Am I a German citizen?
January 10, 2010 5:04 AM   Subscribe

Am I a German citizen--or do I qualify to become one--and how might I find out?

My mother was born in Germany to German parents in 1953. She was adopted by her American parents (i.e. my grandparents) when she was a year or two old, and she did not automatically get American citizenship at the time of the adoption. I know this because she has her immigration papers and naturalization certificate. Based on my reading of several sources, it appears she kept her German citizenship--because she was not automatically granted US citizenship--and, as such, I am a citizen as well, by birth. However, I was born in the United States after January 1, 1975 and have never been to Germany.

Is there any way to definitively find out if I am one? I was thinking of calling the German consulate in Washington, D.C. (because those tend to be the largest), but would calling the consulate office that covers my region be a better idea?
posted by fireoyster to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
datapoint - my mother was born in Australia to German Parents and currently holds both nationalities. I was born in Australia in 1978, and have Australian nationality by birth. I also hold a German passport through my mother. So, probably, you are eligible.

Call the consulate to check.
posted by jannw at 5:24 AM on January 10, 2010

You might want to look up passport application information. I am in a similar situation with my British mother, and when I went to apply for a British passport I had to send a number of documents explaining my mother's citizenship and history. Even if you're technically a citizen due to your birth, in my experience you'll need a passport to actualize anything.
posted by farishta at 5:26 AM on January 10, 2010

Just call any consulate and ask them. If it's better to call a different consulate, the first consulate you call will be able to tell you that. There will be some sort of impersonal bureaucratic process of application and you'll be directed towards this process very quickly. Really, that's all there is to it.

My impression at the time I got my German citizenship was that fathers are worth more than mothers. Also my impression is the opposite of yours: if she was naturalized into American citizenship rather than holding both automatically, that means she can no longer be a German citizen. But the consulate will answer everything pretty quickly.
posted by creasy boy at 8:05 AM on January 10, 2010

German nationality law on wikipedia:
Those born after January 1, 1975 are Germans if the mother or father is a German citizen.

Those born before January 1, 1975 could normally only claim German citizenship from the father and not the mother. Exceptions included cases where the parents were unmarried (in which case German mothers could pass on citizenship) or where the German mother applied for the child to be registered as German on or before 31 December 1977.
German citizenship is automatically lost when a German citizen voluntarily acquires the citizenship of another country. To this there are two exceptions:

When the German citizen acquires a nationality from within the European Union, Switzerland, or another country with which Germany has a corresponding treaty.

When permission to obtain a foreign citizenship has been applied for and granted in advance of foreign naturalisation.


A German child adopted by foreign parents, where the child automatically acquires the nationality of the adoptive parents under the law of the adoptive parents' country. (For example, a German child adopted by Americans prior to February 27, 2001 [the effective date of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000] would not have automatically lost his/her German citizenship, because the child did not automatically acquire United States citizenship by virtue of having been adopted by U.S. citizens.) An exception applies where legal ties to the German parent are maintained.
For answers specific to your situation, head to your local consulate office.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:51 AM on January 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is your mother a Jew or other minority prosecuted by the Nazi? I became a German through renaturalization. This may be something worth looking into.
posted by mateuslee at 8:55 AM on January 10, 2010

You should be able to get a passport eventually. I recently got my German passport despite having been born in Canada to Canadian- and American-born parents. My maternal grandparents were German and were deceased when my mom applied. She had to produce a copy of her grandfather's paperwork when he arrived in Canada in the 50's, but after that, she got her passport and I simply went through her, not my grandfather. If I could get it through her, you should be able to get it through your mother. But she may have to go through the process of getting a passport before you can do it.

One piece of advice: try to go to the consulate in person and bring someone who speaks German. It makes them friendlier.
posted by Beardman at 6:05 PM on January 10, 2010

She had to produce a copy of her grandfather's paperwork when he arrived in Canada in the 50's

I meant her father's paperwork.
posted by Beardman at 6:06 PM on January 10, 2010

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