What to know about Germany

Social assistance

Persons living in Germany who are unable to provide for their own basic needs, are eligible for receiving social assistance. The aim of this assistance is to empower them to become economically self-reliant as soon as possible.

Social assistance is not an act of charity. It is based on the idea of solidarity and financed through contributions of all inhabitants.


All persons who reside in Germany, including all German citizens, are obliged to have a health insurance. This health insurance covers, in general, the costs of doctors’ visits, medication and hospitalization, if found necessary by a doctor.

Health insurance expenses are usually covered by the monthly contributions by all insured persons. In case of persons receiving social assistance, the Social Welfare Office takes over the health insurance costs.

In case of persons who are employed, the health insurance contributions are paid ½ by the employer and ½ by the employee.

Equality before the law

The German constitution guarantees equality before the law for all persons.

Men and women have equal rights, and the state is obliged to eliminate disadvantages based on gender. Therefore, women are specifically supported in case they are treated less favorably in comparison to men.

All children enjoy the same rights, irrespective of their gender and whether they are born within or outside of a marriage.

The term “marriage” includes husband/wife couples as well as homosexual couples. A marriage takes place before the relevant administrative state authorities.

The law protects all individuals against discrimination because of their skin colour, country of origin, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation or sexual identity.

Physical and verbal violence against a person is a criminal offence. Penalties can be more severe if the violence is committed for reasons related to gender, religion or sexual orientation.



School attendance is compulsory for all children once they are six years old. All children have the obligation to attend school at least for 9 years.

Most schools are run by the state, there is no gender segregation and attendance is free of charge.

In addition, there are private and international schools which are also under supervision of the state, but are charging fees.

Physical education is compulsory, both in primary and secondary school. Swimming lessons form part of the usual curriculum in primary schools. Dispensation from these lessons is usually not possible.

Religious education forms also part of the regular curriculum in state schools, however, parents have the right to decide that their children are not receiving such religious education.

The language of instruction in state schools is German, the first foreign language taught at school is usually English.

Role of religion

The German Constitution guarantees the freedom of faith and conscience. Nobody can be forced into any faith.

The belief is a complete private affair. It has no influence on the functioning of the state and its institutions. The government and all state institutions are obliged to ideological and religious neutrality while fulfilling their duties.

The predominant religion in Germany is Christianity and many public holidays are based on Christian festive days (e.g. Easter, Christmas). There are also many persons living in Germany without any religious denomination. In addition, there are several other religious communities, including of Muslim as well as Jewish faith.

All religions enjoy the same protection of the State, i.e. all religious communities are free to practice their beliefs and are allowed to built their own places of worship (subject to current building legislation).

Germany acknowledged its responsibilities for the serious crimes and atrocities committed during the Second World War, in particular, the mass deportations and killings of persons of Jewish faith. As a consequence, there is an obligation for the state to prevent such crimes from being committed in the future. Therefore, it is a crime under German law to approve of the atrocities committed against persons with Jewish faith or to deny that these atrocities happened.

In addition, the Federal Government appointed a Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism whose national strategy has a focus on fighting hostilities against Jews and on fostering Jewish life in Germany as a task which extends across different policy areas and levels of government.


There are no dress regulations and no restriction applies what kind of clothes can be worn in public.

An exception applies to persons working for the state, such as teachers, police officers or judges. Due to the obligation of the state and its institutions to be religiously neutral, these officials are not allowed to wear clothing or signs that can be attributed to a certain religion or belief. This prohibition for civil servants also includes the wearing of headscarves or visible jewelry in form of a Christian cross while performing their duties.

Wearing headscarves in public is otherwise by no means prohibited.

In some schools all children are obliged to wear school uniforms in order to prevent that any discrimination could be based on the financial situation of their parents.

Birth in Germany

The birth of all children in Germany is registered irrespective of their nationality.

In Germany, the principle of the right to citizenship based on parentage is applied. Thus, children of at least one German parent automatically become German.

Children who are born in Germany of parents who are both not German, do not acquire German citizenship.

An exception to this rule applies in case at least one parent has been legally residing in Germany for at least eight years and holds a permanent residence permit at the time of the birth of the child.


In general, to be eligible for naturalization a person must have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years.

Persons who have successfully completed an integration course are eligible for naturalization after seven years.

Sufficient knowledge of German is also an essential prerequisite for all candidates.
In case a person acquires a particularly good command of the German language, this person would be eligible for naturalization after staying legally for six years in Germany.

Furthermore, candidates for naturalization must be able to support themselves and their family without recourse to social assistance.

A clean criminal record in Germany is a further indispensable precondition.

In addition, persons must give up their previous citizenship. However, special rules apply in certain cases, for example for refugees. In such cases multiple nationality may be considered.


The Constitution guarantees that the care and upbringing of children is the natural right of the parents as well as their duty.

However, the state is obliged to supervise the proper performance of that duty.

Physical and verbal violence towards children by any person, including parents, can be punished under criminal law.

In order to protect children and their personal development, persons up to the age of 18 are generally not able to get married.

A marriage is deemed to be invalid and thus null and void without exception if one of the partners was less than 16 years old at the time of the wedding. If one partner was between 16 and 18 years of age at the time of the wedding, the marriage will usually be nullified. This applies both to marriages that take place in Germany, and to marriages concluded outside of the borders of Germany in a different country. In such cases the persons are treated as if they were not married.

Getting married in Germany

Nobody is obliged to be officially married with a partner. Persons are allowed to live together and have children irrespective of a marriage.

Civil registry offices are responsible for registering marriages. This civil registration is required to be considered officially married. Both partners have to be present for the registration of marriage.

Persons who are already married cannot enter into another marriage with a third person.

Marriage is prohibited between relatives in direct line and between brothers and sisters of the whole blood and of the half blood.