German citizenship For Members

Should you apply for German citizenship before or after the new law comes in?

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Should you apply for German citizenship before or after the new law comes in?
The German flag waves in front of the Bundestag. Photo: Maheshkumar Painam on Unsplash

Germany is bringing in a new law that will relax requirements for citizenship and allow dual nationality. Some people may be wondering if it's best to get started with the process now or wait until the law changes sometime next year. Here's what you need to know.


Check out this story for the latest on the dual citizenship law in Germany:

Foreigners who dream of becoming German are facing a tricky decision at the moment. As it stands, most people need eight years of residence and at least B1 German language skills if they want to get their hands on one of the world's most powerful passports. And if they want to apply after just six years, they need B2 German or higher.

But for non-EU citizens the biggest hurdle isn't the tough language or residency requirements: it's also the fact that they usually have to give up their existing citizenship when they naturalise. For many people, this feels like a step too far - especially if they have elderly family or close friends in the country where they grew up.

Thankfully this tough law is changing, and the government hopes that by April next year all foreigners will be able to apply for dual nationality. They will also reduce the high bar for residency, meaning that people can generally apply after just five years with B1 German or just three years with C1.

That means many people are now wondering whether they should wait until the spring to submit their application. But with reports of foreigners waiting months for their applications to be processed, there are also good reasons to get started quickly. 


So what's the best option? Here are three possible routes for would-be applicants and the pros and cons of each of them.

Option 1: Wait until the law passes

Understandably, many foreigners will be waiting on tenterhooks until the new citizenship law passes in order to send off their applications. There are some very good reasons to do this, given that once the new rules are in force there will be much more certainty about the criteria and whether you can keep your existing passport. 

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

Despite recent delays in the process, the government is still confident that it can pass the bill early next year and implement the changes in April 2024. This means that, if all goes to plan, people shouldn't have to wait too much longer before they can kick off the process.

In Berlin, this would also only move things back by around three or four months, since the borough authorities have stopped processing applications for this year anyway. That's because a new centralised authority handling all citizenship applications will be opened at the start of 2024.

person with UK and German citizenship dual nationality

A person holds a German and British passport. Many foreigners in Germany want dual citizenship. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

That said, the concern with taking this route is the amount of time it takes to process applications. In places with large numbers of foreigners, waits of two years or more have become the norm, and even in less busy areas people can wait several months to get their passport.

Earlier this year, The Local reported that there were huge backlogs in many citizenship offices around the country. In Berlin, for example, the latest figures show a backlog of 40,000 unprocessed applications and an expected waiting time of 2.4 years. In Aachen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Stuttgart, the average waiting time is 1.5 years, while in Augsburg, Braunschweig, Essen, Hamburg, Munich and Münster it is around a year. 


With the next round of federal elections likely taking place at the end of 2025, submitting an application in April or later in the year may mean you miss the chance to vote this time around. It all depends on where you are. 

Option 2: Book an initial consultation but wait to apply

The second key option for would-be Germans is to try and get the ball rolling now but wait until the law passes to submit all of your documents. 

This could be a good move in places where there's a bit of a wait to get your 'Erstgespräch' - a 10-15 minute initial phone call where you chat with a case worker about your situation before they send you the relevant forms and a list of required documents.

In some cities and federal states, the long queues and short working hours of case workers mean appointments often aren't available for several months. In Berlin, where the situation is particularly dire, it can take six months or more to get on the phone with the authorities.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: When will Germany push through the new dual citizenship law?


That means it's a great idea to introduce yourself to your local citizenship authority and try and book a call. The authorities can then double-check your eligibility and give you a personalised list of documents you'll need to send off, including things like payslips, naturalisation test results, translated birth certificates and marriage documents, and the results of any language tests you've taken.

Some of these things do take a while to get hold of, so by getting started now you'll have time to gather them all and hopefully send them off the second the new law is passed - giving you a bit of a head start. 

One thing to note is that you can book language tests and citizenship tests at any time, regardless of whether you've applied for citizenship yet or not, so it's a good idea to get started on this side of the process as soon as you can if you want to avoid delays. 


Option 3: Send off your application as soon as possible

If you don't want to wait another five months or so to get going on your application, it's also an option to get started now in the hope that the law passes before your application is approved.

One citizenship office in Berlin told The Local that in this scenario foreigners would still be able to keep their current nationality, because the case worker would simply apply the new rules to the application - and not the rules that applied when the application was received. 

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

This is a good option for people who already meet all the requirements and live in areas with an average waiting time of one year or more. It will mean you get all of the benefits of the new law but can stay ahead of the inevitable tide of applications that will come in once the law has changed.

German passport on desk

A German passport on a desk in the home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Matthias Balk

In places with waiting times of 18 months or more, this may also be your best chance of getting your passport in time to vote in the next round of federal elections.

One downside to this, however, is that there may be more delays to the law, or your application may be processed quicker than you expect. There have already been several delays in passing the dual nationality law and it's possible the government will miss its April 2024 deadline and have to kick it back yet again.

What's the verdict?

Given the time it takes to process citizenship applications in most parts of the country, anyone in a hurry to get a German passport would do well to at least make a start on their application now.

Try to book an initial consultation and find out what evidence you'll need to provide for your application so you can start putting everything together in time for next year. If you're not sure you meant the criteria for German skills, for example, it could be a good idea to start brushing up your language skills and see you can reach that all-important B1 standard by April next year.

READ ALSO: The key points of Germany's draft law on dual citizenship


You may also want to book in at your local Volkshochschule or another venue to take your citizenship test.

To be on the safe side, you may want to ask your lawyer for advice or ask your local authority what the average waiting time is in your area. Though backlogs affect many major cities, there are reports of applications being processed in just 3-6 months in some regions - and if that's the case in your area, it may be worth waiting. 

As a reminder, you'll currently need at least eight years of residence in Germany with B1 German, seven with an integration course or six with B2 German or higher, so if you don't meet that bar yet you will have to wait for the law to change. 


Comments (2)

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John Kerr 2023/12/17 08:30
I was already a retired UK pensioner when I obtained Aufenthaltstitel in August 2020. I am hoping to apply for dual citizenship when the law is changed. At 77, learning Deutsch is not that easy for us oldies. It would be worth mentioning that, as I understand it, language requirements and even residence eligibility, may be relaxed in future.
Khandakar Rahman 2023/11/27 13:40
I contacted with the authority in my area. Unfortunately they don't process the application right now for the new law. They suggested me to apply when the new law will be come into fore.

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