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EXCLUSIVE: German Bundestag to debate law allowing dual citizenship in December

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXCLUSIVE: German Bundestag to debate law allowing dual citizenship in December
A German and British passport. Many people in Germany don't want to give up their original passport to get German citizenship. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

Germany’s Interior Ministry has confirmed to The Local Germany that parliamentarians will soon see and debate a draft law to permit dual citizenship.

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People in Germany looking to naturalise as German and keep their other citizenship now have a date for when the Bundestag will consider their situation: before Christmas.

“Immigrants who want to stay in Germany permanently should be given the opportunity to take part and contribute fully with naturalisation. The modernisation of the Citizenship Act is intended to create the right framework for this,” a federal Interior Ministry spokeswoman told The Local. “Multiple citizenship should generally be permitted. For naturalisation, it will therefore no longer be necessary to give up your previous citizenship.”

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According to the Ministry, the new law will also shorten the time someone has to live in Germany before they’re eligible for citizenship through naturalisation. People who demonstrate evidence of integration in German society will also have a shorter wait time for naturalisation, as an incentive.

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The news marks the beginning of the end of a long wait for many long-term residents of Germany – who have held off getting German citizenship due to a general requirement for naturalising Germans to renounce their previous citizenships.

Exceptions were only available to those whose other citizenship was from within the European Union, those from countries that don’t allow people to renounce, and those who applied for special permission to keep their original citizenship due to hardship – an often long and bureaucratic process.

READ ALSO: ‘I can’t give up my passport’: Foreigners wait for Germany to change citizenship laws

A “modern” citizenship law

While other countries, such as Denmark in 2015, have already liberalised their laws around dual citizenship, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) remained firmly opposed.

As Germany’s dominant political force, many long-term German residents had all but given up hope the law would change.

However, 2021’s coalition agreement between the traffic light parties - the Social Democrats (SPD), liberal Free Democrats (FDP), and Greens - froze the CDU out of federal government for the first time since 2005, and rekindled some hopes amongst these German residents.

The three parties declared their intention to reform German immigration law to allow dual citizenship. Yet, for the last year, they haven’t confirmed when they might get around to passing the new law – until now.

READ ALSO: ‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

“The SPD has long advocated modernising citizenship law and adapting it to the reality of our immigration society,” Sebastian Hartmann, Chair of the SPD’s contingent within the Bundestag’s Interior Committee, tells The Local. “Even today, due to legal exceptions, many naturalisation decisions are made accepting multiple citizenship. We will end this unequal treatment so that everyone can be naturalised in the future without having to give up their citizenship.”

German citizenship

A newly naturalised German shows her citizenship documents at Rathaus Neukölln in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

Filiz Polat, Migration and Integration Speaker for the Greens in the Bundestag, told The Local that allowing dual nationality was a “long overdue” change.

“A modern citizenship law is essential for an immigration country like Germany,” she says. “Citizenship will become an enduring bond of legal equality, participation, and belonging.”

Stephan Thomae, an FDP member of the Bundestag’s Interior Committee, said naturalisation would be possible after five years, rather than the current eight. With evidence of special integration – including German language proficiency – an applicant for naturalisation should be eligible after three years.

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READ ALSO: TEST: Could you pass the German citizenship exam?

“People who come here, build a life for themselves and feel a permanent connection to Germany should be able to naturalise quickly,” he told The Local. “We want people who live with us, who have integrated well linguistically, legally, economically, and culturally, who contribute to our society’s success and fulfill their responsibilities – to also have the associated rights and make them a permanent offer of integration.”

Citizenship test

A woman completes the German citizenship test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

Thomae also said the FDP wanted the reform to be accompanied by a campaign to make potential Germans aware of their new rights, helping to encourage naturalisation.

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

Government parties thrashing out the details

While all three government parties agree on the general principle of allowing multiple citizenships, long-term German residents looking to naturalise should still expect a bit of legal wrangling.

For one, it’s not yet clear how many of the smaller details the parties still have to work out.

One potentially open question is how far citizenship should extend generationally. While the children of naturalised Germans wouldn’t have to give up both citizenships, Thomae said there would need to be clear rules on whether the grandchildren of naturalised Germans should have to choose a citizenship if they already have claim to another one.

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Neither the Interior Ministry nor parliamentarians will yet confirm exactly when they expect the new law to come into force. However, long-term residents in Germany likely still have a bit of a wait ahead as the Bundestag fine tunes the draft law before passing it.

“The Federal Interior Ministry is currently preparing this draft law and we will examine it carefully,” says Hartmann. “If Cabinet makes its expected decision in December, we should be able to complete the parliamentary procedure by summer 2023 at the latest.”

If, as predicted, the new law passes in summer 2023, the old rules may continue for a short period of time – in order to ensure that civil servants are prepared for the new rules. The exact waiting period is likely to become clearer as the Bundestag begins debating the draft law.

READ ALSO: Dual nationality: Can former Germans regain their passports after rule change?

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