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Dual Citizenship: Is it Worth It?

I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, but a couple of years ago during my genealogy research I discovered that my brothers and I were born dual U.S.-German citizens. And for more than two years, I’ve been cutting through bureaucratic red tape trying to get a German certificate of citizenship to prove it.

Now let me be clear. We were definitely born dual citizens. We meet every requirement. But there is still a chance the German government will refuse to approve the application for my certificate (therefore denying me any rights related to that citizenship).

The process has been frustrating to say the least. It has involved trips to NYC to visit the German Mission, a lot of German-English form translations, and even more digging into family history documents, getting notarized copies of those documents, and mailing them to the NYC office so they could in turn review them and mail them to Germany. And then there’s the waiting. Oh, don’t get me started on the waiting. Let’s just say there have been breaks from a few weeks to over a year in between me sending documents they’ve requested and me hearing anything in return.

Worth the Hassle?

I could just forget about this, know I was born a dual-citizen regardless of whether or not they give me a piece of paper, and leave it at that. But there are real benefits to going through this hassle:

  1. It would give me the right to live and work in EU nations.
  2. I can travel a bit more freely around Europe for future family history research.
  3. If this is settled before I have a child and they reach their first birthday, then I can make sure citizenship passes along to them too. (Update: I was wrong about this. My children will be dual-citizens regardless of whether or not I register their births within their first year. That would only apply to my grandchildren and any later generations.)
  4. My children will be better prepared for the increasing global economy, able to more easily study abroad without having to worry about things like student visas, and see more of the world after school if they want to. This is one of the biggest concerns for me.
  5. It’s about my birthright and the tie to my family’s history.

That’s not to say there wouldn’t be complications too. But they’re more than manageable to me. Yet the process itself is starting to feel unbearable. Why? I’m back in another “waiting” phase. Here is what the process has looked like so far:

  1. I assembled the documentation requested of me — my birth certificate, my father’s birth certificate, my grandparents’ marriage certificate, my grandfather’s German passport to prove his citizenship, and my grandfather’s naturalization papers proving he was still a German citizen when my father was born. I drove to NYC to hand-deliver these to the consulate. I was assured by the person there that it was alright we didn’t have my grandfather’s birth certificate  because the passport was enough to prove his former citizenship.
  2. I waited a while and then received a letter from Germany asking me to fill out a supplementary form about my great-grandparents past in Germany. Despite the fact that their website mentioned no such thing (nor did the employee of the consulate), they said I had to prove their citizenship back to a certain date (I believe 1914, but I can’t recall for certain right now).
  3. I filled out the supplementary forms. I know they meet those requirements, because I know both great-grandparents were born in Germany and remained there even after they were forced to relocate after WWII. They never gave up their citizenship or moved away from the country. Of course we don’t have any records to that fact — only notes from my grandfather noting where they were from.
  4. I sent the forms in and waited for a few months before hearing that they did, in fact, want my grandfather’s birth certificate. I informed the person with the consulate (who really has been a dear about helping me through this process) that to the best of my family’s knowledge one didn’t exist any longer. You see, the birth town of my grandfather was pretty much leveled by the Russian military during WWII. People were forced to flee from their homes with only a few hours notice. They even buried possessions they hoped to return for. We don’t know of any birth certificate that my grandfather himself may have had — I have to assume his German passport was enough proof of identity for the U.S. government when he moved here. And since those records used to be kept in churches, and the birth town really doesn’t even exist anymore post-war, I can’t imagine a copy exists (although I would love to be wrong about that). She said she would inform the German office of that fact. And I offered to get a copy of a U.S. government document — his SS-5 application for a social security number — which is the only other government document in existence that lists his parents’ names. I got a certified copy and sent that in.
  5. This is the point where I waited more than a year with no response. Talk about frustration….
  6. I emailed the woman with the consulate and asked for an update a few months ago. She said that she sent the documents to Germany and once things were in their hands, there was nothing she could do or say about it.
  7. Another few months of waiting….
  8. I emailed her again noting that it had been over two years since I started the process and I’d really like an update, and I offered to re-send any info they might need to speed up the process.
  9. She responded saying that two years was the average time this process takes, so she would contact the German officials on my behalf for an update since we had already exceeded that average timeframe.
  10. A little while later she sent me another set of forms to fill out — information I already provided. They wanted updated personal information to make sure I didn’t relocate, get married, etc. since the time the process began.

And that’s where things stand. I’m waiting again. I’m choosing to be optimistic though. If they refused to accept the SS-5 form proving my grandfather’s parents’ names were what I declared on the supplemental form they requested, I have to imagine they would have issued a denial for the certificate. Instead they asked for updated information to make sure nothing else changed about my personal situation (nothing has). My hope is that this form was the last formality, and that I’ll receive the certificate of citizenship before long. Cross your fingers (and toes) for me!

What about you? Would go through a process like this if you found out that you were born a dual-citizen? Or would you just ignore the fact and not pursue the paper trail? Why? Leave a comment below to share your own similar stories or thoughts on why you would or wouldn’t pursue this if you were in my shoes.

