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UKRAINE

Reader question: Can Ukrainians get dual nationality in Germany?

Most non-EU citizens who want to become naturalised German citizens have to give up their existing passport first. Do the same rules apply to Ukrainians?

Ukrainian passport
A Ukrainian citizen holds their passport in the queue for asylum support in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jens Büttner

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, people with Ukrainian citizenship were treated much like most other third-country nationals: according to Germany’s strict rules on dual nationality, the vast majority were asked to give up their existing passport before naturalising as a German.

However, the outbreak of war on Ukrainian soil has complicated matters significantly. 

Firstly, the majority of Ukrainians who have come to Germany over the past year have arrived as refugees. At the latest count, almost a million refugees had travelled to Germany from Ukraine in 2022 – though some of these may now have returned home.

German immigration law specifies a number of exceptions to the dual nationality ban. One of these stipulates that asylum seekers can keep their existing nationality if they choose to naturalise in Germany. That means that Ukrainian refugees would automatically qualify for dual nationality – as long as they meet other requirements for citizenship, such as at least six years of continued residency and B1 German language skills.

READ ALSO: German citizenship: Can people who apply before the law changes get dual nationality?

Most recently, however, the Interior Ministry passed a further significant change to the law. On September 6th, the ministry agreed to waive the requirement to give up previous nationalities for Ukrainian citizens applying for a German passport. This change applies to all Ukrainians who fit the requirements for citizenship – not just refugees.

The reasoning behind the change is that the government assumes that, given the current conflict, it’s likely to be impossible for Ukrainians to give up their citizenship.

Understandably at a time of war, numerous aspects of everyday bureaucracy have been put on hold in Ukraine. That means that applications to renounce Ukrainian citizenships are currently not being processed at all.

In situations like these, where an application to give up a previous citizenship is not likely to be granted – or is likely to be refused – Germany has another exception in place. In such cases, citizenship offices are required to allow the applicant to become a naturalised German without requiring them to dispense with their previous nationality. 

When is the best time to apply?

According to the Interior Ministry, the relaxed rules for Ukrainians will only apply as long as the conflict continues. That means that, if the situation stabilises and authorities begin processing applications to renounce citizenship again, Germany may well decide to tighten up its rules once more.

That means that it could be advisable for Ukrainians who are eligible to apply for German citizenship to submit their application as soon as possible.

However, it’s also worth mentioning that the government is currently planning to relax the dual nationality rules across the board.

Though it’s unclear when this will take place, it is believed to be a priority project for the SPD-led Interior Ministry, which could mean that citizenship rules are liberalised within a matter of months.

That would mean that everyone could be entitled to hold multiple nationalities in Germany, regardless of their original citizenship.

For more information on the upcoming changes to dual nationality and citizenship rules, see our explainers below: 

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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Germany raids Russian oligarch’s yacht in tax probe

German investigators on Tuesday raided a yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch suspected of evading taxes, laundering money and violating EU sanctions, prosecutors said.

Germany raids Russian oligarch's yacht in tax probe

The public prosecutor’s office in the western city of Frankfurt said more than 60 officers searched the vessel belonging to a “69-year-old businessman from the Russian Federation”.

They did not name the suspect, but he is thought to be billionaire Alisher Usmanov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and former president of the International Fencing Federation.

Between 2017 and 2022, the suspect is accused of funnelling several million euros acquired in illegal activities, including tax evasion, through an “extensive and complex network of companies and corporations”, prosecutors said in a statement.

They added that the search was also carried out to comply with a request for assistance from the US Justice Department on its own probe.

READ ALSO: Germany seizes world’s largest yacht owned by Russian oligarch

German investigators had already raided two properties belonging to Usmanov last week in the Bavarian district of Miesbach, as part of searches targeting a total of 24 properties linked to the Russian oligarch and four other people.

Tuesday’s raid had zeroed in on the “Dilbar”, the world’s biggest yacht by tonnage owned by Usmanov.

The 155-metre (500-foot) vessel, named for Usmanov’s mother and valued at around $600 million, had been docked in a Hamburg shipyard since October 2021 for repairs. It is now moored in the northern port city of Bremen.

Usmanov was ranked at number six in the Sunday Times list of the world’s richest people in 2021.

He is one of dozens of Russian billionaires hit by Western sanctions following the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

Usmanov is currently believed to be residing in Uzbekistan, according to Der Spiegel, which said he is accused of evading at least €555 million ($534 million) in German taxes since 2014.

The magazine said complications in enforcing economic sanctions in Germany had led investigators to rely heavily on tax law to try to bring suspected violators — including Russian oligarchs — to book.

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