You may ask yourself, if you can get the German citizenship from abroad or maybe you already have it and are interested now in getting a German passport.
One of you ancestors came from Germany or became a German citizen through naturalization? So you may also have the German citizenship? This looks like an easy question to answer, but the situation is often quite complicated.
Let us look at some typical cases, which may be of relevance to you:
Your great grandfather emigrated in 1870 from Germany to Brazil. He registered with a German embassy or consulate in Brazil in 1872. Later he gained the Brazilian citizenship. He had a son born in 1880. His son had a daughter in 1920, who married a Brazilian in 1950 and you were born to this daughter in 1955. Are you (and your children) entitled to a German passport?
Let us first look at the situation of your great grandfather. Did he keep his German citizenship?
He registered himself with a German embassy. That was a clever thing to do, as otherwise he would have lost the German citizenship after 10 years since leaving Germany (this law existed until 1913 and was then abolished).
He then gained the Brazilian citizenship, but not because he had applied for it. In 1908, Brazil gave its citizenship to all immigrants who were not yet Brazilian citizens (Sammeleinbürgerung; mass naturalization). An "automatic" gain of a foreign citizenship does not affect a German citizenship, so your great grandfather stayed a German citizen.
But does that mean, that you now also are a German citizen? Well, not directly. Until 1974, the German citizenship was conveyed only by the father, if a child was born into an existing marriage. But you were born to a German mother.
Since this former law was an evident discrimination of the sexes, the law was changed, taking effect on January 1, 1975. Children of German women born after 24 May 1949 and before 1 January 1975 were given the possibility to gain the German citizenship through an according declaration, with a deadline until 1977 (1991 for people in former Communist countries). This was not widely publicized, and most people have missed that deadline.
But: The German citizenship law has been changed recently, on August 20, 2021. Now the affected people can once again acquire the German citizenship by declaration and there is now a 10-year deadline to do that.
So you need to do that declaration. You don´t have to give up your current citizenship, but be wary that some countries - like Kazakhstan - are very strict about the gain of a second citizenship.
Your parents emigrated with you from Germany to the US in 1960. You were 5 years old at that time. In 1970 your parents applied for the US citizenship and were granted the US citizenship. Your parents and you were issued papers which stated, that you were US citizens now.
So what happened to the German citizenship in this case?
Well, your parents have lost it. But this was not necessarily the case with you. The naturalization laws of most US states automatically granted the US citizenship to minors living with their parents, so the parents did not actually have to apply for it. But this "automatic" naturalization did not lead to the loss of German citizenship, which yielded the quite absurd result, that the children stayed German citizens, while their parents did not. So you may be entitled to a German passport.
Your grandmother was an ethnic German and lived in the USSR in the 1940s, in Ukraine. She was brought to Germany in 1943 by German authorities and was granted the German citizenship, as was usually the case with ethnic Germans, who were brought from the USSR to Germany during the war. In 1945 she was brought back to the USSR by the Soviet authorities. She then married in the USSR, had a son in 1960 and you were born to him in 1985.
Are you a German citizen?
Again, not directly, since your father was born to a German mother before 1975 and did not get the German citizenship automatically. But you may very well be entitled to German citizenship by declaration according to the new law of August 20, 2021.
Interestingly, if your mother was a Russian and she married an ethnic German (who was naturalized by Germany in, say, 1943) before April 1953, your mother would have gotten the German citizenship by marriage.
Your grandfather was of Jewish origin and fled Germany in 1933, to Canada. In 1937 he applied for and was granted the Canadian citizenship.
In this case you may be entitled to German citizenship by naturalization, according to the new law of August 20, 2021.
Please contact us, if in need of legal representation to obtain either your naturalization certificate or a statement of German citizenship. We have been handling citizenship cases since 1994.