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Poland/Germany: Whether a Polish citizen living in Poland whose mother was ethnic German has a right to German citizenship under the law on nationality that came into force on 1 January 2000; under what conditions; English language version of the Nationality Act

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 20 March 2003
Citation / Document Symbol ZZZ40717.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Poland/Germany: Whether a Polish citizen living in Poland whose mother was ethnic German has a right to German citizenship under the law on nationality that came into force on 1 January 2000; under what conditions; English language version of the Nationality Act , 20 March 2003, ZZZ40717.E , available at: [accessed 28 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to the Open Society Institute, some 170,000 persons hold both German and Polish citizenship (2001, 217). German law provides three ways to become a citizen of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), which include "by birth" (jus soli and jus sanuinis), by naturalization and under the "right of return" provisions (FRG n.d.a.).

In addition to allowing children born to "foreign nationals" on German soil after 1 January 2000 the opportunity to acquire citizenship, the concept "by birth" refers to cases where children inherit German citizenship from their parents (ibid.). Individuals descended from a German parent may acquire citizenship upon the verification of their parent's German citizenship by national authorities (FRG n.d.b). In so doing, the descendant must provide documents including his/her birth certificate, marriage/divorce decrees, a passport, the address of last residence in Germany, father's/mother's old German passports if available, grandfather's (father's/mother's father) birth and marriage certificate and a complete list of all places where father/mother and grandfather lived from birth until present (ibid.).

"Right of return" is a concept based on Article 116 of the Basic Law which extends German citizenship rights (FRG n.d.c.). This concept provides ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union the opportunity to acquire citizenship upon arrival in Germany (CNN 3 Sept. 2001). According to comments published on a German diplomatic Website, "[t]he majority of those who are granted German citizenship each year are ... the descendants of German farmers and craftspeople who settled in Russia and Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe in the 18th century" (FRG n.d.c.). While German authorities claim that the government "does not specifically encourage the migration of ethnic Germans," they also note that these ethnic German communities are "entitled not only to German citizenship but also a broad array of services designed to aid in their integration into Germany" (ibid.).

In addition, "right of return" is applied to those who were "deprived of [citizenship] on political, racial or religious grounds between 1933 and 1945" (FRG n.d.c). Those who held German citizenship but were displaced before the First World War have the "right to have their German citizenship recognized" (OSI 2001, 216-217).

Please find attached an unofficial translation of the German Nationality Act, which came into effect on 1 January 2000 as published by the Comparative Law Society's German Law Archive.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References 3 September 2001. Joanne Mariner. "FindLaw Forum: Racism, Citizenship and Identity - A Challenge for the United Nations." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2003]

Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). n.d.a. German Embassy, Ottawa. "Germany's New Citizenship Law." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2003]

_____. n.d.b. German Embassy, London. "German Nationality for Descendents of a German." [Accessed 14 Mar. 2003]

_____. n.d.c. German Embassy, Washington. "Background Papers: Citizenship Reform and Germany's Foreign Residents." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2003]

Open Society Initiative. 2001. Piotr Bajda, Magdalena Syposz and Dariusz Wojakowski. "Equality in Law, Protection in Fact: Minority Law and Practice in Poland." In Diversity in Action: Local Public Management of Multi-ethnic Communities. Edited by Anna-Maria Biro and Petra Kovacs. [Accessed 17 Mar. 2003]


Federal Republic of Germany. 23 July 1999. Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, StAG). Unofficial translation by Goethe Institut, Inter Nationes. (Comparative Law Society, German Law Archive). 13pp. [Accessed 18 Mar. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including:

Asylum Law

Friends and Partners

German News (English Edition)

Germany-Poland-Volhynia News Group

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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