to, in either Germany or the US that would interfere with the transmission of both citizenships together by birth. On the other hand, dual citizenship by birth has generally been where restrictions on dual citizenship have historically been weakest at any given point in time.
3) There is currently a provision in German law (as there has been in US law going back further) that disallows inheriting citizenship from a citizen parent born outside of Germany, but it only applies if the parent was born after the turn of the millennium. Therefore, my father would have inherited citizenship from my grandfather, I would have inherited it from him, and any children I should have will inherit from me, but they will not pass German citizenship to my grandchildren (unless my children are born in Germany).
4) Children born in Germany to non-German parents can get German citizenship from their place of birth, but have to apply to retain in by the age of 23. This, however, does not apply to people who inherit German citizenship from their parents.
5) Military service in another country is an almost universal grounds for revocation of citizenship across the world, but nobody from my great-grandfather down to me has served in the military in the interim.

So, as long as my grandfather was born before my great-grandfather became a citizen, and as long as there was no bar to dual citizenship inherited by birth in either country in the past, I would appear to be a German citizen. I find the conclusion rather surreal: because of our history, American national identity is based much more on shared culture than shared blood, and so the possibility of having inherited a citizenship in a country that I wasn't born in, and have spent only about a year in, by a chain so long that the people at the beginning of the chain were dead before I was born (not to mention the two shooting wars between the two countries in the interim), is rather bizarre to me.

Are any Germans on the forum aware of anything that would bear on this?
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Old 02-24-2020, 01:57 AM   #2
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Wait, what?

My mother was born in Germany in 1958. Came to the US when she was 5 or 6. I was her first born and the first from her side of the family born outside Germany.


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Last edited by kerlix; 02-24-2020 at 02:00 AM.
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Old 02-24-2020, 02:46 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by kerlix View Post
 Wait, what?

My mother was born in Germany in 1958. Came to the US when she was 5 or 6. I was her first born and the first from her side of the family born outside Germany.


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From the Wikipedia article, the big questions seem to be: did your mother become a US citizen before you were born, and were you born after 1975? If she was not (yet) a citizen when you were born, and you were born after 1975, then except for the usual disclaimers of "I am not a German lawyer, or a lawyer at all" and "my source is Wikipedia", you are a German citizen. Otherwise, the answer is likely that you are not, but there appear to be a few corner cases where you might be.
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Old 02-24-2020, 06:42 AM   #4
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Are any Germans on the forum aware of anything that would bear on this?
As such, it does not seem outrageous, generally the laws in that respect were pretty open with regard to pre-war German communities in 'lost' territories wishing to live in Germany, so it is indeed traced through ancestry rather than place of birth or living.

However, I strongly suspect you're not automatically a German citizen, you merely have a claim to German citizenship should you wish to acquire it.
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:05 AM   #5
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AFAIK, not even Germans born in Germany get a citizenship by default. While in most countries in the EU you get a citizenship document ("Staatsbürgerschaftsnachweis") right after birth, it is rather weird in Germany, where hardly anyone has such a document. They also do not have their country mentioned as nationality in their passports, just "Deutsch" instead of "Deutschland".

This weird citizenship situation in Germany is also the reason for things like "Reichsbürger" gaining traction: equally weird folks that think the german "Reich" pre-wars is still in command de jure, because it never got replaced by a constitution, and therefore it is just and right to ignore the current government.
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Old 02-24-2020, 01:33 PM   #6
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it is rather weird in Germany, where hardly anyone has such a document.
Well, a newborn child has to be registered, it's at this stage the citizenship is done. I gather it happens easier if the child is actually born in Germany, for our kids born in Finland we had to translate the Finnish birth certificate and hand that in with the application.

There's generally no need for any such document, because the ID card or passport indicate your citizenship (and there's a public record of course) - so I'm not sure what I would do with it if I had one.

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They also do not have their country mentioned as nationality in their passports, just "Deutsch" instead of "Deutschland".
Well, that's just proper grammar, because the nationality ('Staatsangehoerigkeit') prompts the adjective rather than the name of the country - like you would be a German citizen, not a Germany citizen.
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Old 02-24-2020, 05:17 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Thorsten View Post
 Well, that's just proper grammar, because the nationality ('Staatsangehoerigkeit') prompts the adjective rather than the name of the country - like you would be a German citizen, not a Germany citizen.
Still it is in contrast to what other countries write into their passports. In Austria, it is "Österreich", not "Österreichisch", in Switzerland it is "Schweiz", not "Schweizerisch". Perhaps it has something to do with the masculine plural "Deutscher" being offensive to women, so the more neutral form "Deutsch" is used. You do not have such a neutral form for Austria or Switzerland, so they simply use the country name itself.
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Old 02-24-2020, 05:38 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Face View Post
 AFAIK, not even Germans born in Germany get a citizenship by default. While in most countries in the EU you get a citizenship document ("Staatsbürgerschaftsnachweis") right after birth, it is rather weird in Germany, where hardly anyone has such a document.
Hardly anyone in the US has a citizenship certificate either. That doesn't mean they aren't citizens. I have a citizenship certificate because my father is American, but I was born in Canada, so my birth certificate isn't sufficient to prove citizenship, even though I have it by birth.