Major Update:

As of July 2012, I was officially recognized as a dual U.S.-German citizen. I received a letter stating that my application for a certificate of citizenship was approved at that time — after approximately a 3-year wait. The certificate was in NYC at the time, so I paid a FEDEX fee to have it delivered to me rather than making the trip there again. I have not bothered to get my German passport yet (as of the end of 2013) as I have to sort out some married name issues on my U.S. passport first. As I have no specific trips planned, it’s not a rush for me. But the process was most definitely worth it! 🙂

*Image credit: tjuel (via Flickr)

981 Responses to “Dual Citizenship: Is it Worth It?”

  1. Carrie says:

    Hi everyone,

    This is a great thread. Thank you all for sharing your stories and experiences.

    I am currently in the process of gathering documents and hoping to send off my application by the end of 2018. I’ll be going through the German Embassy in London, UK – has anyone else gone through this embassy?

    I’m applying through my great-grandfather, who was born in Leipzig in 1902 and emigrated to the US in the 1920s. I have his birth certificate, my grandmother’s birth certificate, their marriage certificate, and naturalization papers showing that they both naturalized as US citizens after my grandfather was born. I also have my great-grandfather’s old Reisepass.

    However, what I DON’T have is my grandfather’s birth certificate. This is because he was born in upstate NY, which requires a court order to release a certified copy of a deceased person’s birth certificate. So, I’m slightly worried that this will impact my application.

    I spoke to a German immigration caseworker who said that because the German authorities only care about lineage, eg proving my grandfather was the son of my great-grandparents, I should be able to use census records from 1930 (which recorded my grandfather as their son). So I can get my hands on that. I also have my grandfather’s death certificate, which lists his parents’ names, his birth date, and place of birth. I’m hoping that’s enough, but still worried. I wonder if anyone else has overcome a similar problem?

    Otherwise, I think my case is fairly straightforward: citizenship has been passed down through male relatives (GGF-GF-F-Me), no one ever served in the military, everyone was born in wedlock, and I have all my great-grandparents’ documents! I’m only missing the NY birth certificate, so I guess I just have to hope that the BVA is feeling benevolent. I’ll be sure to update this thread with my experience, whatever happens 🙂

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      Can you get a non-certified copy? While they technically want certified copies, I’d offer the non-certified one as backup along w/ the other records you can get. I did that with one document (an ss-5 I believe), and it was the last thing I had to send for confirmation before I was approved. Also, when I did my mother’s marriage certificate, it didn’t have the apostille — was a certified copy, but for foreign use it should have that. They took it anyway without any problem.

      But check again. It looks like the state understands they’re needed for dual-citizenship issues for foreign gov’t use, and you may be able to get what you need:

      • Spencer Hahn says:

        I agree with Jenn (re: getting a genealogical copy–it costs $22.00) (

        Also, the folks who seek Italian dual citizenship recognition are fairly used to this issue.

        Here’s a walk-through on how to do it yourself (getting a court order for a certified copy of an ancestor’s birth certificate from New York) courtesy of the Italian dual citizenship community (see post #15 at the following page):

      • Carrie says:

        Thanks to both of you!

        Jenn, I saw that page when I first started looking into it, but it says I still need a court order for the birth certificate of a deceased person. Am I missing something? I also called the NYS vital records office and they confirmed that I’d need a court order. But if there’s another way to get it, that would be great.

        I also called my German embassy to ask if a non certified copy would be okay, and they said they can’t consider it unless it’s certified. But I guess it can’t hurt to include one anyway… I wonder if anyone else has had success with non certified copies of documents.

        Also, thanks for the link Spencer, it will definitely come in handy if I do end up having to go through court.

        • Jenn Mattern says:

          I’d still get the genealogical copy for now. Send it in, and let your contact at your German mission or embassy know that NY state makes it very difficult to get certified birth certificates of deceased individuals. I’d not worry about someone saying they can’t use it. They made numerous exceptions in my case where things they insisted they needed weren’t even available. And they accepted a non-certified SS-5 to show my grandfather’s parents’ names in Germany since his birth certificate was completely unavailable to me (born in Germany though, so their own digging might have helped). Different people at the missions will give you different stories on different days. It’s very frustrating. You can always proceed with getting a court order, but in the meantime they’ll have something to work from.

          I’d also see if you can find any other certified documents that might have similar information. Look into the SS-5 if there was an application for a social security number for example. See if you can find official baptismal records. Or even better, beg and plead with family members. If he had one when he was alive, someone probably still has the original document.

    • Spencer Hahn says:

      You could also order a genealogy copy ($22.00), and submit it along with a print out of the NY State Vital Records website that explains how restricted certified copies are.

  2. Mike says:

    Hi Carrie, I applied via the Embassy in London and they are absolutely top notch and super friendly.

    Once you have all the documentation you just pop in without an appointment and just tell them you are there to legalize some documents. I’d recommend going first thing in the morning when they open (8:30).

    They will take your documents (originals with apostilles, plus the F forms and application form) which you have to present with 2 fotocopies.

    They will legalize the copies and then ones is sent to Germany, the other one remains there on the embassy records.

    Before they send this over their legal department will check that you are not missing any major papers…. this is not to say they will decide on your case, but they will check you are not missing something important like the application form which could then delay your application.

    Best of luck getting your last few documents, sounds like you are almost there.!! 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Hi Mike,

      Have you got your German citizenship?

      I am British but live in Hong Kong and so I applied via the German Consulate here. The entire process took only 8 months or so. My kids now live and work in the UK and so hey, along with my sister, have applied via the German Embassy in London. I had assumed that because I am now a dual citizen their applications would be quite quick. However, in a week or so it will have been a whole year of waiting for them.

