Forth Act Amending the Nationality Act

The following is an excerpt translation of the publication of the German Bundestag published on April 4, 2021. If passed it will have a profound impact on many people, who were thus far not able to German citizenship!

Fourth Act Amending the Nationality Act

The Fourth Act to Amend the Nationality Act (the German “Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz”) will create statutory rights regarding the restitution of German citizenship. On August 30, 2019, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building, and the Homeland had enacted regulations by which descendants of Nazi victims who suffered disadvantages under the German citizenship law but do not fall under the entitlement in Article 116, paragraph 2 of the Basic Law (GG, can obtain German citizenship. Children of German and former German citizens who were excluded from acquiring German citizenship due to gender-discriminatory laws manner at birth before January 1, 1975, or July 1, 1993, as well as their descendants, were also taken into account. These regulations have been very positively received by those affected. Now, in a second step, the provisions of the regulations are to be transformed into statutory claims, thus creating a new legal framework for the right to restitution of German citizenship in the (German) Nationality Act. The legal anchoring is also intended to give the reparation regulations the symbolic importance demanded by the victims.

The new legal framework includes:

1.a) a statutory entitlement to restitution of German citizenship in Section 15 for persons who were affected by National Socialist measures of persecution but have no entitlement to reacquisition of German citizenship under the restitution provision of Article 116(2) of the Basic Law because they were not formally expatriated. These are persons who, in connection with measures of persecution for the reasons listed in the first sentence of Article 116 (2) of the Basic Law, gave up or lost their German nationality in the period from January 30, 1933, to May 8, 1945, or were unable to acquire it. All those case constellations are also expressly regulated which, according to the enactment, were only included on the merits or in individual cases (persons excluded from collective naturalization, long-term residents in Germany or persons born without German citizenship who were also exposed to or threatened by the persecution measures of the National Socialist regime and had to leave Germany). The right to naturalization also applies to all descendants. This also includes children adopted before January 1, 1977, who were not able to acquire German citizenship through adoption, but who, like biological children, were affected by the after-effects of the persecution and are therefore included under reparation aspects. For descendants of persons entitled under Article 116(2) of the Basic Law who were excluded from acquiring German citizenship by descent under the law of the time due to gender-specific unequal treatment (legitimate children of German mothers/foreign fathers; illegitimate children of German fathers/foreign mothers), the Federal Constitutional Court ruled in its decision of May 20, 2020 – 2 BvR 2628/18 – that the Federal Administrative Court’s restrictive interpretation of Article 116(2) of the Basic Law does not withstand constitutional review. This group of persons therefore has a direct claim to re-naturalization under Article 116(2) of the Basic Law; thus, no further statutory regulation is required in this respect.  

1.b) a ten-year right of declaration in Section 5, by means of which all persons affected by the discriminatory descent regulations at the time and their descendants, with and without a background of Nazi persecution, are to be given sufficient time to be able to claim German citizenship by simple declaration. All those born from the time the Basic Law came into force (and therefore constitutionally binding) until the unconstitutional regulations on the acquisition of descent were amended, and their descendants, are entitled to claim German citizenship.

1.c) the exclusion of the so-called generational cut-off point from the scope of application of Article 116(2) of the Basic Law and of the new entitlement to re-naturalization in Section 15. The generation cut was introduced into Section 4(4) on January 1, 2000 and restricts the acquisition of descent for children born abroad. This had the effect that children of parents who were themselves born abroad after December 31, 1999, no longer have a claim under Article 116(2) of the Basic Law. § Section 4 (4) is therefore to be amended to the effect that the generational cut off point does not apply in cases of reparation for National Socialist injustice, so that these claims will not be subject to a time limit in the future either.

In addition, descendants of a German citizen who acquired German citizenship on the basis of Article 116(2) of the Basic Law or under Section 15, or who would have had a claim under these provisions if they had not otherwise acquired German citizenship, shall be exempt from the generational cut-off point in the case of acquisition of descent abroad.

This Act also contains a need for technical amendments. This is the result of case law and information from the citizenship authorities. Existing legal uncertainties for legal practice are to be eliminated and at the same time simplifications and clarifications are to be made. Among other things, these include:

  • Easier naturalization of spouses of Germans abroad, which in future will also be possible outside of posting constellations if there is a public interest in the German spouse working abroad (Section 14, Sentence 2).
  • Conducting a determination procedure (existence/non-existence of German citizenship) only in the case of a “material interest worthy of protection” (Section 30 (1)), in order to avoid abusive claims.


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