German citizenship For Members

Who qualifies for German citizenship under the new draft law?

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Who qualifies for German citizenship under the new draft law?
Two German flags waving on flagpoles. Photo: Luna Groothedde/Pexels

Last week, Germany’s traffic light coalition published the latest draft of its new citizenship law. Here’s who will be able to apply under the new proposals.


Those eagerly awaiting the day when they can start filling out their application for German citizenship faced a slight setback last week, when it emerged that it may take a bit longer than hoped for the new draft citizenship law to be passed by the German government.

EXPLAINED: Why Germany's dual nationality law is running behind schedule

Originally slated for parliamentary debate in April, the proposals have been delayed by extensive Cabinet discussions. As a result, it is now anticipated that the legislation won't be brought before the Bundestag until autumn.

But now, at least, with the publication of the new draft, it's clearer who exactly will be able to apply for German citizenship. Here's what we know so far about the criteria.

People with at least five year’s residency

The draft bill stresses the need for introducing quicker routes to German citizenship and states: "A faster opportunity for naturalisation is an essential element of a good naturalisation culture that creates incentives for integration."

In line with that thinking, the ‘standard’ period of required residence in Germany to apply for citizenship will be cut from eight to five years. In general, those wanting to apply for citizenship will need to prove they have lived in Germany continuously for five years and have at least B1 level German.

There will be exceptions to this language requirement, however. Under the new rules, those belonging to the "guest worker" generation - foreign workers recruited mainly from Turkey to work in Germany from the 1950s to 1970s - would only need to provide oral evidence of their ability to communicate in everyday situations in Germany, and will no longer have to complete a written test.


People with at least three year’s residency and some special attributes

According to the draft bill, 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: What we know so far about Germany's plans to shake up fast-track citizenship

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".

People who don’t want to renounce their current citizenship

One of the other big changes to German citizenship rules under the new draft law is the law regarding dual citizenship.

The current, general prohibition on allowing dual citizenship for foreign nationals from countries outside the EU, will be scrapped.

SPD politician Serpil Midyatli displays her Turkish and German passports

SPD politician Serpil Midyatli displays her Turkish and German passports. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

Until now, dual citizenship was only possible in exceptional cases but, under the new law, naturalised citizens will be allowed to keep their original nationality. The draft states that the current ban on dual citizenship no longer fits with the needs of foreigners living in Germany and that, with the reform, immigrants would no longer be forced to "give up part of their identity".

However, those wanting to keep both passports should also check what the rules are in their country of origin. For example, India, China and Singapore currently do not allow dual citizenship, so nationals of those countries would still have to give up their original passport to become German.

People who are “predominantly self-supporting”

One of the key requirements for naturalisation is that applicants should be able to support themselves and their families financially without relying on state assistance. This means they should not be receiving benefits such as Sozialhilfe (social welfare) or Bürgergeld (long-term unemployment benefits).

Applicants who are receiving some form of benefits must demonstrate that they have been engaged in full-time employment or work for at least 20 out of the previous 24 months at the time of their application.


However, certain exceptions have been agreed upon, such as for individuals from the guest-worker generation and for married or registered partnership couples with children who are in full-time employment. In such cases, they would still be eligible to receive Kindergeld, or "child's allowance."

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I still get German citizenship after claiming benefits?

Hakan Demir from the SPD told The Local that he intends to push back on any requirement for "full-time work" when the bill is debated in parliament, arguing that insisting on full-time employment would disproportionately exclude many women.

Children of foreign parents

Children born in Germany to foreign parents are set to automatically become Germans if one parent has already had "his or her lawful habitual residence" in Germany for five years.

Also, German children adopted by non-German parents will not automatically lose German citizenship under the new plans.

Who will be excluded from applying for citizenship?

Mainly at the insistence of the FDP, the draft law has been tightened up to more clearly define the criteria that will exclude naturalisation.

In the new draft, racist, inhuman or anti-Semitic acts are explicitly mentioned - and in future, the public prosecutor's office will have to inform the naturalisation authority about individuals who have committed such acts.

READ ALSO: Which criminal offences could get you barred from German citizenship?

"Particularly important is the clear commitment to the free democratic basic order and our liberal values," says FDP interior expert Stephan Thomae. "In this regard, we want to strengthen checks and security enquiries."

Also to be excluded are those who are married to more than one spouse at the same time and those who reject gender equality.


Do you qualify? Then start preparing!

Though the law will most likely take longer than expected to come into force, if you meet all of the criteria to apply for German citizenship, it’s really worth getting all of your documents ready in advance. 

You don't have to wait for the law to be passed to start organising your language test, the naturalisation exam, or getting your documents translated. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to speed up your German citizenship application


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