Germany to require 'C1 language skills' for new fast-track citizenship
Under the traffic light coalition’s new citizenship reform plans, people could be eligible for German citizenship after just three years. But the language requirement for fast-track citizenship could get harder, The Local has discovered.
If the Bundestag passes the German traffic light coalition’s citizenship reform plans next year, as MPs expect, at least one aspect of getting German citizenship could become harder.
Right now, someone has to be legally resident in Germany for eight years to qualify for citizenship. But if an applicant passes a B2 German test or shows "exceptional integration", they can reduce that wait to six years under current laws.
The government now wants to shorten the overall waiting time to five years and the wait time for the fast track to just three years of residency in Germany.
The plans to liberalise citizenship have been fiercely criticised by the opposition conservatives, who suggested that the government was looking to give out citizenship at “turbo speed” and that the German passport would be "reduced to junk".
However, although the wait for fast-track citizenship will get shorter, the ruling traffic light coalition plans to increase the required language level to C1 - the language level generally required to study in German at university.
The stricter requirements were revealed in an interview with a German MP for the upcoming episode of The Local's podcast, Germany in Focus.
C1 speakers are typically able to understand challenging, longer texts – including those that are not within their area of expertise. They can also express themselves fluently on complex issues and make structured academic arguments.
“In the draft law, we say after three years that a person can get citizenship, but it’s C1 German that a person needs - so it’s higher than before,” said Hakan Demir, the Social Democrat rapporteur for the law in the Bundestag, in the exclusive interview with The Local.
“If people are really good at German and have C1, they’ve demonstrated that they want to stay in Germany and are interested in Germany. But I think that won’t be a big number. It’s hard to get C1 after just a couple of years - but we’ll give that chance to these people.”
The proposed draft law will also allow dual citizenship for non-EU nationals. Current German law generally restricts dual citizenship to EU nationals in all but exceptional cases.
Children born in Germany to foreign parents will also be able to get German citizenship if those parents have been legally resident in Germany for at least five years, rather than the current eight. Language tests are also set to be abolished for applicants who are 67 years of age or older and belong to the guest-worker generation.
For those applying for non fast-track citizenship after five years, the current B1 language requirement will stay in place.
The Local has reached out to the Interior Ministry and Green and FDP citizenship law rapporteurs Filiz Polat and Stephan Thomae for further comment.
Tune in to The Local's Germany in Focus podcast for more on this topic - and keep an eye out for more stories on our site.