Job centre’s advisor speaks the right lingo

With issues like language barriers and outdated societal roles making finding work extra tricky for children of immigrants, a job centre in Baden-Württemberg has specifically employed a Muslim counsellor.

Job centre's advisor speaks the right lingo
Photo: DPA

“I know the rules of Islam. I know what it’s like to be a migrant. And I know what it feels like not to understand what is being spoken in German,” said Funda Doghan.

The 28-year-old woman originally from Turkey has been working as a counsellor for young people with foreign backgrounds at Federal Employment Agency at Waiblingen in Baden-Württemberg for the past year. As a follower of Islam, she tends to develop an especially good rapport with Muslims.

All job agencies and job centres have counsellors designated especially for people with a foreign background. But the style of working in Waiblingen is unique in the state, said spokesperson Olaf Bentlage – as a career counsellor, Doghan goes to mosques, parent-teacher meetings and visits cafés for women, to make contacts.

Jürgen Kurz, who heads the Employment Agency in Waiblingen, added, “Many people feel inhibited about coming to an agency. But it’s a different matter when we’re the ones approaching them. Then we become the guests and they’re the ones in familiar surroundings.” Apparently, there are many people who aren’t aware of the fact that this service is free.

For Doghan, language plays an important role when someone is job-hunting. But she also understands the problems many have with the education system – although she made it to university, she struggled through secondary modern school and technical secondary school.

She said many immigrant women have very traditional ideas about the kind of work they might find. She said she often came across girls who wanted to be child care workers but find it hard to express any desire to pursue a more technical career.

“I then explain to them that the Koran also gives importance to professional self-fulfilment,” she said.

“The picture is slowly changing because the cultures are growing together,” says Doghan. Nevertheless, some specific problems remain – such as widespread antipathy to women wearing headscarves. Doghan has put together a list of companies which do not have a problem with that among their employees.

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According to the Waiblingen branch of the Federal Employment agency, the 13 percentage of foreigners in its catchment area is higher than the national average of 9 percent.

Doghan also gives a lot of importance to the parents of the students she counsels. They often have problems with German or don’t know about possibilities like completing one’s Abitur (secondary school leaving examination) with evening classes. In such cases, small details – such as the calendar in Doghan’s office with the Turkish and Arabic holidays – help her to be accepted as a part of the community.

The project in Waiblingen, which will continue until the end of the year, has already helped about 120 people. Kurz would rather not make a general assessment of the project at this point, but he says, “For every additional young person we help, it counts for something.”

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