German-US Dual Citizenship: Process and FAQs
Getting your German-US Dual Citizenship is quite a confusing and time-consuming process. Since I just recently went through this process of becoming a German/US Dual Citizen, I wanted to share my personal experience, resources I found helpful and answer some of the most important questions that I have received from my readers about the whole ordeal.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that I am not a lawyer or German-US Dual Citizenship immigration expert. When you go through the process, please always check the official government websites and find the most up-to-date information.
German-US Dual Citizenship: How to keep your German Citizenship
If you want to keep your German citizenship after becoming a US citizen, you will need to apply for the so-called “Beibehaltungsgenehmigung (BBG)”. This is an application to the German state in which you prove that you still have ties to Germany and that you currently experience disadvantages by not having US citizenship.
IMPORTANT: If you become a US citizen before you receive your BBG, you will lose your German citizenship!
Here are the steps to keep your German citizenship:
- Fill out Beibehaltungsgenehmigungsform (yes, this is one word in German!) and add supporting evidence (see more details below)
- Send 2 sets of copies to the German consulate responsible for where you live
- You will receive notification that your application has been sent to the BVA (Bundesverwaltungsamt) in Cologne for final approval or they will request additional supporting evidence to make your case stronger. In general, the local consulate will only forward your application to Cologne, if it has high chances of being approved. At the moment, the approximate wait time for your BBG application in Cologne is 9-12 months, so plan accordingly.
- You will then receive notification whether your application was successful or not and if it was, when your confirmation (Beibehaltungsurkunde) will be available for pickup at your local consulate. If it was not successful, you can resubmit your application with additional evidence or reasons to support your application.
- If your application was successful, you can wire the fee (currently 255 EUR and 51 EUR for each minor if you file together). You will need proof of payment to pick up your confirmation of the Beibehaltungsurkunde.
- When you pick up your Beibehaltungsurkunde, you will have 2 years from the day of pickup to receive your foreign citizenship. If you don’t receive your citizenship within this time frame, you need to apply for an extension of your Beibehaltungsurkunde.
You have to fill out this form to apply for the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung and add supporting documents to prove your case. Filling out the form is pretty straightforward.
The only points where you have to truly elaborate are questions 5 & 6, so I will add some of the arguments that I have used as well as what I have heard other’s have used in their successful applications. It is important though that you personalize these arguments and that they fit for your life. So don’t just copy paste these arguments, but find the ones that make sense in your case and why they apply to your life.
BBG Question 5: Evidence of current connections to Germany
- Short biography and how much time of your life you spent in Germany.
- Financial assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investments etc.
- Close connection with family and friends (include dates and duration of visits from German relatives and friends in the US).
- Claim to retirement/pension.
- Travels to Germany (include dates and duration of recent travels to Germany).
- List with name, address, and phone number of your closest family and friends, what kind of contact (phone, email, Social Media, visits, etc) and how often you have contact.
- Option to return to Germany in the future.
BBG Question 6: Disadvantages as a Non-US Citizen
- Limited time allowed to live abroad. As a Permanent Resident, you cannot give up your residency in the US, or you will lose your Residency Permit. This means prolonged vacations or time in Germany is not possible without being a US citizen.
- As a Permanent Resident, you cannot petition for your family members to receive permanent resident status, so, for example, it is not possible to bring your aging parents to the US to take care of them.
- A disadvantage in Inheritance Taxation, as a foreign spouse has a much lower taxation exemption than a US Citizen spouse.
- Certain jobs are only accessible for US citizens. This is probably the most important reason. You can find jobs that require US citizenship here. Make sure that you select jobs that you are qualified for, so do not list jobs require qualifications you don’t have. Search for jobs in any location, as it is quite common in the US to move for a job offer and it is plausible. You don’t necessarily need to be looking for a job in real life, but if you find a job that you would qualify for, this is a valid reason and should be included in your application.
- Certain scholarships are for US Citizens only.
- Separation by nationality during natural disasters, war or political unrest.
- Certain certifications, government loans and support, such as Women-owned Business or Minority-owned business, etc require US Citizenship.
- Non-US citizens often face discrimination in custody disputes in US courts.
As additional proof, I also submitted the following documents:
- notarized copy of my German passport
- notarized copy of my US residency card
- Home title (real estate in Germany)
- Bank statements
- Investment statements
- German Life insurance policy
- Transcripts and diplomas from schools, university, apprenticeship and internships
- Job postings for relevant jobs that require US citizenship
How much does the BBG cost?
Currently (April 2019), the fee for the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung is 255 EUR and 51 EUR for each minor child that files with you. However, there are additional costs for notarization of documents, postage, etc.
Where do I send my BBG application?
You need to send your BBG application to the US Consulate responsible for the state you live in. You can find the right consulate here.
Do I have to send notarized copies?
Only the copies of your German passport and US residency permit (Green Card) need to be notarized.
Can I apply for my BBG from Germany?
People report various outcomes. In the past, applications from within Germany were rarely successful, but in the most recent months, they seem to have been approved more easily. My advice is to contact the BVA in Cologne directly if you have any questions and discuss your individual case.
Contact Info BVA – Dual Citizenship
Phone: +49 (0)228 99 358 2846 Email: Thomas.Hoeveler@bva.bund.de
German-US Dual Citizenship: How to apply for US Citizenship
After you pick up your Beibehaltungsurkunde from the German consulate, you can tackle the next step in your German-US Dual Citizenship journey:
You can apply for US Citizenship if you qualify for it. To qualify, you need to have had your permanent residency for a minimum of 3 years (marriage) or 5 years, if you received it through other means.
