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Berlin launches online German citizenship application form

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
Berlin launches online German citizenship application form
The entrance to the Foreigner's Office (Ausländerbehörde), which has become a symbol of red tape in Germany - in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Under a new service launched by the immigration office on Tuesday, foreigners in Berlin can check if they're eligible for German citizenship and submit their applications online.

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The new online application form, which can be found on the website of the Landesamt für Einwanderung (LEA), marks a major breakthrough in the digitalisation of Berlin's immigration services.

It allows people to complete a 'quick check' to see if they meet the criteria for citizenship, including continued residence in Germany of at least six years, but in most cases eight; the ability to secure your livelihood without relying on benefits and at least B1 level German. 

Once applicants have passed the initial checks, they can fill in their application form on the LEA website and submit it along with relevant documents. 

The application fee of €255 per person can also be paid online via PayPal or using a debit or credit card. 

READ ALSO: The vocabulary you need to understand the German citizenship process

However, the new digital services got off to a rocky start on Tuesday morning after the link to the online application stopped working for a number of hours.

Frustrated foreigners even posted screenshots of the crashed webpage on social media, lamenting that the good news had so quickly marred by technical problems.

In response to a query by The Local, the Berlin LEA press office confirmed that the website had crashed during the day but said the problem had been quick to solve.

"It is correct that the online application and quick check for naturalisation were activated this morning and failed after more than 40 successful applications in the late morning," a spokesperson explained.

"The error was rectified within a very short time and the online application is available again."

However, it's not the only tech issue to hit Berlin public offices this week. 

German media reported that a faulty software update meant Berlin's Bürgerämter or citizens' offices had to resort to analog mode on Tuesday, causing major disruption. 

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A press statement from the Senate Chancellery sent out on Tuesday morning mentioned a “technical malfunction in a database at the Berlin IT Service Center” (ITDZ).

It meant that appointments for things like getting a new German ID were cancelled or unavailable. 

According to Tagesspiegel, the issue was being worked on, but people still may face problems accessing services this week. 

Centralised authority 

The start of 2024 has brought with it more than one significant change in how citizenship applications are processed in Berlin.

Alongside the new digital form, the Senate has also opened up a new centralised naturalisation authority at the LEA. 

Previously, Berliners had to apply for citizenship in their local borough, or Bezirk, and faced the prospect of restarting the process if they moved to a different area.

With the capital currently handling an estimated backlog of at least 30,000 citizenship applications, there are hopes that the 200 staff members at the centralised authority and the digital processes will help speed things up.

READ ALSO: Why German citizenship applications in Berlin are facing delays

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Due to the switch to the new authority, the boroughs stopped handling new applications last year and will forward all the existing paperwork onto the LEA.

According to the authorities, people who were waiting for a decision on their citizenship application when the LEA was opened do not need to submit a new online application.

Instead, they will need to wait until the LEA gets in contact with them and can then forward any additional documents to the authority online. 

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