The legal and policy framework on statelessness in Germany has both positive and negative aspects. Germany is State Party to relevant human rights instruments but retains two key reservations to the 1954 Convention concerning travel documents and social security entitlements. Comprehensive population data is published online, including on statelessness, but without a dedicated procedure to identify and determine statelessness, estimates for the stateless population remain inaccurate. There are other administrative procedures through which statelessness can be identified and some case law on the determination of nationality status; however, without a dedicated mechanism in place, stateless people are not granted a protection status nor rights, unless also recognised as refugees.

The law establishes that a country of removal must be set prior to detaining, and procedural safeguards are in place to protect against arbitrary detention. However, Germany has entered into readmission agreements that allow stateless people to be removed to countries of former residence without guarantees of protection. German nationality law has provisions to prevent statelessness in some cases, but there is a legal residence requirement for children born stateless in Germany to acquire nationality, and problematic birth registration practices lead to inconsistencies in recording key data and access to birth certificates. Provisions on deprivation of nationality may result in statelessness only when it was acquired by deception, and deprivation of nationality on national security grounds is not permissible. 

Последна актуализация: 
Февр. 2023
Държавен експерт(и): 

Denis Neselovsky, Individual ENS member, Statefree

Допълнителни ресурси






Международни и регионални инструменти

Assesses whether countries are State party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Germany is party to all the relevant regional and international instruments, except for the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession (which it has signed but not acceded to) and the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. Customary international law has direct effect in Germany, but international treaties must be incorporated into domestic law. Three of the core statelessness conventions have been incorporated; however, on incorporating the 1954 Convention, Germany reserved the right not to implement Article 27 on travel documents, and to apply Article 23 on access to social welfare only to stateless people who are also recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

  • Germany is state party to the 1954 Convention, but it retains two significant reservations. Customary international law has direct effect in Germany, but international treaty law must be incorporated into domestic law. When incorporating the 1954 Convention, Germany reserved the right not to apply Article 27 (Travel Documents), and to only apply Article 23 (Access to social welfare) to stateless people who are also refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
  • Germany is state party to the 1961 Convention and its provisions are incorporated into domestic law. Germany committed in 2019 to examining the necessity of maintaining the reservations it made upon accession to the Convention.
  • Germany is state party to the European Convention on Nationality but retains reservations permitting loss of nationality in certain circumstances. It has signed but not acceded to the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Germany is state party to all other relevant regional and international instruments except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers. It retains reservations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights relating to the criminal justice system, but these do not directly impact on statelessness.

Данни за населението без гражданство

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries, and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are sufficient measures in place to count stateless persons in detention.

Population data in Germany is comprehensive, with the Federal Statistical Office publishing a wide range of statistics. The online Genesis Datenbank allows for searches on a range of topics including nationality, legal basis for acquiring nationality, and types of residence permit held. A ‘stateless’ category is included but there are also overlapping categories, such as ‘unclear nationality’, ‘without indications’, and ‘Palestinian’. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees regularly publishes asylum statistics, and parliament has undertaken inquiries into stateless refugees and asylum seekers, including on detention. However, there is no clear mechanism for identifying and determining statelessness in Germany, little awareness of the issue, and it is not clear how statelessness is recorded in administrative procedures. Detention data is not disaggregated by nationality status, and as each federal state collects its own detention data, not all of it is aggregated and published at national level.

