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Reader question: Do all children born in Germany automatically receive German citizenship?

If a baby is born in Germany, does the child become Deutsch? The answer may not be so straightforward, for both foreign and sometimes even German parents.

A German passport on a desk in the home
A German passport on a desk in the home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

In the US, stories abound of expecting parents who travel to the country on the brink of giving birth, and then have a baby who’s automatically granted American citizenship. 

But does the same rule – when foreign parents receive citizenship for their child in the country it’s born – also apply in Germany?

The short answer is no – at least not automatically. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to German citizenship by descent and how to apply for it

Contrary to what some people might assume, if a baby is born to two foreign parents in Germany, the child does not receive German citizenship upon birth, according to Germany’s Foreign Ministry. 

But there are a couple of ways in which the child can still become a German passport holder.

Parent(s) who are long-term German residents

Any child born in Germany after January 1st, 2000 to at least one foreign parent who has resided continuously in Germany for at least eight years and is a permanent resident, qualifies for German citizenship in addition to the citizenship of the parents.

But there’s a catch: according to the German Optionspflict, “the child must decide at some stage between the age of 18 and 23 whether to retain his or her German nationality or another nationality acquired by birth,” wrote the German Foreign Ministry.

The requirement to choose is only in place, however, for children who received German citizenship through a parent who’s a long-term resident of Germany.

If the parent holds a German passport, the child doesn’t need to choose, unless it’s required by the other country of which they’re a passport holder.

That means that if a foreign parent gets German citizenship after their child is born, they can also receive a German passport for their offspring.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast track citizenship in Germany

A man holds a German passport in his hand.

A man holds a German passport in his hand. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

Loopholes even with a German parent 

It may seem like a given that having one German parent would grant citizenship to a child born in Germany, but that’s not always the case.

If the parents are not married and the father is German, he will need to make sure to fill out a Vaterschaftsanerkennung (recognition of paternity) before the citizenship can be claimed.

Families in which one parent is German and the other foreign also often assume that only one passport is needed, but things can get a little tricky.

Let’s say the mother is a British passport holder and the father possesses a German passport. While their offspring can easily travel to the UK without an issue, they may encounter difficulties reentering Germany unless their kid has an official deutschen Reisepass.

And it goes without saying that a child born to a German parent abroad, whether the father or mother, is also required to officially apply for a German passport in order for German nationality to be recognised.

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Five Danish children’s songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

Some are ear worms, some are repeated endlessly, and some might even help grown-ups to relax after a busy day. Sooner or later, even international parents will learn these Danish children's songs. You may as well start now.

Five Danish children’s songs international parents will inevitably have to learn

Godnatsangen 

Nu er solen gået i seng

Udenfor står natten på spring

Vi skal sove nu

Vil skal hvile vores krop for i morgen skal vi op

“Now the sun has gone to bed, the night is waiting outside, we must sleep now, we must rest ourselves, for tomorrow we’ll get up”.

Popular entertainer Sigurd Barrett (no relation to the author of this article, although many, many Danes have asked me) has a long back catalogue of kids’ songs but this lullaby is probably the most played and definitely the most relaxing.

It has an excellent track record for getting tired toddlers to sleep in cars (based on my sample size of one) and its gentle piano melody even lulls mums and dads after a long day.

Elefantens vuggevise

A lullaby about bedtime for elephants, ostriches and rhinos, this song has been around for decades and has seen several versions since it was written in 1948 by Harald Andreas Hartvig Lund.

There are several popular versions, including by legendary singer Kim Larsen and a more recent one by Sys Bjerre.

Its lyrics paint a vivid and wonderful picture of zebras in pyjamas, flying squirrels and cribs made of green bananas. I wonder how many exciting dreams kids have after being sung to sleep to the adventures of little Jumbo the elephant.

I dag er det Oles fødselsdag

The classic birthday song “Happy Birthday to You” has variations in many languages. In Denmark, however, you’ll find yourself at birthday parties singing a version of I dag er det Oles fødselsdag (“Today it’s Ole’s Birthday”), with the birthday boy or girl’s name replacing “Ole” in the title and lyrics.

The text and melody were written in 1913, so the song has been around for generations and part of its popularity is the fact that you can switch out the original name for that of whoever’s birthday it is.

While you can also personalise the English version of “Happy Birthday”, that’s not the case in all language versions of that song. Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why a different birthday song caught on in Denmark.

Now sing after me: hun sikker sig en gave får, som hun har ønsket sig i år
med dejlig chokolade og gaver til

Der sad to katte på et bord

I might as well apologise now for annoying you for the rest of the day and probably tomorrow too, because this is the ultimate in ear worms. I’m sorry.

A sweet tale about to two cats who address each other as “my friend” and can’t decide whether to sit on the table or the floor, it’s the Kritte vitte vitte vit bum bum refrain between lines that will really get into your head. Kids love it.

You can listen to the song below, if you dare. 

Langt ud’ i skoven lå et lille bjerg

Like the previous entry, this song has a repetitive element to it. Its title translates to “Deep in the forest there was a little mountain”.

Each version adds an element to the description in the title: a tree on the mountain, a branch on the tree, a twig on the branch, a leaf on the twig and so forth.

It’s a fun one to sing with kids because they enjoy the play element of trying to remember the new part on each repeat. By the end, it gets very long and can descend into farce.

These five songs do not even begin to form an exhaustive list of Denmark’s wide, wide, wide repertoire of children’s songs. Which ones can you not get out of your head? Which means something special for you or your children? Let us know in the comments below!

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