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CITIZENSHIP

What’s the latest on Germany’s plan to change dual citizenship laws?

Many readers are keen to know what's happening with Germany's long-awaited changes to its citizenship laws. So, what's going on behind the scenes - and when could the law be changed? We take a look.

What's the latest on Germany's plan to change dual citizenship laws?
A German and Turkish passport are held up in parliament in Kiel. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

When the traffic-light coalition pact was announced last November, the international community in Germany lit up with excitement at a number of planned liberalisations to citizenship law. In particular, the pledge to finally permit dual nationality was a huge relief to foreigners in Germany who had struggled with the idea of giving up their existing nationality to become German. 

Third-country nationals like Americans, Indians and Australians were given the hope of gaining EU citizenship, while tens of thousands of Brits were thrilled at being able to regain it. For the largest affected groups – the Turkish Gastarbeiter (guest worker) generation and their relatives – the change offered a chance to recognise both the Turkish and German parts of their identity.  

READ ALSO: 

Since the government has been in power, however, there hasn’t seemed to be much movement on the citizenship front. This has left many wondering whether the issue has been sidelined – and if the government still plans to introduce the changes.

The Local has been in touch with the Interior Ministry and migration policy experts within the traffic-light coalition to find out more. Until then, here’s what we currently know about the plans. 

What are the current rules around citizenship?

Currently, people who want to become naturalised citizens in Germany must prove that they have lived in the country for at least eight years, though this can be reduced to six years with advanced language skills and other signs of integration. 

For those who wait the full eight years, B1-level German is required, as well as proof of financial stability, “integration into German living conditions” and knowledge of German laws and culture, which is proved by taking a Citizenship Test. People from non-EU countries must also sign a form to say that they are happy to give up their previous citizenship, unless the country they’re from doesn’t allow them to renounce citizenship or they would suffer “financial hardship” from doing so. 

People who are married to a German citizen can apply for citizenship after only three years in the country (and two full years of marriage), but must also give up their existing citizenship if they are from a non-EU country. 

Children of German citizens, who are automatically entitled to citizenship, are lucky enough to be exempt from the ban on dual nationality, meaning they can keep two or more passports on a lifelong basis. People from other EU countries are also exempt. 

But for children of non-Germans and non-EU citizens born in Germany, the situation is a little more tricky: this group is only entitled to German citizenship if their parents have lived in the country for at least eight years and have permanent right of residence in the country. Even then, they must choose between German citizenship and their parents’ citizenship by the time they are 23. 

READ ALSO: When is my child entitled to German citizenship?

What are the planned changes to citizenship law? 

In its coalition pact, the government says it wants to develop a “modern citizenship law” that offers a much quicker and easier route to naturalisation for people who want to build a life in Germany.

Rather than having to wait eight years, people will be able to apply for citizenship after a maximum of five, while those who speak good German and are well integrated can even get hold of a German passport after as little as three years in the country.

For Turkish guest workers and their relatives, the path to citizenship will be made even simpler with easier language requirements. A “general hardship clause” will also be created to offer exemption from the language requirement in special cases. In addition, the government says it will replace the requirement for “integration into German living conditions” with what it describes as “clear criteria”. 

Most significantly for non-EU citizens, the coalition agreement states that the government will “permit the holding of multiple nationalities” – meaning there will no longer be any need to choose between one or more passports. 

The children of non-Germans will be granted automatic citizenship if their parents have lived in Germany for at least five years, and they can keep any other citizenships they hold on a lifelong basis. 

When will the law be changed?

In response to a question from The Local, an Interior Ministry spokesperson told us that the modernisation of citizenship law had “very high priority”.

“The careful preparation and implementation of this important reform project is in progress,” he told us. “However, it is not to be expected that the legislative project on the Nationality Act can be completed this year.”

When The Local spoke to MPs from the traffic-light coalition in January, migration policy experts explained that the reform would “definitely” be implemented within the four-year legislative period and that it was likely to be one of the first major projects of the coalition. 

“Our intent as Green parliamentary group, and I think we’re united in this with our coalition partners in parliament, is to encourage the new Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser to implement this as one of the first big projects,” said Green Party migration spokesperson Filiz Polat. “No small number of people in Germany have already been waiting a very, very long time for the possibility of naturalisation with acceptance of multinationality.” 

SPD politician Serpil Midyatli displays her Turkish and German passports

SPD politician Serpil Midyatli displays her Turkish and German passports. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

READ ALSO: When will Germany relax its dual citizenship laws?

Generally, legislation can take several months to be drafted, put to a vote in the upper and lower houses of parliament and tweaked in the committee and review stages. Then, of course, key questions need to be ironed out about how to implement the change. However, it’s not impossible that there could be significant movement on this in 2023. 

One issue that will need to be ironed out is how to avoid citizenship offices becoming overwhelmed with applications once the rules change. Around 11 million people currently live in Germany without citizenship, and if even half of these were to apply as soon as they could, it could easily lead to delays and bottlenecks. 

Once again, it’s unclear what the plans are to prevent this happening – if any – but we’ll be sure to update you on all of this as soon as we know more.

Will I be eligible for dual citizenship? 

