Is nationality equal to citizenship

Welcome to the website of the Federal Foreign Office

In contrast to Chilean citizenship, German citizenship can also easily be lost, e.g. through naturalization in a foreign country.

Therefore, when submitting the application, it is important to provide evidence of the unbroken chain of descent from the ancestor from whom one would like to derive German citizenship by means of birth and marriage certificates.

The following questions should help you to check whether you already have German citizenship or how you can acquire it.

How is German citizenship acquired?

German law mainly knows the principle of descent. Only those who have parents with German citizenship at the time of their birth are also German.

German citizenship law is more than 100 years old and has undergone many changes in the meantime. It is therefore important to apply the law applicable at the time of birth or marriage, adoption or legitimation. German law knows the following reasons for acquisition, but not all of them are used today.

1. Descent from German parent

Can I derive German citizenship equally from father and mother?

A first important distinction must be made here.

Anyone born as a legitimate child can only derive their German citizenship from their German father if they were born before December 31, 1974. Since 1.1.1975 alternatively also from the German mother.

Legitimate children of German mothers and foreign fathers who were born after May 23, 1949 and before January 1, 1975 can be naturalized more easily.

Anyone born out of wedlock can only derive their German citizenship from their German mother at birth until June 30, 1993. Since 01.07.1993 also from the German father, if the paternity has been effectively established under German law.

Illegitimate children of German fathers and foreign mothers who were born before 01.07.1993 can, under certain conditions, be naturalized more easily.

2. Legitimation (until June 30, 1998)

Legitimation turns illegitimate children into legitimate ones. In addition to the possibility of legitimation by a German court, the most common case of legitimation was the subsequent marriage of the parents. In addition to the effective marriage, it must also be determined under German law who the parents of the illegitimate child are. In individual cases, it can be difficult to prove effective legitimation. Such cases should be discussed directly with the responsible officer in the embassy.

3. Adoption as a minor

With an effective adoption by a German under German law, the minor child (= before the age of 18) receives German citizenship.

4. Naturalization

Through naturalization, a foreigner is granted German citizenship for the first time and only from the time the naturalization certificate is issued. As of naturalization, German citizens can pass on their German citizenship through the case groups described in nos. 1 to 3, e.g. to their children born after naturalization.
There are two groups of cases for naturalization. A foreigner may have acquired a naturalization claim for various reasons. Whether you are entitled to naturalization should be clarified directly during an interview at the embassy.
There is also the option of discretionary naturalization. It is possible if the naturalization applicant has a command of the German language, is integrated into the German culture, knows the basic principles of the legal system of the Federal Republic of Germany and if there is a public interest in naturalization. A personal interview at the German embassy is essential.

5. Getting married

The foreign wife automatically acquired German citizenship by marrying a German by March 31, 1953.



The principle of parentage is restricted for children born abroad whose German parent was also born abroad from 01/01/2000 and has their habitual residence there. The child only receives German citizenship through descent if the application for notarization of the foreign birth is received by the embassy within one year of the child's birth (for more information, see article).

What reasons for loss could have ensured that I no longer have German citizenship?

German citizenship can be lost again much more easily than Chilean citizenship. The loss of German citizenship affects the person concerned as soon as the fact of the loss occurs - i.e. immediately. Of course, the loss also has further effects on later-born or adopted children of the person concerned. Anyone who does not (no longer) have German citizenship at the time of their child's birth can no longer pass it on to the child. Therefore, when deriving citizenship over several generations, it must be proven without gaps that no loss has occurred.

1. Naturalization in a foreign state association

Anyone who acquired a foreign nationality on application after 23.07.1913 (= active submission of a declaration of intent aimed at acquiring the foreign nationality) lost their German nationality at the time of completing the acquisition of the foreign nationality. Until December 31, 1999, the loss did not occur if the person concerned was domiciled in Germany (under civil law). Since 01/01/2000 the loss has occurred regardless of residence.
You can protect yourself against losing your German citizenship with a retention permit.

This can be granted on application if there are still strong ties to Germany and the acquisition of foreign citizenship is necessary in order to prevent or mitigate important disadvantages. The retention permit is always chargeable. You can get more information from the German embassy.