      So I wonder what the timescale was for your application? The Embassy was very friendly and helpful but I wonder why such a simple case (linking my kids to me) is taking so long.

      PS Good luck Carrie!

      • Mike says:

        Hi Steve,
        I’ve submitted my papers in November last year at the UK Embassy, so just shy of 1 year as well.

        I’m getting quite anxious as I read on previous posts (including yours) that it usually takes 8-12 months to hear back on average.

        At the embassy they told me it could take “1 to 2 years”, but I’m hoping that’s just a ballpark to avoid people asking about their paperwork every month…. and that it will be much closer to 1 year rather than 2 which seems too long considering the German efficiency standards.!!

        • Eric says:

          I submitted my paperwork June 2017 in Toronto and still waiting unfortunately. No contact from them other than the initial notice that the application has been received

        • Steve says:

          Hi guys,

          Yes, they were told 1 to 2 years but I also thought it is said to put people off from asking about progress.

          Hopefully it won’t be too much longer.

  3. Emily says:

    Hello, I thought I would provide an update in case anyone was curious.

    I recently went to the consulate in Toronto to apply for my passport, which was very exciting!

    I read about the name declaration and based on the scenarios listed on their site, I wouldn’t need to do one. However the day before my appointment the lady who helped with my citizenship confirmation called to let me know that I would likely need a name declaration first. It was very nice of her to have noticed my name scheduled for the passport and to have reached out to give me the heads up.

    I told her I was driving through town anyways so would come in to see if my case would be okay without name declaration.

    It turns out it isn’t. Apparently because my mother got married, she needed to declare her married name (which is mine). Even though none of this is listed on the website.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share my story for anyone else thinking of getting a passport. I would suggest erring on the side of caution and doing the name declaration if anyone in the lineage is female and last names have changed at any point.

    I will have to go back to Toronto again and do the name declaration then my passport appointment and hopefully that will be it. I’m glad the staff have been so helpful, although the bureaucracy has been quite painful! I am essentially going to be bringing back everything I brought for the citizenship confirmation again just to have a German name.

    Also, Eric – it ended up taking me about 20 months through Toronto to get my citizenship certificate so I would say you’re still within the norm (I feel your pain though!). I did follow up a few times with the staff that helped me out. I believe Franziska handles all of the applications for citizenship and she has been lovely as I worked through the paperwork. Good luck!

  4. Another Steve says:

    Hi, Jenn and All:

    I’m another long-time reader and first-time poster; I came across this site last year as it first came to my attention that I might be a German citizen. (I am in my 30s now and was born and raised in the United States, where I currently live.) I’m posting because I wanted to thank you all for your comments regarding your experiences; they were very helpful as I was considering whether and how to proceed.

    I actually made the decision to hire a Rechtsanwalt to assist with filing my application, and I’m happy I did. I’m not claiming it’s appropriate for everyone, but for me it has been added peace of mind. (I’ll leave their information out of this post since they may not be interested having it here, but in my research I did find several firms with lawyers who can assist in these types of matters.)

    In my case, my claim stems from a great-grandfather who immigrated from Germany to the US in the 1920s. (Fortunately, his town is still located in modern Germany.) My grandfather was born in the United States before my great-grandfather naturalized, and my mother was also born here. I was born after German law was changed, which allows me to inherit from my mother (or at least, that has been my understanding!).

    It took a few months for me to gather and prepare all of my documents and to collect the information I needed, but ultimately my application was submitted to the BVA through the Embassy in Washington (my “local” German mission) in March 2018. At this point, then, it’s been about seven months. I admit that I’m getting antsy, but of course I knew going in that it would take as long as it was going to take. I’m thinking I’d very much like to experience living in Germany, at least for a while… And after recent experiences in the Czech Republic and the UK standing in long lines at passport control, I’ve been joking that, when you have to stand in the non-EU line with your American passport, those EU/EEA/CH kiosks look so good! (Although, of course, I know that others may have a much more difficult time of it than we do…)

    For what it’s worth, in my limited experience so far, I’ve found Embassy – Washington to be pretty efficient and easy to deal with, although most things do seem to require appointments now. That’s good, because assuming a positive result, I will be back there to apply for my passport and ID card.

    @Steve – I don’t know if this is a motivating factor for your family — and I do not mean this politically in any way — but here’s hoping your children are able to receive their determination from Germany before the UK’s departure from the EU. That will, hopefully, ensure ease of travel at least, given the current ambiguity on that issue.

    @Emily – Thanks for your comment, above; I found the explanation of name declarations to be a bit confusing. But I suppose if I need one, I will find out when I go for the passport…

    Anyway, thanks again, and to those who are still waiting, I wish you all luck.

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      Best of luck “Other Steve.” 🙂

      If you don’t mind me asking, when you went to the UK and such, how long were those lines you mentioned? When I’m over there I’ll have my German passport, but the person I’m travelling with will only have their US one. So I’m curious if it’s worth using my German one (I kind of just want to do it because I can), or if I should also use my US passport so we don’t get separated for an absurdly long time.

