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Why more and more German citizenship applicants are suing Berlin authorities

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Why more and more German citizenship applicants are suing Berlin authorities
The German flag waves in the wind against dark clouds in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Kira Hofmann

Significant backlogs in the processing of German citizenship applications in Berlin have reached a critical point, resulting in frustrated applicants resorting to legal action against local authorities.


What's going on?

Germany's coalition government recently unveiled the latest draft of its new citizenship law, which will introduce significant changes to the requirements for becoming German.

With a reduction in the standard residency period from eight to five years, and to three years for fast-track applications, as well as allowing dual citizenship, the proposed law aims to streamline the naturalisation process.

In 2022, there was already a surge in naturalisations, as approximately 168,500 foreign nationals became German citizens. This is predicted to increase even further once the new law is enacted, expected sometime in the autumn.

READ ALSO: Where in Germany are citizenship applications processed the quickest (and slowest)

However, authorities in Berlin are already grappling with the overwhelming volume of citizenship applications, as the city-state moves to open a "Central Naturalisation Centre" at the State Office for Immigration (LEA) from January 1st, 2024. 

In the meantime, thousands of would-be German citizens have had their applications put on hold as the city begins to implement these changes. 

As a result, many people are waiting up to two years for their application to be processed and an increasing number are taking legal action against the state government for the delay. 


Legal action

According to the Berlin State Government, as of the end of May this year, 58 lawsuits for inaction in the area of "citizenship law/naturalisation" had been filed with the Administrative Court in Berlin.

According to information from the Tagesspiegel newspaper, many more lawsuits have been filed since the end of May. Lawsuits for inaction can be filed when naturalisation applications are not processed promptly.

The number of these lawsuits is already significantly higher than in previous years: there were 31 lawsuits in 2022, only one in 2021, and none in 2020.

Jian Omar, migration policy spokesperson for the Greens told the Berliner Tagesspiegel that filing a lawsuit is often the only way to expedite the citizenship application process and said that these lawsuits are "a testament to the incompetence of the Interior Administration, which has failed to implement the centralisation of naturalisation due to the lack of a transitional concept."

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

The current backlog of open citizenship applications in the Berlin district naturalisation offices is significant: by the end of March 2023, there were 29,606 pending cases related to citizenship matters in Berlin. Since October of last year alone, nearly 8,000 new pending cases have been added to the pile.

Staffing shortages are adding to the problem, as employee numbers have dropped compared to last year, with 22 out of 94 positions remaining vacant in the city’s naturalisation offices. 

Most districts are no longer recruiting, either, in anticipation of the new centralised office which will open next year. 

Consequently, some districts have already stopped accepting new citizenship applications, and scheduling consultation appointments has become increasingly rare.

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

Jian Omar also criticised the lack of communication and a unified approach between the districts in the transition period.


For example, certain districts like Pankow, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Reinickendorf, Spandau, and Steglitz-Zehlendorf are keeping waiting lists for those interested in naturalisation, with the intention of transferring these lists to the centralised office.

But this is not the same across the board, meaning that citizenship applicants in other districts are unable to put their names onto the waiting list.

In an attempt to address these issues, Jian Omar has demanded that there be a "unified waiting list for all districts," and that employees from the Interior Administration be assigned to assist the districts that have lost staff. 

The Local has contacted the Berlin Senate Department for the Interior and Sport, which is responsible for citizenship matters, for comment and is currently awaiting a response.

Have you been affected by citizenship delays in Berlin? Get in touch with us if you'd like to share your experience for a follow-up article.


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Marchel 2023/06/29 10:00
I became a German citizen several years ago. Took 3 years. Not even kidding.

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