Germans abroad

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Germans living abroad are Germans residing outside Germany . It is estimated that several million German citizens live abroad; However, the German Federal Government has no statistical data on Germans living permanently or temporarily abroad (as of 2010).

The emigration statistics of the OECD refer to people born in Germany. According to the OECD, around 3.4 million people born in Germany live in another OECD country (as of 2011), mainly in the United States (1.1 million). Almost 1.9 million of them are gainfully employed abroad, half of them as managers, academics, technicians or in the education or health sector. After India, the Philippines, China and the United Kingdom, Germany is the fifth most important source of highly skilled workers.

Conceptual core and conceptual court

Germans abroad in the narrower sense of the word are German nationals who do not have a permanent place of residence in Germany. It is very difficult to estimate, as the term usually also includes Germans who are still registered in Germany, i.e. H. have a residence under registration law, but actually live completely or predominantly abroad or Germans who were born abroad, were never registered in Germany and have not applied for identification papers at the diplomatic mission abroad. Parents who were born abroad after December 31, 1999 are only required to report to the responsible German registrar or the German diplomatic mission to obtain German citizenship for children born abroad. According to estimates, there are 1.14 million Germans abroad in Europe alone, most of them in Switzerland and Spain (as of 2010).

Occasionally, even today, people of German origin without German citizenship , who live abroad, still profess the German nationality in one form or another and maintain the German language, are referred to as Germans abroad. This means Germans who have their home in other countries, especially as a German minority who have been resident there for a long time , with the nationality of the country in which they live, for example Germans in Northern Schleswig ( Denmark ). People of German origin residing in Eastern Europe can, under certain circumstances, be recognized as ethnic German repatriates and apply for German citizenship. According to publications from 1987 and 1989, 10 to 15 million German speakers and people who professed German nationality, but who are not necessarily German citizens, lived abroad.

History of the term

Germans abroad with grandchildren, near Moscow, 1917

As part of the founding of the German Empire in 1871, the meaning of the word changed "German". For the first time, a distinction was made between people who lived permanently in the German Reich and those who had their place of residence outside its borders. The idea of ​​"Auslandsdeutschtum" formed a kind of substitute community for those who lived in Austria , as a German minority in their ancestral areas or as settlers in the German colonies outside the territorial national borders. Often people were counted as "foreign German" to "Germanness" even against their will - we spoke about so-called border and remote Germans - who were finally emigrated for example, in the US and acquired the citizenship of their new home and culturally assimilated had that were at best still of German descent. “This imagined nation was de facto widely scattered and by no means coherent, but it was nonetheless part of an integral, cultural imagination . [...] The experience of a turning point and the deep divide between home and abroad was united here with the belief that the cultural and increasingly ethnically understood national identity could not be saved. "

This understanding was reflected in the amendment to the nationality law of 1913. German citizenship was no longer automatically lost after living abroad after ten years, but could now be transferred to descendants. The idea behind this was that German emigrants who stayed in "New Germany" (meaning the German colonies) would no longer be lost to the " national body ", but should be able to return to their "home of origin", motherland Germany, at any time.

"Colonies" were both the overseas territories that were completely lost until 1919 and were under German rule, as well as the areas in southeast and eastern Europe that had been populated by Germans since the Middle Ages and had a local or regional majority of ethnic German residents. Sebastian Conrad concludes from the term ethnic German or “ Volksdeutsche ”, which breaks the boundaries of the German state : “At the latest the high number of ' resettlers ' who 'returned' to Germany as a result of these regulations in the 1990s, especially from Russia. , demonstrated the ongoing social relevance of this legal regulation and, generally speaking, the importance of the colonial legacy in German history. "

With the Treaty of Versailles , areas fell under the sovereignty of the victorious powers of the First World War . Germans living in these areas were generally referred to as border Germans . In the Foreign Office there was the " Ribbentrop Bureau " no later than 1935, of Hess explicitly specified task the care of expatriate Germans (see Karlfried Graf Dürckheim ). In 1936 Stuttgart was awarded the honorary title City of Germans Abroad . There was the seat of the German Foreign Institute .

The application of the term German abroad to people without German citizenship has declined sharply since 1945. Even in the era of National Socialism , it was applied more to German nationals living abroad than to ethnic Germans (this term has been used since the 1920s and is now synonymous with German nationals ).


The transfer of the principal residence to abroad while retaining the German citizenship brings some consequences.

De-registration of your German place of residence

According to Section 17 of the Federal Registration Act, the move without maintaining an apartment in Germany must be reported to the registration authority within two weeks at the latest.