If you’ve lived here for at least five years, can financially support yourself and speak at least B1 German, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be eligible for German citizenship.

If the language requirement is likely to be an issue, now may be the time to enroll in a course so that your skills are up to scratch by the time dual nationality is permitted. 

Students learn German in a classroom in Munich

Students learn German in a classroom in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Those who haven’t quite got five years under their belt may well be eligible by the time the rules change. If not, however, the duration of residence can be reduced to three years with a higher level of German (C1 or B2) and possibly an integration course.

We’ll be sure to explain the full criteria for applying for citizenship under the new rules as soon as we know it, but for now, eager would-be Germans can prepare by getting their paperwork in order (digging out old registration certifications and tax returns etc.), making sure their passport is still valid and brushing up on their German skills and the questions in the Citizenship Test (Einbürgerungstest). 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How I got German citizenship – and how you can too

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RESIDENCY PERMITS

What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Third-country nationals with the right to live and work in Germany are generally issued a residence permit in their passport or in the form of an ID card. But what do you if you happen to lose this vital document - or if it gets stolen? Here's a step-by-step guide.

What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Losing an important document can be a nightmare scenario for foreigners in Germany – especially if it’s the one you rely on to live and work in the country. So if you search for your residence permit one day and suddenly realise it’s missing, you may feel the urge to panic. 

Luckily, there’s a process to follow to get a replacement and ensure nobody else can misuse your residence permit in the meantime. This being Germany, it may take a little time, but rest assured you will be able to replace the document. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Different types of permit

If you’re a non-EU national in Germany, you’re likely to have one of two documents proving your rights and status in the country: 

  • a residence permit that’s placed on a page in your passport (Zusatzblatt zum Aufenthaltstitel), or
  • an electronic ID, or eID, card (electronischer Aufenthaltstitel) for permanent residents. 

Some third-country nationals who’ve been in Germany for less than five years on a visa will have their residence permit in their passport, while others will have been issued an eID card. Permanent residents will generally have an eID card. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to prove you’re a resident in Germany

Brits who lived in Germany before the Brexit cut-off date are likely to have a special type of electronic ID card known as an Aufenthaltstitel-GB. This looks pretty similar to a permanent residence card and basically signifies that the holder is entitled to the same rights as EU citizens living in Germany. 

You’ll need to do things slightly differently depending on which type of residence permit you have, so we’ll cover each in turn. 

In either case, if you suspect you’ve been a victim of theft, it’s a good idea to file a police report so they can be on the lookout for any potential fraud. 

What to do you if you lose your electronic ID card

1. Call the cancellation hotline 

If you’ve mislaid your eID card or it’s been stolen, the first thing to do is call up a national hotline on 01801 33 33 33 and put a block on the card.

To do this, you’ll need to have your Sperrkennwort (blocking passport) handy. The way you’ll have received this can differ from state to state, but usually it is sent out in a letter along with the PIN and PUK for your electronic ID card around the time that the eID was issued. 

This will block anyone from using your eID function. If you find your card again, you can unblock it by visiting the Ausländerbehörde. 

If you haven’t activated the eID function or happen to have mislaid your blocking password as well, then move straight to the second step below. 

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s electronic ID card and how do you use it?

2. Get in touch with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office)

Once you’ve put a block on your card, you’ll need to get in touch with the Ausländerbehörde to let them know what’s happened and arrange a replacement card.

You can do this via email or telephone but may also have to book an in-person appointment if they need to see certain documents for issuing the replacement. If you need to block the eID function and don’t have your Sperrkennwort, you’ll need to take your passport to the Ausländerbehörde to do this.

Bear in mind that you won’t get your new ID card straight away. Depending on the state, it can take a up to three months to be issued. You’ll also need to pay a fee for the replacement card, which can vary from state to state and is normally paid with cash or EC card at the Ausländerbehörde. 

Also, once an order for a new card has been sent off, you’ll no longer be able to reactivate your old card should you find it again. 

Ausländerbehörde Berlin

People go in and out of the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

What to do if you lose your passport and visa 

1. Order a new passport 

It probably goes without saying, but if you lose your passport with your residence permit in it, the first thing you’ll need to do is get hold of a new passport. This should be done via the government of your home country. 

2. Book an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde

Once you’ve got your new passport, make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde to get a replacement printed out. If you’re unsure what documentation to bring with you to the appointment, check on their website or send them an email beforehand.

Once again, you’ll need to pay a fee for the replacement, which is normally done on-site with cash or an EC card. 

What if I’m travelling out of the country soon? 

If you’re leaving Germany and don’t have time to get a replacement eID card or residence permit, contact the Ausländerbehörde straight away. They should be able to assist you with emergency proof of residence, which is normally done in the form of a Fiktionsbescheinigung (a certificate confirming your status and rights before the official proof has been issued).

Obviously, if you’ve lost your passport, your first port of call will be your home country’s embassy, who can normally issue emergency travel documents within a matter of days. 

For Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, bringing other proof of residence in Germany such as your registration (Anmeldung) with you or a work contract should suffice to avoid getting a stamp in your passport when you re-enter. But even if you do, it won’t affect your rights.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are no hard borders in Schengen, so if you’re travelling around the EU, you’ll generally be fine without your visa. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

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