All German passports are issued to nationals of Germany for the purpose of international travel. A German passport is, besides the German ID card and the German Emergency Travel Document (called “Reiseausweis als Passersatz”), the only other officially recognised document that German authorities will routinely accept as proof of identity from German citizens. Besides serving as proof of identity and presumption of German nationality, they facilitate the process of securing assistance from German consular officials abroad (or other EU members in the case that a German consular facility is absent). German passports are valid for ten years (for people older than 24) or six years (for people until the age of 24) and share the standardised layout and burgundy red design with other EU passports. Every German citizen is also a citizen of the European Union. The passport, along with the national identity card, allows for free rights of movement and residence in any of the states of the European Union, European Economic Area and Switzerland.
Time of processing
Processing time for a German passport is usually four to six weeks, but one can be issued in three days by using the Express service if processed before 11 a.m.
German passports have, since 1 January 1988, followed the standard European Union passport design, with burgundy red cover and the German Eagle emblazoned in the center of the front cover. The word “Reisepass” (German for travel passport) is inscribed below the coat of arms, with Europäische Union (German for European Union) and Bundesrepublik Deutschland (German for Federal Republic of Germany) appear above.
On 23 February 2017, Germany unveiled a new passport design to be put in use from 1 March 2017.
German passports are normally 32 pages long; a 48-page version for frequent travelers can be issued on request.
Identity Information Page
The first two pages of a German passport are security laminated and the second page includes the following data:
- Photo of passport owner
- Type of document (P = passport)
- Code for issuing country (D = Germany)
- Passport number (9 alphanumeric digits, chosen from numerals 0–9 and letters C, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, T, V, W, X, Y, Z. Thus, “0” denotes the numeral, not the letter “O”.)
- Surname (1a)
- Name at birth (1b)
- Given names (2)
- Date of birth (3)
- Sex (4)
- Nationality (5)
- Place of birth (6)
- Date of issue (7)
- Date of expiry (8)
- Authority that issued the passport (9)
- Owner’s signature (10)
The page ends with a 2-line machine readable zone, according to ICAO standard 9303. The country code is not DEU as is the standard country code for Germany (according to ISO 3166-1 alpha-3), but D. This is the only country/citizen code which does not consist of 3 letters.
In November 2001, the so-called Identigram feature was added – a number of holographic security elements, including a three-dimensional eagle, a holographic copy of the holder’s picture (the so-called Holographic Shadow Picture), a holographic copy of the machine-readable zone, holographic micro printing, and kinematic elements.
The data page/information page is printed in German, English, and French. On the second cover (information page) and Page 2, 4, 5, and 32 or 48 there are all 24 official Languages from the European Union which describe the information in other EU languages, for example the Romanian word for authority is Authoritative eminent. (German passport page 4/5 number 9),
Required documents to apply for the passport (Adult) outside Germany
- Completed application FORM
- Two identical, bio-metrically compatible, recent passport photos.
- Your birth certificate (notarized) with information about the exact place of birth, and one copy thereof.
- If married, divorced, or widowed, marriage certificate, divorce decree, or death certificate of your spouse, and one copy thereof.
- In case your last name in your birth certificate and in your passport is not the same, provide proof on how you changed your name. It might be necessary to make a name declaration.
- Confirmation of de registration (“Abmeldebescheinigung”) from the German place of residence if it is entered in the current passport as the place of residence, and one copy thereof.
- Valid residency permit, and one copy thereof.
- Your driver’s license or a utility bill in your name as proof of legal address, and one copy thereof.
- Your German doctorate certificate if you would like to have your German doctorate degree entered in your passport, and one copy thereof
- If applicable, German naturalization document, and one copy thereof
- If dual citizen, Naturalization Certificate with “Beibehaltungsgenehmigung”
- Passport fee
- Your Family Register Extract may be needed.
- If it is the first time you apply as an adult you will need your parents German passports or a Certificate of Nationality (“Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis”).
RFID chip with biometric certificate
Since 1 November 2005, German passports have had a contactless smartcard (proximity card) chip and 13.56 MHz loop antenna embedded into the front cover page, in accordance with ICAO standards. The chip and antenna are not easily visually recognizable, but their presence is indicated using the ICAO biometric passport symbol at the bottom of the front cover. It carries all the data printed in the passport, including a JPEG file of the photo, protected by a digital signature. Germany therefore became only the fifth country in the world (after Malaysia, Thailand, Sweden, and Australia) to introduce bio metric passports.
On 1 November 2007, several changes were made to the passport:
- Applicants have to provide, in addition to the traditional passport data, scans of two fingerprints, which are added to the chip.
- The previously 9-digit, all-numeric, sequentially assigned serial number was replaced with a new alphanumeric pseudorandomly assigned higher-entropy serial number, to increase the entropy of the serial number from the previous 35 digits to 45 bits. This improves the cryptographic key strength of the Basic Access Control mechanism of the RFID chip by 10 bits, which makes a brute force attack approximately 1000 times more expensive.
- The validity period of passports issued to holders under the age of 24 increases from five to six years; older applicants receive a passport valid for ten years.
- Different spellings of the same name within the same documentGerman names: German names containing umlauts (ä, ö, ü) and/or ß are spelled in the correct way in the non-machine-readable zone of the passport, but with AE, OE, UE, and/or SS in the machine-readable zone, e.g. Müller becomes MUELLER, Groß becomes GROSS, and Gößmann becomes GOESSMANN. The transcription mentioned above is generally used for aircraft tickets etc., but sometimes (like in US visas) also simple vowels are used (MULLER, GOSSMANN), so passport, visa, and aircraft ticket may display different spellings of the same name. The three possible spelling variants of the same name (e.g. Müller / Mueller / Muller) in different documents sometimes lead to confusion, and the use of two different spellings within the same document may give persons unfamiliar with German orthography the impression that the document is a forgery.
Non-German names: In some names of naturalized citizens, some special letters that are not available may always be replaced by simple letters, also in the non-machine-readable zone. The “Bundesdruckerei AG,” which prints the German passports, uses the font LA8 Passport, which includes a Latin subset of the Unicode characters (ISO 10646), so that letters such as ç and ł can be displayed at least in the non-machine-readable passport zone. In the machine-readable zone, special characters are either replaced by simple characters ( e.g., é becomes E) or transcribed according to the ICAO rules (e.g., å becomes AA, ø becomes OE, etc.).
Names originally written in a non-Latin writing system may pose another problem if there are various internationally recognized transcription standards.
German naming law accepts umlauts and/or ß in family names as a reason for an official name change (even just the change of the spelling, e.g. from Müller to Mueller or from Weiß to Weiss is regarded as a name change).
German passports are issued, just like German ID cards, by local municipal registration offices. Applicants have to apply for a new passport in person and the data in newly issued passports is essentially an authenticated copy of the personal data found in locally stored registration documents. Passports are then manufactured centrally at the Bundesdruckerei in Berlin.
If the necessity can be proven, more than one passport can be issued with overlapping validity (e.g. when traveling to Arab countries with an Israeli stamp in the passport, or when needed for professional reasons). In theory, a person can concurrently hold up to ten passports. The additional passports have six instead of ten years validity.
A type of passport issued by Germany since 2006 is a child passport (in German: Kinderreisepass). Unlike a regular German passport, the Kinderreisepass does not include bio metric features and lacks the inscription “European Union” at the top of the front cover. The exclusion of bio-metric information is due to the ongoing development of infants and young children and the low security risk they pose; nevertheless, the photo used in the passport does have to comply with bio-metric standards. All other features are similar to those of a regular passport: the burgundy red color and the German coat of arms printed at the center of the front cover. Children’s passports are issued for children up to twelve years of age and are valid for a period of six years. When a child reaches the age of twelve, a regular passport must be obtained for international travel.
A child passport has sixteen pages (unlike the regular’s 32), of which eleven are designated for stamping and the others are used for a title page, instructions and personal information. The first page features the words “Child’s Passport” in three languages: German, English, and French.
Unlike a regular passport, the information pages in a Kinderreisepass are not security laminated (yet do have other security features) and have a different format. The information included is more or less the same, with the following differences: The type of passport is PC (Passport for children) instead of P (Passport). As in other passports, the main information page ends with a 2-line machine-readable code, according to ICAO standard 9303.
A child passport serves just like any other passport, with the exception that it is not bio metric (or e-Passport). As a result, traveling to the US, for example, requires a tourist visa in spite of Germany’s participation in the United States Visa Waiver Program. Alternatively, infants and children of any age are allowed to obtain a regular German passport (biometric) instead of a child’s passport, which nevertheless has the advantages of low cost, short processing times, and being issuable by honorary consuls (making them easier to obtain by German emigrants who live far away from a German embassy or consulate). Just like provisional passports, children’s passports are issued without being sent to the Bundesdruckerei GmbH in Berlin, which is the main reason behind these advantages.
Holding a second passport
Second German passport
Germany allows its citizens in exceptional cases to hold more than one valid German passport to circumvent certain travel restrictions. (For example, some Arab countries refuse entry if the passport contains an Israeli stamp; journalists may need several passports when traveling abroad when passports have been sent to consular officials for visas that take a long time to issue.) In extreme cases, up to 10 German passports can be held at the same time. However, these additional passports are valid for only 6 years even if the “original” passport is valid for 10 years.
- citizenship with other EU countries and Switzerland; dual citizenship with other countries is possible with special permission or if obtained at birth (for example, one German parent and one foreign parent, or if a child is born to German parents in a jus soli country such as the United States of America). Under Article 116 par. 2 of the Basic Law (Grundgesetz), former German citizens who between January 30, 1933, and May 8, 1945, were deprived of their German citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds may re-invoke their citizenship and the same applies to their descendants, and are permitted to hold dual (or multiple) citizenship.Children born on or after 1 January 2000 to non-German parents acquire German citizenship at birth if at least one parent has a permanent residence permit (and had this status for at least three years) and the parent was residing in Germany for at least eight years. The children must have lived in Germany for at least eight years or attended school for six years until their 21st birthday. Non-EU- and non-Swiss-citizen parents born and grown up abroad usually cannot have dual citizenship themselves (but exceptions are made for citizens of countries that do not allow the renunciation of citizenship or have too expensive / difficult / humiliating renunciation procedures and for citizens whose citizenship was restored under Article 116 (2)).
Naturalized Germans can lose their German citizenship if it is found out that they got it by willful deceit / bribery / menacing / giving intentionally false or incomplete information that had been important for the naturalization process. In June 2019, it was decided to prolong the deadline from 5 to 10 years after naturalization.
A law adopted in June 2019 allows the revocation of the German citizenship of dual citizens who have joined or supported a terror militia such as the Islamic State and are at least 18 years old.
Visa requirements for German citizens are administrative entry restrictions by the authorities of other states placed on citizens of Germany. As of 26 March 2019, German citizens had visa-free or visa-on-arrival access to 188 countries and territories, ranking the German passport second in the world in terms of travel freedom as well as the joint most powerful passport in Europe and the EU according to the Henley Passport Index. Additionally, Arton Capital’s Passport Index ranks the German passport second in the world in terms of travel freedom, with a visa-free score of 166, as of 17 January 2019
German citizens can live and work in any country within the EU as a result of the right of free movement and residence granted in Article 21 of the EU Treaty.