American with German heritage seeks passport
June 15, 2011 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Has any American here successfully applied for a German passport or work visa using their German heritage?

I'm a third generation American (both grandparents emigrated in the teens) and I speak fleuent German. I'm not Jewish. I have heard that you can trace your matrilineal decent to apply for a German passport.
How did you navigate the process? What did you need?
I'm gong to set up an appointment with the consulate later this week, but any insight would be helpful since I'd like to have everything in order before I show up.
posted by princelyfox to Law & Government (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

From one of the websites valkyryn posted:

Please Note: Although the information on this website has been prepared with utmost care, we can not accept any responsibility for inaccuracies contained herein.

I think if I were you, I would definitely set the appoitment in order to have a definitive answer, just in case.

I wonder if you can obtain a passport for one of your parents, and then obtain one for yourself, since then you would be the child of a citizen.
posted by Tarumba at 6:13 AM on June 15, 2011

Do you know why your grandparents emigrated? If they were persecuted during the Nazi regime, you may be able to claim citizenship by descent. You don't have to be Jewish. Your grandparents could have had their citizenship revoked on "political, racial or religious grounds."

I'd talk to the consulate. But I am guessing they will also ask about the conditions under which your grandparents left Germany.
posted by vacapinta at 6:27 AM on June 15, 2011

Yes, I know a number of people who have acquired German citizenship because of persecution experienced by either their grandparents or parents during the Nazi regime. One need not be Jewish to have been persecuted (one could have been a gypsy or a gay or whatever).

But for the particulars of that avenue of inquiry you really would need to make an appointment with the consulate or else a lawyer familiar with this, contra valkryn.
posted by dfriedman at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2011

When I did this the German consulate required a German passport holding parent ... so if one of your parents doesn't have a passport themselves you might want to see what their prospects look like.

However if the grandparents naturalised before the birth of the parent you may be SOL (unless they emigrated due to persecution).
posted by jannw at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2011

hmm. i'm european and was told to get lost even though one of my parents is german.
posted by canned polar bear at 7:23 AM on June 15, 2011

canned polar bear: "hmm. i'm european and was told to get lost even though one of my parents is german."

If you're European, you have the right to settle anywhere in the EU.
posted by Happy Dave at 7:42 AM on June 15, 2011

If you're European, you have the right to settle anywhere in the EU.

yes, sorry, i should have been more specific. my response was about getting a german passport.
posted by canned polar bear at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2011

I did this. Mefi-mail me
posted by zia at 12:28 PM on June 15, 2011

Good question, OP. Having been born in the U.S. in '65 to a German mother and American father, it appears that I cannot easily claim German citizenship.

What's the rationale between the differing dates for child born to German father v. German mother?
posted by webhund at 2:15 PM on June 15, 2011

webhund, until recently (maybe it was the citizenship/immigration reform in early 2000s) women and men were considered to have different "capacity" to pass on citizenship. It's been a while since read about the topic in detail, but I think at one point a German woman's citizenship was based on her husband's.
posted by polexa at 2:48 PM on June 15, 2011

Forgive me if this is a bit vague and please make sure you seek proper advice on the whole process incl. this question. But you may also need to consider that the German state does not like the idea of its citizens having dual nationality. I am German and I live overseas and whenever I have to renew my passport I have to sign a document confirming that I have no other nationalities. And whilst I have not lived in Germany since the late 1990s I remember heated political debates about the desirability or otherwise of allowing dual citizenship for German citizens. And at the time the answer was no, you're either German or you're (insert other nationality here).

As I understand it the law was changed about ten years ago to allow Germans dual citizenship if the other country is an EU country or Switzerland. But my understanding is that you may still be asked to give back your US do your homework before you start a lengthy process that you may not wish to see through if this is still the case.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:51 PM on June 15, 2011

(IANYL and TINLA)basically agreeing with what previous posters said. It's been a while since I looked at the applicable statutes, but from what I recall, German citizenship law is not really set up to allow dual citizenship (to the point that children born with dual citizenship (German and Non-EU) are supposed to make a choice when they become adults about which citizenship they want to keep - either or).

German citizens who acquire American citizenship through naturalization can apply for a special dispensation (before starting the naturalization process) to maintain their German citizenship, but I don't think there's a setup for going the other way (unless you can go the previously mentioned Nazi-persecution-of-ancestor-qualification route). The only other exception that springs to mind is if giving up your current citizenship has negative consequences for you or your family (e.g. if acquiring German citizenship is going to result in all your aunts and uncles getting lined up against a wall and shot kind of thing) and that's probably not the case in the US :)
posted by yggdrasil at 11:09 AM on June 16, 2011

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