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Germans Must Retain Their Citizenship Before Becoming Dual-US Citizens: Beibehaltungsgenehmigung

As of 2024, this post is now outdated.  Please see our latest article dated April 4, 2024 for the update.

Under the German Nationality Act “Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz”, the moment a German citizen acquires citizenship of another country, he or she loses German citizenship automatically because German law does not allow dual citizenship in this context. This means that if a US resident wishes to obtain US citizenship while retaining his or her German citizenship, the applicant must first petition the German government to allow the applicant to maintain his or her German citizenship.  This requirement is unique to German citizens, and provides an additional, preliminary step before the applicant may apply for US citizenship.

In the case of an applicant who is a Legal Permanent Resident, or habitually resides outside of Germany, particular consideration is given to whether the applicant has a continuing relationship with Germany, and if he or she will suffer disadvantages or hardship if he were unable to naturalize as an American due to this rule.

There are many advantages of keeping German citizenship: German citizens have the right to reside, study, and work in Germany, as well as in any other member country of the European Union. In addition, here are many cultural, economic, familial, and personal reasons why a German citizen residing in the U.S might want to keep his or her German nationality.

While many Germans living in the U.S. lose their citizenship by failing to comply with this rule, an applicant may become a dual citizen if he or she applies for and obtains a successful retention certificate from the appropriate government agency before naturalizing in a foreign country. This process is called “Beibehaltungsgenehmigung”.

How to apply for the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung

German citizens who are US Legal Permanent Residents (Green Card holders) must file an application with the German consulate which has jurisdiction over the applicant’s place of residence.  There are eight consulates in the US in the following cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and San Francisco.

After submitting the complete application to the German consulate, the consulate will forward it to the Bundesverwaltungsamt in Köln (Cologne), Germany, which is the federal government agency which eventually will decide the case. Current processing times for this application are listed as four to six months, but this can vary based on processing times and the complexity of the case. It is important to stress that this process must be contemplated and prepare several months to a year advance of applying for the U.S citizenship. If the application is granted, the US resident will have only two years to apply for, and become a US citizen, from the date of the decision. Accordingly, careful planning and calculated timelines are imperative when coordinating applications for both the retention certificate and US naturalization.

Criteria for Granting the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung

In order to be eligible to obtain a permit to retain German citizenship, the burden is on the applicant to establish that he or she has (1) sufficient ties to Germany and (2) the necessity of becoming a U.S. citizen.

There are many ways of proving sufficient ties to Germany, such as German language fluency, family relations and friendships that are preserved by regular visits and contact, economic ties, and German property ownership.  While none of these factors alone are sufficient to meet the first requirement, the combination of these ties to Germany, along with sufficient supporting evidence, are helpful to establish ties sufficient to support the application.

In addition, an applicant can show that it is necessary for him or her to become a US citizen for the professional or job-related advantages; taxation issues; potential jeopardy of Permanent Resident Status in the US; being separated from a spouse, children, and parents; and other economic and social reasons.

It is important to understand that, under German law, there is no automatic right to dual citizenship. The Bundesverwaltungsamt makes a discretionary decision based on the particular circumstances of each case and the evidence presented. If the applicant fails to provide the required evidence, the case will most likely be denied, and the appeals court has only very limited power to overrule such a discretionary decision. A well drafted application focuses on those factors which are both relevant and sufficient to justify acquiring the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung.

In order to ensure that only German-speaking applicants are able to keep their German citizenship, the entire application must be prepared and processed in German, and must meet the strict filing and organizational requirements.  Most importantly, you must receive your approval from Germany before you can begin the process to become a US citizen.

Dual Citizens by Birth

For some individuals born in the United States to one or more German parents, they may be considered dual citizens by birth, and are not required to obtain a permit to retain German citizenship, or to choose one country of which to be a citizen once they reach age eighteen.

About The Grady Firm

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The Grady Firm, P.C. has attorneys who are member of the German American Business Association, are fluent in German, and can assist with the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung and US citizenship applications.

To find out if you qualify for the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung, or to obtain assistance with filing your applications to retain German citizenship and apply for US citizenship, schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation with The Grady Firm’s attorneys; call +1 (949) 798-6298; or fill out a Contact Request Form.

*This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.


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