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From the case of US, I understand that nationals are not the same as citizens. That is, a person who is allowed to stay permenantly in a place may not receive a passport.

Recently Germany passed a new law on citizenship (as far as I understand), but videos news articles and videos often use imagery of a passport.

So, does this mean that in the case of germany that citizenship means one has to get the passport neccesarily? Then, what happend to the niederlassungserlaubnis?

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    Citizenship, in most if not all, countries, gives you the same rights as if you were born there and grew up there - it makes you no longer an immigrant (in the eyes of the law). The requirements are usually much higher than for permission to live there permanently, and those are higher than for permission to live there temporarily. I don't know the specific rules in Germany. I doubt that every German citizen is required to get a passport.
    – user253751
    Feb 12 at 22:12
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    @Trish no, not all nationals of the US are citizens. But all nationals of the US are entitled to a US passport (unless they've lost that entitlement subject to due process of law). The non-citizen nationals get a passport with an annotation pointing out their non-citizen status.
    – phoog
    Feb 12 at 22:51
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    @Kphysics I don't know what your source is, but it is not correct. "Indians living as a tribe" have been US citizens for the last century. The only non-citizen nationals at present are American Samoans and Swains Islanders.
    – phoog
    Feb 13 at 9:07
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    @phoog: Hm... that seems to be a US peculiarity. The Oxford Advanced American Dictionary defines "national (noun)" as "a citizen of a particular country". At least, the concept of "Non Citizen Nationality" does not exist in Germany.
    – sleske
    Feb 13 at 12:46
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    @gnasher729 you are, as you suspected, wrong about the particular places, which today are only American Samoa and Swains Island, but as you note this doesn't change the general principle. UK nationality law is remarkably complex; there wasn't even such a thing as citizenship before 1948; people were "subjects" (yet another form of nationality). There have probably been a dozen different kinds of British nationality since the 20th century, not all of which enjoy a right of abode in the UK.
    – phoog
    Feb 13 at 14:27

4 Answers 4

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From the case of US, I understand that nationals are not the same as citizens.

Correct. Under US nationality law, all US citizens are US nationals, but there are some US nationals who are not US citizens.

That is, a person who is allowed to stay permenantly in a place may not receive a passport.

That's also correct, but it doesn't apply to US non-citizen nationals, who are in fact eligible to receive US passports. People who have the right to reside in the US permanently but are not eligible to receive a US passport are for the most part called "lawful permanent residents" or green card holders. (There are some other categories of people who are neither US nationals nor lawful permanent residents, such as the nationals of the freely associated states.)

Recently Germany passed a new law on citizenship (as far as I understand), but videos news articles and videos often use imagery of a passport.

So, does this mean that in the case of germany that citizenship means on has to get the passport neccesarily? Then, what happend to the niederlassungserlaubnis?

If you are a German citizen you cannot get a Niederlassungserlaubnis, just as a US citizen cannot get a green card (nor can a non-citizen national). Someone who naturalizes in Germany becomes eligible for a German passport, but is not required to obtain one. (German citizens are however required to have a valid ID of some sort, so there's a requirement to have either a passport or an ID card -- Personalausweis in German.)

You may be confused because people often use "get [some country's] passport" to mean "obtain the nationality of [that country]." This is a figure of speech that doesn't necessarily reflect administrative details very closely.

The US and German systems are somewhat different as far as the administrative and legal requirements to obtain a green card or Niederlassungserlaubnis, but thet have this in common:

  • the green card and Niederlassungserlaubnis are both documents evincing a right of permanent residence.
  • after some time living with that status in the issuing country, and subject to some other conditions, the bearer can apply for naturalization (Einbürgerung in German).
  • upon naturalization, the person becomes a citizen of the country and must return the green card or Niederlassungserlaubnis to the government, and becomes eligible to apply for and receive a passport issued by that country.
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  • In the UK, foreign diplomats and foreigners working for the NATO have a different status. They are outside immigration control and cannot get settled status, and don’t need it. If one of these retired maybe in 45 years time and decided to stay in the UK where they lived most of their life, they would then be allowed for three months to apply for settled status and would get it. Assuming there is still anyone around in 45 years time who knows how to give someone settled status.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 13 at 13:01
  • @gnasher729 what about an EU diplomat who lived in the UK for, say, 6 years before the end of the transition period and then left the diplomatic service of their EU country. Would they be unable to stay in the UK and get a job in the local shop?
    – phoog
    Feb 13 at 14:37
  • @JackAidley thanks. I was thinking about that. Your comment has tipped the scales in favor of adding it.
    – phoog
    Feb 13 at 14:37
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    @trystwithfreedom No, Niederlassungserlaubnis is Permanent Residence.
    – Dr. Snoopy
    Feb 13 at 21:06
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    @phooh You can’t get “settled status” if you are a diplomat. As soon as you stop being a diplomat, you have three months time to apply. If you started living in the Uk before the deadline then you should have no problems.
    – gnasher729
    Feb 14 at 8:34
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From the case of US, I understand that nationals are not the same as citizens.

That's really US-specific terminology. There are other similar distinctions like the various types of British nationality, each somewhat different from each other.

That is, a person who is allowed to stay permanently in a place may not receive a passport.

