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IMMIGRATION

Europeans try their luck in Germany

As the financial crisis in Europe continues to put pressure on job-seekers, thousands of Greeks, Spaniards and Portuguese are coming to Germany – to escape economic problems in their native countries.

Europeans try their luck in Germany
Photo: DPA

In Frankfurt, young Spanish academics apply for jobs at the Spanish language institute Instituto Cervantes. And at an association for Greek academics, founder Gregorius Thomaidis is flooded with registrations almost every day from people who are looking for new opportunities in the Rhine-Main area.

Community colleges and Goethe Institutes all over the country are reporting an influx of well-educated Southern and Eastern Europeans for German language courses.

The financial crisis in Southern Europe as well as the possibility of establishing oneself and being able to work in other EU countries is what attracts increasing numbers of Europeans to Germany.

According to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden, in the first half of 2012, 306,000 foreigners from other EU countries moved to Germany – 24 percent more than the first half of the previous year. Experts consider this to be a success.

“We should be happy about this immigration,” said social scientist Steffen Kröhnert from the Institute for Population and Development.

Between 2002 and 2010, Germany’s population decreased by about 800,000 people. Moreover, there is a need for young and qualified professional newcomers in the ageing German society. “This is the gap that the immigrants are filling,” said Kröhnert.

Many industries are on the lookout for trainees including those in trades as well as small and medium sized businesses in rural areas. “Young people from Spain and Greece could be specifically recruited for these positions,” she said.

“The rising number of immigrants most notably from the crisis-hit Southern European countries shows that the EU freedom of movement has been successful,” said Gunilla Fincke, director of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration, in Berlin.

Unemployed people from countries hit by the financial crisis make use of the opportunity to work in the economically better off nations of the EU. “This benefits everyone: Germany can do away with the shortage of skilled workers, while the EU citizens find work and unburden the job market in their home countries,” said Fincke.

People from the crisis-countries are mostly well-educated professionals and young, ambitious, high school graduates. They should, however, be systematically supported, she said.

Professor Herbert Brücker from the Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg said this of the immigrating hopefuls: “We can absorb this workforce well.”

In 2011, immigrants were much better integrated into the job market than the earlier surges of foreigners. The new immigrants – Southern Europeans as well as the biggest immigrant group, the Poles – are also well qualified. But owing to their high qualifications, both Kröhnert and Brücker are sceptical about whether they will help solve the shortage of nurses facing the country.

Last summer, at least three or four fellow Greeks registered themselves at Thomaidis’ association for Greek academics. They all want to either move to Germany or are already living in the country with relatives.

“They come from all kinds of fields, but there are especially a lot of scientists,” he remarked.

Most immigrants fall in the 24 to 40 year age group: people who have lost their jobs in their home country or don’t have any prospects there.

Thomaidis, a retired surgeon, concluded, “If the situation in Greece doesn’t improve, there will be many more people moving to Germany.”

DPA/The Local/mb

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EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to German citizenship by descent and how to apply for it

German citizenship law is based on the principle of descent, which means that a child automatically acquires the citizenship of a parent regardless of their place of birth. However, when you were born and whether your parents were married can affect this right.

EXPLAINED: Who is entitled to German citizenship by descent and how to apply for it

Shortly after taking office last year, Germany’s traffic light coalition government announced a plan to loosen citizenship laws and make it easier for foreign nationals to gain a German passport. Almost a year later, however, those plans have still not come into force. In the meantime, here is a look at another way foreign nationals may be able to gain German citizenship.

READ ALSO: Reader question: When will Germany change its citizenship laws?

The principle of descent 

In Germany, das Abstammungsprinzip – the principle of descent – was originally the only basis for German nationality under the Reich and Nationality Act which came into force in 1914. Since then, it has been broadened by various amendments to the law. 

Here is a guide to understanding who is entitled to German citizenship by descent and how to apply.

Children born to married parents

Before 1975, in almost all cases where the parents were married at the time of birth, you could become German only if your father was a German citizen.