You also have to fulfill the physical presence requirements and have been present in the US for more than 18 months within the past 3 years, or 30 months within the past 5 years. There are some exceptions for example if you went abroad “on orders” through the military, so if you are not sure about your case, you can read about it here.
Here are the steps to apply for US Citizenship:
- Fill out US Citizenship Application form.
- Add required documents (Click here to download a full list of required documents) + payment (currently $ 640) and send to the office responsible for your state.
- You will then receive a notification that your application was received and you were entered into the system.
- Within a couple of weeks (usually), you will receive your notice for your Biometrics appointment. They will take your finger prints and photos.
- After your biometrics appointment, you will most likely wait for a few months and then receive the notice for your Citizenship interview.
- After you pass your citizenship interview, you will be sworn in as a US citizen. This can either happen the day of your interview or at an Oath Ceremony at a later date. If you have not picked up your Beibehaltungsurkunde before you are sworn in as a US Citizen, you will lose your German citizenship.
US Citizenship Interview and Test
Many applicants are afraid of the US Citizenship Interview and test and I think it is normal to be a bit nervous about it.
However, the test is not difficult and I have never heard of anyone who did not pass the test. To calm your nerves, I’ll tell you exactly what happened in my US Citizenship Interview and Test, ok?
Arrival and Check-in
My appointment was set for 8.40 in the morning and I arrived about 10 minutes early. I checked in and received my call number. After about 30 minutes, my number was called to one of the windows, but unfortunately, the government worker had just pressed the wrong number. He told me to sit down and wait again and that my number should be up shortly. After another 30 minutes, I inquired at the front desk and they had told me that my number was accidentally deleted when the other man made the mistake and called the wrong number. So my number was added back in and after about 10 more minutes, I was called from the waiting area.
The lady that was going to do the interview with me was very nice and friendly. We chitchatted on the way to her office and when we got there, she swore me in to say the truth and nothing but the truth.
Interview and Citizenship Test
First, I had to say a sentence in English and then write down the same sentence. I think my sentence was: The White House is in Washington DC. The next step was the dreaded US Immigration test. You have to know 6 out of 10 questions that are pulled from a pool of 100 questions total. Most of these questions are very easy, such as “Name 2 states that border Mexico.” or “Which ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?”.
Citizenship Test Questions & Citizenship Test App
Some of them are a bit more difficult, but it is a great way to learn a bit more about US history and the political process in the United States. You can download the list of questions here.
You can also download an app on your phone to practice the questions. Just make sure that you search for the most current version, as they change some of the questions every year. I listened to the app a few times and filtered the ones that I did not know, so I could repeat and practice them more often.
After I passed my test, she asked me to add my A-number to all pages of my application, which I had forgotten. Next, we went through my application, step by step and she asked me a few questions. She also asked me about a speeding ticket, which I had not mentioned in my application, because I did not know that a ticket is a citation. I think she saw that it was an honest mistake and let it slide.
After that, she said that my application was successful and that I would receive an invitation to my oath ceremony in the next 2-3 weeks. If you are interested, you can read about my oath ceremony and my feelings about becoming a US Citizen here.
German-US Dual Citizenship Timeline
UPDATE: Please note that waiting times, especially for the BBG application have gone up in a lot in the past 2 years. The average wait time for the BBG is now 9-12 months and the US Citizenship time (depending on where you are applying) is between 4-12 months).
My personal Timeline in 2015/2016:
Beginning of April 2015: Sent in my BBG Application to German Consulate in Houston
End of April 2015: Email from German Consulate from Houston with a request for phone numbers of German relatives and friends
Beginning of May 2015: BBG Application forwarded to Cologne
Beginning of July 2015: BBG Application approved in Cologne
Beginning of October 2015: Application US Citizenship
End of October 2015: Biometrics
End of January 2016: US Citizenship Interview and Test
End of February 2016: US Citizenship Oath Ceremony
Please note that currently the BBG process is taking approximately 6-9 months, so please take that into account!
German-US Dual Citizenship Resources
Facebook Group: Selbsthilfegruppe Dual Citizenship (US-Deutsch) (in German) I highly discourage you from joining this group, as the Admin supports racist ideologies and seem to think that German immigrants are better than “other” immigrants.
Yahoo Group 2 Pässe (not just German-US Dual Citizenship, but other countries as well) (in German)
Please remember to do your own research and not blindly trust the info you find online (even in this article). Articles become outdated and people make mistakes, so double check with the official government websites and channels.
Is it worth it – Disadvantages of Dual Citizenship
Going through the German-US Dual Citizenship process is definitely timeconsuming and a bit stressful.
But on the other hand, I now have the freedom to live and work in the United States and Europe. I also have the freedom to raise my (future) children in two cultures and move freely between two continents.
I am very grateful for this option and that I have this opportunity to have German/US Dual Citizenship as it opens so many doors for me and my family. On the other hand, there are only minor disadvantages. For example, double taxation of income higher than ~$110,000/year if you live abroad. But I am currently still a bit away from making that much money and I am currently not living abroad.
Are you going through the German-US Dual Citizenship process right now or have any questions? Feel free to contact me or ask me any additional questions in the comments.
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