      • Another Steve says:

        Hi, Jenn:

        I’m sure it varies depending on whether you arrive at and/or depart from a large or small airport; the time of day; the day of the week and season; staffing levels; and how many others on your flight and others arriving around the same also need to wait in the non-EU line, among other factors. But in my relatively recent experience, I have had to wait anywhere from no time at all to about an hour at EU border crossings as an American. Often, but not always, EU/EEA/CH citizens have a separate (and faster) lane.


        • Eric says:

          Steve – hopefully everything goes nice and smoothly for you. I’ve been waiting since June 2017 without any word so hopefully yours is quicker than mine!

          I always wondered, and not sure if anyone knows, but what happens in a situation where a family crosses, where one of the parents have an EU passport and the rest of the family has a Canadian or US passport (for example). Do they all have to use the non-EU line or can they all go in the EU because one of them have an EU passport??

          • Another Steve says:

            Don’t quote me on this, but my understanding has always been that if you have a German passport, you MUST use it to enter and exit Germany. (The situation with other EU member states, I am not sure, but if and when I acquire my EU passport, I will always use it to enter the EU.)

            Separately, I know the United States generally requires that we (citizens) use US passports to enter the United States. (Otherwise, I suppose they might log us as foreign visitors, with an exit date…) Canada may be the same, I’m not sure. I would use my US passport in Canada, because I think that Americans generally get more favorable entry terms in Canada than Europeans do, as Canadians do here…)

            As for a family that wants to use a single lane, that I don’t know… there is usually an official up front whom you can ask…

    • Steve says:

      Hi Steve, Steve here! 🙂

      My kids would have applied anyway because they are proud of their German heritage but the political situation in UK certainly prompted them to act quickly. It will allow them ease of travel throughout the EU but also allow them to live and work there if the UK economy gets worse.

      It is now a year and a few days since their applications, longer than mine (around 8 months). I had assumed since my case was very recent their citizenship would be ratified very quickly (since Cologne don’t have to do very much background checking, having done it for me). It makes me wonder how the BVA deal with applications. Are all applications put together and then dealt with on a first come, first served basis? Or is there a US desk, a UK desk, a South East Asia desk etc? I imagine they get very few (relatively speaking) from this part of the world (Hong Kong) and perhaps that is why my application was processed quickly? I know in UK the number of applications has skyrocketed since 2016.

      Anyway, good luck with your application.

  5. Jenny says:

    Hey there,

    To answer your question regarding going through the airport and only one of you having an EU passport, with the rest having others. Only the EU passport holder can go through the EU lane. The rest will have to go through the regular lane.

    I’m Canadian German. Whenever I enter Canada I must use my Canadian passport and when I enter UK, Germany or any other EU country I always use my EU passport.

    All they want to confirm is that you have the right to be in the country you are entering. So when I enter Canada I use my Canadian passport and when I go back home to the UK I use my German passport.

    • Spencer says:

      This is a pretty good write-up of issues involving use of a second passport (this one is Italy-specific, but pretty spot-on):

    • Dan says:

      On the contrary, my wife only holds US citizenship and she has been allowed to go into the EU line with me on several occasions.

      It is true that the rules are in practice – fluid, and dependent on what country you are landing in. In particular, if you are traveling to an EU country that is not your country of citizenship with an EU passport, the schengen rules are more relaxed. Because of freedom of movement laws, the border agent is technically required to treat non-EU family as having the same rights of free movement as the EU citizen (which means they have the right to use the EU line with their EU spouse. Note that these are particularly shenghen rules, and the rules are a little different for the UK). However, freedom of movement laws do not apply if passing immigration in the country that you hold the citizenship, so technically a german border agent can treat the non-EU spouse differently since EU freedom of movement rules do not apply. I have passed immigration in both Germany and non-german EU countries and have been allowed to bring my non-EU wife in the EU line for each situation. Also note, that although the UK is in the EU, the UK is outside of schengen, so they don’t have to abide by the same border guidelines as schengen countries (the non-Eu spouse still has freedom of movement rights as with the rest of the EU, but those rights do not apply with regards to direct treatment at immigration).

      However, in both situations, it is advisable to simply ask a representative that is directing everyone where to go. Sometimes you will get an agent that tells you it is fine to go in the EU line, and sometimes you will get an agent that tells you to go with your family in the non-EU line.

  6. Spencer says:

    Passport Appointment Recap — Atlanta Consulate

    I had my passport appointment at the Atlanta Consulate yesterday. Aside from the long wait (there were quite a few people in front of me most of whom took extra long), everything went smoothly.

    In addition to passport photos and the application form, I brought the following documents / items pertaining to me (with one photocopy of each):

    — Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis
    — Birth certificate
    — Marriage certificate
    — United States Passport
    — Driver’s license
    — Passport photos

    The security guard checked to make sure I had all the necessary documents (and one copy of each). When he saw that I didn’t have a copy of my driver’s license, he directed me to the nearest FedEx Office (in the basement of an adjacent hotel) to make a copy. Upon being admitted, you must put your cell phone (on silent) into a small locker. I should have brought a book to read.

    I was the last appointment of the day (11:40 a.m. — I was seen after 1 p.m.). The woman was happy to see that I had my Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis because it meant that I didn’t have to provide a bunch of documents to prove my citizenship (which is what caused the delays with the other applicants — most of them were given homework). Other than waiting while she entered the application info into her computer and prepped my passport photos, I had to get my index fingers scanned (for fingerprints for the biometric passport).

