German Law/§ 14 StAG financial requirements
QUESTION: Hello Andreas,
Thank you so much for all your advice here on the forum. It has certainly been very informative. I see that you recently answered a couple of questions about the § 14 StAG. I want to apply for naturalization and also fall into this category, having been born to a German mother prior to 1975.
You recently replied that cases of applicants such as myself are "usually granted because the current application of § 14 StAG is in a way a restitution for past discrimination by the German Citizenship Act before 1975. You therefore do not need to over fulfill the requirements like other applicants for naturalization in Germany from abroad who have no German parent". I feel that my weakest part of the application will be my current income and ability to pay for any potential illness or medical needs that may occur. Do you know if there a minimum income they are looking for? If my income is below that level, would I need to over fulfill other requirements? Could I use my income from last year's taxes in my application? My income varies each year, since I work freelance.
I was born and grew up in the US, but made annual 3 1/2 week trips to Germany growing up. We visited my grandmother and other relatives during that time. My mother kept her German citizenship up until about 2000, when she had to give it up to attain US citizenship.
I am fluent in German. I attained a "Very Good" score on the Zertifikat Deutsch Exam from the Goethe Institute in 1990 while I was still in High School. I don't know how that relates to the C1 that you have mentioned. I minored in German in college, as it wasn't offered as a major at my school. Since graduating college, I have spoken German quite a bit as I have worked for many years as a Tour Director for German speakers in the US and Canada. I worked for American companies, but they were subcontracting for German tour operators such as Hauser Exkursionen, Wikinger, and Marlboro Reisen. I wasn't paid directly by these German companies, but I dealt directly with their clients. I don't know if this would be helpful?
I have a good amount of friends in Germany as well as a godson in the Stuttgart area. My grandmother passed away in 2006, so I don't have any close relatives left there.
I started a new job this spring where I am working as a Tour Director on riverboat tours along the Danube (Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary). I am working for an American company and without a visa, I am limited to the 90 days in a 180 day span of time to work in the Shengen countries. I have thought about getting German naturalization for a long time, and now it would be really beneficial to my current situation. I am in Europe at the moment and getting close to my 90 days being up. If I had the German citizenship, I would be staying, as they would have a lot of work for me. I feel like I'm in a bit of a catch-22. Germany will want to see my current income and that would become much more if I were naturalized. I know you have written that they won't look at what could be, but what is now... I do have the job though, and the company wants to give me more work. They have really maximized my time to exactly 90 days during my first 180 day period. It's high-season now, but I need to leave in early August, and can't return until November when the season will be over.
Co-workers have suggested that I hire an immigration lawyer as this could speed up the process considerably. Would you agree with this? You also answered previously that a one year wait time is nothing unusual due to the backlog. Would a lawyer be able to cut through that backlog? Would it be worth hiring a lawyer for that reason, or is there really no way to fast-track?
I will of course be happy to send you a donation for your time. Vielen Dank! Thank you very much!
ANSWER: Dear Ernst,
1) There is no minimum income. You would need to show that if you were to move to Germany, you could support yourself and/or find a job. So you can compensate low income with qualifications that are sorely needed and will most likely help you to find a job soon.
Your current job (although it actually sounds very interesting) does probably not fall into that category. They are more looking for doctors and programmers.
It seems to me that you are in Schengen on a tourist visa or on the visa waiver but you are working. That's actually not legal in all EU countries, so it wouldn't be a good thing to inform the Bundesverwaltungsamt of.
2) If you submit last year's tax return, you might be asked to show an employment contract.
As a freelancer, it's generally very hard. You have to keep in mind that your application will be processed by government employees, to whom the idea of guys like you and me without a fixed income and working from different places is highly dubious. They regard us freelancers as slightly better hobos.
3) Other than that, your ties to Germany and your interest in Germany are actually quite strong, regular and long-term and would be sufficient for the application.
4) Whoever told you that a lawyer can speed up the process at the Bundesverwaltungsamt must have been dreaming. Don't waste money on that! The only way I help clients with § 14 StAG applications is by drafting the application letter. But after that, your application is in one big pile that is slowly being worked through.
The only way applications for naturalization are ever fast-tracked are if the German national team in any kind of sports wants you to play for them, or maybe if you are building a factory that will create 100s of jobs. But that it would help you to stay in Europe definitely is not a compelling reason for the Bundesverwaltungsamt.
5) As you are in Europe already, you might want to look into either getting married to an EU citizen or getting a student visa in one of the countries along your route (although the German student visa would not allow you to work full-time; but I don't know how other countries handle that). I mention the student visa because it's usually the easiest to get (after the marriage/partnership visa), you speak German well enough to get into a university in Germany and because there are no or very low tuition fees. But of course you would need to find a program where you don't need to show up every day.
The proper way would be to get a work visa. Does your employer have a seat in any of the countries along the route? Then that would be the best country to try it.
6) Lastly, you probably already know that, but you don't need to return to the US for 90 days. You can for example go to the Balkans, travel/live there for 90 days and then return. Countries like Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania are very affordable to live, have absolutely wonderful landscape and a lot of interesting places to visit.
I am very sorry that there is no easy or fast solution.
Thank you very much in advance for your donation!
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QUESTION: Dear Andreas,
Thanks for that very fast response. My donation has been made. :)
I have considered the qualifying positions needed in Germany in the past and realized that wouldn't be the easiest route for me. I have a BS in International Business, but it is a degree I never used, and it is now a long time ago. I earned a BA in Photography years later - in Commercial Advertising, but also not one that I was able to make much use of due to the freelance nature of that profession and the massive school loan debt I incurred. That's when I returned to tourism... Starting a photography business from scratch in Germany wouldn't be the easiest path either, and I haven't seen that as a needed profession there anyway.