  • The census (last carried out in 2011) included the category 'stateless' (11,298), and two other categories that may include stateless people: ‘unclear nationality’ (130) and ‘without indications’ (35,548). A new national census was launched in May 2022 and is expected to be published at the end of 2023.
  • The Federal Statistical Office (Statistisches Bundesamt) publishes disaggregated data from the Central Register of Foreigners (Ausländerzentralregisters - AZR) and includes a ‘stateless’ category.
  • The population of stateless people in Germany is listed in the GENESIS-Online Datenbank (at end of 2022) as 29,455 people (17,025 men; 12,430 women), with a further 97,150 people listed as having ‘unclear nationality’ or ‘without ,indications’ (although figures for these categories vary by method of searching).
  • Disaggregated data on naturalisation is also available in the Online Genesis Datenbank. In 2021, 1,355 stateless people naturalised as German, and a further five stateless people acquired German nationality. An additional 750 people of unclear nationality / without identification were granted German nationality in 2021.
  • The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge - BAMF) publishes a range of statistical reports related to asylum and refugees. For 2022, it reports 4,973 asylum applications by people of ‘unclear’ (ungeklärt) nationality, 357 by people recorded as ‘stateless’, and 3 by people recorded as ‘without indication’ (ohne Angabe), plus 640 by Palestinians.
  • UNHCR data on the stateless population in Germany as of 2022 indicate there are 28,941 stateless people. A separate UNHCR source reports 13,106 stateless refugees and 639 stateless asylum-seekers as of mid-2022.
  • Other information on stateless refugees and asylum seekers is reported by the Bundestag in response to parliamentary inquiries.
  • As of 31 December 2021, 840 stateless people (615 male; 225 female) were granted 'Duldung' (tolerated stay permit). Another 1,040 stateless people (660 male; 380 female) were known to be on German territory without any residence title, toleration or permit. 7,980 people (5,455 male; 2525 female) with unclear nationality/without indication held a tolerated stay permit. 15,585 (9,035 male; 6,550 female) with unclear nationality/ without indication of nationality were without any residence title, toleration, or permit.
  • Eurostat and publications by the European Migration Network (EMN) offer some additional data on residence permits and travel documents issued to stateless people in Germany.
  • Although statistical data in Germany is comprehensive, statelessness has not been surveyed or mapped in the German context. There are also issues with identification: authorities routinely categorise asylum seekers who arrive without passports as ‘stateless’ or ‘unknown nationality’ without verifying their actual nationality status. A large population of people with unclear nationality, ‘tolerated stay’, or irregular status, means that the actual number of stateless people in Germany is likely to be underrepresented in the statistics.
  • There is little data available on stateless people in detention. Some detention data is published in the Genesis Datenbank, disaggregated by gender, but not nationality status.
  • Some data on stateless people or those with unknown nationality in detention appears in parliamentary inquiries published by the Bundestag, but this is not easily searchable.
  • Each federal state is responsible for detention and collects its own data but not all of it is aggregated and published at national level. Data on the number of people released from detention due to removal is not available.

Установяване на липсата на гражданство и предоставяне на статут на лице без гражданство

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination procedure (SDP) leading to a dedicated stateless status. If an SDP is not place, it assesses whether there are other procedures in which statelessness can be identified or other routes through which stateless people could regularise their stay or access their rights. Countries are subdivided in three groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP leading to protection, those with other procedures, and those with a statelessness status but no clear mechanism to access protection. The existing procedures and rights granted to stateless persons are examined and assessed against international norms and good practice. Assesses whether stateless people fleeing war have access to temporary protection.

There is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure (SDP) in Germany, though statelessness may be identified during other administrative processes, such as refugee status determination or applications for residence or travel documents. However, none of these has determination of statelessness as an objective. There is no obligation to consider a statelessness claim, although some guidance has been developed by the administrative court on the determination of nationality status. The definition of a stateless person in German law is in line with the 1954 Convention, but without any residence rights attached to identification, protection is limited. In most cases, stateless people refused refugee protection are subject to removal and issued a ‘tolerated stay’ permit, which enables access to very basic assistance and restricted employment for the time they cannot be removed. Positively, a new law adopted in 2022 has introduced the right to stay for people who have held a tolerated stay permit for more than five years, although this is still not a statelessness-specific protection status.

