Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Dual citizenship

After my brief mention of the whole citizenship issue the other day, I thought I should clarify the whole situation. Because it is a confusing mess.

As it stands right now, Torsten is a German citizen and a U.S. permanent resident (green card holder). He holds a German passport, not a U.S. passport, but he can actually go through the U.S. citizens customs line with his green card (which is nice when we travel together, that we no longer have to go through separate lines).

Green card holders have the right to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization after five years of permanent residency, unless they hold permanent residency through marriage to a U.S. citizen (as in Torsten's case), in which case they can apply for naturalization after three years.

The U.S. government tolerates, though they do not approve of, dual citizenship. (I myself happen to be a dual citizen with the UK.) The naturalization process requires you to take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. that implies that you are renouncing all allegiances and citizenships to any other countries. From what I can tell, this is not enforced, and is really just intended to make the new citizen agree that they would theoretically be willing to give up their other citizenship should it be required someday (as far as I know this doesn't ever happen).

So, on the US side there would be no problem with Torsten becoming a dual citizen. HOWEVER. Germany doesn't like that so much. I have done some preliminary research on this, and learned the following: Germany allows dual citizenship with another country if you are born with it. This means that Piglet and any future children we have will automatically be dual citizens, and they will not be required to choose between German and American citizenship at any point in their lives. However, if as an adult German citizen you voluntarily take on the citizenship of another country, you have to give up your German citizenship.

Our thinking on this was as follows: Torsten can't apply for U.S. naturalization yet anyway. There is no rush in becoming a citizen (our only real concerns are that he would be able to vote, which isn't major, and that if he somehow accidentally committed a crime, he could theoretically be deported). So, our plan was, have kids, register them as dual citizens through their father's German citizenship, and then figure out what we want to do about Torsten's citizenship status.

We know for a fact that he 100% does not want to give up his German citizenship. It's a lot more beneficial than U.S. citizenship in terms of things like social services, health care, and so on. For example, if something terrible were to happen to someone in our family, like an incredibly expensive medical problem that were not covered by insurance, we would always have the backup plan of going to Germany to have it treated.

But it would be nice if he could be a U.S. citizen too. We wondered how tightly Germany enforces this policy--if they would ever find out that he had become a U.S. citizen, and if they would really revoke his German citizenship if they did find out. We kind of set the matter aside, figuring we'd look into it more once we were done having kids, and figure out at that point what the best course of action was. In the meantime, the more pressing question is about how to register Piglet's German citizenship--and in fact I tasked Torsten ages ago with researching that question on, whose citizenship information is only in German.

But THEN. On my post on Monday, reader Sarah (who I can't link to because as far as I know she doesn't have a blog--Sarah, do you have a blog? Or a Twitter account? Or anything? If so, I would like the link, please! And also, THANKS AGAIN) informed me of something that I had not come across in any of the (admittedly cursory) research I'd already done: there exists something called a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung. Yes, that is actually a real word. I have no idea what it literally translates to, but it basically involves receiving permission from the German government to become a dual citizen in advance of applying for citizenship in another country.

From what I can tell from my Googling, all he has to do is prove that he still has strong ties to Germany! And really, having tons of family and friends still over there, traveling there regularly, having an advanced degree from a German university, still being enrolled in the German health insurance system, and raising a German-speaking child should probably be sufficient for that. I don't know what the process is or how much it costs, but how awesome is that? Torsten has been tasked with researching the details of this process as well. But what great news! What a big question that we now will hopefully never have to answer!

And to think... I might never have found out about it if it weren't for this blog. Being a blogger just NEVER STOPS being useful.


  1. Yes. Since 2001 Germany allows dual citizenship. I haven't done my paperwork yet, but will do it since I have no desire to give you the right to live and work in 20-some European Union countries over obtaining citizenship here. I hope the German government grants my request and allows me to take on a second citizenship here in the US ;) So I can vote! :)

    Here are some pages you might like:

    And here is info for the Beibehaltungsgenehmigung. I know several people who have done it, I find the fee steep, but it is what it is :)

  2. That is one heck of a word! But I hope that long, long batch of letters can make the decision a lot easier for you guys! I was always envious of kids with dual citizenship growing up - especially because of how hard it is getting a Visa to live or work in other countries. (been there, done that!)

  3. I love that it's looking like Torsten's citizenship will be a reflection of his real life ... both the United States and Germany!