As noted in a comment, US nationals can actually get a US passport. As far as I can tell, the main difference is their right to vote in federal elections. None of this readily generalizes to other countries and it's not useful to understand Germany nationality law so I won't elaborate further.

On the other hand, in the US as in Germany, there are people who have the right to reside more-or-less permanently without being citizens. That's not what the nationals/citizens distinction in the US is about and permanent residents do not get US passports. If they need a passport (in Germany it is mandatory, in the US it's not), they would get it from their country of origin. There are also various statuses and passport-like documents for people who cannot do that (refugees, stateless people).

Recently Germany passed a new law on citizenship (as far as I understand), but videos news articles and videos often use imagery of a passport.

That's because becoming a citizen allows you to receive a passport. In Germany, a personal ID card (Personalausweis) is even more common but I guess passport pictures are just easier and, as pointed out in a comment, more distinctive.

So, does this mean that in the case of Germany that citizenship means on has to get the passport necessarily?

Not exactly but German residents do have to hold a government ID (either a passport or a Personalausweis). If you become a German citizen, you often have to relinquish your previous citizenship and will need either of those.

Then, what happend to the Niederlassungserlaubnis?

Nothing, that's completely unrelated. As noted, that's not what the nationals/citizens distinction in the US is about and that's not what the new German law is about. None of this means the permanent resident status has disappeared. This status still exists.

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    "I guess passport pictures are just easier": more distinctive, too: a picture of a Personalausweis isn't as readily recognizable or distinguishable from one of a driver's license or a personal ID card from another country. The card is fairly dense with information. The scant information on the cover of a passport, on the other hand, includes a readily recognizable icon of the German state and just a few additional words.
    – phoog
    Feb 12 at 23:28
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    @phoog True and you can even take a pictures of the cover without worrying about personal info… I edited the answer.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 12 at 23:31
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    The distinction of German-ness vs. German citizenship is relevant when it comes to the aftermath of the second World War and the Cold War. Citizens of the GDR and Spätaussiedler were not required to go through a naturalization process to have their citizenship of the Federal Republic recognized.
    – o.m.
    Feb 13 at 5:45
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    Since 1934, there is no distinction between German citizenship and nationality. Before 1934 you were a german national if you were a citizen of one of the german states (Länder). Feb 13 at 6:13
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    If you become a German citizen, you often have to relinquish your previous citizenship. - Under the new German citizenship law that will no longer be the case. The change has been passed by the Bundestag and will come into effect 3 months after being signed by the Bundespräsident (so sometime in summer)
    – xyldke
    Feb 13 at 7:43
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The answers by Relaxed and phoog cover the meaning of Niederlassungserlaubnis, which was the main part of the question. However, there are subtle distinctions between holding a German passport, being a German citizen, and being a German.

  • German citizenship is a legal category. One may be a German citizen by descent without ever coming to Germany or talking to the German authorities.
  • The passport or national identity card is the physical token of an administrative procedure where the German authorities acknowledge the citizenship of the applicant. This administrative procedure creates a legal presumption of citizenship, but it is not proof. (Mark Johnson wrote about taken as proof,, I presume he means this presumption.)
  • Holding a passport or ID card for 12 years in good faith without legally being a German confers citizenship (§3 StAG).
  • In cases of doubt, the authorities may be asked to investigate and issue a Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis (§30 StAG) to confirm the citizenship, or a certificate confirming the absence of citizenship.
  • In the aftermath of WWII, there was the legal category of Statusdeutsche who were ethnic Germans with the right to German citizenship as soon as they entered the Federal Republic of Germany with the intent to become a German citizen.
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    @Dr.Snoopy Since §3(2) was added in 2007, it is doubtful that the 12 year rule is a 'legacy clause for transition periods after World War 2'. Fassung § 3 StAG a.F. bis 28.08.2007 (geändert durch Artikel 5 G. v. 19.08.2007 BGBl. I S. 1970). Switzerland also has a similar rule. Feb 13 at 11:45
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    @Dr.Snoopy, the problem might be in the use of the word "proof." A legal presumption can be rebutted, a legal proof cannot.
    – o.m.
    Feb 13 at 16:44
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    The passport / citizenship distinction probably applies anywhere, it's definitely not specific to Germany nor does it seem very relevant to the question.
    – Relaxed
    Feb 13 at 19:43
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    @MarkJohnson Can you show examples of a person that is not a German citizen and holds a German passport? Also note that a Staatsangehörigkeitsausweises is required to apply for a German passport for the first time...
    – Dr. Snoopy
    Feb 13 at 21:13
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    @xngtng A Swiss case (where the period is 5 years) I read about: the naturalization ceremony for the parent and children was delayed by 10 days for some reason. Many years later it was determind that one child had turned 18 during the 10 days and therefore no longer qualified. Since it was not the fault of the child and had been treated as a swiss citizen during the whole period, the citizenship was recognised as being valid. Feb 13 at 22:15
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As a citizen, you have the right to reside, therefore the permission (Erlaubnis) to reside is no longer required.

A national ID or Passport is taken as proof of this right.

Since a residence permit will be revoked through a change or loss of citizenship (Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz 52.1.2), the Niederlassungserlaubnis will no longer be valid.

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