Legal advice – Children born in Germany

New parents have lots of questions about obtaining the proper documents for their children, whether a passport, a birth certificate or a Social Security number. Here is what you need to do in each of those situations.

How do I get a copy of my child’s birth certificate from a German hospital?
In Germany the Office of Vital Statistics (Standesamt) located in the Town Hall (Rathaus) issues a certificate of descent (Abstammungsurkunde). German hospitals are generally required by law to pass all birth information to the Office of Vital Statistics (Standesamt) that has jurisdiction over the area where the hospital is located.

Apart from the ordinary German version, an international birth certificate (Geburtsurkunde) may be issued upon special request by the parents. That document displays all data in several languages, including English. The first copy will cost €7; additional copies can be obtained for €3.50. You will have to present the Abstammungsurkunde to the U.S. General Consulate.

If you give birth in a German hospital, be prepared for a visit from a representative of the hospital administration about the birth certificate (if they do not visit you, you should ask about it, especially if you are in the hospital only on the weekend or on a German holiday). The hospital will want your original marriage certificate, military IDs and passports for you and your spouse, as well as a cash fee.

They will ask a few questions, fill out the forms, have you sign the forms and in a few weeks you will receive your child’s German birth certificate in the Deutsch post. If you give birth in Landstuhl, you need fill out AE Form 40-400 (Report of Child Born Abroad) which will be issued at the hospital. You need your original marriage certificate, original birth certificate of both parents, passport/ID cards, divorce decree and an affidavit of paternity if the parents were married for a period of less than 10 months.

If you are single, you will need your passport and military ID and an affidavit of paternity from the father, along with the father’s birth certificate and ID card. Without the affidavit of paternity, the mother’s maiden name will be entered on the child’s birth certificate without the father’s name and information.

How do I get a United States passport for my child (including a newborn)?
This is easy if you are a military or a DoD ID holder. As soon as your child is born, contact your local post passport office and make an appointment to visit the passport office. The passport office will tell you what to bring to the appointment. At this appointment, the passport office will help you fill out the application for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad and United States passport. The passport employee will then take your documents to the United States Consulate in Frankfurt for processing.

When should I apply for a Social Security number for my child?
As soon as possible because you will want it when you file your federal income tax return, if your child is a U.S. citizen or you live in the United States; however, be aware that having a Social Security number is not proof of U.S. citizenship. The easiest way to obtain the Social Security number is to contact your post passport office and ask for assistance. When you apply for the Consular Report of Birth Abroad with the passport office, the passport office will normally have you apply for a social security number at the same time. Or, you may visit the Social Security Administration’s website and download application form SS-5-FS (http://www.ssa.gov).

How old does my child have to be to obtain a passport and can I get the passport without the other parent?
A child may receive a passport as long as they have the following documents: birth certificate or report of birth abroad, certification of birth abroad or certificate of citizenship or naturalization. A passport is a travel document issued by competent authority showing the bearer’s origin, identity, and nationality, if any, which is valid for the entry of the bearer into a foreign country (8 U.S.C. 1101(3)). Effective July 2, 2001, the State Department requires both parents’ consent to obtain passports and visas for travel of children under age 14 (Sec. 236, Public Law 106-113).

For further information please contact the Passport Section on post or go to: http://www.travel.state.gov/passport/get/minors/minors_834.html.

It is possible for a parent to sign a consent form for the passport and not have to be present. However, both parents’ consent is required unless otherwise ordered in a court decree.

What determines whether or not my child is entitled to German citizenship?
According to § 4 para. 1 German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz StAG), at least one of the parents has to be a German citizen in order to pass on German citizenship to the child. That child will be entitled to German citizenship even if the other parent passes that parent’s citizenship along. Contrary to children born to non-German parents, these children do not have to decide whether to keep or revoke German citizenship once they reach the age of 18. They may keep their German citizenship for life even if they also have another citizenship; however, Germans born abroad after Dec. 31, 1999, can no longer pass on German citizenship to their children, if they have their ordinary residence abroad (§ 4 para. 4 StAG).
Simply being born in Germany does not entitle anyone to German citizenship, unless one of the child’s parents has been an ordinary resident in Germany for the past eight years and either possesses a right to reside or holds an unlimited alien’s residence permit (§ 4 para. 3 StAG).

In such a case, the child is allowed to have dual citizenship. The child will be entitled to German citizenship in addition to any foreign citizenship the parents may have passed to their child through the line of blood. However, the child has to decide which citizenship to keep once the child turns 18 years old (§ 29 StAG). Just because your child is born in Germany, your child is not necessarily entitled to German citizenship.

If you have questions, please see the Legal Assistance Office at the Wiesbaden Legal Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. It is also open Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m.. To visit with an attorney, call for an appointment at 537-0664.

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