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Recs for German Naturalization Lawyer - Discretionary Cases

Hello all,

I am in need of a German lawyer/firm which specializes in special case scenarios for naturalization of (primary) American citizens with rights to having dual German (other nation) citizenship.

Long-story short, my mother was & still remains a German citizen living as a permanent resident in the USA since 1957.  I was born in March 1974 in the US, where my father was/is an American citizen.  In 1974/5 Germany changed their laws.  Prior to 1975 only children of German fathers could obtain dual citizenship.  After Jan 1st 1975, those children born to German mothers, were afforded equal rights.

The law also required German mothers to "claim" their children to German authorities by 1977 to be eligible.  A requirement, of which my mother was not aware, having lived in the US since 1957.

I have applied to the German Consulate, however they have denied the request based on strict interpretation of the aforementioned law.  They are unable to advise further.

I have read elsewhere, the German authorities may afford "discretionary" consideration for special cases, however I am in need of a German lawyer/law firm (in Germany) with experience in these matters, from which to obtain advice and file appropriate supporting evidence.  This service has not been easy to locate given its general rarity in use/application - as well as language barriers.

Thank you for any advice or guidance towards these goals.

There are several web portals for lawyer search, e.g. www.anwalt.de.
Of course they are all in German (as are the laws they deal with and thge proceedings any action will result in).
As far as I understand, you were born before the abovementioned law's validity and thus do not have a right to German citizenship by birth.
The  "discretionary consideration" will be made in cases where the applicant has good reasons to become German citizen (e.g. living there, having close family bounds, or showing good integration status - i.e. good Gereman language and social skills). Since the authorities try to prevent double citizenships, they might also make such a "consideration" conditional on you renouncing any other citizenships, which is in their rights. Are you prepared to do that?
(If not, i.e. if you want to remain US-American, don't waste your time trying to become German!)

I'm reposting below from the Wiki entry about the subject since it goes into pretty good detail. Sounds like you might have missed your chance since your mother did not register you before the end of 1977. Only a lawyer can say if there might be some leeway and understanding that she didn’t know. But officials can also argue that if Germany citizenship had been so important for her child then she would have looked into it herself. If they don’t consider you a native born German, then it sounds doubtful that much consideration would be given for you becoming one.

Like Beppi mentioned, if they consider you American then you would have to give up your American citizenship to get the German one – and usually only after having lived quite a while in Germany with a legal status as a foreigner.

If it is that important it might be worth the effort to try with a lawyer but with the understanding that you probably have no right to German citizenship but maybe there are some loopholes that don’t get officially written up. From my experience, German law is not always so black and white like people think but it takes a person with connections or knowledge to find the exceptions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_nationality_law

A person born of a parent with German citizenship at the time of the child's birth is a German citizen. Place of birth is not a factor in citizenship determination based on parentage.
•    Those born after 1 January 1975 are Germans if the mother or father is a German citizen.
•    Those born before 1 January 1975 could normally only claim German citizenship from the father and not the mother. Exceptions included cases where the parents were unmarried (in which case German mothers could pass on citizenship) or where the German mother applied for the child to be registered as German on or before 31 December 1977.
•    Special rules exist for those born before 1 July 1993 if only the father is German and is not married to the mother. The father must acknowledge paternity and must have married the mother before 1 July 1998.
•    A child born in a foreign country will no longer receive German citizenship automatically by birth, if his/her German parent was born after 31 December 1999 in a foreign country and has his/her primary residence there. Exceptions are:
1.    The child would be stateless.
2.    The German parent registers the child's birth within one year of birth to the responsible German agency abroad.
•    In case both parents are German citizens, German citizenship will not be passed on automatically, if both parents were born abroad after 31 December 1999 and have their primary residence outside of Germany. Exceptions are same as the above.
•    Those born in Germany and adopted to a foreign country would need to contact their local German Consulate for clarification of German citizenship.
Persons who are Germans on the basis of descent from a German parent do not have to apply to retain German citizenship by age 23. If they acquire another citizenship at birth, they can usually continue to hold this.

beppi :

There are several web portals for lawyer search, e.g. www.anwalt.de.
Of course they are all in German (as are the laws they deal with and thge proceedings any action will result in).
As far as I understand, you were born before the abovementioned law's validity and thus do not have a right to German citizenship by birth.
The  "discretionary consideration" will be made in cases where the applicant has good reasons to become German citizen (e.g. living there, having close family bounds, or showing good integration status - i.e. good Gereman language and social skills). Since the authorities try to prevent double citizenships, they might also make such a "consideration" conditional on you renouncing any other citizenships, which is in their rights. Are you prepared to do that?
(If not, i.e. if you want to remain US-American, don't waste your time trying to become German!)