The law was broadened slightly in 1964 so that children who would otherwise have been stateless were able to gain German citizenship if only their mother was German. This law applied until December 31st, 1974.

Then, those born to married parents after 1975 automatically became German citizens if one of the parents – father or mother – was a German citizen at the time of their birth. This rule still applies today.

READ ALSO: TEST: Is your German good enough for citizenship or permanent residency?

However, if you were born outside of Germany after December 31st, 1999 and your German parent was also born outside of Germany after December 31st 1999, then you were not born a German citizen unless your birth was registered in Germany within one year of your date of birth.

For those who were born before 1975 and after May 23rd, 1945, when the old rules about paternal inheritance still applied, there is now a possibility to become a German citizen by applying for ‘citizenship by declaration’.

Photo: A newborn baby at the Vivantes Klinikum in Friedrichshain, Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

This possibility came into force in August 2021 and involves submitting an application form called an Erklärungserwerb (declaration application) and proof of parentage, with documents such as birth, parentage and marriage certificates. The application procedure itself is free of charge, though you may need to factor in costs for getting documents translated or certified by a notary.

A checklist for those who are entitled to apply for citizenship by declaration is available, in German, on the Federal Administration Office’s website

Children born to unmarried parents

Before July 1993, in almost all cases where the parents were not married at the time of birth, you could become German only if your mother was a German citizen.

If you were born before July 1993 and only your father was a German citizen, you could only become a German citizen by legitimation i.e. if your parents got married after your birth. 

After July 1st, 1993, another change in the law meant that having either a German mother or father meant that a child of unmarried parents was a German citizen. However, if only the father was a German citizen, legal paternity had to be established before the child’s 23rd birthday. This meant obtaining a Vaterschaftsannerkennung (acknowledgement of paternity).

A father twirls his child in the air in Munich, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance / Tobias Hase/dpa | Tobias Hase

This is still the case today, and, as with children born in wedlock, if you were born outside of Germany after December 31st, 1999 and your German parent was also born outside of Germany after this date, then you do not automatically gain German citizenship. In this case, your birth must be registered in Germany within one year of your date of birth.

Adopted children

If you were adopted as a minor (under the age of 18) by at least one German citizen on or after January 1st, 1977, you automatically gain German citizenship. If the adoption took place outside Germany, the adoption must be recognized in Germany and have the same legal effects under German law to qualify for German citizenship.

German grandparents

Unlike in some other European citizenship laws, you can‘t jump a generation and apply for citizenship in Germany just because of a German grandparent. However, your parent might have acquired German citizenship by descent from your German grandparent(s) through one of the above categories, which could mean that you could also qualify as a German citizen. 

People living outside of Germany

Not living in Germany doesn’t mean that you are not a German citizen under the principle of descent. However, if you want to get a German passport, you’ll need to obtain a certificate of proof of citizenship – a Staatsangehörigkeitsausweis. 

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Germany

To do this, you will have to fill out a form and submit it to the Federal Office of Administration, which investigates whether or not applicants are German citizens. Along with the form, you will also have to submit various documents including proof of parentage, birth and marriage certificates.

Dual citizenship

The children of a foreign parent and a German parent have a right to both nationalities, as long as the law of the foreign parent’s home country allows it.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: what you need to know about dual citizenship in Germany

Children born to at least one German national abroad also have a right to dual citizenship, as long as the country of their birth also recognises the principle of ‘jus soli’ – the right to citizenship to those born in the territory of a state. The parents have to register this birth with the local diplomatic mission within the first 12 months of the child’s life. 

Exceptions and developments

In June 2021, the so-called “reparation citizenship” law was passed in the Bundestag, which closed legal loopholes which had led to descendants of people who fled Nazi Germany to escape persecution having their applications for a German passport rejected.

Under the new law, descendants of those deprived of German citizenship on political, racial, or religious grounds between 1933 and 1941 can claim citizenship through their parents’ restored citizenship.

READ ALSO: How Germany is making it easier for Nazi victims’ descendants to get citizenship 

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