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Reader question: When will Germany change its citizenship laws?

Many foreigners are eagerly awaiting the relaxation of Germany's tough citizenship laws - but when exactly will they change? While we don't have a firm answer yet, here's what we know so far.

German passport
A German passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

Since the traffic light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) officially aired their plans to break down barriers to citizenship by allowing dual nationality, many internationals have been eagerly awaiting the day that they can apply to become German. 

But since the fireworks of the coalition pact announcement back in November 2021, things seem to have gone awfully silent, leading some to wonder whether internationals have dropped off the government’s radar entirely. 

As far as we can gather, this isn’t the case – but you may need to wait another year or so before sending off your citizenship application. 

In response to a question from The Local in April, an Interior Ministry spokesperson told us that the modernisation of citizenship laws – including permitting dual nationality – had “very high priority” but was unlikely to be completed in 2022.

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

“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. 

This would suggest that, even if it isn’t this year, we should see some movement on this in 2023 instead. 

Here’s why it could take that long:

Though it may seem relatively simple to tweak a clause or two in the law, there seem to be a few details that still need to be ironed out, such as the new, simplified criteria for citizenship and proving integration in German society. 

In their coalition pact, the traffic light parties said they wanted to replace a clause on “integration into German living conditions” with what they describe as “clear criteria” – though at present we have no idea what those “criteria” would be. 

Another issue is likely to be a more practical one: ensuring there are enough staff and resources at the citizenship offices to prevent an endless backlog of unreviewed applications, or trying to digitalise the entire system.

READ ALSO: ‘Two years is normal’: How Germany’s citizenship process leaves foreigners hanging

With around 11 million people living in Germany without a German passport, and about five million of these currently eligible for one, you can expect a pretty big queue when the government finally does permit dual nationality for all – something that the Interior Ministry is likely to want to prepare for before suddenly changing the rules.

Keep an eye on The Local’s homepage for more reporting and interviews on this topic 

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How Germany is trying to streamline the process of getting an ID card

For many people in Germany, getting new official documents requires two appointments - one to apply for the document, and one to pick it up. But there are plans to change that.

How Germany is trying to streamline the process of getting an ID card

According to the Interior Ministry, Germany’s federal printing office (the Bundesdruckerei) is examining whether it could send any new ID documents directly to people as soon as they are printed, meaning that residents won’t have to pick them up. 

A spokeswoman for the ministry told DPA that the government department had asked the Bundesdruckerei to investigate whether posting the documents would be workable, and to submit a price estimate for the scheme. 

Though some states do send ID cards in the post, most German residents face a second trip to the Bürgeramt (citizens office) or Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) to pick up their new ID. There have been calls to speed up the system for some time. 

READ ALSO: What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

If new identity documents were sent directly by the Bundesdruckerei, there would be no need for people to collect them from the relevant office. This could be a relief for both residents and local authorities.

The Association of Towns and Cities of North Rhine-Westphalia welcomed the news and urged the government to move quickly in changing the system.

At present, the Federal Ministry of the Interior hasn’t specified when the change could come into force. It is also unclear whether it would also affect things like driving licences. 

The spokesperson said the public would be updated as soon as the proposals for the scheme were available and a timetable for implementation had been drawn up.

German states are responsible for local passport and identity card authorities and would also need to be informed about a possible new system.