  • The definition of a stateless person in German law is in line with the 1954 Convention.
  • No information was found on any formal training provided to government bodies, judges, or lawyers in Germany on statelessness.
  • Statelessness may form part of trainings or conferences attended by relevant stakeholders on an ad hoc basis, for example, during sessions on Duldung/toleration or the identification or determination of nationality during immigration, international protection, or nationality procedures.
  • There is no dedicated SDP in Germany, but statelessness may be identified through other administrative procedures, including applications for travel documents, applications or extensions of residence permits, applications for asylum, and ‘toleration’ (Duldung).
  • There is no procedure in Germany with the objective of determining statelessness, but it can be identified if it arises during another administrative procedure, such as an application for international protection under the responsibility of the Bundesamt (BAMF), or, if international protection is refused, under the responsibility of the local foreigners' office (Ausländerbehörde). The local foreigners' office may issue a form of lawful stay known as ‘Duldung’ or ‘toleration’ (i.e. 'tolerated stay'), which allows a person to remain in Germany for the time they cannot be removed, but it documents an irregular stay and the obligation to leave still exists.
  • A new law adopted in December 2022 provides a right to stay for those with ‘Duldung’ status who have been living in the country for more than five years since 1 January 2022. This then entitles them to apply for longer-term residence permits, and eventually, a route to settlement.
  • Statelessness can also be identified during an application for a travel document, or for other kinds of residence permit, such as family reunification or study, or if born stateless in Germany.
  • There is no explicit obligation in law on the authorities to consider a claim of statelessness.
  • There is no accessible public information on the specific steps stateless people should take to regularise their status. Available information relates mostly to asylum procedures. Instructions are provided on how to make an application for a travel document under the 1954 Convention at local level.
  • Where an examination to determine nationality status takes place, it is undertaken by the local foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde) in the applicant's place of residence.
  • There does not appear to be formal training for public officials on nationality or statelessness, though some training is offered on an ad hoc basis by interested individual experts or NGOs.
  • There does not appear to be cooperation between relevant actors for identifying and determining statelessness.
  • In administrative procedures, the burden of proof initially lies with the applicant, but is shared in certain circumstances. The applicant must cooperate and take all reasonable steps to secure any available documentation to prove their identity and origin. Failure to do so can result in penalties, such as reductions in social security entitlements. However, there are exceptions to this rule when facts are difficult to establish or evidence difficult to obtain.
  • In theory, only one standard of proof is in place in Germany: beyond reasonable doubt. In practice, judges seem to apply a less rigid approach in asylum and statelessness cases.
  • Although some guidance has been provided through the jurisprudence of the Federal Administrative Court on what constitutes proof of statelessness or nationality status, there is no clear, binding guidance on how to determine statelessness. In each federal state, the foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde) follows its own guidelines based on General Administrative Regulations for the Nationality Act, which mentions stateless people (on acquisition of nationality, prevention of statelessness, vulnerable groups and loss of German nationality). The General Administrative Regulations for the Residence Act give some (vague) instructions on the procedures for collecting evidence and the obligation to participate in the procurement of documents.
  • As stateless people are treated as any other foreigner under the Residence Act, they can obtain legal aid if they can demonstrate financial need. In court proceedings, they must also demonstrate sufficient prospects of success, which can present a barrier in practice.
  • To access legal aid, a person must be registered in the local registry, which constitutes a practical barrier for those with irregular status or 'tolerated stay' (although they are not excluded from access by law). The evidence required may not be easily accessible (for example, proof of income or address, or a tenancy agreement) or they may be afraid to provide it due to their insecure residence status or the fact that the courts responsible for granting an application for legal aid can inform the immigration authorities of the presence of people without a residence permit. NGOs, a network of university law clinics, and faith-based organisations also provide legal assistance.
  • The official language for administrative procedures is German and applicants must seek and pay for an interpreter if required. In practice, friends or family usually support the applicant. Interviews are not mandatory but are permitted and in practice are usually carried out to gather reference points for further investigation.
  • All administrative decisions are given in writing with reasoning.
  • Stateless people are not granted specific rights as a result of their recognition as stateless. They are subject to the same provisions as those applicable to other foreigners staying in the country and access to education, healthcare, housing and work will depend on their residence permit or tolerated status.
  • Residence rights are not granted to people in Germany on the basis of statelessness, but stateless people may be eligible for temporary residence if they cannot be removed within a stipulated timeframe. In practice, a temporary permit is often not granted within this timeframe, and people tend to remain with 'tolerated stay' and are often recorded as ‘nationality unclear'.
  • Tolerated stay is usually granted for three months, or six months in cases of particular hardship.
  • Tolerated stay may be extended on a three-monthly basis if the person cooperates with the authorities, and the right to work may be granted under certain conditions.
  • A person with tolerated stay may receive subsistence under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefit Act if they cannot meet their own subsistence, but they initially receive less than asylum seekers. After 15 months of uninterrupted stay they can access similar support, including healthcare, maternity services, and limited cash for basic personal needs. A temporary rule in force until 31 December 2023 allows people on toleration to enter the labour market after 12 months (formerly after 15 months).
  • Since November 2019, a new form of ‘tolerated stay’ for those with ‘unclear identity’ was introduced for those who cannot provide identity documents or do not cooperate with the authorities. This permit does not provide the right to work nor freedom of movement.
  • People with ‘Duldung’ status who have been living in the country for more than five years since 1 January 2022 are entitled to apply for longer-term residence permits and, eventually, a route to settlement.
  • People recognised as stateless will be issued a travel document according to the 1954 Convention, but this is not accessible to people with ‘tolerated stay’. Stateless people can apply for family reunification if they meet certain conditions and their family members provide evidence of language and/or integration tests.
  • Stateless people, as other foreigners, do not have the right to vote in Germany.
  • Germany is implementing the EU Temporary Protection Directive for people fleeing Ukraine, including for stateless people who enjoyed international protection as refugees or an equivalent level of national protection in Ukraine before 24 February 2022. Travel documents for refugees and travel documents for people granted complementary protection can be shown as evidence.
  • Germany also grants temporary protection to stateless people who held permanent residence status in Ukraine before 24 February 2022, and are unable to return safely and permanently to their country or region of origin.
  • Other stateless people arriving in Germany are not entitled to temporary protection (including those who only held temporary residence in Ukraine) and are advised about alternative possibilities, in particular the right to claim asylum.


Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, but focusing on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as the identification of statelessness and assessment of whether there is a reasonable prospect of removal, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight, and effective remedies, as well as the rights granted to stateless people upon release from detention and protection against re-detention.

A range of different types of immigration detention are provided for in German law under different rules and procedures, which include some protections against the arbitrary detention of stateless people. There is a requirement that a country of removal is identified prior to detaining someone. However, even where nationality status has not been confirmed, readmission agreements allow for stateless people to be removed to places of former residence. The law provides for relatively strong procedural safeguards, including a time limit, ex officio reviews, and judicial oversight. However, on release from detention, tolerated stay is often granted, which maintains the obligation to leave the country and does not protect stateless people from re-detention. In 2019, grounds for immigration detention were expanded, a new category of tolerated stay for people with undetermined identity was introduced, and detention and deportation rules were significantly tightened.

  • Different types of immigration detention are provided for in German law with different procedures and rules, though detention should only be used as a last resort. The law provides for alternatives to detention at national level, which are transposed into guidelines and resolutions on federal state level. Alternatives must be considered prior to detention and these must be proportionate.
  • Orders for detention pending deportation are regulated by the central government but implementation is a matter for each federal state and varies.
  • Detention for the purposes of deportation or removal is not lawful if removal cannot be carried out for legal or practical reasons.
  • If deportation cannot be carried out due to difficulties obtaining a travel document or unwillingness of the destination country to receive the individual, or if the country of destination categorically refuses to issue travel documents within three months, detention to secure deportation cannot be ordered. However, even if the identity of the individual cannot be determined, but the country of destination is willing to receive them, deportation can be carried out.
  • In practice, an impossibility to deport is only established after several unsuccessful attempts.
  • Case law has established that the deportation of a stateless person can constitute inhumane treatment if the affected person may be at risk of significant and immediate mortal danger in the destination country, or if the person cannot pay for vital medical care.
  • The law stipulates that a country of removal must be identified prior to detention for removal or deportation, but this is not always strictly applied in practice.
  • Authorities must check regularly whether the conditions for alternatives pending deportation are upheld, or whether the obligation to leave the country may have ceased due to, for example, impossibility of removal.
  • The immigration authorities can detain a person without prior judicial order and notice based on several grounds, including to secure the person’s deportation or if there is a suspicion that the person may evade. It is reported that immigration detention is used in practice prior to all alternatives being considered. NGOs have stated that ‘the order for deportation is often too hasty’, and the courts do not always take due diligence to examine the applications for detention.
  • Statelessness is sometimes identified in the detention context, but there is no specific mechanism for this, and statelessness is not necessarily treated as juridically relevant fact in decisions to detain. Authorities tend to categorise statelessness as ´unclear nationality´ until it is determined, so the person should cooperate to obtain the necessary documents to establish their statelessness.
  • The definition of vulnerability transposed to national law does not explicitly include statelessness.
  • The authorities are responsible for the identification of vulnerabilities, but in practice the process lacks rigor and statelessness is not considered a vulnerability factor within this assessment.
  • A maximum time limit on detention of 18 months is established in law.
  • The court must issue a copy of the application for detention to the individual concerned with the written reasons for detention (translated if necessary).
  • The law provides for detainees to receive information about their rights and obligations including their right to contact a legal representative, family members, consular authorities, and support organisations.
  • The authorities must examine and record ex officio at regular intervals whether the legal requirements for detention pending deportation are still in place and release the person if the reasons have ceased.
