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German citizenship For Members

Can people with a German spouse get faster citizenship under new law?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Can people with a German spouse get faster citizenship under new law?
A decorative padlock celebrates the union of a married couple in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

Germany's citizenship reform drastically slashes the years of residence needed for most foreigners. Does the same apply to people married to German citizens?

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One of the most exciting aspects of Germany's new citizenship law is the fact that people will be able to get a German passport much sooner after arriving in the country.

Previously, Germany stood out as one of the European countries with the strictest residence rules for citizenship: in fact, most foreigners had to live in the country for a full eight years before they could even consider submitting a citizenship application.

Luckily, that's all changed on June 27th this year, when Germany brought in new - mostly more relaxed - citizenship rules. 

Rather than eight years, most foreigners will have the chance to naturalise after five, and in some exceptional cases, the naturalisation process can begin after just three.

READ ALSO: Foreigners in Germany celebrate as long-awaited new dual citizenship law enters into force

This has left some people wondering what rules apply to married couples - and specifically those who are married to Germans. Are the residence requirements for this group of people reduced as well? 

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Residence requirements for married couples 

Spouses of German citizens already had much shorter residence requirements than foreigners with no German relatives.

Under the previous rules, if you're married to a German, you only had to be resident in the country for three years to qualify for citizenship yourself - provided you had been married for at least two.

In some cases, the law even allowed for this period of residence to be shortened if the marriage or civil partnership had existed for at least three years. 

If you had a child with your German spouse, they were automatically entitled to citizenship under the principle of descent.

READ ALSO: When is my child entitled to German citizenship?

Given that the period of residence required was already so short, the government hasn't made any changes on this front for married couples in the new law.

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This means that in some circumstances, naturalisation may be quicker under the so-called "fast-track" route than via your partner. For example, if you speak C1 German and are well integrated, and only get married to a German after three years of residence, you may be able to apply for citizenship before your two years of marriage or civil partnership are up.

The best people to offer you guidance on this are the advisors at your local immigration or citizenship office. In most cases, they will able to work out if there is a quicker route to naturalisation for you.

READ ALSO: Who qualifies for 'special integration' status under Germany's citizenship law?

What other conditions are there for German citizenship?

Even for the spouses of German citizenship, the general rules for naturalisation will apply. 

That means being able to prove your knowledge of life in Germany via a citizenship test or other means, having a B1 German certificate and having a household income that can support you and your loved ones, as well as demonstrating a clean criminal record.

For more information on the general requirements for German citizenship and when to apply, check out our explainer below:

CHECKLIST: What do I need to apply for German citizenship under new law?

Editor's note: We updated this story after the new law came into force. 

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