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Q: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship? ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: ltmickey-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 12 Mar 2006 15:30 PST
Expires: 11 Apr 2006 16:30 PDT
Question ID: 706496
I am an American citizen and have the option of obtaining German
citizenship because an ancestor of mine was deprived of his German
citizenship during the Nazi era.  I'll have dual US and German
citizenship, and both American and EU passports.  My question is
basically this: what's the downside?  By becoming a German citizen,
will I (or my children) incur any German tax obligations, military service
obligations, etc.?  And what effect, if any, will this have on my
American citizenship or on the US government's ability/willingness to
assist me if I get into trouble abroad?

I'm looking for a fairly comprehensive explanation of any negative
effects of taking on this dual citizenship -- especially on the German
end of things, since I don't have access to a German attorney.
Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
Answered By: politicalguru-ga on 13 Mar 2006 12:01 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Dear Lt Mickey, 

I know quite a few people who have (re-)obtained their citizenship
from the same reasons. I have also answered a few questions here on GA
on this topic (check it out in GA's internal search).

Before I begin, while I understand that you "don't have access to a
German attorney", I can give you - if you tell me, which metropolitan
area you live in - names of American attornies who have understanding
of the German citizenship and constitutional law.

Basically, I concur with the commentators and with my colleague
Scriptor, and I must say that none of the problems that might arise is
serious enough to deter you of obtaining this additional passport.

"In Germany, a person with foreign citizenship in addition to his/her
German citizenship (a multiple national) has exactly the same rights
as all other German citizens."
Dual citizenship - multiple nationality 

Coscription is the first potential problem. Male German citizens are
required to  enlist to the German Army (the Bundeswehr), or to an
equivalent civil service. However:
(1) The military service of German citizens who live most of their
time outside Germany is postponed and are pratically not required to
join the military (See: "Merkblatt betreffend Wehrpflicht von
Deutschen im Ausland ",
(2) Members of families that were victims of the National Socialist
policies are not required to join the military;
(3) Others are also exempted, for example people who commit to
religious work and naturally also criminals and people with

Please note, that if you live in Germany you should enlist (as a
healthy male who's not applicable to 1-3) and in addition, according
to US law, should also register yourself, within 3 months of your 18th
birthday, for Selective Service System, even if you live in Germany.

Avoiding the military service from one reason or another (including
pacifism) cannot deny you of any rights such as placement at a

However, an important point is that the German law states that usually
(except some specific cases), voluntary service in a foreign army (as
a "professional soldier") would revoke your German citizenship.

A second problem would be, as you mentioned it, the ability of the
American consulate to help you in some cases. In Germany, you are
considered a German citizen, with all legal ramifications. Most
importantly - if you commit a crime in Germany - the American
consulate will not be able to assist you. Theoretically, this applies
for the rest of the EU as well. On the other hand, you are required by
American law to enter and leave the United States with your American
passport. The German embassy, naturally, will not be able to assits
you shall you get into troubles with the law in the United States.

Taxes, as mentioned before, shouldn't be a problem, because Germany is
subjected to bilateral tax agreements. While living in the United
States (or anywhere else outside Germany) you shouldn't pay German
taxes, with some exceptions (working for the German government, for
example). However, "Depending on the laws in effect, level of income,
source of income, etc., an American-German dual national may owe taxes
in both countries. All dual nationals must report all worldwide income
by filing an annual U.S. income tax return, regardless of whether they
owe taxes to the U.S. or pay taxes elsewhere. For more information
about taxes, please contact the Internal Revenue Service, U.S.
Embassy, Clayallee 170, 14195 Berlin, 030 8305 1140 or Fax 030 8305
1145, or your local German tax office.". (SOURCE: "U.S. and German
Citizenship and Dual Nationality",

Again, if you plan to move to Germany, feel free to address me (or any
other Researcher) again here on GA, to get a list of German tax
advisors (Steuerberater) who are also CPAs, or know the American
taxation system.

Shall you move to Germany, you will be entitled to some social rights
without having lived there (such as benefits of the social aid office
- the "Sozialamt"). As an American registered with the American
consulate in Germany, you are entitled to vote. If you are a German
citizen who's living abroad, you can theoretically vote, too - but
must be registered beforehand somewhere in Germany.

Further Links
Handbuch Deutschland

I hope this answers your question. PLease contact me if you need any
clarification on this answer before you rate it. My search terms:
[dual citizenship germany wehrpflicht -] 
[germany dual nationality taxes], 
[germany dual nationality consular protection], 
[wehrpflichtige Alter], 
[germany dual nationality military] , 
[dual citizenship germany wehrdienst],
[ wehrdienst Holocaust-Opfer bundeswehr], 
[wehrdienst Holocaust-Opfer], 
[befreiung wehrdienst Holocaust-Opfer], 
[befreiung recht wehrdienst verfolgten], 
[befreiungsrecht wehrdienst] , 
[wehrdienst verfolgten nazis], 
[wehrdienst "deutsche OR deutschen im ausland"]

Clarification of Answer by politicalguru-ga on 14 Mar 2006 02:15 PST
Dear Lt. Mickey, 

First of all, regarding the attornies. These are two German attornies
in San Francisco, but they deal mainly with corporate law (they still
should be able to answer your questions, because they are rather

Dr. Alexander P. Imberg

Dirk Michels

In addition, this SLC, Utah, firm, offers help with German citizenship : 

Weinhardt & Associates LLC.