2. Residence abroad without legitimation

This act of loss was regulated in the law on nationality and citizenship of June 1, 1870 and was effective until the RuStAG came into force on July 23, 1913.

According to this, the German citizen who has been abroad for more than 10 years and has not been entered in the consular registers available at the German embassies, embassies and consulates has lost his German citizenship. In practice, this law only plays a role if the nationality is derived from an ancestor who emigrated before 1913.

A positive excerpt from the consular register is sufficient as proof that the German citizenship has not been lost according to this regulation. In these cases, the embassy can submit a matriculation request to the BVA in advance. An answer will be available in approx. 6 to 8 weeks.

With a negative certificate there is no prospect of a positive determination of German citizenship. You can use the email form to check whether the ancestors are registered in the matriculation. Please enter the surname, first name, date and place of birth of your ancestor. Without this complete information, information is unfortunately not possible.

3. Adoption by a foreigner

Anyone who is adopted by a foreigner and acquires their citizenship through adoption loses their German citizenship. The loss does not occur if the person concerned remains related to a German parent.

4. Entry into the armed forces of a foreign state

Anyone who joins the armed forces of a foreign country of which he is a national of a foreign country on the basis of a voluntary obligation without consent under Section 8 of the Conscription Act will lose their German nationality.

5. Dismissal and resignation

Anyone wishing to acquire foreign citizenship can, if this is necessary for the application process, be released from German citizenship. If you have several nationalities, you can renounce German citizenship. In both cases, a written application is required, which the embassy will forward to the responsible office in Germany. The loss of German citizenship occurs in the case of renunciation by handing over the waiver certificate, in the case of dismissal by handing over the certificate of discharge. However, the dismissal is ineffective if the foreign nationality is not acquired within one year of the issue of the certificate.

6. Legitimation by a foreigner

Until December 31, 1974, a child loses German citizenship through legitimation by a foreigner under German law.

Which documents do I have to enclose with an application / application forms

As already mentioned on the previous pages, the descent from the ancestor from whom the German citizenship is derived must be fully documented. At the same time, it must be checked whether the reasons for losing German citizenship have arisen

If a citizenship card (for an ancestor) has already been issued or a naturalization has taken place, it is sufficient to present a copy of the citizenship card or the certificate of naturalization. Reasons for acquisition must then be proven from the next generation onwards, and reasons for loss from the time the certificate is issued. The following documents are required for this:

Birth certificates

All birth certificates from the applicant's point of view in each generation up to the ancestor from whom the nationality is originally derived must be submitted.

Marriage certificates

Proof of marital parentage is required to present the marriage certificates of the parents, grandparents, possibly also the great-grandparents. Anyone who has acquired or lost German status through marriage must also prove this by submitting a marriage certificate.

Certificates of non-acquisition of a foreign nationality

Since the voluntary acquisition of a foreign citizenship resulted in the loss of the German one in most cases, proof of the acquisition of the foreign citizenship or a certificate of non-acquisition is required. In Argentina, proof can be obtained in both cases via a certificate from the Registro Nacional des Electores using the attached form.

Please have the register excerpt sent to your address and present it together with the other documents.

If you have old passports of your ancestors, registration or military documents, please bring them with you to the embassy. Often the date of entry into Chile has to be checked. The submission of ship passenger lists or passages can be helpful for this. If you have a citizenship card, certificate of origin or a certificate of naturalization, please bring another copy with you to the interview with the original.

In individual cases, it may be necessary to submit additional documents. Anyone who derives nationality through adoption must present the adoption decision. The illegitimate descent from a divorced mother requires the submission of a divorce certificate, possibly even the recognition of the divorce in Germany.

The above list is therefore only exemplary and not complete.
All foreign documents must be submitted in German translation. Before you have the mostly expensive translations done, the embassy recommends an interview during normal office hours with the original documents to check the completeness and chances of success of the application.

These pages should be able to roughly answer your questions. If you have any further questions about German citizenship law, you can send us a short email. Please understand, however, if you are invited to a personal interview at the embassy instead of detailed information about your personal situation for reasons of time and to avoid incomplete information.