“half-German”

Not least due to my FAQ on German citizenship law and my corresponding infographic on German citizenship law, which have established this blog as the no. 1 resource on the internet for questions on German citizenship, I receive a lot of questions almost every day.

Most of these questions are written by non-lawyers, so they are often not formulated very precisely. In fact, you’d be shocked to learn how little information some people believe they have to include. I have received questions like “Hey bro, I am 23 years old and a student. Can I get German citizenship?” Many people forget to include their parents’ citizenship or their place or year of birth, all relevant factors. Today I got an especially funny one: “My surname sounds German. Can I get German citizenship?”

But this post is devoted to only one issue which pops up again and again, even in articles I read. It’s the issue of being “half-German”, by which people mean that they have one German parent and one non-German parent. It annoys the hell out of me because it violates all laws of logic. There is no such thing as being half-German or half-Iranian or half-Mexican.

"Sorry, you are only half-American."

“Sorry, you are only half-American.”

It’s a citizenship. It cannot be split in half. How do you think that would work? Would you only be German in the morning and French in the afternoon? Or would you only be allowed to vote in every second election? Or would you only have to pay half as much in taxes in Germany (“Yes, I want that,” I hear many of you scream.), but receive half the public services? Could you use your passport for only six months out of each year?

Citizenship is like pregnancy. Either you have it or you don’t. (And if you don’t have it yet, but you want it, I can tell you how to get it.) You may have other citizenships besides it, but that doesn’t make the other one a half or a third one. You just have two or three full citizenships. Lucky you.

If this is too legalistic for you, think of this: Most probably you have one female and one male parent, but that doesn’t make you half-female and half-male. You are either female or male.

We are not arithmetic results of what our ancestors were, but each of us is an individual. Citizenship is nothing more than a legal criterion, in most cases a completely arbitrary one. Knowing how easy it is to change your citizenship, I would also argue that it’s one of the least important criteria to make up a person.

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in German Law, Germany, Immigration Law, Language, Law, Religion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to “half-German”

  1. List of X says:

    A person can’t legally half-German citizen as you say, but “half-German” is an acceptable informal term for someone who has one German parent. A person can be a Basque or a Kurd (or a half-Basque or half-Kurd) even though there isn’t anyone in the world with a Basque or Kurdish passport.

  2. Anonymous says:

    More importantly, why do you receive these questions? Why all these people want German citizenship? If it’s a matter of wanting to get an EU citizenship, I would think there are countries in the EU where it’s easier to get citizenship than in Germany.

  3. Harold Seddon (known as "Harry") says:

    Hello Andreas
    I was born in 1950 in Wuppertal (British Military Hospital); my mother was German (although I’m not certain if she had at that stage relinquished her nationality, by marriage or otherwise) and my father a Brtish soldier in the BAOR.

    My maternal grandpaernts lived in Duisburg (Oma having formally been Dutch, became German on marriage).

    Between 1984-1991 I was in the Royal Air Force, based in Germany, but am gussing that this is not relevant to the period of residence required for citizenship. Since November 2010 I have been working for an EU Agency, based in Cologne, and live mostly in the city (although we do still have a house in UK). I also purchased a property in the vicinity of Saarburg (Serrig) in 2009, and from time to time live there to escape from the city to the countryside.

    Stadt Koeln have recently realised that all employees of my EU Agenct should have been registerd with them since beginning their employment; this process has just been completed and I await with interest the demands for a host of local taxes. I am also a contributor to the VG Saarburg in the form of taxes related to my property.

    Does any of this have relevance or enhance my prospect of gaining German citizenship?

    Kind regards

    Harry Seddon

  4. dino bragoli says:

    If I was half of anything I would prefer to be the half that eats…

  5. Greg says:

    I was born in1964 to an u.s service man and a mother who was german citizen in u.s “married” my oldest brother was born in Germany and was german citizen, however before he turned 18 he had to give up his german citizenship or be deported back to Germany , thus our mother never let us apply for dual citizenship! I am older now and would like to do it , is there a chance I can get it? I called Germany embassy and the said no without looking at my paperwork , Are they right?