  • Individuals have access to a variety of remedies to challenge their detention: they can appeal the decision to detain to the local (Amtsgericht) or district court (Landgericht) within a month (detention order) or two weeks (temporary injunction). If the appeal is rejected, a further appeal can be lodged within a month to the Federal Court (Bundesgerichtshof). An appeal is also possible by applying to the local court to lift the detention order.
  • In practice, barriers to appeal have been reported including missed hearings, lack of interpreters, failure to translate the detention order, lack of administrative review of the person's file by the foreigners' office, and lack of free legal aid.
  • There are rules and procedures established in law and jurisprudence regulating the process of redocumentation and ascertaining nationality.
  • There is no specific regulation on access to free legal aid during the removal process, so practice varies between federal states: in some, it is only provided by civil society; in others, it is provided by the state. It is possible to apply for free legal aid to challenge deprivation of liberty under the Act on Proceedings in Family Matters and in Matters of Non-Contentious Jurisdiction, but only those in financial need, registered in the local registry, and with some prospect of success, are eligible.
  • Federal states are responsible for the assessment and identification of vulnerability, but statelessness is not considered a vulnerability factor. At national level, designated 'vulnerable groups' include minors under 16 years-old, elderly over 65 years-old, and pregnant women; federal states consider additional factors (disability, ill-health, ill-treatment).
  • If someone is released from detention due to deportation not being carried out, a form of 'tolerated stay' is usually granted but this maintains the obligation to leave and does not protect from a new detention order being issued. If deportation is suspended for 18 months, a temporary residence permit may be granted.
  • In 2019, a new form of tolerated stay for people with ‘undetermined identity’ was introduced, which strengthens the obligation to cooperate with the authorities, restricts the rights of people holding this form of toleration, and heightens the risk that a stateless person may be deemed not to be cooperating and become subject to re-detention or even a fine for non-cooperation.
  • A person with tolerated stay may receive subsistence under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefit Act if they cannot meet their own subsistence, but they initially receive less than asylum seekers. After 15 months of uninterrupted stay, they can access similar support, including healthcare, maternity services, and limited cash for basic personal needs.
  • A temporary rule in force until 31 December 2023 allows people on toleration to enter the labour market after 12 months (formerly after 15 months).
  • Cumulative time spent in detention does not count towards the maximum time limit if a new detention order is issued.
  • Statelessness is considered a juridically relevant fact, but not in every bilateral return or readmission agreement (of 32 bilateral return agreements, four do not address statelessness).
  • The multilateral return agreement with Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Poland also considers statelessness.
  • There is some evidence (from case law, parliamentary inquiries, NGO reports, and the media) that stateless people have been returned under such agreements to Romania and Kosovo, for example.

Превенция и намаляване случаите на лица без гражданство

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including facilitated routes to naturalisation for stateless people, and protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy, and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, and reduction measures taken by States to prevent and reduce in situ statelessness. Analyses provisions on deprivation of nationality and whether there are safeguards related to renunciation and deprivation of nationality to prevent statelessness from occurring.

Some safeguards to prevent statelessness are provided for in German law, including in the case of foundlings, adopted children and children born abroad to German nationals if they would otherwise be stateless (though registration is required). However, there is no full safeguard to prevent statelessness in the case of children born in Germany and there are practical barriers to birth registration, including that registry officials are required to report people with irregular residence status to the authorities and birth certificates may not always be issued in practice. Provisions in German law require at least five years of continuous, legal residence, as well as evidence of statelessness in some cases, before stateless children born on the territory can acquire German nationality. All children born in Germany since January 2000, who have one parent with at least eight years legal and habitual residence, acquire German nationality automatically. There are provisions on deprivation of nationality that could render a person stateless.

