German citizenship For Members

What we know so far about Germany's plans to shake up fast-track citizenship

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
What we know so far about Germany's plans to shake up fast-track citizenship
A certificate of naturalisation from the Federal Republic of Germany lies on a table. Foreigners in Germany should soon be able to obtain German citizenship more easily, according to plans of the federal government. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

The first draft of Germany's new citizenship law - obtained by The Local - sheds light on why the government is pushing for quicker naturalisation, and what the special requirements are likely to be for fast-track citizenship.


The coalition government’s draft bill on modernising German citizenship law has some big changes in store.

Aside from allowing dual citizenship – other major changes to the law involve significantly reducing the required residence period in Germany to apply for citizenship.

The ‘standard’ period required for living in Germany will be cut from eight to five years under the plans, while a special, fast-track citizenship application will become an option after only three years if special requirements are fulfilled.

The current requirement for fast-track German citizenship is generally seven years if applicants complete an integration course, or six years if they can show particularly good academic, vocational or professional achievements or "civic engagement" and strong German language skills (generally B2 level). 


Why speed is so important

In the draft bill, the government stresses that naturalisation is the key to enabling migrants who wish to permanently settle in Germany to participate fully in society.

A crucial requirement for this, it says, is quicker routes to German citizenship. “A faster opportunity for naturalisation is an essential element of a good naturalisation culture that creates incentives for integration," says the government in the draft plans. 

Migrants should therefore be given the opportunity to become naturalised after just five years of legal residence in Germany, while those who have "successfully made special efforts to integrate into the living conditions in Germany", should get the opportunity to become naturalised after just three years. 

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

What does the draft say about fast-track citizenship?

As The Local has been reporting, the shortened, three-year residence requirement for applying for citizenship includes obtaining a C1 language level and fulfilling special integration achievements. 

A German dictionary stands on a shelf.

A German dictionary stands on a shelf. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Oliver Berg

According to the draft, these include "proof of particularly good academic, vocational or professional performance or of civic commitment" and a language level that "meets the requirements of a language examination at level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages".

READ ALSO: Germany to require C1 language skills for new fast-track citizenship

The bill also states that this option is also only available if the foreigner "can support himself/herself and his/her dependent family members without recourse to state benefits".

The new draft does not clearly state which type of state benefits would preclude someone from applying for fast-track citizenship, however.

Under the current law, applicants for both 'standard' and fast-track citizenship would be blocked from applying if they were claiming benefits under "Book Two or Book Twelve of the Social Code" - which includes Bürgergeld - the employment benefit for the long-term unemployed and housing benefits and assistance for long-term care.

READ ALSO: Bürgergeld: What to know about Germany's unemployment benefits shake-up

At the moment, however, the draft law only refers to general "state benefits" and only for fast-track applicants.

It's therefore not yet clear whether this could become a more stringent requirement - i.e. blocking ALG I recipients from applying - or more relaxed.


C1 language certificate required

As for the language requirement, it seems a C1 language certificate will be needed for fast-track under the current proposals.

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.

Hakan Demir, the Social Democrat rapporteur for the law in the Bundestag, told The Local in December: “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 draft also highlights the special position that the fast-track process will put Germany in within Europe with this new law. “With this accelerated naturalisation option, Germany occupies an outstanding position in a European comparison," it says.

The draft law is currently being circulated around the government and will then be shown to the Bundestag. It could see some changes before the final version is presented. 

MPs working on the legislation expect it to be passed by summer this year - even though there has been some strong opposition to the changes. 

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


Comments (1)

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Pierre Q 2023/03/09 18:59
"proof of particularly good academic, vocational or professional performance or of civic commitment" Could you clarify what this would be?

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