Hello Beppi,

Thank you for the response.  All considerations are on the table, dual citizenship is a "have my cake and eat it too" desire.  Residing in German/EU long-term legally, not in the "Hamster wheel" of needing X, before obtaining Y, where one can't be obtained without the other, multiplied, is the goal.

American citizenship is not all that it is cracked up to being, especially if one is at heart a "global citizen" and runs into more de-facto barriers in other countries than conventional wisdom (or American-centric) thinking would imply.

Cheers & thanks for the response!

Hello Tom,

Yes, I am in agreement with you - against primary sentiment expressed repeatedly, I also believe there are some areas of gray in German law... finding those with experience in such was my reason for posting here.  Finding a German lawyer with experience & knowledge navigating those "loopholes" with legally allowed discretionary consideration is my objective.

Knowledge of such is not something even a German citizen (ie my family here) is familiar, although they will offer many opinions on the law (and my circumstances) in context to other legal entry pathways into Germany, currently front and center of more "political" conditions.

This is a needle in a haystack search, I understand.  If I find the needle, which I am convinced does in fact exist, all the better.

Cheers,

I don't know that it it’s a needle in a haystack but I would definitely only consider a lawyer that is specialized in this area of law.

As far as giving up an American passport - it is something I consider myself. But I get along here with my American one and have permanent residency in Germany so no major reason to change although American politics makes me crazy. I do however go back to the States on occasion to visit my large extended family. I don’t know it for sure but can imagine that there would be problems to visit the States. Since it is of course the GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD; that one would give up an American passport for another will probably be frowned upon and met with suspicion. Like one must have been trying to avoid some criminal charge or paying some back taxes or something.

Just the fact that I travel a lot and live abroad is often met with insinuations from customs officials that I must be unpatriotic. So for the moment I see it as burning my bridges to give up my American passport and then maybe not be able to visit there. Maybe I’m overly skeptical but I think it is worth thinking about.

Hi Tom,

The "it" is finding a German lawyer knowledgable on German laws and specifically the 1974/5 rule.  The law was changed to make a gender discriminating rule "fair" to children of German mothers, not just exclusive to children of German fathers.  The allowance to children of, first fathers, then mothers was dual passports no "special considerations required".  Then starting Jan 1st 1975 (an arbitrary date based on correction of past gender discrimination against German women), those born before - "tough luck", those after - "here you go".  So a rule intent on increasing "fairness", resulted it some, not many, arbitrary "unfair" effective declarations to all those children born to German mothers prior.

In contrast, Germany has many laws on the books offering pathways to citizenship for those with multi-generational displacements between themselves and a distant German great, great, great relative.

If 99.9% of the German citizens didn't know of the law change & the need to register children accordingly by a certain date, it's a far stretch to expect an 18 year old German mother, 15 years living in diaspora, to know of a new right available to her children.  Even if she had, by letter of the new law, I would have been a pregnancy's length of time too early, given the arbitrary date for those who could and those who couldn't.  Retroactive, would have been the "fairest" for children of German mothers.

There are plenty of options available, and likely far simpler, for me to obtain long-term status in Germany/EU, but that's not what I'm asking in this post.

BTW, as you are probably aware, the US recently upped their fees to give up an US Citizenship.  I think it was largely done to discourage those leaving for tax purposes.  But even the fee increase is a pittance of what one could potentially gain evading dual taxation.

HansWorldTravels :

If 99.9% of the German citizens didn't know of the law change & the need to register children accordingly by a certain date, it's a far stretch to expect an 18 year old German mother, 15 years living in diaspora, to know of a new right available to her children.  Even if she had, by letter of the new law, I would have been a pregnancy's length of time too early, given the arbitrary date for those who could and those who couldn't.  Retroactive, would have been the "fairest" for children of German mothers.

The letter of the law you mention is quite clear (even if unfair and against you). In addition, it is a basic rule of German law that ignorance does not entitle one to special treatment - so your Mom not following the proper procedure because she never heard about it does not help you.  Thus a normal court would certainly decide against you.
If you are questioning the law's validity or applicability due to general rules of fairness (I think you may have a point here!), the German constitutional court would be the right way to check this. But that would take many years (and lots of expenses to be pre-paid by you, even though you may get it all back if you win).

Have to agree with Beppi that ignorance of the law is not an excuse, something I often heard growing up in America. Whether a law is fair or not is another question. But every law has a date from when it is effective - or no longer so. There will always be people disadvantaged, as well as advantaged by just missing or making a cutoff date. But there has to be some point where laws or rules take effect. Bad luck for you unless you find a lawyer who knows a loophole.