A secondary residence in Germany can only be registered if there is also a main residence ( Section 21 BMG ). A main apartment should, however, be the mainly used apartment. Therefore, Germans abroad actually have to deregister if they have relocated their center of life abroad. Failure to comply with these provisions constitutes an administrative offense that can be punished with a fine of up to 1000 euros.

An exception are soldiers who serve on ships in the Navy. The accommodations there can also be specified as an apartment, even if they are mostly located abroad ( Section 21 BMG ). However, other ships can only be specified as an apartment if they are not moved regularly.

In practice, many Germans abroad never deregister because this is not systematically monitored and rarely punished. They are therefore treated like domestic Germans for the following special features.

ID cards and passports

Germans living abroad are not required to provide identification , i.e. they are not required to have an identity card or passport . However, in many cases such a document is required. For example, when crossing borders around the world, a passport or an approved substitute document (e.g. identity card) must be carried and presented at a border control . This also applies to German citizens entering or leaving Germany. Depending on the country of residence, a corresponding visa may also have to be entered in the passport, which may require the possession of a current document.

  • The German diplomatic mission in whose district the foreign German lives is responsible for issuing passports . Such a representation can be an embassy or a consulate general. It is usually no longer possible to apply for honorary consulates , but in many cases the technical requirements have been created there too. In order to handle the rules of jurisdiction in practice in a citizen-friendly manner, the passport administration regulation (Section 19.4.1) stipulates that passport applications from Germans living abroad must be accepted by passport authorities in Germany regardless of their own lack of jurisdiction and processed after obtaining the necessary authorization if a important reason is set out. One such important reason is e.g. B. occurs if the applicant claims that the path to the competent passport authority is considerably further than to the incompetent passport authority.
  • An identity card can also be applied for by people who are not resident in Germany. Since January 1, 2013, the application can be submitted to German diplomatic missions abroad. However, the responsible representation is not necessarily the same as for passports, as not every foreign representation is also an identity card authority. As the place of residence on the ID card, it is stated that the holder is not domiciled in Germany. The costs are significantly higher than in Germany, as a foreign surcharge of 30 euros is levied. Since this surcharge is higher than the fee for the ID card itself, the cost of applying abroad is more than twice as high as in Germany (as of June 2013). Until the end of 2012 it was only possible to apply to any local ID card authority in Germany. Before November 1, 2010, the federal states were also responsible for issuing identity cards, not the federal government, which often caused difficulties with the application.


Germans abroad are only allowed to participate in elections in Germany with restrictions (see also section Germans abroad in the article on the right to vote ):

  • In federal elections abroad German allowed since May 3, 2013 ( Federal Law Gazette I, p. 962 ) only vote if they have lived either following their 14th year at least three consecutive months in the Federal Republic of Germany and back is this stay does not exceed 25 or if they have acquired personal and direct familiarity with the political conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany for other reasons and are affected by them. Germans abroad to whom this does not apply do not have the right to vote in federal elections. The previous regulation was declared unconstitutional in July 2012, so that there was no legal basis for the right to vote for Germans abroad. Germans abroad can have themselves entered in the electoral roll of their last constituency of residence and participate by postal vote . Germans abroad who have never had a place of residence in Germany have their constituency centered around the focus of their personal concern with the political conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany; In the case of cross-border commuters, this is their place of work, the last home municipality of the ancestors in a straight line or, in the case of local staff from German missions abroad, usually the Foreign Office and thus the district office in the center of Berlin (constituency 75). There is no special constituency for Germans abroad.
  • In European elections , Germans abroad can cast their votes in Germany if they are resident in another country of the European Union and do not participate in the election there. Alternatively, as Union citizens, you can also participate in the European elections in your country of residence.
  • The right to participate in elections to state parliaments and other regional authorities in Germany is linked to a place of residence in the relevant region. The federal states could open this up to Germans abroad, but this has not yet happened.

If the German expat still has a place of residence in Germany, his right to vote is unrestricted. In particular, no application for entry in the electoral roll is required. Participation by postal vote is possible.

Driving licenses

The validity of the German driving license abroad is subject to the legislation of the foreign place of residence. If necessary, the driving license must be replaced or supplemented by a local version before a period has expired. If there is no exchange option, an examination may have to be taken.

No exchange is required within the European Union for at least the first 2 years, which means that all valid German driving licenses, including older documents in gray and pink, can still be used by Germans living in other EU countries. However, after two years of residence, the country of residence may request the renewal of driving licenses that have a period of validity that differs from the period of validity of 5 to 15 years (depending on the class) provided for in the EU directive. Likewise, after 2 years, the country of residence can apply its own national regulations on restriction, suspension, revocation or revocation of the driving license, which can also result in a mandatory exchange.

