NEW § 15 StAG German citizenship on grounds of restitution
NEW § 15 StAG German citizenship on grounds of restitution
NEW: With the entry into force of the 4th Citizenship Amendment Act on August 20, 2021, there are further options for obtaining German citizenship. This includes victims of Nazi persecution and their descendants within the scope of restoration, if they have suffered disadvantages in terms of nationality as a result of the persecution but do not meet the requirements of Article 116(2) of the German Basic Law (“GG”).
1. What is the new § 15 StAG dated 20th August 2021 all about and what is the benefit?
The new law broadens eligibility to persons seeking to restore their German citizenship through naturalization* on grounds of restitution. This applies to persons, as well as their descendants, who lost or were denied their German citizenship due to Nationalist Socialist persecution. Although Article 116(2) GG allows the restoration of citizenship for victims of National Socialist persecution, many applications were rejected because they were not deprived of it. Pursuant to the new §15, even those persons who lost their citizenship before it was officially revoked, or for other reasons were never able to acquire it, have a right to naturalization for restitution. (“Wiedergutmachungseinbürgerung”).
2. What is the difference between § 15 StAG and Art. 116 (German Basic Law)?
15 StAG essentially allows persons, whose claim otherwise falls outside the scope of Article 116(2) GG, to now proceed with a claim for naturalization as a matter of right. Article 116(2) GG covers persons who were “deprived” of their citizenship due to “political, racial or religious grounds” based on two specific decrees, which directly and immediately resulted in the loss of German citizenship.
Such loss occurred either (1) pursuant to Section 2 of the 11th Decree Implementing the Reich Citizens Act of 25 November 1941 which applied to all German citizens considered to be of Jewish faith residing outside of Germany when the ordinance entered into force or later or (2) pursuant to the Act on Revocation of Naturalizations and Deprivation of German Citizenship of 14 July 1933. Such individual cases of deprivation were published in the Reich Gazette (Reichsanzeiger).
However, many people lost their citizenship because of other reasons. For example, they left Germany and acquired another citizenship prior to the enactment of the decrees, or a descendant was born to a German mother and a non-German father, which also precluded a claim under Article 116(2) GG to such descendants at that time. Thus, you (or your ancestor) may now be eligible to have your German citizenship restored according to §15 StAG, even if your (or your ancestor’s) citizenship was not considered “deprived” under Article 116(2) GG, but was lost for other reasons, or due to an impediment to acquire it.
3. Who may be naturalized according to § 15 StAG ?
- renounced or lost their German citizenship before 26th February 1955, especially if this occurred via naturalization upon application in another country;
- were legally excluded from acquiring German citizenship through marriage, legitimation or the collective naturalization of Germans between 30th January 1933 to 8th May 1945;
- were either not granted naturalization upon application, or were generally excluded from naturalization, assuming this would have been possible had an application been made; or,
- either lost or gave up their ordinary residence in Germany, as the borders existed at 31st December 1937, as long as such residence had been established prior to 30th January 1933, or even after 30th January 1933 if such person was a child at the time.
4. I (my ancestor) never held German citizenship. Can I apply according to Section 15 StAG?
Yes, this is possible. The new law eliminates the inequities that many applicants faced under Article 116(2) GG where a person may not have been able to acquire citizenship because they were (1) not granted naturalization or (2) were excluded from naturalization or (3) gave up or lost their ordinary residence. They were thus not “deprived” of citizenship because they did not legally hold it. For example, if you ancestor gave up or lost her or his residence in Germany – provided that residence was established prior to January 30th1933 – subsequent descendants may apply for German citizenship. In cases where your ancestor was a child during this time, the residence may have been established even after January 30th 1933.
In other words, a grandchild or great grandchild etc. may apply, even though their ancestors (who may have even been a minor child at the time) never had German citizenship.
5. Are descendants of the above persons entitled to apply according to Section 15 StAG ?
Yes, the right to re-naturalization based on grounds of restitution extends to the descendants of such persons and includes also descendants who were adopted before January 1, 1977 by eligible persons. The right to naturalize under this section seeks to provide redress and put the applicant in the position he/she would have been but for the loss (or non-acquisition) of citizenship in their lineage due to Nazi persecution.
6. Are there any exclusions to applying for citizenship under the new law?
Certain serious criminal offenses will usually render a person ineligible to acquire citizenship. Also, if after having had your citizenship granted in a restoration process based on persecution, you subsequently renounce or release your acquired German citizenship, or acquire a foreign citizenship via application, you may not apply under §15. However, an exception applies, and you remain eligible, if you acquired German citizenship after 8th May 1945 and lost it before 1st April 1953 as the result of a marriage to a foreigner or through legitimation by a foreigner. However, in very limited circumstances, it still may be possible to pursue a discretionary restoration process.
7. Do I need to speak German and when do I acquire German citizenship?
No. There is no language requirement, and you acquire German citizenship on the day the Federal Office of Administration approves your completed application.
8. Do I have to give up my current citizenship on acquiring German citizenship?
No, not necessarily. The loss or retention of your existing citizenship is governed by the law of the country of your current citizenship. You may retain your current citizenship(s) as long as the law of your current home country allows dual/multiple citizenship. You must consult with the competent authorities in your country of origin prior to submitting your application to determine whether your existing citizenship will be affected by the acquisition of German citizenship.
9. I’d like to apply without a lawyer. Is that okay?
There is no requirement to apply with legal representation. Moreover, the German government also recognizes its historic obligation to make reparations in these cases. Nevertheless, the restoration of citizenship process involves a great deal of documentation and paperwork, as well as a lengthy multipage form that must be accurately and thoroughly completed, in order to ensure the Federal Office can make a proper decision on your case. Additionally, the eligibility categories and cut off dates often present challenges and are intertwined with other laws. We can determine whether the section 15 Nationality Act procedure is the appropriate pathway for your individual situation. We have decades of experience in complex citizenship matters and have followed these new laws closely.
*Note: We have adopted herein the American spelling, although we note that many of our readers are accustomed to seeing the British spelling: Naturalisation.
These FAQs reflect questions that have frequently arisen in our practice. Each case is different, and the FAQs do not replace legal advice.