Like I mentioned before, while one might not expect a young person to be aware of all such regulations, officials could also argue that if citizenship for one’s child was so important then why didn’t the people inquiry or apply for it as a matter of form even if they were uncertain of the law. Curious that your mother would be a German citizen and not register the birth with German officials even living abroad. Even if she assumed no citizenship would be passed on, decedents are still entitled to inheritance in certain circumstances regardless of nationality. 

The one direction of an argument that a lawyer might make, and this is pure speculation,  is that your mother didn’t want anyone to know about the child or her whereabouts because she somehow felt threatened. Maybe it could be claimed that she only left Germany under duress or avoided contact to protect knowledge of her location in light of dire consequences. The precedent for something like this is that people who had to leave Germany due to persecution by the Nazis were given exemption from some of the rules of citizenship for their decedents since one says their immigration was involuntary.

Hello Tom & beppi,

My reason for posting here WAS to find a German lawyer with experience in this matter, not to discuss the fine details and laymen's interpretations/opinions of the law as it pertains to my situation.  Certain details were required, otherwise responses could be from Wiki, etc., with information I already know.  I appreciate your thoughts, but as none of us are German lawyers it's purely speculation and moves me no closer to my objective.

Hopefully, someone within the Expat network will know of a German lawyer (or firm) familiar and versed in this area, which I can discuss in further detail what is and what isn't feasible.  Cheers.

Well, as far as I know it is allowed to discuss interesting topics pertaining to being Expat on this forum - which is what we're doing.
I do not know the lawyer you need, but I gave you above my best advice (link) for how to find him/her. Instead of complaining that we also write other related stuff, you could be grateful for that and ignore the rest.

Give me a break.... you responded the law was absolute, to which Tom countered it was not as black and white as most people (even Germans) believe... so then you went off on pursuing some constitutional amendment through a lengthy and expensive process.  Discuss all you want, I know I am looking for a lawyer that has expertise in this field, not opinion and speculations in an endless circle that I can get outside of Expat forums.

Have a good day...

HansWorldTravels :

Hello Tom & beppi,

My reason for posting here WAS to find a German lawyer with experience in this matter, not to discuss the fine details and laymen's interpretations/opinions of the law as it pertains to my situation.  Certain details were required, otherwise responses could be from Wiki, etc., with information I already know.  I appreciate your thoughts, but as none of us are German lawyers it's purely speculation and moves me no closer to my objective.

Hopefully, someone within the Expat network will know of a German lawyer (or firm) familiar and versed in this area, which I can discuss in further detail what is and what isn't feasible.  Cheers.

Quite correct. I would recommend a lawyer if I knew one but I don't. But I don't see in which city this would apply? Are you looking for one in the States or in Germany and in which city?

And I think it never hurts to go over the subject matter since most people who post here are not well informed. But knowing the laws, you are left with searching for a lawyer who might find a loophole of sorts and thinking about on what premise it might be based. Sounds worthwhile to me since such strategies are a matter of thinking outside of the box, speculating, and then figuring out what might actually work. 

From my experience with German lawyers, one has to give them pretty detailed instructions of what and how you hope to reach something if it is not a standard situation.

I can understand some frustration at not finding better answers to your problem but it's a bit hypocritical to accuse others of speculation since this is exactly what you are doing – speculating there might be a loophole. Beppi focused more on making the underlying laws clear and I indulged in thinking how there just might be a way around. But I might be wrong and don’t think anything Beppi wrote is wrong or inappropriate.  The other thing is even if we fail to supply you with a good solution, an open forum is meant that others can either contribute or learn from it. Maybe time for everyone to chill out a bit…

So... there is, not a loophole, but in fact a modification to the aforementioned 1974/5 law made in 2012 or maybe prior?

Long story short, it is not something (in my experience over several years) German authorities are forthcoming in divulging.  Being provided this documentation was like pulling teeth, albeit slightly easier than an Act of [US] Congress.

It provides a legal pathway, key requirements/allowances being; 1) not needing to give up primary citizenship/passport - dual is thus possible, 2) proving C1 level proficiency in German, 3) standard knowledge (tested) of German governance/history/etc, 4) hand written CV in German, 5) ties to Germany (family, etc), 6) proof of health insurance, 7) proof of financial means for retirement & finally, a bit of good luck &/or persistence.

Tom's point about "hand holding" German lawyers through the process is also sentiment I have heard.  One I found claiming to handle cases of this nature, offered to review already German Consulate certified documents at an initial fee of Euro 180 - I suspect the above would not have been offered or known about.

But with a legal pathway formalized & "on the books", there appears to be little need for an attorney & their expense to process.

Cheers

Thanks for sharing this information. It sounds like a good chance for you - assuming you can fill the requirements. But things like learning the language would be a practical expectation even if not legally required. Hopefully it all works out since I have to say that it’s not just lawyers and officials who seem to be either uninformed or reluctant to divulge the less than obvious possibilities but judges as well.

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