  4. I'm so glad you found out about "Insert incredibly long German word I can't spell here", Jess! It sounds like it is the way to go in your situation! I'm in a similar situation--my husband is a Canadian citizen with a Canadian passport and a permanent residency in the U.S. complete with green card (I was SO happy about him being able to go through the same line too!), and our daughter was born here, so she's obviously American. I'm not really sure when/if my husband will apply for citizenship. Canada has no problem with dual citizens, so it's not really an issue, but I'm not sure he sees a need for it just yet. He's also not very concerned about going through the process in Canada to give our daughter citizenship rights there...I think he just doesn't want to deal with the paperwork--the green card process was torturous, expensive, and confusing enough! But I think it is a good idea for the reasons you mentioned, and when we went to Canada in the spring, one of the Customs Agents, seeing our daughter's American passport, commented that he should because it opens up that many more jobs and opportunities for her someday, which is something he had not considered. So I think we will look into that, and I imagine as our daughter gets older, it may become more important for him to also be a citizen here, but I'm trying to let that be his call! Good luck to you and Torsten--I hope it all works out!

  5. Hi Jess, no, I don't have a blog, twitter account etc. I'm not even on facebook. Oh man, when I read this I feel like a social outcast. lol. Well, I'm glad I could help. I hope this will work out for Thorsten. I know a lot of people who were granted the BBG, but also a lot of people who were denied, so it really depends on your situation.

    But after reading your post today, I just want to let you know also that you have to provide proof for two things: The first one is, as you mentioned, explain why you need to keep your German citizenship (which is usually easy to do as long as you have ties to Germany). But the second question is: Why do you need the American citizenship? And that's usually the toughest one. Thorsten has a Green Card, he can live in the U.S., work here etc. Just being able to vote is not a good enough reason. But there is a good yahoo group (in German though) that he should check out, with example applications...:

    Hope this helps!

  6. You can certainly show evidence of home ownership in the United States, that he can't do certain jobs (Government employment and all). Those are reasons I have seen friends lay out in their paperwork. Especially the second one. I have no idea what I will put in mine yet. But I have all the time in the world to figure that out! LOL

  7. Wow, very interesting! I am a dual citizen - born in the US to Austrian parents, which means I was in a similar situation as your piglet. My problem is going to be with my (future, hypothetical) kids. I live in Austria now and plan on staying here. My boyfriend is Austrian. And from what I know so far, if my kids are born in Austria, they can have both citizenships, BUT they will have to CHOOSE one when they turn 18 (for whatever reason, they wouldn't have to choose if they were born in the US and didn't just get their US citizenship through me - go figure). And I don't know if I want to put them through having to make that decision (as a teenager, I was misinformed and thought for years I would have to decide and it would have been impossible for me). On the other hand, I don't want to take that choice away from them either.
    Here is my boyfriend's solution: Fly to Hawaii, chill at the beach for a few weeks, have the baby there and then take a cruise back home with our newborn. Dilemma solved. Yeah, RIGHT.

  8. I really hope it works out for him. My mom got her US citizenship sometime in the early '00s, and unfortunately Germany wouldn't work with her. She is an only child and both parents and all of her family are still over there, and Germany said that wasn't enough of a reason. So, she got fed up and went with US only. But that was a few years ago. Hopefully Torsten will get to keep his because it is pretty handy being a dual citizen!

  9. at "Me": I know there are lots of reasons one could mention. Jess and Thorsten should check out some of the examples people posted on the zweipaesse group. But why would homeownership be a reason? You can be a homeowner in the US with a Green Card (or even without one). Thorsten started his own company, would it be believable if he submitted some job postings as proof that show he needs citizenship?

    Jess and Thorsten, good luck!

  10. @sarah: ;-) Don't be so German. I was just pulling some stuff out of my head. Agreed, homeownership wont' work. Much harder to prove why not having US citizenship is bad for you than proving that you should keep german....I do think I saw that listed though for making a case to show ties to Germany....that you own property....But again, that will not apply to the US thingy.

    I have two friends who sent me their paperwork, but both wanted to work in the Defense industry and therefore had a great reason.

    I am just going to have to wait and see what I come up with. Otherwise, I will be a permanent resident as long as they will have me ;)

  11. Wow, that's great! Keep us posted on any more info you find.

    If only Beibehaltungsgenehmigung was one of the questions on the German trivia round last night - I would've nailed it! ;-)

  12. This is fascinating! I'm especially interested because of my English boyfriend? beau? whateveryoucallit. Not that he's talking about moving here but it's a possibility I suppose.

    It sounds like you've got a good plan in place!

  13. Just a heads up: the difficult part of getting a BBG approved is not that T. still has strong ties to Germany but to prove that he would be at a disadvantage by not taking on US citizenship (merely being a permanent resident).

    (Actually I just saw Sarah already raised this issue, so I guess, never mind. I hope T can find a way to keep his German citizenship. Like him, I'd never give up my German passport but I would also want dual citizenship after living in the US for so many years (I don't live there, just hypothetically).