    The woman who helped me was so nice to me (and everyone else). She mentioned that I could get a German birth certificate issued. I said that I’d heard the wait was something like 4 years, but she told me that, due to a recent change in the way they are processed, it takes less than 1 year now. She explained that had to do with concern regarding children of German citizens born and residing abroad who were born after 2000 (they have to register their children within one year to pass along German citizenship).

    Altogether, the passport and FedEx charge (for it to be sent to me once it is done (in 6 to 7 weeks)) was $110.00, which I paid with a credit card (they take cash or credit cards).

    • Another Steve says:

      @Spencer Thanks for your recap — I can only hope to have a positive decision faster than you received yours.

      @Steve I agree, it is a bit of a black box. It would be helpful if we could track application status online, but I keep reminding myself that there are probably people who need the BVA’s services more urgently than I do and that patience is required.

      I do seem to remember reading responses to a “Kleine Anfrage” posed to the German federal government that contained some statistics on the Feststellung procedure from 2000 through 2010. If I interpreted it correctly, it did not seem that North America; the UK; or Southeast Asia were regions from which large numbers of applications were received during that period. It looked like the biggest numbers seemed to come from Poland; other Central and Eastern European states and the former USSR; and South America. Of course, that may have changed now that some of those are EU member states — who knows. I’d be interested to see updated statistics, though.

  7. Emily says:

    Hello everyone,

    I have another update if anyone is interested.

    After going to the consulate and trying to get the passport without name declaration I was turned around and told to come back with extra documents for the name declaration.

    I did that, made another appointment, and when I arrived they told me that my parent’s marriage certificate was not the ‘official’ one. Apparently the one my parents were given when they married is more of a church document than an official government document.

    I had to beg them to keep my applications open and just allow me to send the final marriage certificate in since I had to take time off work every time I drove in to Toronto.

    Long story short, the Consular official made an exception and I mailed certified copies in (after a painful strike from Canada Post which delayed it quite a bit).

    Anyways I can REALLY see the light at the tunnel now, and am hoping to have my passport soon since they are doing the name declaration and passport application concurrently.

    Any other Canadians here with experience of passport applications? Or name declaration at the same time as passport application? They said up to 12 weeks but I’m heading over to Europe in mid-February and would be so happy if I have my passport for then. I’m hoping it’s as quick as it was for those of you in the US and overseas.

  8. Eric says:

    After a year and a half of waiting patiently, I checked the mail today and found a letter from the consulate stating they were able to establish my German citizenship!

    I was so worried that they had lost my application or that it was taking so long because they had difficult getting all of the information they needed.

    My dad was an ethnic German war refugee from Hungary so I had what I thought might be limited information as far as his citizenship was concerned.

    Once I applied I tried to track down some information in Germany as far as his refugee document number might be but had no luck so I was really expecting a request for more information.

    Absolutely thrilled, only wish I had checked the mail yesterday so it would have been my Christmas present but oh well.

    I sent an email to my parents with the letter and they called crying they were so happy lol. Sappy old people…

    Now once I get the certificate I’ll start working on establishing my kid’s German citizenship and apply for my passport.

    Thanks for all the help through the process. For those of you still going through it best of luck!

    FYI – I applied June 22, 2017 in Toronto and the date on the letter was November 28, 2018. It would have arrived in the mail here in Canada late last week but I only check the mail once a week or so.

    • Eric says:

      As fro payin the 25 Euro fee, did everyone pretty much go through their bank to pay the fee? I think us Canadians are restricted as to whatt Ian available. Someone mentioned Transferwise in a previous post. Any luck with that or another service?

    • Steve says:

      Great news! Congratulations Eric!

      • Eric says:

        Thanks Steve – can anyone share how they had their certificate mailed to them? They say they can send via regular post or that I can send them a pre-stamped envelope with tracking to them and they’ll send it that way.

        Is the certificate the size of a standard size of paper? I would prefer it not to be bent or folded so I figured I would send them a full-size express envelope to send the certificate to me but wondering what others did…

        • Spencer Hahn says:

          They are printed on standard European size paper (slightly narrower and longer than 8 1/2 x 11). The Atlanta consulate required either pick up or prepaid FedEx (it fit fine in one of those FedEx cardboard envelopes). Get a prepaid USPS cardboard envelope (priority) and you should be fine.

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      I know I’m late to see this, but congrats Eric!

  9. Eric says:

    Thank you very much Spencer. So you just got a prepaid cardboard envelope and mailed it to them in another cardboard envelope or just sent it regular mail?

    • Spencer Hahn says:

      For my certificate, I mailed them proof that I wired money to Germany, along with a money order for the FedEx fee (it was around $18–the consulate gave me the instructions). They sent it in the cardboard envelope.

      When I went for my passport appointment, they had me fill out the address form on the same type of envelope and pay the fee via credit card. All passports are printed in Germany and sent via the consulate.

  10. Eric says:

    Fantastic, thank you very much Spencer!

  11. Linda B says:

    I got my letter from the Chicago consulate today confirming my and childrens’ German citizenship! So excited!

    For a recap of the timing…
    Applied 25.Aug 17.

    Got response in June 2018 requesting proof my Dad and Grandpa never became Austrian while they lived there for 7 years after WW2. Took me until Sept to gather the proof from the Austrian town they lived in. Sent documents to BVA 12.Sept 2018.

