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But I have also had to spread the disappointing news that law is complicated, tricky and sometimes a bit outdated.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 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.

11 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.

  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” >

  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

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