  • There is a possibility under the Residence Act for stateless people to acquire German nationality through 'discretionary naturalisation' after six years’ residence. Other requirements for discretionary naturalisation include that the person has legal capacity, no criminal record, and can support themselves and any dependents. The law provides that requirements can be waived 'on grounds of public interest or to avoid special hardship', but it seems this option is hardly used in practice.
  • Stateless people may also apply for naturalisation under the general rules for other foreigners after being ‘legally ordinarily resident’ in Germany for eight years. Other requirements include that the person has legal capacity, commits to the constitution, can support themselves and any dependents without recourse to social security (except where this is beyond the person's control), gives up or loses their previous nationality, has no criminal record, has sufficient command of German as well as knowledge of the legal system and society.
  • Minor convictions do not prevent naturalisation, but multiple convictions may pose a barrier to naturalisation. Cases are considered on an individual basis and in exceptional cases may be granted at the discretion of the authorities where there are criminal convictions.
  • The Nationality Act stipulates that the fees for the certificate of nationality shall not exceed 255 EUR, reduced to 51 EUR for a minor, dependent child naturalised at the same time. Fee reductions or waivers may be available at the discretion of the local foreigners’ office, but there is no provision for specific reductions or waivers for stateless people.
  • Stateless people can face significant delays in the naturalisation process due to the complex procedure to establish their identity.
  • There are safeguards in German nationality law to prevent statelessness for some children born in Germany, but there are gaps that allow for children to be born stateless in the country. The provisions are either automatic or non-automatic depending on which applies.
  • Under the Nationality Act, all children born in Germany after 1 January 2000 automatically acquire German nationality if at least one parent has been legally and habitually resident for eight years and has been granted permanent residence (or residence under EU law).
  • Where the Nationality Act does not apply, there is a safeguard in the 1961 Convention implementing law, which is not conditional on the parents' legal status but is non-automatic and requires an application for naturalisation before the age of 21, based on five years of continuous, legal residence. Additionally, the child or young person must not have any juvenile conviction of more than five years. The fee for this application is 255 EUR, but authorities can apply reductions or exemptions to the fee if requested by the applicant.
  • In practice, evidence of the child's non-recognition as a national by another State must be provided, and the authorities must check whether the parents are able to transmit their nationality or if another state may recognise the child as a national in the future.
  • Although the authorities have a responsibility to inform migrants about the possibilities of acquiring German nationality as an integration measure, in practice information about the routes to naturalisation for stateless children born in Germany may not be transmitted to the parents or legal guardians.
  • There is a provision in German law to grant foundlings nationality by birth.
  • For the foundling provision to apply, the child should be ‘helpless’, which is interpreted to mean that the child should not be able to provide any information about their origin. This can apply to older, minor children as well, who may not be able to express themselves or understand complex procedures.
  • The German legal provision on foundlings considers only the father’s identification to be relevant to the child’s nationality status. German nationality can only be withdrawn from the child if the father can pass on his nationality and this does not result in statelessness.
  • German nationality is lost by a German child adopted by foreign parents only if they acquire another nationality.
  • A child adopted by a German national acquires German nationality automatically if adopted as a minor (under 18 years-old) and this extends to their descendants.
  • A child born abroad to a German national also born abroad before December 1999 and resident abroad does not automatically acquire German nationality unless they would otherwise be stateless. Registration of the birth with the German authorities is required.
  • In practice, an unregistered child of German nationals born abroad would still have a right to enter and reside in Germany with their German parents and would be able to access facilitated naturalisation procedures.
  • The law stipulates that children must be registered immediately. In the case of births in hospitals or other institutions (including detention centres) the institution is obliged to notify of the birth. The birth must be communicated to the local registry office (Standesamt) where the child was born within a week, either by the parent, any person who was present at or informed about the birth, and the relevant institutions.
  • By law, a child can be registered if parents' stay in the country is irregular, but registry officials have a duty to report their presence to the authorities, which constitutes a barrier to registration.
  • To register a birth, married parents must submit birth certificates and a marriage certificate or certified copy of their marriage register. Unmarried parents must submit the birth certificate of the mother and declaration of paternity, birth certificate of the father, and custody declarations (if available). A recognised passport or other documents can replace the parents' birth certificates, but the registry office in charge decides on a case-by-case basis which documents may be accepted.
  • If parents cannot present all the required documentation, the civil registrar can take an oath, but in practice, this option is little-used and may vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the local registrar.
  • In cases where at least one parent cannot present the required documentation, practice varies as to whether only the mother or both parents are registered, and parents receive an extract from the birth register rather than a birth certificate, which contains the additional note ‘identity not established’.
  • Although the extract is an official document, its value as a form of legal identification is disputed in practice, and it is unclear whether this may pose barriers to accessing certain rights later in life, or to acquiring nationality (especially if the identity of the parents is unclear).
  • Upon entry into the birth register, reference is made to the nationality of the parents (if not German, nationality must be proven), marriage, birth certificates of parents, acquisition of German nationality of the child, and the law to which the child's name is subject. Registry officials will check whether the child of foreign parents has acquired German nationality by birth. However, there is a risk that children are kept in limbo for more than five years as the relevant documents to obtain a birth certificate (rather than an extract) from the registrar can be submitted later, and there is no time limit for the procedure. In practice, it is unclear if authorities who register the birth determine the child’s nationality or statelessness and to what extent.
  • Late birth registration is possible in law but requires habitual residence and a travel document, which presents barriers in practice. There is a fee for late registration of a birth abroad, which varies between Federal States (e.g. 40 EUR in Greifswald and 60 EUR in Berlin); and other related fees may apply.
  • There are credible reports to parliament, by civil society, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child, of refugees and undocumented migrants facing barriers to birth registration due to missing documents or fear of being deported. If undocumented migrants do not give birth in hospital due to a fear of the authorities, the birth would not be automatically registered.
  • The law permits the registration of birth of children of LGBTQI+ parents and there are no reports of children being prevented from registering their birth because of parents’ sexual or gender identity.
  • The German Institute for Human Rights and other NGOs initiated a campaign in June 2016 to promote birth registration among refugees with information available in different languages. There is no other information available about any campaigns to promote civil registration or any other measures by the Government to reduce the risk of statelessness.
  • There are reports of risks that some children of undocumented migrants, refugees, and people with unclear nationality remain unregistered. The Coalition Agreement pledged to initiate a campaign to reinforce monitoring of the children’s rights convention as well as a campaign to disseminate information on ways to acquire German nationality.
  • There are provisions for deprivation of nationality that could render a person stateless, but only where naturalisation or permission to retain German nationality has been acquired by deception. There have been cases of deprivation of nationality on grounds of intentional deception.
  • Deprivation of nationality is not permitted on grounds of national security.
  • There are safeguards to prevent voluntary loss of nationality from resulting in statelessness. The competent authority for deprivation of German nationality is the nationality authority in each federal state or the Federal Office of Administration abroad. There is a time limit on relevant procedures, appeal rights, and the burden of proof lies with the authority.
  • Derivative loss of nationality is unconstitutional.


