Dual Citizenship- Germany/United States of America

German citizenship, American citizenship or both?

There are a few circumstances under which one may obtain both American and German citizenship.

These Include:

  • Being born to an American parent and a German parent
  • Being born in the United States and having a German parent
  • Being born in Germany and having an American parent
  • Being German, living legally in the United States for a long period of time.

Acquiring American Citizenship:

For Germans living and working in the United States for an extended period of time, there may be certain benefits that come with applying for and obtaining American citizenship. In some cases, this may result in the loss of German citizenship. In order to prevent this repercussion, a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung needs to be received prior to applying for neutralization. The Beibehaltungsgenehmigung serves as a right of retention and is a special permit that prevents the individual from losing their German citizenship and thus being able to have dual citizenship.

In previous years, the naturalization process was one of the main reasons German lost their citizenship. Germany does not particularly favor dual citizenship, but they do, however, make exceptions where they see fit and thus the importance of the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung  comes into play. Upon consideration of an American citizenship, an application needs to be filed with the appropriate parties of the German Consulate. Once this procedure is carried out, the documents will be processed in Germany at the Bundesverwaltungsamt  and a decision will be made as to whether the claim for dual citizenship is viable or not. Once the go ahead is given and the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung is received, the process of acquiring American citizenship may continue. Provided one goes ahead with the process prior to receiving the permit, they may have put their chances of getting dual citizenship at risk.

Germany’s leniency towards dual citizenship comes with the understanding that there are certain conditions in which an individual working in the United States may face restrictions due to their nationality and thus, in order to fully benefit from living and working in the United States, American citizenship is essential. The ability to retain German citizenship is essential for those who still have essential ties to their native country, such as family and property. This understanding may be analyzed during the process where a decision needs to be made on whether or not the applicant meets the right criteria for a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung.

Those born in Germany to non German parents, may have to make a decision as to which citizenship they wish to hold on to. The general rule is that by the time a child reaches 23 years of age, they have to discard their American citizenship in order to keep their German citizenship.

For more information on dual German and American citizenship, refer the following websites:

  • http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/
  • http://germany.usembassy.gov/acs/dual_nationality/

You can also contact the American or German consulate and speak with a representative on how to proceed with your aims to acquire dual citizenship. 


Tanja Traut

Saskia Petz

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