That said, the Wikipedia article indicates that citizenship by being born in Germany is harder to acquire than in the US, where it's a constitutional guarantee that someone born in the US is a citizen. Whereas citizenship by descent is easier to acquire, with the one generation limit that the US and Canada only having been in effect in Germany since 2000, and only applying if the parent was born in 2000 or later.
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Old 02-24-2020, 06:18 PM   #9
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Still it is in contrast to what other countries write into their passports
Trying to check Austria, it doesn't seem to be written into the passport at all on the sample passport images I could find online (which makes sense, because it already says so on the cover page).

Switzerland actually prints the country name on them, but I can't make out on the online images what the name of the line is supposed to be.

So, it doesn't seem to be quite that easy. Still, I don't see anything particularly odd - when asked for 'Staatsangehoerigkeit', you answer with the adjective in German.

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That said, the Wikipedia article indicates that citizenship by being born in Germany is harder to acquire than in the US
I believe it's impossible - being born in Germany is no reason at all to be granted citizenship. Only if you have been living there for some time, you might be eligible - but that is the same if you've been born elsewhere.
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Old 02-24-2020, 06:28 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Thorsten View Post
 
However, I strongly suspect you're not automatically a German citizen, you merely have a claim to German citizenship should you wish to acquire it.
The following bit from the Wikipedia article would seem to indicate against that:

"Those born before 1 January 1975 could normally only claim German citizenship from the father and not the mother. Exceptions included cases where the parents were unmarried (in which case German mothers could pass on citizenship) or where the German mother applied to register the child as German on or before 31 December 1977."

This implies that if the mother was unmarried, or the father was German, no registration requirement existed; that such a person is a citizen whether or not they are documented as such, which would seem to indicate that citizenship passed down the generations from my great-grandfather automatically.

Now, to actually take advantage of the privileges of German citizenship, I'm sure that documenting my citizenship to the satisfaction of the German government would be a significant amount of work, but I would seem to be a citizen whether documented or not (unless my great-grandfather became a US citizen before my grandfather was born).

This actually has potential implications for me should I travel to Germany in the future: while I was unaware of my potential citizenship at the time, the two times I have been in Germany were prior to the abolition of universal conscription in 2011, so I could face legal penalties if I reenter the country, even if I don't try to claim citizenship (though I'm sure that the German government has better things to do than check if foreign visitors that do not claim citizenship are technically citizens, just to see if they inadvertently dodged a draft that has since been abolished).

---------- Post added at 12:28 ---------- Previous post was at 12:24 ----------

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Originally Posted by Thorsten View Post
 I believe it's impossible - being born in Germany is no reason at all to be granted citizenship. Only if you have been living there for some time, you might be eligible - but that is the same if you've been born elsewhere.
The Wikipedia article says:

"Children born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent::

*has a permanent residence permit and
*has been residing in Germany for at least eight years.

To retain German citizenship, such children are required to take affirmative measures by age 23, after which their German citizenship otherwise expires. These affirmative measures may include proof of the applicant's link to Germany, as evidenced by at least one of the following:

*Resided in Germany for at least eight years during their 21 first years of life
*Has attended a school in Germany for at least six years
*Has graduated from a school in Germany
*Successfully finished vocational/ professional training in Germany"
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Old 02-24-2020, 06:46 PM   #11
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I wouldn't trust any information coming from Wikipedia without studying and referring to the references provided. If you want a correct answer, fire off a request to the local German consulate.

Multiple citizenship law is a bloody minefield. Many people believe they hold a dual citizenship but actually may not. My own example, for instance. My father was stationed at 4 Wing in Marville, France. At the time, my parents were living in Florenville, Belgium. Mom was delivered of me at the base hospital in Marville. We returned to Canada before my second birthday.

Now, citizenship. Both of my parents are Canadian. I have Canadian citizenship by right of birth. Under Canadian law I had dual citizenship Canadian-French. However, under French law, I was not a citizen of France by virtue of not having the required time of residency requirement (didn't seem to bother the French government as I received a draft notice to the French Army after my 18th birthday).

Next part of the minefield. At the time of my birth, a Canadian born outside of Canada was issued a "Certificate of Canadian born Abroad" (yes, I can hear the snickers ... long time family joke, too). I don't remember the year but the Canadian government abolished that document and replaced it with a Citizenship card. This was not automatic and had to be requested. Almost all Canadian citizens do NOT have a citizenship card, just those in similar situations to mine. I made that request and received the card. Since then I have heard many horror stories from friends who had not made the request.

Since then, we have had citizenship problems with other family members for various reasons. My grandmother had problems with her former British citizenship. Several family members have looked into possible Irish citizenship based on ancestry. We have found that it is the best advice to forward any queries to the consulate of the country involved to get the best and proper information.