This means that the unlimited valid German driving licenses issued until January 19, 2013 can no longer be recognized there after 2 years in other EU countries. The exact regulations differed in the EU member states . While z. B. in Denmark driving a vehicle is only allowed after 2 years with a driver's license issued in accordance with the current EU directive. B. Sweden, Austria, Ireland, the Czech Republic or Finland recognized the driving license for as long as it would have been valid in the country of issue. In the case of higher driving license classes for buses or trucks, there may also be restrictions due to age limits and medical fitness tests.

In any case, according to the EU Driving License Directive, the EU states are obliged to replace all documents with EU driving licenses by January 19, 2033, whereby the originally unlimited German driving licenses will then lose their validity at the latest. In the event of loss or expiry of the driving license, the country of residence is responsible for issuing a new driving license, whereby the corresponding EU driving license classes are transferred.

In Switzerland, the German driving license is valid for max. 12 months from the entry for immigration in the residence permit , d. H. it must be exchanged for a Swiss driver's license within this period , provided that its validity extends over this period; an invalid driver's license cannot be exchanged in Switzerland. After the 12 months have expired, driving with a German driving license and simultaneous residence in Switzerland is considered driving without a driving license. The exchanged driver's license will be sent back to Germany and kept there.

Tax law and social security

Tax liability

Tax liability is regulated between many countries, including within the EU, with intergovernmental double taxation agreements. There is also an OECD model convention. As a rule, Germans living abroad are liable to tax on their worldwide income in the country in which they have their center of life ( unlimited tax liability ). This also applies to investment income generated in Germany. Here, however, the (full or partial - (e.g. for dividends)) refund of the final withholding tax can be requested. There are exceptions for rental and lease income obtained from real estate in Germany.

Germans abroad who work for the EU or international organizations are either tax-free or subject to an internal tax. For example, EU employees pay an EU tax. Diplomats and other employees whose income is paid from a German public fund remain permanently in the German tax system.

Health insurance

Compulsory social security is also often regulated in intergovernmental social security agreements. In contrast to tax law, the EU has a regulation on the coordination of social security systems . The so-called posting is typical for social security law . Here an employee who is posted abroad by a German company for a limited period of time with the intention of returning is allowed to remain in the German social security system. The background is that the employee's contribution biography should not be interrupted. In the EU, the posted worker has to carry the A1 certificate with him, which proves that he is socially insured in Germany. For billing in the area of statutory health insurance , the posted employee has a direct right to reimbursement from his employer, who has recourse to social insurance ( Section 17 SGB ​​V ). With a private health insurance , the billing takes place immediately, as usual.

If posting is not possible or the maximum period has expired, the person concerned is insured in the country in which he works. In the EU, the maximum duration of a posting is usually limited to 2 years. Cross-border commuters within the EU can use the S1 form to apply to any German statutory health insurance company to settle benefits in kind for treatment in Germany, which is then financially borne by the health insurance company with which they are insured in the country of activity. This protection goes further than that of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) , which only covers short stays and medical emergencies.

Retirement pension

If there is a social security agreement or if European law applies, pension entitlement periods of the respective countries are taken into account. However, the respective pensions are paid by the states in which the entitlement was acquired.

Child benefit

A German expatriate receives child benefit even without a domicile or habitual abode in Germany if he is subject to unlimited taxation in Germany. This is the case if he receives his salary from a German public fund (entitlement according to Section 62 (1) No. 2 EStG ). A German expatriate is also entitled to child benefit in accordance with Section 1 of the Federal Child Benefit Act if he is only posted under social security law without paying taxes in Germany, i.e. H. is in an insurance relationship with the Federal Employment Agency, or as a development worker or missionary works, or as a civil servant, judge or soldier abroad an employer private law temporarily assigned was.

Inheritance law

There is great inconsistency in inheritance law for Germans abroad. Before the European Inheritance Law Regulation came into force in August 2012, German law assumed that German nationals always inherit according to German inheritance law. Since then, the last habitual residence is relevant. The testator can also choose German inheritance law through a will. In addition, a European certificate of succession was introduced that is comparable to the German certificate of inheritance . Conflicts can arise in particular with real estate, but also with securities accounts that are located outside the EU and in respect of which the foreign state declares its own inheritance law to be applicable, regardless of the last habitual residence of the testator or his choice of law. In this case, the estate will be split up .


