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Germany's citizenship reform aims to meet needs of immigrants, draft law reveals

The Local Germany
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Germany's citizenship reform aims to meet needs of immigrants, draft law reveals
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

The full first draft of Germany's new citizenship law - obtained by The Local - reveals how the German coalition government believes the reform is vital for German society as a whole.

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The opening statements of the planned reform make clear that the government sees the current state of citizenship law in Germany as a problem – stating that the number of foreigners gaining German citizenship has been “stagnating” for many years.

According to the first version of the draft law, which The Local has now viewed in full, Germany's average naturalisation rate - the proportion of the foreign population living in the country that acquired citizenship in the respective reference year - is far below the European Union average.

In 2019, the average naturalisation rate across the EU was two percent and only 1.3 percent in Germany, according to the bill, the initial details of which were first released back in January in some German media outlets. 

As The Local has been reporting, the German coalition government plans to reduce the standard, required period of residence in Germany to apply for citizenship from eight to five years and to drop the ban on dual nationality for non-EU citizens. It also plans to introduce a new fast-track citizenship which can be applied for after just three years with a C1 language level and exceptional integration achievements.

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READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What's in Germany's draft law on dual citizenship?

Lack of equal rights

At the end of 2021, around 10.7 million people with foreign citizenship were living in Germany, of whom around 5.7 million had already been in Germany for at least ten years. This, the draft law states, presents a big problem, as it shows that there is still a significant proportion of the population who are an integral part of German society but do not have equal rights.

"The current citizenship law, therefore, needs to be modernised in order to adequately take into account the needs of many people with an immigration history," the bill says.

It is abundantly clear from the draft legislation that the coalition government sees the modernisation of citizenship law as being of critical importance for the future of German society.

In the opening paragraph, the paper states that "there is an interest on the part of society as a whole that as many migrants as possible who meet the legal requirements apply for naturalisation in order to play an active role in shaping social coexistence".

The largest opposition party in the German parliament - the CDU/CSU has already voiced opposition to the proposed changes to the law - taking particular exception to the proposals to shorten times for citizenship applications and raising concerns that relaxed dual citizenship rules could give rise to "loyalty conflicts" for dual nationals. 

 EXCLUSIVE: German conservatives criticise dual citizenship plans for promoting ‘loyalty conflicts’

'Incentives for integration'

Seeming to address such opposition directly, the draft strongly lays out the reasons why the government considers faster and dual citizenship so important.

According to the paper: "the minimum period of residence of eight years currently required for naturalisation is too long and also does not correspond to the usual period of residence for naturalisation in many countries. A quicker opportunity for naturalisation is an essential element of a good naturalisation culture that creates incentives for integration." 

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On dual citizenship, the draft states that “for the significant integration into German society, aspects such as language skills, education, professional participation in society, as well as civic knowledge and a commitment to the free democratic basic order are far more important than the question of whether a person has one or has one or more nationalities.”

READ ALSO: OPINION: Critics need to wake up to the reality of dual citizenship in Germany

The draft, which contains a line-by-line breakdown of which sections of the existing law are to be struck out, adapted and expanded is expected to be shown to the Bundestag within the next month and could see some changes before the final version is presented. 

Despite some pushback, MPs working on the legislation expect it to be passed by summer this year. 

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: Germany on track to pass dual citizenship despite opposition

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