This is not a joke question. I've learned something strange through the reply to a minor interpellation by parliament.

One would assume that a passport is a proof of citizenship of that country? In Germany apparently it is less than proof. In Germany a German passport only counts as presumption of German citizenship.

They wrote, in German language, and translated by me to English (German original below):

The citizenship card is the only document with which the existence of German citizenship in all matters for which it is right - is significant and binding (§ 30 StAG). The German passport and identity card are no proof for the German Citizenship, they justify a presumption that the holder of the German nationality.

Most Germans poses a German ID card and a lot posses a German passport. The citizenship card (Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis) however is a rarity of which in the year 2018 only a number of 174558 existed (Germany has a population of 83 million). This number comes was soured from another minor interpellation by parliament. Rather, noways it is difficult for Germans born citizen to acquire a citizenship card (Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis). Authorities refuse to process applications for citizenship cards due to "lack of justification" (German, really hard to translate, "fehlendes schutzwürdigen Sachbescheidungsinteresse"). Even a court ruled:

Applications for the determination of the existence of the German nationality (§ 30 paragraph 1 sentence 1 StAG) are rejected if they are lacking the necessary dignity of interest.

Let me summarize that for you:

The German passport and identity card are no proof for the German Citizenship, they justify a presumption that the holder of the German nationality, yet authorities refuse to process citizenship cards, which would be proof, and a court agreed with them. In the view of German administration, unless German citizen specially are required to have a citizenship card for some purpose, they don't have the right to acquire a document that would proof that they are German citizen.

Is a passport proof or presumption of citizenship?

German original:

Der Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis ist das einzige Dokument, mit dem das Bestehen der deutschen Staatsangehörigkeit in allen Angelegenheiten, für die es rechts - erheblich ist, verbindlich feststellt wird (§ 30 StAG). Der deutsche Reisepass und Personalausweis sind kein Nachweis für die deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit, sie begründen nur eine Vermutung, dass der Inhaber die deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit besitzt.

German source:

Landtag von Baden-Württemberg 16. Wahlperiode Drucksache 16/1883 04.04.2017 https://www.landtag-bw.de/files/live/sites/LTBW/files/dokumente/WP16/Drucksachen/1000/16_1883_D.pdf

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    "What is the status in your country? Is a passport proof or presumption of citizenship?" Law SE is not a discussion forum; it's a Q and A site. Commented May 25, 2019 at 1:13
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    I'm guessing this depends on the context. It's factually true that I can't be absolutely sure someone is a citizen of a country because they have a valid passport for it (they could have renounced their citizenship after receiving it, for example), but it would lead to a reasonable assumption that they are. That distinction may matter in some specific circumstances but not for the general purpose of confirming someone's citizenship, e.g. an immigration officer could choose to detain a person with a valid German passport until he can confirm their citizenship with the central government. Commented May 25, 2019 at 1:26
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    There is a slight misunderstanding here. It was refused because nobody doubted his citizenship, thus it is considered a waste of effort. The Citizen Certificate is only needed when proof is being demanded, which often happens when you become a civil servent and citizenship is required. Commented May 25, 2019 at 11:31
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    Legally an ID or Passport is only a persumsion of citizenship. If doubt exists (which happened after the war), then a Citizenship Certificate must be applied for to remove that doubt. In the above case, he was born in Germany of German parents and registered as German from day one. The was no doubt, thus no need. Commented May 25, 2019 at 11:48
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    lack of necessity would be better than justification. Citizenship Certificate is the best possible translation for the document. The used German term ausweis emplies an ID, which it is not thus the need for clarification. The term has been in use for over a 100 years, that is why it has not been changed to bescheinigung which would be more accurate. Commented May 25, 2019 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


It depends on the issuing country.

The primary purpose of a passport is to enable the holder to travel internationally, not to prove citizenship.

Most countries only issue passports to their citizens, which has made such passports widely recognised as proof of citizenship — both inside and outside of the issuing country. But at the end of the day it is up to the country to decide whether to follow this established pattern or not. For example, Estonia does not.

And, of course, it is up to the country to decide which documents prove citizenship of their own citizens inside. Say in Russia a Russian passport for international travel is not a valid document for identification/proving citizenship. So-called "internal passport", similar to that of German citizenship card, serves for this role.

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