    Received letter confirming German citizenship of me and my children dated today, 17.Jan 2018.

    Now, to send 75 Euro for three certificates and go get them. I’ll probably do it in person so I can apply for a passport at the same time.

    WooHoo. I’m still grinning.

  12. Another Steve says:


    I’m happy to report that I received a positive determination from the BVA last week; I’m officially a German citizen. All in all, the process took a bit more than ten months for me from the time of filing.

    I’ve wired the fee for the citizenship certificate (so here’s hoping that went smoothly…), and I’m now compiling the documents I need to obtain the certificate as well as my passport and ID card. I have an appointment at the Embassy in Washington later this month to take care of that. Very much looking forward to this next chapter…

    Thanks again for all of your insights!


    • Steve says:

      Great news – congratulations!

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      Congrats! That’s amazing. I hope you have your certificate in-hand soon. 🙂

    • Eric says:

      Awesome news Steve, congrats!

      I worried about the wire as well but once I sent them a copy of my wire receipt they sent my certificate. The wire system certainly is a antiquated way of sending money in a modern world!

      • Another Steve says:

        Thanks, everybody.

        @Eric Yeah, it does seem a bit pony express, but who am I to argue. I’ve been told that I can pick up my certificate at the Embassy during my passport appointment. I wouldn’t care to have to repeat a long trip to DC, but I’m just happy to have received a positive determination. Anything at this point is just hoops. And as I said, they’ve been helpful and easy to deal with down there so far, so, fingers crossed…

  13. Steve says:

    Just heard from the German Embassy in London that after 1 year and 4 months my sister and my two adult children all now have German citizenship too. Great day!

    Good luck to everyone waiting!

    • Another Steve says:

      Steve, great news. They must be having a surge of productivity in Cologne! (Or, perhaps there has been a fall-off in caseload…)

    • Eric says:

      Glad to hear the wait is finally over! I’m in the process of gathering the documents needed for my children’s applications and will be heading to Toronto in the next month or so to apply for them

      My application took about 18 months but hoping theirs won’t take as long as it should be straightforward but there really isn’t any rush for it so not a big deal either way

      I’m going to be applying for my passport and ID card at the same time, anxious to see how that goes!

    • Mike Delfino says:

      Congrats Steve.!! That’s excellent news.!!

      How did the Embassy communicate the good news, was it simply an email saying “your certificate is here, come’ get it” ? 🙂

      I can only imagine how happy you and your family must be… Time to celebrate!!


      • Steve says:

        Hi Mike,

        Thank you!

        Yes, they received an email from the Embassy in London yesterday (13th) in which the original letter from the BVA was attached as a pdf. The letter was dated the 6th February. The email contains instructions for how to transfer the €25 (to a bank in Germany) and says they should send a stamped, self-addressed (A4) envelope to the Embassy so that the certificate can be mailed to them.

        They are all over the moon about it, as was I when I got mine. 🙂

  14. Linda B says:

    So I have an appointment in two weeks to pick up my certificate of citizenship, make a name declaration and apply for passport and id card.

    I was told I need to make a name declaration because my current married name is different than my birth certificate.

    I forgot to ask, but I’m sure y’all know here: do I need 2 pictures each for passport and id card (4 total) or just two pictures when I apply for both at the same time?

    Thanks, and wish me luck!

    • Another Steve says:

      Hi, Linda:

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but I also have appointments scheduled and I am assuming two passport photos for each. I actually had them taken in Germany in the fall (within six months, so still valid, according to the Embassy), and they came out on a card with four identical photos.

      Good luck,


  15. Linda B says:

    So even though the web site said 2 photos, they only needed one at the Chicago consulate. I applied for a passport and the lady there talked me out of a personalausweis, saying I didn’t need it unless I lived in Europe. Maybe one day.

    As for the name declaration I was wondering about, I had it all filled out and notarized with my and my husband’s signatures, and all the supporting documents…Marriage and birth certificates and passports of both of us. She copied all the documents and certified their authenticity, then looked at the date of our marriage (1977). She checked with a co-worker and confirmed that with marriages before 1991, the wife automatically took on the husband’s last name, so no declaration was needed, especially since my US passport and driver’s license have my married name.

    The Staatsangehorigkeitsausweis is issued as Linda B geb. D

    Marriages after 1991 have to declare a Family name per German law. Whole family gets either husband or wife’s last name and the spouse who gives up their name can append the pre-marriage name to the family name with a hyphen. For a larger fee, you can use name law from the country of a non-german spouse, so US duals can keep maiden name or move maiden name to middle name, etc.

    • Another Steve says:

      Ha, “For a larger fee…” And, there it is.

      Thanks for sharing this. I was also down at the Embassy in Washington last week, and they only wound up taking one of my photos. I was also talked out of a Personalausweis, on the basis that it is less expensive in Germany and that, in any event, I would have to go back to Washington to pick it up if I applied for it there.

      Passport application is in the works. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this (although probably, in this thread!), but a copy of the bank wire receipt for the transfer was required for the citizenship certificate (at least in my case).

      All in all, a positive experience.