I was under the impression that the way I'm working here is legal, since I'm paid in $ US, and paid in the US. I don't get paid in Europe. The company is a leader in the industry and they do everything by the book from what I have seen, so I think they have figured this out legally. There are places the company does tours where I can't work, such as in Canada. They hire Canadians specifically for any tours there. But, you're probably right about not using this as a selling point in my application, or I'll need to find out the details about it.
I hadn't planned on moving to Germany any time soon, unless a work opportunity came up where it would make sense for me to do that. I actually studied in Germany for a semester of college in 1993. I earned my photography degree 10 years ago. I'm leery about returning to school again. I still owe so much for my last degree. I know I could find a school in Germany where I could go tuition free, but there would still be the cost of living. I currently don't pay rent anywhere, so that would be an added cost. I was hoping that this new job would allow me to finally earn enough without going back to school a 3rd time... That would be a lot to think about.
My employer does have an office in Switzerland, but I have not been on any of the tours going through there. They do not get visas for their employees. That's something I'd need to do on my own if I were to get one. Another co-worker suggested I get an artist visa for my photography - but I don't know how that would work if I'm then working in tourism instead...
Yes, I do know about the neighboring countries outside of Shengen. I just came back to Shengen yesterday, after being in Scotland for 3 nights - in order to allow me to complete my upcoming tour. Unfortunately I need to work as much as possible at the moment because of my school loans, and with my irregular income, I can't justify any type of vacation or longer stay away from home (where I don't pay rent or transportation). I couldn't afford staying someplace else for 90 days without working. My monthly school loan payments are higher than what a lot of people pay for rent in the US. I agree that the Balkan countries offer great possibilities though. I traveled through some of them 5 years ago.
Thanks for the advice on not paying a lawyer in regards to fast tracking. That certainly would have been a waste of money...
I'll have to get this process rolling when I return to the states next month. Perhaps I can then be naturalized by 2018...
ANSWER: Dear Ernst,
thank you very much for your donation!
1) You don't need to worry much because in practice nothing will happen, but
- the visa waiver of the Schengen area (like that in the US) is for touristic purposes, not for work,
- the currency in which you are paid is of course irrelevant (otherwise anyone could circumvent immigration laws by paying their employees in a foreign currency),
- the same applies to where you are paid, for otherwise anyone could just have their salary deposited to a foreign bank account. The question of where an employment takes place is determined by where you physically work. There are exceptions for assignments, but that would be the case if you do tours in the US all year and then come on a tour to Europe for 2 weeks per year (although you might still need to get a different visa for that).
2) None of the countries in the EU will try to come after you for taxes because you are not long enough in any of them. So I wouldn't worry about that for now.
3) But immigration law is a completely separate issue from tax law.
4) You could indeed attempt to get an artist visa in Germany (I don't know about the other EU countries because these are not Schengen visas but national visas), but you would need to show a residence in Germany. And pay taxes there.
You also have to consider that once you live in Germany (even if only officially), you cannot use § 14 StAG anymore because this is limited to people living abroad. Of course you could go through the normal German naturalization process, but that requires a residence of at least 6 years and with your job you might have a problem proving that you were in fact residing in Germany.
5) Do you have any other European ancestors from whom you might be able to derive EU citizenship?
6) When you apply for naturalization according to § 14 StAG make sure you don't make it sound like it's a matter of convenience for your job. The application must be based on your family, linguistic, academic and other ties to Germany. Naturalization according to § 14 StAG is granted by discretion and the administrative guidelines require that your naturalization is in the interest of Germany, although that is interpreted widely in cases of people like yourself who were born to a German mother before 1975. But if you mention anything that would look like you are using that option because you don't want to apply for a work visa, that would diminish your chances.
Sorry that this is so terribly complicated,
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QUESTION: Thanks again Andreas! I am now back in the US and have an appointment at the German Consulate in NY next week to give them my application. It says that it can be sent in, but I felt it would be better to go in person to be sure I'm giving them all the necessary information.
Regarding your question on other European ancestors, the only other possibility for me would be Austria, and from what I have read and looked into regarding that, it seems even more difficult. My mother's father was from Austria. My grandmother was born in Augsburg, but she had both citizenship's until she died, probably the Austrian through marriage. My grandparents were married and my mother was born during the Third Reich. My mother may have been considered Austrian at birth since her father was Austrian. My mother was naturalized as German around 1950 or so - she has paperwork with the exact date. We just need to get everything from the safe-deposit box and examine it.
I'm a bit confused about the required hand-written tabular curriculum vitae. Is that something that I will write and submit with my application, or is that something I need to do in-person at the Consulate? I'm also wondering how detailed it needs to be... and at what point will language testing be done?
Would it be a good idea to get a letter from my current employer that I am considered full-time with them? Since I wrote you initially, they have offered me more work outside of Shengen. They of course are supportive of me applying for this, and will help in any way they can. Do you have any tips on what should be included in such a letter, if they were to write one for me?
1) You provide the handwritten CV with all the other documents.
It's a rather old-fashioned requirement, it seems to me, but be that as it may. It should be like the CV when applying for a job, between one and two pages.
2) You need to provide proof of your proficiency in German with the application.
3) Yes, the letter from your employer would be useful, particularly if it states your salary.