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INTERVIEW: ‘Germany must finally allow dual or multiple citizenship’

The German Bundestag will debate a draft law allowing dual citizenship in December. The Local spoke to Hakan Demir, rapporteur for the legislation, about the big changes to dual citizenship rights that he’s pushing for.

INTERVIEW: 'Germany must finally allow dual or multiple citizenship'
Hakan Demir, an MdB for Berlin-Neukölln, serves as rapporteur on the new German draft law to allow dual citizenship. Photo: Photothek

Although the three traffic light parties in Germany’s current government agreed to reform the country’s restrictive citizenship law in their coalition agreement, The Local only recently found out precisely when lawmakers might get around to changing it.

Hakan Demir – a Bundestag member and Social Democrat representing Berlin-Neukölln – serves as rapporteur on the citizenship law reform.

In a special interview with The Local Germany, he laid out some more of the reforms foreigners in Germany can expect – and what kind of new nationality law he wants to see.

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

What are the next steps for this law to come into force and also for you as you review it? What will you be looking for in the draft law?

Hakan Demir, MdB: According to our current expectations, Cabinet will pass the citizenship law reform before the year is out. Then the law will be presented to the Bundestag. Once in the Bundestag, I am committed to processing and advancing the law as fast as we can. When it comes to what’s in the law, these are my particular priorities:

  • Germany must finally allow dual or multiple citizenship – in all directions. People who naturalise in Germany should be able to keep the passport of their country of origin. It also means that Germans who accept the passport of a third country (outside the European Union), should be able to keep their German passport. People can have a close connection to several states. This should be reflected in nationality.
  • I want to see faster naturalisation for people who have arrived in Germany, where you can be naturalised after five years instead of eight. And, for example, anyone who speaks German very well – at level B2 or better – or is very integrated and involved in our society, should be able to naturalise after three years. This would make Germany one of the most open countries in the world.
  • I advocate for better hardship regulations and easier naturalisation for the guest worker generation. People who have been living in Germany for decades should no longer have to prove themselves in language and integration courses in order to become an equal part of our society through naturalisation.

Why is this an important issue for Germany and for you in particular?

Demir: Citizenship determines who has the legal rights to take part fully in our society. For example, only people with a German passport can take part in all elections – whether local, state, federal, or European. Yet in my Neukölln constituency, I find myself discussing rent, minimum wage, or the energy crisis and then at the end of the conversation, they tell me they’re not allowed to vote. That’s often because they don’t want to give up their old citizenship or haven’t lived in Germany long enough yet. We must overcome this situation. We can’t again have a federal election in which 10 million people living in Germany aren’t allowed to vote.

On top of all that, naturalisation is also an emotional issue. Whoever receives a German passport is fully included. It doesn’t matter whether you were born in Germany or chose to make Germany home over the course of your life. I think it’s right for us to send that signal – we’re lowering the hurdles. Germany is an open country. No one should have to somehow decide against their home country to come here.

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

Immigrants recieve citizenship documents in Berlin

Two men recieve their German citizenship documents the Berlin district of Neukölln. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb | Miguel Villagran

How far would the right to dual citizenship extend? Would children and grandchildren of naturalised Germans remain eligible, for example?

Demir: As long as the foreign state allows someone to acquire or keep citizenship, it will be possible to be a dual citizen under German law. After this reform, there will no longer be any restrictions on dual or multiple citizenship from the German side. If a child in Germany has a foreign nationality due to the origins of their parents or grandparents, whether foreign students or workers naturalise here after a few years and want to keep their old nationality, or whether Germans living abroad naturalise there – dual citizenship will be possible across all possible constellations.

In addition to introducing dual citizenship, we also agreed in the coalition agreement to test out the so-called generational cut. This is because the FDP, unlike the SPD and Greens, wants to restrict multiple citizenship again from the third generation (grandchildren). I am in favour of tackling this audit mandate at a later date, so as to not delay urgent reforms. That said, it’s also clear to me that we don’t need a new obligation for grandchildren to choose, but rather an open and modern nationality law, where people no longer have to choose between two identities.

We’re expecting many naturalisation applications to come in at once when the new law comes into force. Are there any plans to make any extra resources available to local offices to meet the demand?

Demir: More people being eligible for naturalisation will also require more administrative resources. From my point of view, at least three improvements are needed – more staff, more specialised skills for the offices in question, and more digitalisation. The state of Berlin is already taking this path as part of introducing the so-called state naturalisation centre. Other federal states will also have to increase capacities so that the high number of additional people entitled to naturalisation doesn’t lead to a backlog in procedures.

Is there any advice you would like to share with our readers as we await this law change?

Demir: Keep up the political pressure. Write to your constituency MP, so that everyone knows how important this issue is for all of us.

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

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For members


EXPLAINED: Where do Germans typically emigrate to?

We know a great deal about the foreigners that call Germany home and where they live. But where do Germans tend to go when they emigrate elsewhere?

EXPLAINED: Where do Germans typically emigrate to?

Around five million Germans currently live abroad, with a net 64,000 Germans having left Germany last year, according to official figures from Germany’s federal statistics office Destatis.

Most though, stick fairly close by. The majority of the most common destinations for emigrating Germans are in Europe and, perhaps not surprisingly, the two biggest also have German as an official language.

Switzerland takes in the most German emigrees by quite some distance. About 17,000 Germans took up residence there just in 2021.

The second most common destination country was Austria, with 11,000 Germans going there to live and work last year.

Yet Germans also went to many places where German is not an official language.

In third place for Germans in 2021 was the United States, with 8,400 Germans having moved there last year. Notably, the United States was the only country outside the European continent to make the top ten for emigrating Germans.

Just over 6,000 Germans took up residence in sunny Spain last year, with around 5,000 each opting for Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, and Poland. The Netherlands and Italy then rounded out the top ten.

Emigration from Germany also went up slightly in 2021, charting about a 0.7 percent uptick over 2020 figures to a total of one million. It still comes in below the number of people immigrating to Germany, with 1.3 million, or a net 300,000 people having taken up residence in Germany in 2021. At the end of last year, a total of about 11.8 million foreigners were living in Germany.

Career reasons motivate many Germans, particularly graduates, to take up residence in a new country. Higher salaries and lower taxes in Switzerland are described as an attractive reason for some Germans to emigrate.

The federal statistics office reports that many do end up returning later, with very few countries having seen a significant net gain of Germans heading there compared to those returning home. Switzerland and Austria are the highest net gainers of Germans.

In 2021, 11,000 Germans headed to Austria in 2021 while only 6,000 came back from there – for a net gain of 5,000. The same year, Switzerland had a net gain of 7,500 Germans. In 2020 alone, 6,900 Germans naturalised as Swiss citizens.

Spain and Poland also gained more Germans than they lost – with net gains of just over 2,000 a piece.

READ ALSO: Who are Germany’s foreign population and where do they live?

According to official statistics though, Germany has been a net immigration country for most of the time since records starting getting kept in 1991.

The year 2008 was, so far, the only year on record that saw more people leave Germany than come in, with that year seeing a net loss of 100,000 people. The next year, 2009, is the only year on record that saw an equal number of people entering and leaving.