New Government Eases Path to German Citizenship

As much as I would like to think that most of you are on this blog to follow my adventurous life, to indulge in my insights into history, to shed tears about my romantic mishaps and to revel in my poetic prose, a look into the search statistics reveals that many of you discovered this blog when you were looking for advice about German law. Especially about German citizenship law.

As you can see from the comments below those articles, I have helped hundreds of people gain German citizenship, to regain a citizenship once lost, sometimes generations ago, and more often than not to discover that they have been German all along, without knowing it.

But I have also had to spread the disappointing news that law is complicated, tricky and sometimes a bit outdated. One particular pet peeve of German citizenship law has been the attempt to prevent dual or multiple citizenship. Because law needs to be complicated, there are many exceptions to this rule, some clear, some ambiguous, but many of you have shied away from the ultimate step of giving up your original citizenship, as usually requested in the German naturalization process.

Especially for complicated restitution cases, the German government has in recent years passed several regulations easing the requirements and permitting dual or multiple citizenship in more cases than before. In August 2021, in the last minutes before the end of the parliamentary term, the Citizenship Act was amended to include those new rules. (Not yet taken into consideration in my FAQ on German citizenship!) But these were band-aid measures for this or that particular group of people, turning a complicated field of law into an impenetrable jungle of law.

And then there was an election in September 2021, won by the Social Democratic Party (of which I am a member, full disclosure, never once having won an election in which I ran myself). Yesterday, the new government, a coalition between Social Democrats, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party announced their governing program.

Now, I don’t want you to get excited too early, because this is not yet a law. This is merely a declaration of intent. But it looks like the new government wants to make the pathway to German citizenship much easier. Specifically, the coalition agreement says:

Dual and multiple citizenship will be allowed.

This is a huge step, as many non-EU citizens hitherto had to apply for an exception from the ban on dual citizenship when applying for naturalization in Germany. This was a tedious process and I had to tell clients repeatedly to not even bother if it was clear that they wouldn’t meet the requirements of one of the narrow exceptions.

Naturalization shall be granted after five ears of residence, and after three years of residence in the case of exceptional integration.

If nothing changes, “exceptional integration” will be measured mostly by the level of German language skills. Studying helps! I just hope the new government will keep § 12b StAG, one of my favorite sections of the German Citizenship Act, which means that you don’t have to spend the whole qualifying time in Germany and even allows you to combine several stays. I have often had clients who were surprised to learn that they already meet the residency requirement because the time spent in Germany as a student a decade ago does count. (Holidays don’t count, though, sorry.)

Children born to foreign parents in Germany will receive German citizenship if at least one parent has been a legal resident in Germany for five years.

This is still not as easy as countries with ius soli, but a bit easier than the current rule in § 4 III StAG, requiring one parent to have been a legal resident for 8 years and holding permanent residence.

There will be hardship clauses for applicants wo cannot pass the language test.

This has hardly been a problem for people contacting me, but then, people going on the interweb, finding a blog and contacting a lawyer are a pretty self-selecting group of literate and savvy people. The formal language exams are indeed a problem for some people who speak German alright, but simply haven’t sat an exam for all of their adult life. Honestly, I think many native Germans wouldn’t pass that exam (or indeed the citizenship test).

This has nothing to do with citizenship law, but some of you will be happy to hear that

it shall become easier for foreign citizens to attend university or professional training in Germany,

especially as most universities in Germany are free of charge. Yes, also for non-citizens.

So what’s my advice?

  1. If you qualify for German citizenship while retaining your original citizenship, just go ahead.
  2. If you are in the process right now and have been told that you cannot (easily) maintain your original citizenship, put things on hold and wait until the new law will be passed. (No, I don’t know when this will be, but watch this blog. As you should do anyway, for a myriad of reasons.)
  3. If your application for German citizenship has been declined in the past or you didn’t pursue it because you wanted to maintain your original citizenship, take another look once the new law will have been passed. A previous denial does not prevent you from applying again.
  4. If you have given up your original citizenship in order to receive German citizenship, it may become legal to re-obtain your original citizenship and hold both of them. But don’t do anything before the new law will be in effect!

Links:

  • More advice on German law.
  • If you found this helpful, I would appreciate your support. And please share the blog with anyone whom you think this information will help. Thank you!

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in German Law, Germany, Law, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to New Government Eases Path to German Citizenship

  1. Chris says:

    A very interesting development, as you explained, Andreas. I’m not holding my breath, though; to become law it would have to get through the Bundesrat, where the “Traffic Signal” coalition can currently only be sure of less than half of the votes and the CDU is involved in many state governments as a coalition partner. Also many items agreed on in coalition negotiations have simply been allowed to die by neglect in the past.

    • Citizenship law (Art. 73 I Nr. 2 GG) is not subject to the Bundesrat’s final approval, as far as I am aware, meaning that a negative vote by the Bundesrat can be overruled by a simple majority in the Bundestag (Art. 77 IV GG).

      But of course it’s better to vote for the SPD in the upcoming state elections, to be on the safe side. ;-)

      And you are absolutely right. Some of the things in this program will be put aside, forgotten or watered down.
      But I wanted to give a heads up to people who have hitherto been asked to give up their original citizenship. For them, it might be worth to wait a few years and then be able to enjoy dual citizenship.

