Friday, August 24, 2007

Becoming a dual citizen?

Many people, like myself, have come to really feel at home in Germany. As much as complain every now and then, we really are most happy here.

This was particularly true after I took a 3 month business trip to Los Angeles and took my family with me. It was thrilled for my children (at that time 2 and 4 years old) to visit America for the first time. They got to see a little bit of what it was like where I grew up, although I grew up in Northern California. They had fun and really enjoyed the beach.

But, when we came back I realized that I loved how clean the freeways were and how little traffic we live with on a day to day basis. My commute to work is 15 minutes by bike (or 30 minutes walking). The kids were thrilled to see their friends again. Plus, here we have my wife's family all somewhat centralized in or near Wiesbaden. Although we live in Hamburg, the trip isn't that bad and we get to see the in-laws quite often. That is a luxury that I didn't have as a kid. I grew up in California and my relatives were in Missouri and in Norway. So, visiting family every 1 or 2 years was a major event during summer vacations. A couple of times we got to spend Christmas with our larger family. So, watching the joy that my kids have in being able to spend lots of time with a large part of their family (although I wish they had more time with my side) just fills my heart. I never had that growing up and it was very significant for me as a child, exacerbated by the fact that my parents were divorced, meaning long trips on the weekend to visit my father.

So, I considered the option of gaining German citizenship. I figured that if I am going to live here long-term, then I should try to feel more integrated into society. I am slowly starting to understand some of the politics and I could imagine having a strong enough opinion to want to take part in major elections.

The next logical question is what would one have to do to become a citizen? The Ministry of the Interior has it all up on their website in English for anyone wanting the details, but here is a quick summary:

- live legally in Germany for 8 years (if you take the integration course, this will be cut down to 7 years and if you are married to a German citizen, this can be cut down to 3 years)
- declare allegiance to the German constitution
- sufficient command of German (from what I understand this is easier than one might think)
- ability to be self-sufficient (no freeloaders, please)
- don't be a criminal
- give up your previous citizenship

Ok, I was cool with everything up until that last point. As much as I feel at home here and want to integrate in, I am still proud of my heritage as my children should be, too. My connection to both countries is strong and I couldn't choose one over the other. Naturalized citizens are intended to only have German nationality. There are some exceptions for ethnic German repatriates (former German citizens who were deprived of the citizenship by the Nazi regime between 30 January 1933 and 8 May 1945) and elderly people. So, I might wait until I'm old before applying.

Alternatively, children born to a cocktail of parents can easily gain dual citizenship. For my kids it was easy. It is important to apply before they are of age. Since my wife is German and I am a US citizen, the kids could easily gain both citizenships, regardless of where they were born.

When traveling between the US and Germany, the children need to show the corresponding passport to the country into which they are traveling. To the US they have to show US passports and to Germany their German passports. This is required by law.

Since my kids are growing up in Germany, their children will not necessarily automatically have the right to become US citizens. If they spend 5 or more years living in the US, then their kids will be allowed to automatically gain US citizenship. But, they will need to document all travel to the US and be able to recite those dates. I supposed that once the US immigration department has their super-duper-computer up and running it will be easy for them to track how long anyone has spent in the US, but until then it is all dependent upon word of honor. When I was applying for passports for my kids the person at the embassy asked me subtly how long I had lived in the US. I thought the question a bit odd, but asked if I need to be more accurate than 32 to 33 years ( I have lived abroad in between). Then she let me know that I just needed to have lived there for at least 5 years. If you didn't know that this question was coming and you hadn't lived in the US for 5 years, I suppose this is how they catch ineligible applicants.


Martina said...


you've got an incorrect link over on your sidebar.

It's the "Lucid in Deutschland" one. It takes you to Hamish's blog, which hasn't been updated since he left Frankfurt, rather than to

John G said...

Thanks. Corrected.

Carol said...

Fascinating stuff! Thanks for exploring all this.


stew said...

I had a good laugh reading you post.

Here are some questions you did not answer, and some you did mention, under fraudulent assumptions you have been clearly brainwashed into believing and not shed yet:

Why would you want to take your status as a living man or woman and declare (contract) to be a Citizen/Resid-ant/Subject (fiction) of a Corporation (a fiction)?

Now, already declaring publicly (via the blog) to be a Citizen/Resident/Subject of the UNITED STATES FEDERAL CORPORATION (a Corporation, no different than MCDONALDS, as defined in the Code) why on earth would you want to be a Citizen/Resident/Subject of two Corporations?

If I already worked for MCDONALDS CORPORATION, I don't know if their agents would also let me be an employee of WENDYS CORPORATION. Hmm..

But if any reader's ego needs the status/person of being a Citizen/Resident/Subject of a de facto entity's agents, go ahead. It's your mistake.

You trade rights and duties for benefits and privileges every time you declare in writing or orally to be a Resident/Subject of the Corporation. Think about it...

Anthony said...

Stew, you're insane. And yes, it is common to have two jobs. I personally believe that laws restricting dual citizenship are small minded, and your incessant repeat of "oh why oh why would you ever want to do that?" is retarded, because John clearly does and that's good enough reason.

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EC said...

This article absolutely made me laugh a ton, dating a german for over 6 years now i have concidered moving out there for a while and the issues with citizenship involved

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Talya said...

Thanks for sharing this information. I also live in Germany and feel very at home here. I would love to be able to get away with dual citizenship, but not if required to give up my status as an American citizen. The idea sounded somewhat enticing when I was younger, but now there is no way give that up.

So I guess it's permanent, regular trips to the Ausländerbehörde for me :)

Ingrid Von Rozz said...

well i hate my native country, and i'll do anything to get rid of my old nationality, so the part of giving up my old nationality sounds GREAT! i also don't believe in national or racial pride, why would you be proud of something that happened by accident such as nationality? i never understood why i had to be proud of what other people accomplished before me, im happy for what they did( such as women's rights)but not proud. pride should reserved for something you accomplished on your own, not by what some people that have something in common with you accomplished. and since i didn't choose to be born where i was born, i have the right to hate the country i was born!

Lisa Green said...

I have a quick question and I was hoping you could help me answer it! I was born in the states. my mom is german and my dad is american. I would like to have dual citizenship and I know, from what I've read, that I have both. Is it too late to apply if I am 21? Do I only have to apply for a passport or is there more to it?

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