Library of resources, legal instruments, publications and training materials on statelessness, specifically relevant to this country. More regional and international materials, as well as resources from other countries, are available on the Resources library. Domestic case law can be consulted in the Statelessness Case Law Database (with summaries available in English).

Please note that we are in the process of adding new resources, so check back soon.

Latest news on Germany

Image for the WEBINAR: 2024 State of Play Assessment on Statelessness in Europe

WEBINAR: 2024 State of Play Assessment on Statelessness in Europe

In conversation with experts working in different countries, we presented our annual state of play assessment of key trends on statelessness in...
22 Март 2024 / Albania / Austria / Belgium / Bosnia-Herzegovina / Bulgaria / Council of Europe / Croatia / Cyprus / Czechia / Detention / European Union / France / Georgia / Germany / Global / Greece / Hungary / International and Regional Instruments / Ireland / Italy / Kosovo / Latvia / Malta / Moldova / Montenegro / Netherlands / North Macedonia / Norway / Poland / Portugal / Prevention and reduction / Romania / Serbia / Slovenia / Spain / Statelessness determination and status / Statelessness population data / Sweden / Switzerland / Türkiye / Ukraine / United Kingdom

New report by independent body in Germany on the situation of stateless people

The Expert Council on Integration and Migration (Sachverständigenrat), an independent advisory council in Germany, has published a policy brief about...
6 Апр. 2023 / Germany / Prevention and reduction

WEBINAR: 2023 State of Play Assessment on Statelessness in Europe

Join us for the online launch of our annual StatelessnessINDEX state of play assessment and hear about key trends from several experts working on the...
23 Март 2023 / Albania / Austria / Belgium / Bulgaria / Council of Europe / Croatia / Cyprus / Czechia / European Union / France / Germany / Global / Greece / Hungary / International and Regional Instruments / Ireland / Italy / Latvia / Malta / Moldova / Montenegro / Netherlands / North Macedonia / Norway / Poland / Portugal / Romania / Serbia / Slovenia / Spain / Sweden / Switzerland / Ukraine / United Kingdom

Project funded by: