Germany's new citizenship bill seeks to transform the process of obtaining citizenship by allowing for dual and multiple citizenships and aims to shorten the required minimum stay in Germany before a resident can apply for German citizenship.
Although Germany has been a prevalent country for inward migration, it has had relatively fewer naturalisations compared to other European Union Member States. Germany has traditionally been opposed to recognising dual citizenship. However, it has been allowed for EU citizens and in some other limited circumstances, but this bill seeks to address the issue.
Allowing migrants residing in Germany a more streamlined process to gaining citizenship should encourage them to participate more in political decision-making and contribute more to Germany's development. Considering Germany's popularity as a location for inward migration, such action could lead to Germany better reflecting its current population trends.
However, it should be noted that this bill still needs to be finalised and put in place. Therefore, staying updated on current events is advisable; professional legal counsel cannot be underestimated. The citizenship lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte are available to advise clients in all matters relating to the new bill and German citizenship more generally. They can be relied upon to answer your questions and concerns on German citizenship law issues.
Reducing the Minimum Residency Requirement
Firstly, the new bill proposes to reduce the minimum residency requirement from eight to five years for those seeking German citizenship. The eight years prerequisite has been identified as a reason for the lack of naturalisation applications. Such a change has been introduced with the hope that it will foster a stronger sense of belonging and integration in German society.
In some exceptional circumstances, German citizenship by naturalisation will be permitted after three years to double down on this aim. These exceptional circumstances involve cases of extraordinary educational or professional achievements, notable social contributions, or exceptional language skills. How these will be determined in practice will be based on a case-by-case basis.
Recognising Dual and Multiple Citizenships
The second significant change will be its acceptance of multiple citizenships. As stated earlier, Germany has been traditionally opposed to recognising dual and multiple citizenships. The CDU government led by Angela Merkel allowed for dual citizenship in limited circumstances, and the party still expresses some concerns about the proposed changes to German citizenship. However, the lack of allowance for dual and multiple citizenships has been seen as a significant factor preventing people from seeking German citizenship.
Under the new bill, dual citizenship is permitted under German law. However, dual and multiple citizenship is a complex mater. Some countries do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship, whereas others force them to give up citizenship if they seek another country's citizenship. Such complicated factors need to be considered before taking any particular action. For this reason, consulting with legal professionals who are knowledgeable in this field is strongly recommended.
Language Requirements, the "Gastarbeiter" Generation and Other Changes
The allowance for dual citizenship for third countries will be a significant benefit for the "Gastarbeiter" generation who came from countries such as Turkey, Morocco, and Tunisia primarily between the years of 1955 and 1973. This generation played a crucial role in rebuilding Germany, and they helped to establish the country as the economic powerhouse it has become. Many of them intended to return to their home countries but ended up staying in Germany, and they stayed connected to their homeland by maintaining their previous citizenship.
Many of them are now over the age of 65 and may still have a lower level of German due to the inaccessibility of language and integration courses at the time. This reality is reflected in the proposed bill's willingness to lower the language test requirement for them to conversational B1 level as opposed to the C1 proficiency requirement that is generally required.
The bill also recognises the particular circumstance of children of foreign-born residents in Germany. Under the current legislation, these children are granted German citizenship if their parents have resided in Germany for at least eight years. However, the proposed reform shortens this requirement to five years. Consequently, these children will automatically be granted German citizenship, allowing them to embrace their German heritage while retaining their parents' citizenship.
Restrictions on Citizenship Based on Criminal Convictions
One of the points brought up by those opposed to the bill has been that it may make German citizenship too accessible. However, it should be noted that there are restrictions in place around those with criminal convictions regarding acts of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and other actions against humanity. Concerning those with criminal convictions for different reasons, they should consult with specialist lawyers who can advise them on their particular circumstances.
One of the aims of the legislation is to ensure that Germany's commitment to the principles of equality, human rights and a free democratic basic order are kept in place. Although it is a more modern approach to citizenship law, it won't be a "free-for-all" for those applying for citizenship. They still need to satisfy the demands and rules of the German authorities.
The Reasons for Changing German Citizenship Laws
Some parties within Germany have seen the lack of naturalisations as detrimental to the state. Germany is now a country of inward migration, and its political processes and participation should reflect this reality. From a social perspective, it allows the country to reduce the possibility of long-term residents feeling left out of the political process. The proposed bill will allow more individuals already living in Germany to become citizens and therefore contribute to the democratic fabric of the nation by voting in elections and even running for political office.
However, there are economic and social reasons for the proposed changes. The streamlining of citizenship should make Germany more enticing for skilled workers from outside the European Union. Germany is currently facing issues relating to digitalisation and worker shortages in crucial sectors. With such dramatic technological changes in recent years, the citizenship bill is intended to future-proof Germany. The opportunity to gain German citizenship in five years (and, in some cases, three years) and the allowance of dual citizenship may be enough to encourage highly skilled professionals to choose Germany over competing countries.
The changes proposed in the German Citizenship Bill of 2023 signify a pivotal moment in Germany's approach to immigration and citizenship. By simplifying the process, shortening residency requirements, accepting dual citizenship, and considering the needs of various immigrant groups, Germany embraces its diverse population and fosters a sense of belonging for all. This legislation embodies Germany's commitment to building a vibrant, inclusive society that values equal participation and offers unparalleled opportunities to those who choose to make Germany their home.
It is essential to note that the proposed bill still requires finalisation and implementation. Staying informed about the latest developments is crucial, and seeking professional legal counsel is highly recommended. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our experienced team of citizenship lawyers specialises in navigating the complexities of German citizenship law. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive guidance and personalised support to individuals seeking German citizenship under the new bill and beyond. With our expertise, you can confidently navigate the legal landscape and embark on a successful journey toward German citizenship.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.