  2. That’s a good intention, and a long overdue step if it finally happens

  3. Ladyinwaiting says:

    Thank you for this. Here’s hoping this becomes legislation fairly quickly!

    • Same here!
      As this is one of the projects that doesn’t really cost much, it should be an easy one to tick off the new administration’s to-do list.
      The conservative opposition will rile against dual citizenship again, as always, but they can’t block it.

  4. Bardler says:

    Hi Andreas

    I hope this finds you well.

    I’ve lived in Germany for just over three years now, and I’m delighted to read about the proposed changes to the legislation covering German citizenship.

    I have taken an integration course and have received my B1 language certificate. I’m in the process of taking my B2 exam in the next few months.

    I had been here about 14 months when the pandemic started and I was put on Kurzarbeitergeld from my job as a Kellner with a top up from ALG II. As ALG II is not paid from insurance contributions, I now think that receiving ALG II during the pandemic will count against my time in Germany and that the clock will need to be ‘reset’ as it were.

    You mentioned in a previous post that receiving welfare might not count against a citizenship application if it wasn’t your fault that you received it. In your opinion, would it be possible to argue that the receipt of ALG II during the pandemic shouldn’t count against my application.

    I realise this might cross into actual legal advice, so you may not wish to answer without payment. But otherwise, thanks for reading my post.

    • Welcome to Germany and congratulations on the swift progress with the German language!

      Before answering, I would like to double-check if I find something substantive rather than rely on my gut feeling. Hence, I would indeed appreciate a donation to keep this blog alive or a few books from my wishlist.
      Thank you very much in advance already!

  5. dnrteuer says:

    I do enjoy reading your blog for all of the reasons you cite in paragraph one, but you are spot on for how I discovered you in the first place.

    my son’s father was born in 1949 in the resettlement camp in Kassell. His unmarried parents emigrated to the US a few years later and eventually naturalized the family. My son’s father was still a minor child who, by US law, did not have the right of consent due to his age, so he never relinquished his German citizenship by voluntary consent. My son has wanted to pursue his right to German citizenship on the basis of his father’s citizenship, especially in the context of having to leave Germany as refugees after the war.

    I thank you for posting the information about the possibility of a more liberal climate towards those seeking citizenship. Please keep us all abreast of developments; my son is interested in what possibilities may make his dream possible.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, Donnah

    On Thu, Nov 25, 2021 at 4:19 AM The Happy Hermit wrote:

    > Andreas Moser posted: ” As much as I would like to think that most of you > are on this blog to follow my adventurous life, to indulge in my insights > into history, to shed tears about my romantic mishaps and to revel in my > poetic prose, a look into the search statistics revea” >

    • Hello Donnah,

      thanks for your candor! :-)
      I am actually happy about people who discovered my blog for one aspect and then get drawn or sucked into at least some of my other interests.

      I’ll definitely keep you posted about any new developments in German citizenship law!

      About your case, I would really need to know more information. You didn’t mention the citizenship of the two unmarried parents, for example. Were they German? If so, why were they refugees from Germany after 1949?
      And then, I would need to look at the details of the naturalization in the US, with exact dates, to check it versus the laws in place at the time.

      But it could be that he really did not lose German citizenship (if he ever had it), in which case your son would have automatically inherited it.

      This is really a mere descent case (the restitution cases all reply to refugees between 1933 and 1945), where I actually expect no or the least changes to the law.

      If you want me to look into the situation, just tell your son’s father to send me an e-mail with all the information and the exact timeline of events.

  6. I am not here for citizenship information. I hope those who are will find the outcomes they hope for.
    I want more pictures of trees, lakes, architecture and cats. Also, History lessons and what else was on the list??? Oh yes, wit… more wit please😂😂

  7. Paul-Ashley Norton says:

    A very useful summary Happy Hermit – it has answered my questions well – and the advice on studying has been taken “ on board” I am 18 months into the 36 months – and insist that meetings and discussions at work are NOT conducted in English for my benefit !

  8. Anita JW says:

    Hallo Andreas, ive been reading your blog with interest, and would appreciate i you could clarify something for me. i was born in 1958 in UK to my German mother and English father, my mother lost her German citizenship automatically, as you did then, on marrying my English father. Post Brexit and with the amendment to German law in August re Citizenship – acquisition by declaration pursuant to Section 5 StAG – I am looking into applying for the first time for German citizenship, mainly so that i can have my right to travel & move around freely again.
    My questions are do i qualify under this amended act? if so do i need to meet the B1 or higher language requirements and what kind of strong ties with Germany do i need to demonstrate?
    I have an Aunt and a few cousins i’m in regular contact with but i haven’t traveled there for a few years now.
    thanks for your advice
    i’ll be happy to make a donation and wish you well
    Anita JW

  9. David Langer says:

    Hi Andreas
    My Farther born in Germany 1920 married my Mother who was English but became German citizen through marriage I have my Fathers passport with my Mother on it. My Father naturalised to British before I was born but Mother didn’t. Would I be granted German citizenship on that basis?
    Best Regards David Langer

  10. Mak says:

    Lots of interesting information. I’m particularly interested in the shortened pathway to naturalization — 3 years sounds magnificent. But I’ve been here for a year and a half and my German is nonexistent, so I’ve really gotta get cracking on that front if I want to be counted among the esteemed “exceptional integration” types.