      • George says:

        Regarding a Personalausweis: I think that saving a few dollars is a bad reason not to get one, if that is a person’s only reason. When you are in Germany, you won’t be able to apply for one until you are registered at an address. I think that you are perceived to be more like a local when you show a Personalausweis instead of a Reisepass. Even if you only intend to travel in Europe (not live there), the convenience of having a Personalausweiss is worth the extra money, which I think is less than $20.

        • Linda B says:

          George, Unfortunately I don’t think I will ever be mistaken for a local. My German born father thought it would confuse his children if he spoke German to us when we were young. Now that I’m 60 years old he has recognized the error of his thinking and is trying to teach me the language. I would classify my language ability as survival level at this time. I would survive in Germany without a translator, but I would miss 75% of what is said. 🙁

  16. John says:

    I have a question about military service and loss of German citizenship. It says that voluntarily joining the armed forces or similar armed organization of a foreign country means you automatically lose your right to German citizenship.

    Looking at the information on the German consulate in Toronto, it states “Since January 1st, 2000, German citizens who voluntarily join the armed forces of a country other than Germany, of which they are also a citizen, without receiving prior permission from the Federal Ministry for Defense, automatically lose their German citizenship according to paragraph 28 of the German citizenship act.”

    A couple questions concerning this in case anyone knows.

    1. What do they mean by “similar armed organization”? Would a police officer or customs officer meet that definition and thus lose their citizenship? I am assuming they mean some kind of militia or para-military organization that isn’t the actual armed forces of a country but they could also mean any profession that is armed.
    2. They state “since 2000”. So does that mean someone that joined the armed forces before 2000 does not lose their citizenship or would they apply that retroactively?

    I am a customs officer but joined in 1998 – not sure if that a) qualifies as a “similar armed organization” or b) applies to me either way given I was hired in 1998

    I think I saw a post in this thread at some point where someone who had previous US military service was given citizenship which surprised me at the time but maybe it was because it was before 2000?

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      I’m not sure what qualifies as a similar armed organization, but your best bet is probably to reach out to someone at your nearest consulate or mission. I was told years ago that they’d often make exceptions as long as you weren’t in the military of a foreign adversary. But that might be another one of those things where information will vary based on what rep you speak to.

      The permission rules are a bit scattered. For example, the “after 2000” bit has to do only with military service that’s beyond the compulsory in your other country. And after 2011, permission became automatic if you joined the military of certain allied countries (including NATO countries). I just looked over the 1913 law that I believe extended until the 2000 rules came into effect, and I didn’t see anything there about losing citizenship automatically because of foreign armed service involvement. Perhaps someone else here has come up against this and can confirm or correct though.

      • George says:

        Hi John,
        The German government created the rule about 2000 in order to strip the citizenship of residents with dual citizenship who went off to fight in wars that Germany didn’t approve of. I can’t imagine that it applies to police or customs officers. I have a brother who joined the US military in the 1980’s, and he received his citizenship certificate in less than one year after he applied. I applied two years before him.
        Good luck!

  17. John says:

    Is it just me or have most of the comments on this thread disappeared? It says there is over 900 comments, but after Jenn’s original comments it only shows comments from late 2018 onwards?

    Am I missing something?

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      All the comments are still here. The server was just showing too much load time on this page because it was loading over 900 comments on top of the original page, so they’re broken up now. The most recent discussion is visible first I believe (newest comment at the bottom by the comment form). At the top and bottom of the comments section you’ll see a link to show “older comments.” That loads the next set.

      • John says:

        Jenn and George, thank you very much for your responses, I think tat makes a lot of sense but I will check with the consulate to be sure. Unfortunately, as a government official myself, I know different officials tend to give different answers and it really only matters what the BVA has to say.

        George – I think your brother’s case is the one I had in mind. If his military service didn’t matter because of the timeframe hopefully it would be applied to me one way or another

        Jenn – don’t know what happened but I looked everywhere earlier and couldn’t see anything about older posts. I see it now, so either it was a systems glitch when I looked at it or I was blind. Probably me!

  18. Jenn Mattern says:

    I hate to do it to you, but if you were subscribed to receive comments via email previously, you’ll need to tick the checkbox again to receive new ones.

    The plugin that used to manage it was severely outdated. And it was no longer safe to continue running it on my server.

    I am not a fan of subscribe-via-email plugins for this platform because they can cause plenty of problems sending mail directly from the server rather than from my usual newsletter services which I use on professional sites. But I know many of you like to follow this conversation and others’ journeys.

    I can’t promise the option will stay, but we’ll give this new one a trial run and if it works on the user-end and is better maintained on the developer-end, I’ll leave it up.

  19. Maria says:

    Can anyone advise on this situation? My niece is trying to get dual citizenship. She studies in Germany and would like to work there, but doesn’t want to lose her U.S. citizenship. Her grandfather and great grandfather were born in Germany and we can prove the lineage going back to before 1914. Her father was born in the U.S. and is technically a dual citizen by birth (because he was born to a German father before 1975), however, he has not gotten any official paperwork establishing his German citizenship and has no desire to do so at this time. He never served in the U.S. military and, as far as I know, has done nothing to lose his German citizenship.

    So my question is, can my niece get her German citizenship even though she will not have any documentation showing that her father is a dual US-German citizen by birth? We have all the documentation for grandparents and great-grandparents, and I was able to successfully establish my dual citizenship with them.