Until compulsory military service was suspended, compulsory military service was suspended with permanent residence abroad. Conscripts were subject to military surveillance and had to obtain the approval of the district military replacement office if they wanted to leave Germany for more than 3 months.

Crisis preparedness

German citizens who live abroad can have themselves entered in the crisis prevention list of Germans resident in the "consular district and other warrants as well as their family members" (also known as the German list), which the respective German diplomatic mission leads to preparedness for disaster cases .

See also

Relationships, community, culture
social insurance


  • Tammo Luther: Volkstumsppolitik of the German Reich 1933–1938. The Germans abroad in the field of tension between traditionalists and National Socialists. Steiner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08535-1 .
  • Hans-Werner Retterath: German-Americanism and the idea of ​​nationality : on the construction of ethnicity through German cultural work abroad. Dissertation . University of Marburg, 2000.
  • Günther J. Bergmann: Germans abroad in Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina. Westkreuz-Verlag, Bad Münstereifel 1994, ISBN 3-929592-05-3 , (Mainz, University, dissertation, 1992 udT: Günther J. Bergmann: Das Deutschtum in the Paraguayan-Brazilian-Argentinean three-country area of ​​the upper Paraná )
  • Klaus J. Bade: Germans Abroad - Foreigners in Germany: Migration Past and Present . Beck, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-406-35961-2 .
  • Marc Zirlewagen (Ed.): "We want to be Germans, a united people of brothers!" The Association of German Students Abroad 1918–1933 - A collection of texts and sources including the chronicle of the VADSt Marburg 1919–1934. Essen 2013, ISBN 978-3-939413-25-7 .
  • Stefan Heid , Karl-Joseph Hummel (ed.): Papality and patriotism. The Campo Santo Teutonico: Place of the Germans in Rome between Risorgimento and the First World War (1870–1918) (= Roman quarterly for Christian antiquity and church history . Supplement vol. 65). Herder, Freiburg (Breisgau) et al. 2018, ISBN 978-3-451-38130-0 .
  • Max Paul Friedman: Nazis and good neighbors. The United States campaign against the Germans of Latin America in World War II , Cambridge u. a. (Cambridge University Press) 2005. ISBN 0-521-67535-9 . ISBN 978-0-521-67535-2

Web links

Wiktionary: Abroad German  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Answer of the Federal Government to the short question "Simplification of voting participation for Germans abroad" (Drucksache 17/1692), BT-Drs. 17/1883 , May 28, 2010.
  2. Over three million German emigrants in OECD countries. OECD, June 1, 2015, accessed November 24, 2018 .
  3. Section 4 (4) of the Nationality Act
  4. a b Judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of July 4, 2012 (AZ: 2 BvC 1/11, 2 BvC 2/11 - decision of July 4, 2012)
  5. Definition of German nationality based on Section 6 of the Federal Expellees Act
  6. ↑ German Abroad ( Memento from October 29, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) information from the Federal Agency for Civic Education
  7. Sebastian Conrad , Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte , CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56248-8 , p. 20 f.
  8. Sebastian Conrad , Deutsche Kolonialgeschichte , CH Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-406-56248-8 , p. 95 f.
  9. Section 17 of the Federal Registration Act
  10. § 1 PAuswG
  11. Section 1 of the Passport Act (passport requirement) and Section 2 of the PassG in conjunction with Section 7 of the Passport Ordinance ( passport replacement ).
  12. Information from the Foreign Office on the passport requirement
  13. Foreign Office: How and where can I apply for a German passport?
  14. Information from the Foreign Office on identity cards for Germans living abroad
  15. § 8 Abs. 2 PAuswG and § 35 PAuswG
  16. Bundestag election 2017: Germans abroad - information on , accessed on January 20, 2020
  17. § 6
  18. a b Directive 2006/126 / EC of December 20, 2006
  19. Information on foreign driving licenses on the website of the Danish police
  20. Regulations for foreign driving licenses on the website of the Swedish traffic authorities (Swedish) and as PDF (German)
  21. Information from the regional police headquarters on the validity of foreign driving licenses in Austria
  22. Information on Foreign Driving Licenses in Ireland
  23. Announcement from the German Embassy in Prague from August 2019: Leaflet on driving licenses in the Czech Republic , accessed on May 20, 2020
  24. Information on foreign driving licenses on the website of the Finnish Police ( Memento from September 24, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  25. Announcement from the German pension insurance: Pension abroad - times spent abroad count , accessed on May 20, 2020
  26. § 6 (3) Consular Act