    • It sounds like you might fall under no. 8 of my FAQ on naturalization from abroad, but I am not sure I understand all the details of your case correctly. There is no application for dual citizenship without naturalization and I am not sure if any of you ever applied for naturalization (in the US?).
      It might be best if you contact me directly with a more detailed and coherent description of your case.

      • Greg says:

        No application was ever made , after the issues that happen with my brother “being deported”my mother was worried that it could happen to me or my sister ” even though we were born in u.s.” I never really understood the whole issue with the right to dual citizenship !

  6. aline c barber says:

    i have a different question for you. My parents were Polish holocaust survivors. At the end of the war they came to Berlin as many displaced persons did. I was born in Berlin 1946 in a section called Zellendorf? I only have a small birthcertificate located somewhere in one of my boxes. In 1949 we immigrated to the U.S. leaving Germany on a ship called the General Holbrook which took us to Boston. Eventually they and I became naturalized citizens of the U.S. What are the German laws pertaining to citizenship. In the U.S. one can just be born here and qualifies..is that the same in Germany? I’m just curious. Thankyou.

    • Germany only introduced this “ius soli” component (i.e. that children of foreign citizens who are born in Germany can get German citizenship from birth) in 1999. Before that, there was no such possibility; German citizenship could only be derived from German parents.

      You’ll find more details in my FAQ on German citizenship.

  7. Greg says:

    You talk about being able to speak German to apply , at what level would you need to speak and would you also be able to write German?

    • It depends. There are different levels of German language requirements for different applications for immigration or citizenship.
      I’d be happy to put up a separate list of FAQ on German language requirements once someone mails me one of the books from my wishlist to do so.

  8. TR says:

    Dear Andreas,
    I am a 50 years old permanent resident of Germany 8 years from USA. My boyfriend of 4 years is a Ghana national living and working in Gambia. I also work part of the year in Gambia. We applied once for a tourist visa so he could visit me here on his holidays, but despite all papers being in order, it was denied. People have suggested since we are both resident foreigners in our respective adopted homes, that our case is simply too complicated. I had purchased a kaution document for €2000 as the authorities deemed my regular income too small to sponsor an african visitor( My boyfriend and I are both education and relief workers). I intend to continue living and working in Germany with no plan to return to USA. Now we would like to marry and both have freedom of movement back and forth from Germany to Gambia seasonally. I believe I am now eligible and I would like to apply for German naturalisation. Are our chances better that we can be together in Europe as well as in Africa if we marry now or wait until I am granted German citizenship?

    • Once you will be a German citizen, your chances will indeed be much greater to receive a visa for family reunion (§ 28 AufenthG). However, there is no harm if you get married before you will be naturalized as a German.

  9. Robin says:

    Hi Andreas,

    I am a US citizen living in Germany with my husband (Dualnational first German added US with Beibehaltung). I would like to become a dualnational now as well. I have read that I would not profit from renouncing my US citizenship and would like to keep it as I have family in the US and can’t say I am not interested in going back one day. But I am missing out on a few things in Germany – voting for my husband (he is politically active), etc. Do you think there is a case for exception? Would you suggest looking into legal support in seeking dual-citizenship?

    • Unless you can argue that you would suffer disproportionately (in comparison with other US citizens applying for German citizenship) from having to give up your US citizenship, Germany will require that you give it up if you want to naturalize. The wish to return to the US is not a strong enough argument.

      • robin says:

        And if my husband were to have to return for job related reasons? And I could not stay more than 3 months? That would be against the proctection of family? And if my mother needed to be cared for in the States? To me that all sounds like a finacial burden that excees that of most other Germans.

      • No, it doesn’t. These are the same consequences which are borne by everyone else who gives up US citizenship in order to obtain German citizenship. – By the way, you CAN stay in the US for more than 3 months as a German citizen. You only need to apply for a visa.

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