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      Hi Maria,

      Your daughter’s situation sounds a lot like mine. My grandfather was a German immigrant. My father was entitled to dual-citizenship by birth, but he never knew or got any documentation. We’re not even in touch, and his situation didn’t affect my application in any way.

      What matters is that her father was born before her grandfather would have become a US citizen (if he did). That’s why my brothers and I are dual-citizens, but none of my cousins are — their parents were born after my grandfather lost his German citizenship.

      If that’s the case for your daughter, she should be able to apply as long as she can get general records related to her father (she’ll need her birth certificate to show she’s her father’s child, and she’ll need his birth certificate to show he’s her German grandfather’s child).

      If she applies for a German passport, they may ask for her father’s passport (even US one). I simply informed them my father and I are estranged and I didn’t even know if he had one. And they managed to process things just fine.

      Best of luck to your daughter!

  20. Mike says:

    So a bit of a long shot but I have a question for Steve from HKG…. since alerts are disabled he might not see this, but hey let’s give it a try… maybe someone else knows 🙂

    Steve when your kids made their application, did they provided only your certificate of citizenship or did they also send the papers dating back to your dad who I understand is the person that passed on the citizenship to you?

    I’m trying to figure out who would be the “First German” in the case of your kids… and if its needed to go back several generations or only 1 considering you have your citizenship certificate and passport.

    Hope that makes sense… Thank you!!

    • Steve says:

      Hi Mike,

      I pop by this website every week or so because I got a lot of help from it in the past and I like to try and pass on any advice I can. 🙂

      I searched back through my email correspondence with the German Embassy in London and I found an exchange that asked that very question. In fact, the first response seemed a bit unclear to me and I specifically replied and asked “so am I correct in thinking they only need the Form V for me and not for my father, since the link between me and my father has already been established?”. And the reply to this stated that yes, only a Form V with my information was necessary.

      I had hoped that, since my own successful application was only a year previous, their applications would be fast since they need not check beyond me. Unfortunately that proved not to be the case and their application was only successful after 1 year 5 months. Anyway, better late than never!

      Hope that helped and good luck!

      • Mike says:

        Many thanks Steve.!!!!

        That makes perfect sense, since you are now “officially” German there is no need to go further back on the family tree… 🙂

        Really appreciate the response, this helps a great deal.

        And great to see that you are still around… I will post my own story soon, hopefully tomorrow, so stay tuned! 🙂

        Cheers from London.


  21. Karl-Heinz says:

    So now for something different. A German citizen, working in the USA for many years with a Green Card is very interested in becoming a dual citizen with the USA. I know the route going from USA naturalization to German Citizenship and am currently a Dual citizen myself. However, I’m clueless as to how to go about this in the opposite direction. Any ideas?

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      They would just go through the standard naturalization process here. While our oath of allegiance implies they’re swearing full loyalty to the US, the US government doesn’t make anyone formally renounce their original citizenship (similar to how naturalizing in another country, no matter what you say to them, doesn’t cause you to officially renounce your US citizenship). But when living here, they’d be treated as an entirely US citizen — need a US passport to enter and leave the country, can’t go to the German consulate for help if they get in trouble with US authorities, etc.

      What matters is the other country’s policy. If Germany still says you lose German citizenship by willingly taking on another citizenship, then they’d be out of luck. They might be able to seek some kind of exception from the German officials, but they’d need to do that before becoming a naturalized US citizen.

    • George says:

      They can get permission to keep their German citizenship. It’s called Beibehaltungsgenehmigung. But, they have to ask beforehand. It depends on whether they can demonstrate a strong connection to Germany.

      • Karl-Heinz says:

        Thank you George. My friend was born in Germany and is of German decent. The family still lives there. She has a lifelong green card for her to live and work in the USA.

  22. Maria D says:

    There’s a Facebook group called “Selbsthilfegruppe dualcitizenship US-Deutsch” that might be helpful.

  23. Karl-Heinz says:

    Many thinks – I forwarded the link and information – and wished them Viel Glück

  24. George says:

    My brother went to the consulate in NYC to apply for a citizenship certificate. I and another brother received ours via Houston in 2016. A different brother received his via San Francisco in 2017. In NYC, my brother was told by Fabian that he can’t just refer to my file number for documentation. I told my brother to clarify that. Does anybody know of an applicant successfully referring to an application approved 3 or more years ago for documentation?

    • Jenn Mattern says:

      I’m not sure what’s changed since then, but years ago I believe what they told me was that I’d have to go with my brothers and bring my documentation. I think they said I’d show my birth certificate and my brothers would need to do the same to show we both had the same father and such. But it might vary based on the office, and I know there were some records changes a while back (so the notorized copies of things I made for my brothers are no good because they waited — they want originals now, and I don’t think we can get them again from my grandmother).

      • George says:

        Hi Jenn,
        Sorry to learn about your problem with documents. Maybe my brother should apply directly to the BVA and take the chance that they might ask for more documents?

        • Jenn Mattern says:

          My grandmother’s just protective. I was lucky. She lived in NYC at the time so she went with me to the consulate so they were barely out of her sight. Now she moved quite far away, and I’m not sure she’d send them to my brothers who would have to apply in NY as well. Fingers crossed.

          And that might work. The worst that’ll happen is that they ask for more. But I’d have him mention you, your case number, and send a copy of your birth certificate to make things easier (just to prove your relation in case they do find your records).

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