Reagrding your children: 

Those already born have to apply after you have. For those already
born, it matters if they were born before or after December 31st,
1974. If they were born before Dec. 31st, 1974, they will be
considered German citizens only if:
(1) They were born out of wedlock, or:
(2) Your husband was also a German citizen. 

Those born after January 1st, 1975, will have to apply (like you do),
but are entitled to German citizenship also when the father is not

Future children (after you retrieve your German citizenship) will only
have to be registered in the German consulate upon birth - that would
suffice for them to be German citizens.

Military service might apply to these male children as well. However,
again, I wouldn't consider it a major problem, as German citizens
abroad do not serve; and many Germans in Germany find ways to dodge
the draft.
ltmickey-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Thank you for your very thorough and reassuring answer!  You offered
to provide the names of some American attorneys with knowledge of the
relevant German law, and I'd like to take you up on that.  I live in
the San Francisco bay area, so an attorney in that region would be

Also, I have a follow-up question/clarification.  (This wasn't
explicitly included in my original question, but I hope you'll be
willing to answer it anyway.)  Once I become a German citizen, will my
children automatically become German citizens too?  Based on your
answer, it sounds like the German military service obligation would
not apply to me (because I'm female), but I'm wondering if there would
be any effect on my male children born either before or after I obtain
my citizenship.  This is what I was getting at with the mention of my
children in my original question.

Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
From: scriptor-ga on 12 Mar 2006 16:25 PST
Being German myself, the only "downside" I can think of is military
service. German law states clearly that all male German citizens from
the age of 18 years are liable to military service or alternative
civilian service. However, only a small number of all potential
conscripts is really drafted each year, and for those who really have
to serve, German military service is short.

Taxation should not be an issue since bilateral tax agreements between
the USA and Germany avoid double taxation. However, if you decide to
take permanent residence in Germany, you will become a German taxpayer
(instead of a US taxpayer).

As it is the case in most countries, German authorities treat people
with dual citizenship as Germans in most cases. That means, for German
authorities you will be solely German, for US authorities you will be
solely American. When coming to Germany, for whatever reason, you are
German and fully subjected to German laws. But that should be no real

Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
From: nelson-ga on 12 Mar 2006 16:42 PST
Should you get in legal trouble while in Germany (possibly the entire
EU, but I haven't researched), the U.S. embassy will not assist you.
Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
From: myoarin-ga on 12 Mar 2006 19:10 PST
Being a US citizen who has lived in Germany for decades, I can a bit.

Taxes:  Both the States and Germany tax world-wide income, but as
Scriptor says, the treaty to avoid double taxation limits this to your
paying the higher tax due in whichever country.  E.g., If the US tax
rate is higher, you pay the German tax but can offset this against the
amount due in the States.  This does not apply to real estate income,
which is taxed only in the country where it is.
The IRS website has the treaty.  (Ummm, if you don't take up residency
nor have German income, the tax people probably won't know you exist
Gift and estate taxes are different.  In the States, the donor pays
the tax, in Germany, to donee does  - at significantly different
rates.  I don't know if this is covered in the treaty.

I believe Scriptor states the problems of dual citizenship well.  You
are the citizen of the country you choose to identify yourself with. 
If you live in Germany using your US passport, you must have the
residency permit, etc., regardless of the fact that you are also a
German citizen.  Ditto, in the States.
IF you need US assistance and are residing in Germany, if you have
your resident's permit in your passport, you should have no problem. 
IF you go to the consulate and admit that you have dual citizenship,
you might.
If you are just travelling in Germany or Europe, using your US
passport, you are a US tourist.  As a US citizen, the law requires you
to enter and leave the States using your US passport, though I don't
know how they can control this if you choose to use your German one.

I jumped on this before I checked the price of the question.  It
deserves an excellent "answer" with references.
There have been earlier questions relating to the topic.

Good luck.
Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
From: geof-ga on 13 Mar 2006 10:14 PST
One advantage of having two nationalities and passports is that when
travelling outside both Germany and the US you can choose to use
whichever nationality and passport is most convenient. For example,
the German passport would probably be easiest for most of Europe -
indeed, if you obtain a German ID card you can travel to some
neighbouring countries without a passport at all. On the other hand,
it would obviously be easier to travel to Canada as a US citizen. One
aspect you may wish to investigate is voting in national elections - I
think I've heard somewhere that you can be deprived of US citizenship
if you vote in a foreign country.
Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
From: politicalguru-ga on 14 Mar 2006 02:15 PST
Oops, I forgot to thank you for the rating !
Subject: Re: Downside of Dual US/German Citizenship?
From: myoarin-ga on 14 Mar 2006 06:46 PST
The children (your question in the rating box):

I hope Politicalguru will come back and check this  (please!)

IF the children are born after you become a German, they have an
immediate right to German and also US citizenship.  IF they are born
abroad, you would have to register them with a consulate or embassy.
Any children born before you received German citizenship, due to the
special nature of your right thereto, present a problem that doesn't
seem to be discussed on websites such as this one:

Whoever has been advising you about your situation should be able to
help.  It could depend on the number of generations recognizable for
your case, i.e., they might be eligible to be recognized just as you
have been, as descendents of a person denied citizenship.  If they
cannot, if the family moves to Germany, they can - in time - become
Germans, something touched on the above site.

IF you know the German key words for this situation, it may be
possible to find something.

Good luck.

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