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Germany's eagerly-awaited dual citizenship reform hits delays

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
Germany's eagerly-awaited dual citizenship reform hits delays
The Reichstag building, where the Bundestag is located. The German government has been working on reforming citizenship laws. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

German government ministers are reportedly close to a final deal on reforming Germany’s citizenship laws – but anxiously waiting citizenship applicants will probably have to wait until autumn to see the new rules hit the Bundestag.


Originally expected to be debated in German parliament in April, the traffic light government’s plans to liberalise German citizenship laws have been bogged down in Cabinet discussions since January, when Social Democrat Interior Minister Nancy Faeser presented the law to the rest of her ministerial colleagues.

“The relevant departmental consultations on the draft citizenship law are now in their final stages,” Stephan Thomae, the parliamentary rapporteur on the draft citizenship law for the liberal Free Democrats, told The Local, adding: “It’s not yet clear when Cabinet will vote on the draft.”

One particular sticking point involved the insistence of the FDP, who are a part of the government and hold the Justice Ministry, on barring naturalisation for certain specific crimes.

According to German media reports, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann has managed to secure changes to the original draft that would prevent anyone convicted of hate crimes – for example with anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, or other “inhuman motives” – from naturalising as a German citizen.

FDP citizenship law parliamentary rapporteur Stephan Thomae tells The Local the government parties are close to a deal on the law, but it's still not clear exactly when the Bundestag will see it. Photo: German Bundestag

Public prosecutors would be able to report such convictions to immigration authorities, in order to prevent naturalisations for those convicted of such hate crimes.

The FDP has also secured stipulations that require citizenship applicants to be able to support themselves and their families without resorting to social benefits. This would likely require someone applying to become German to declare and prove that they haven’t had to take out certain social benefits for two years prior to applying.

It would also, as it currently stands, require people receiving certain benefits, like Bürgergeld, to have been in full-time employment for 20 months out of the last two years at the time of application, something some Social Democrats in parliament, including SPD citizenship law rapporteur Hakan Demir, say should be amended in the Bundestag, as it would exclude many women.

READ ALSO: 8 reasons why German citizenship trumps permanent residency


There are planned exceptions to this rule though. These include the so-called guest worker generation, mostly from Turkey, or contract workers who entered the former East Germany before reunification in 1990. 

Exceptions have also been agreed for full-time working couples with children who are either married or in a registered partnership. This would allow them to draw on Kindergeld, or “child’s allowance.”

Cabinet is also in agreement on the major parts of the bill. These include allowing dual citizenship and shortening the time someone has to be resident in Germany before applying from eight years to five years. Those who can prove special integration and C1 German would also be able to potentially naturalise after three years.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between B2 and C1 German for new fast-track citizenship?


What happens next?

Once Cabinet agrees on a draft, it will go to the Bundestag for debate, where parliamentarians may suggest some changes of their own before passing it. Parliament was originally supposed to hear it in April and pass it before the end of the Spring session in late June.

Cabinet is now working to agree a draft by summer, a deadline Demir says he expects to be met – meaning the draft law would not hit the Bundestag before autumn.

After the Bundestag passes the new law, Germany’s upper chamber, the Bundesrat would also have to pass it and civil servants at immigration offices would probably have an implementation period, meaning it’s not precisely clear exactly when the new rules would come into effect.

However, many citizenship applications are facing backlogs – particularly in Berlin – with some applicants waiting for over two years to receive their first German passport. This means many people applying now may well fall under the new rules by the time their application makes significant headway.

READ ALSO: About 27,000 people in Berlin waiting on citizenship applications

With additional reporting by Imogen Goodman


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