Zo ... don't assume that you may have a dual citizenship. It may depend on the country you reside in. For many, it won't matter anyway other than as a point of conversation. Mere citizenship does not offer many benefits anywhere.
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Old 02-24-2020, 07:15 PM   #12
Thorsten
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This implies that if the mother was unmarried, or the father was German, no registration requirement existed; that such a person is a citizen whether or not they are documented as such, which would seem to indicate that citizenship passed down the generations from my great-grandfather automatically.
Not sure why you read that in the Wiki snippet, as it emphasizes the action you have to take two times:

Those born before 1 January 1975 could normally only claim German citizenship from the father and not the mother. Exceptions included cases where the parents were unmarried (in which case German mothers could pass on citizenship) or where the German mother applied to register the child as German on or before 31 December 1977.

Your interpretation hinges on what exactly 'exceptions' refers to - in a non-legal text, written by... anyone basically.

Trust me on that one - German bureaucracy does not give out what it perceives as goodies automatically. Germany doesn't work that way, never has. If you want something, you apply for it and wait for a decision.

The only thing you just get done automatically is taxation

"Children born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent::

*has a permanent residence permit and
*has been residing in Germany for at least eight years.

To retain German citizenship, such children are required to take affirmative measures by age 23, after which their German citizenship otherwise expires. These affirmative measures may include proof of the applicant's link to Germany, as evidenced by at least one of the following:

*Resided in Germany for at least eight years during their 21 first years of life
*Has attended a school in Germany for at least six years
*Has graduated from a school in Germany
*Successfully finished vocational/ professional training in Germany"


That's pretty much what I said - being born in Germany is no ground for citizenship, what matters is the status of your parents and your own residency time.
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Old 02-24-2020, 07:38 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by llarian View Post
 I wouldn't trust any information coming from Wikipedia without studying and referring to the references provided. If you want a correct answer, fire off a request to the local German consulate.
Oh, I'm certainly not taking Wikipedia as authoritative. Mostly I'm just wondering if any Germans here know anything that can firmly rule it out.

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Next part of the minefield. At the time of my birth, a Canadian born outside of Canada was issued a "Certificate of Canadian born Abroad" (yes, I can hear the snickers ... long time family joke, too). I don't remember the year but the Canadian government abolished that document and replaced it with a Citizenship card. This was not automatic and had to be requested. Almost all Canadian citizens do NOT have a citizenship card, just those in similar situations to mine.
I certainly don't, given that my birth certificate shows Ottawa (and in any case, it's probably irrelevant given that I haven't really done anything in Canada so far in my life that I couldn't do as an American tourist).

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We have found that it is the best advice to forward any queries to the consulate of the country involved to get the best and proper information.
Yeah, if I can't get any information that rules it out, that's probably my next step.

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Zo ... don't assume that you may have a dual citizenship. It may depend on the country you reside in. For many, it won't matter anyway other than as a point of conversation. Mere citizenship does not offer many benefits anywhere.
Generally it will grant you the right to establish residency and to vote, and it can also establish responsibilities that can affect the advisability of travelling to the country: For example, Germany had universal conscription when I went there for an exchange year, and if I am indeed a citizen, and the German government had become aware of that during my exchange year, I could have potentially found myself pressed into military or civil service and unable to return to the States. If I had been aware of my potential citizenship at the time, it would have been imprudent to go without first clearing that up.
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:12 PM   #14
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Oh, this thread comes in handy: I was born in 1991 in Italy, with a German and an Italian parent.

Now, obviously I'll follow up by writing to the consulate, but I always assumed that I would have had to specifically ask for German citizenship, but from the article it doesn't seem like that.
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Old 02-24-2020, 08:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Thorsten View Post
 Not sure why you read that in the Wiki snippet, as it emphasizes the action you have to take two times:

Those born before 1 January 1975 could normally only claim German citizenship from the father and not the mother. Exceptions included cases where the parents were unmarried (in which case German mothers could pass on citizenship) or where the German mother applied to register the child as German on or before 31 December 1977.
In English, saying that someone "can claim a status" generally means that they already have that status, but might have to document it to take advantage of it.

The "applied to register" bit applies only to one situation, and

The language in the German Wikipedia article seems to be stronger: the title of the section is: "Erwerb der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit durch gesetzlichen Automatismus".

The German article also links to the relevant German law, at https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/stag/__4.html


Quote:
Trust me on that one - German bureaucracy does not give out what it perceives as goodies automatically. Germany doesn't work that way, never has. If you want something, you apply for it and wait for a decision.

The only thing you just get done automatically is taxation
And that's just the thing: If I want to take advantage of German citizenship, I will certainly have to prove that I do have it by inheritance if I want to do so. But, if I travel to Germany, considering myself a foreigner and without the intention to take advantage of Germany citizenship, the German government could, in principle, discover on its own that I qualify, and try to impose on me the obligations of German citizenship. Citizenship isn't *all* goodies.
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