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German citizenship For Members

Why are so many people becoming German citizens?

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Why are so many people becoming German citizens?
A naturalisation certificate of the Federal Republic of Germany on top of a German flag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stephan Jansen

In 2022, approximately 168,500 foreign nationals were naturalised in Germany - the highest number of naturalisations recorded within a year since 2002. What's behind the increase?

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According to preliminary figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) on Monday, the number of naturalisations in Germany in 2022 increased by around 37,000 - or 28 percent - compared to the previous year.

Syrians made up for almost a third of the increase, as a total of 48,300 Syrian nationals were naturalised. The high number of naturalisations among Syrians is linked to the influx of refugees between 2014 and 2016, who now increasingly meet the requirements for naturalisation, Destatis said.

The latest statistics suggest that around 580,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in Germany since 2011, with the majority arriving in 2015 and 2016. 

According to the statistics, the average age of Syrian naturalised citizens last year was 24.8, and two-thirds of new citizens were male. They had spent an average of 6.4 years in Germany prior to their naturalisation. 

READ ALSO: Germany's population grows to 84.3 million amid record migration

Syrians also experienced by far the greatest increase in naturalisations compared to 2021 (plus 29,200), followed by Ukrainians (plus 3,700), Iraqi (plus 2,400) and Turkish (plus 2,000) nationals. According to the data, people with 171 different nationalities were naturalised.

A total of 5,600 Ukrainians were also naturalised in 2022 - an almost three-fold increase compared to the previous year (1,900). The naturalised Ukrainians were predominantly female (69 percent) and were, on average, 36.1 years old and had spent an average of 13.3 years in Germany before their naturalisation.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Almost one million Ukrainians fled to Germany in 2022

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There was also a significant increase in naturalisations among Iraqi and Turkish nationals in 2022.

6,800 Iraqi nationals were naturalised after an average residency period of 9.5 years (+54 percent), while Turkish nationals accounted for 14,200 naturalisations after an average residency period of 24.2 years. Turkish nationals were thus the second-largest group among the naturalised individuals in 2022, following Syrians.

New record for fast-track citizenship

Under the current citizenship law, those who want to become German citizens after just six years of residence in Germany can do so if they can prove special integration achievements. These include, for example, exceptional language skills, educational or professional accomplishments, as well as civic engagement.

The number of early naturalisations based on special integration achievements reached a new record in 2022 with 23,100 cases, almost doubling compared to the previous year (12,400). Among them, Syrians accounted for the largest share, with 13,900 (60 percent) of fast-track naturalisations.

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

Under the current government's proposed reforms to citizenship laws, the residency period required to apply for fast-track citizenship will be cut down to just three years for those who can show "proof of particularly good academic, vocational or professional performance or of civic commitment" and C1 German language skills.

The new law will also make multiple citizenships possible. Under Germany's current citizenship laws, it's usually not possible to hold dual citizenship, except for nationals of other EU countries and in exceptional circumstances, such as for citizens of countries that prohibit their nationals from giving up their citizenship, or for particularly vulnerable foreign nationals. 

Why were naturalisations so high 20 years ago?

The Destatis data shows that the number of people becoming German citizens in 2022 is the highest it's been for more than twenty years; the average annual number of naturalisations for the years 2000 to 2003 was 173,100.

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: What is the biggest problem foreigners face when applying for German citizenship?

The number of naturalisations rose significantly at the beginning of the new millennium in Germany after the law was amended in 2000 to lower the required period of continuous residence in Germany from 15 years to eight. The required period of residence for children and spouses of German nationals was also reduced. 

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The coalition government's proposals to change the current citizen law include cutting the standard period of residence needed to apply again from eight years to five years.

Given that the previous spike in naturalisations came from a cut in the number of residency years, it's likely that the new law will also see a huge increase in foreign nationals applying to become German citizens.

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