    How much of a priority are these rather sizeable policy changes to the government? Would it be too soon to expect a law to be put forth this year? And will the amendments be applicable retroactively, i.e. if you’ve been in the country for 5 years when the threshold is dropped, can an immediate application be filed?

    Thanks for writing this. I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

    • There is really no way of saying when this will happen. But I don’t think they are going to wait until the end of the term. First, this is a relatively easy new law to pass and implement. It doesn’t require any extra funding, no new government agencies, nothing. And the sooner it passes, the more people will be eligible to vote in the next election. ;-)

      Once the law will be amended, the criteria will apply to anyone. That means that if you have already (over)fulfilled the residency requirement, you could apply immediately.
      But as you noted, in your case you really have to get cracking on your German skills. You will have to get to B1 level German at least and B2 or higher to qualify for the exceptional integration exemption.

  11. Jim Beame says:

    Fantastic blog, Andreas! Like so many, I came here years ago for information on obtaining citizenship; however, the knowledge and wit of you and the details of your travels have kept me coming back for more! Please, keep it coming!

    If it is alright, I do have a couple questions for you, as I am unclear on a couple aspects of the Citizenship By Declaration opportunity. One avenue is for those who:

    No acquisition of German citizenship due to loss of citizenship through marriage.
    􏰀 I was born after 23 May 1949.
    􏰀 My mother lost her German citizenship by marrying a foreigner before 1 April 1953*.
    􏰀 My father was not a German citizen on the day of my birth.
    􏰀 I was born after my mother had lost her German citizenship.

    My Oma (a German citizen) married my Opa (an American citizen) in 1951 I believe, later immigrating to the United States and having my father in 1957. As the Erklarung zum Erwerb der deutschen Staatsangehorigkeit specifically states “I am the child of a mother who lost her German citizenship before my birth by marrying a foreigner prior to 1 April 1953” am I understanding this correctly in that this applies to any mother who meets the other criteria and married a foreigner before 1 April 1953 (I understand that women didn’t always lose their German citizenship because of marriage to a foreigner before this date)? I am confused as on the Erklarung form it doesn’t go into further detail.

    Also, I do not believe she ever took American citizenship, but in the event that she didn’t lose her German citizenship despite marrying my Opa before 1953, if she naturalized in the United States after 1953 but before my father was born in 1957, would my father still be able to claim citizenship by declaration due to my Oma and Opa marrying before 1 April 1953?

    Thank you again for the wonderful pictures and details of your travels and if it was possible, answering my question.

    Danke und passen Sie auf sich auf!

    • Hello Jim,

      thank you very much for your comment! I am happy you got hooked by the legal stuff, but are also staying to follow me on my itinerant journeys through geography and time.

      As to your Oma: She only would have lost her German citizenship due to marrying a foreigner (based on the German Citizenship Act in place until 31 March 1953) if this would not have rendered her stateless.
      Unless she had a second citizenship at the time, she therefore only would have lost her German citizenship if she had acquired US citizenship through the act of marriage. (Which is a question of US law at the time.)
      However, if she got naturalized as a US citizen based on her own petition, she would have lost German citizenship (§ 25 I StAG) in the process. If this would have happened before your father’s birth in 1957, then indeed he would be the child of two US citizens only. There is no restitution for descendants in these cases, because it was a voluntary application for a foreign citizenship, because she could have applied for an exemption (§ 25 II StAG) and because § 25 I StAG was never applied in a gender-discriminating way.

      In other words: It does make a difference if, when and how your Oma got US citizenship. So there is no way around investigating this matter more deeply.

      I am sorry that you got a typical lawyer’s response which results in yet more questions. :-) But if it has helped you to clarify the situation, I am always happy about any support for this blog and my work. Thank you very much!

  12. Hi Andreas,

    How much do you charge for consultation?
    I have a problem. I am born out of wedlock to a German father and foreign mother and they were never married. I never lived in Germany. I only visit Germany as a tourist. My father signed my paternity in my mothers foreign land. I am born after 1975 and before 1993. Am I eligible?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hello Tamara,
      usually a consultation is between 200 and 400 EUR, but you did the right thing to send me an e-mail, detailing your situation.
      I will reply to your e-mail, because in your case, it will cost much less.

  13. Sylvie says:

    I’ll be awaiting an update.
    My mother willingly gave up her German citizenship (in the 70’s I think) to become a Canadian, after having married a Canadian.
    But I’d like to figure out if there’s a way for me to get my German citizenship, and from there, my children also.

    • If your mother willingly gave up her German citizenship before you were born, then there is no chance under the current laws.
      In that case, you were born to two Canadian parents.
      Willingly giving up one’s citizenship also does not fall under any of the restitution cases, because it was not the effect of any discriminatory laws/practices.

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