This post is written by guest blogger and interpreter Suzanne Fischer.
Fellow Brits, this post is written with you in mind. Have you lived in Germany for 6+ years? Do you speak terrific German? You have the chance to gain German citizenship earlier than the usual 8-year period of unbroken residency. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to retain your status as a European with dual nationality. No promises, of course – it’s all dependent on providing a stack of extra documentation.
The key is proving that you are especially well-integrated in terms of your command of the German language. This could be by having a master’s degree from a German higher education institution or a language certificate for C1 German or above. You would then qualify to apply for citizenship earlier than usual.
If you’ve been in Germany 8+ years, then you have the right to become a citizen at any time, with far fewer documents than I am about to describe below, BUT your right to dual nationality depends on the reciprocal agreement between Germany and your home country at the time that you submit your application.
“Einbürgern” – How to do it
Documents with your name on them
Your birth certificate, any official documentation on name changes such as marriage certificates or deed poll all need to be translated by a state-certified translator. These sorts of translations also get called sworn translations, certified translations, legalised translations or official translations. The translator will do a very pretty fancy-pants job using the exact formatting of the certificate you send them as a PDF. It will be translated, stapled and stamped over the top. If you use Red Tape Translation to do this for you, then it can all be done by uploading the PDFs online and the translated document/s will be posted directly to your address a few days afterwards.
Cost – varies, around €40 for one page incl. postage
Time: fast < 1week
Proof of German language skills
If you have super German skills, but no official documentation, book a ‘Sprachtest zur Einbürgerung’ through the berlin.de website. It’s a 45-minute test, consisting of 30 minutes reading and 15 minutes speaking.
Cost – €25
Waiting time to take the test – currently 8 weeks
Einbürgerungsprüfung – Citizenship test
!News flash! – I had been holding off on submitting my naturalisation application because I was waiting for my certificate from the Einbürgerungstest to arrive – don’t do this! You don’t need to wait! This is the one document that can be submitted later, after you’ve paid. I did my exam in mid-December 2018 in Pankow at the Prenzlauer Berg Volkshochschule and the certificate finally arrived at the beginning of February. The current waiting time to receive the certificate is 9-10 weeks. so this was earlier than expected.
The exam itself was quite exciting, in a classic old German state building where it’s all very ernst and serious. Someone’s phone went off during the exam and hilariously (or not), they were almost banned from ever taking another official test in Germany!
The Einbürgerungstest can be taken in most Bezirke / districts in Berlin, booked through the berlin.de website, it doesn’t need to be in the Bezirk where you live. The exam is certified by BAMF (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge). Studying involves learning 300 general questions and 30 extra questions specific to the part of Germany in which you take the test. The test itself is reduced down to 33 questions, 30 from the general questions and 3 related to your Kantone (Berlin in my case). Some questions seem silly and obvious, some check your understanding of language nuance, and some you simply have to learn by rote: dates, political structure and important historical events. The pass mark is 17/33 and there is an app to help you study. Or you can have a go at all 300+ questions online.
Cost – €25
Time – 6 weeks wait for test + 10 weeks wait for certificate = 4 months
…everyone’s case is different from hereon in.
It’s time to schedule your ‘Erstberatung’/first advice session at the Einbürgerungsbehörde/Staatsangehörigkeitsbehörde for your Bezirk/district. Without this meeting, you can’t get the official form to start the process, and the forms are different in each Bezirk (and sometimes, even the requirements!!). You need to find out which office is responsible for your district, and a Google search to find your closest office is not as reliable as you’d think. I, for example live on the border of Pankow/Wedding so presumed my office would be in Wedding, but then I found out that Wedding is actually handled in Mitte – who knew?! Research this before spending hours queuing at the wrong Amt..
Once you know your district office, rest assured it is nigh on impossible to book an appointment online. Don’t be put off by this, but instead turn up in person about 30 mins before the doors open at your office. There will be specific opening times for citizenship applications.
I turned up at the Einbürgerungsbehörde for Mitte (cunningly located in Moabit…) about 15 mins before they opened on a Thursday afternoon. I joined the queue, which was remarkably quick. I made it into the first office within 30 minutes. There, they assessed my eligibility. Once they saw I was a Brit applying for German citizenship at the 6 year+ mark (i.e. earlier than usual), they gave me an appointment for an Erstberatung on the same day. I waited for another half an hour to be seen.
Everyone is asked to provide:
- – Birth certificate + certified translation
- – All documents to do with name changes + certified translations
- – Einbürgerungstest certificate (can be submitted later)
- – Rental agreement if renting – original contract plus proof of any changes to the monthly costs
Employees (angestellt) provide
- a work contract / pay slips / bank statements.
However, I’m a freelancer. So, I was also asked to submit:
- Proof of income for the past three months in the form of a ‘Formlosebescheinigung des Steuerberaters’ – a stamped letter from my accountant stating what I earned after tax/insurance contributions.
Cost – €50-ish – my Steuerberater was kind
Time – 2 weeks
- A certificate from my Finanzamt stating that I pay my taxes promptly and that there are no arrears. The application form for the certificate is available online
Cost – €17.90
Time – received same-day when I visited the Finanzamt
- Proof of current freelance work
- contracts, receipts, invoices, bank statements, anything that confirmed I earn enough to support myself.
- Proof of 6 years worth of contributions to the German state pension (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) – this should be for the entirety of your residency in Germany. I was exempt from this for the time I was a Master’s student in Germany, so in addition, I had to provide
- All of my enrollment certificates (Immatrikulationsbescheinigung) for the duration of my studies
- A letter from my tertiary institution confirming that I was exempt from making these contributions during my studies
- Evidence of my contributions to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. This proof can vary (e.g. Rentenverlauf). In my case, I submitted documents from the Künstlersozialkasse.
Don’t be intimidated by all this, it’s a faff, but it’s well worth it.
I am currently gathering the last one or two documents. I will then make sure I have a beautiful pile of photocopies, plus a copy of my receipt for a €255 processing fee I paid. Then I will return to the Einbürgerungsbehörde in Mitte to hand it in in person.
The total cost of my early Einbürgerung
I got confirmation of receipt by post 1-2 weeks after I submitted my application. With a request for more documents (don’t laugh, I’m not kidding!). My case worker asked me to prove that I remained a resident in Germany during my semester breaks while I was doing my master’s.
The GOOD NEWS is that the application was dated from the moment I handed it in with payment. So even if it then takes 12 months for them to process, the current law (at least until 31.10.19) still allows EU citizens to have dual nationality. It is therefore highly advisable to complete this process in the event of a no-deal scenario…
Good luck everyone!