German citizenship For Members

UPDATE: When and how can I apply for German citizenship?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
UPDATE: When and how can I apply for German citizenship?
An applicant for German citizenship takes the citizenship test in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

With the German government's new law allowing dual citizenship now having cleared the Bundestag and the Bundesrat and awaiting presidential signature - when can people actually apply for German citizenship?


When does the new law take effect?

The draft legislation has now passed the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, paving the way for it to be brought into law in Germany. 

German authorities will need some time to make the changes in order to implement the new rules. Authorities will need staff training, new application forms, and other practicalities.

The governing coalition's bill gives the German civil service three months to make these changes before the new rules officially take effect - from the day the law is officially certified by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. His signature is the final legislative step necessary, although this still hasn't happened yet.

The Justice Ministry has reportedly finished preparing the final text of the law and will submit it to the President for signature soon. After this, the President's Office has to do a constitutional review before signing, which can take a couple of weeks on average. Once he signs, the new law takes effect exactly three months later - and this time period is written into the text of the law itself.


When will I be eligible to apply?

The new law reduces the amount of time a person needs to have been resident in Germany before applying for citizenship from eight years to five.

As well as showing how long you've been here, applicants also need to pass the citizenship test, a B1 language test, and be clear of serious criminal convictions, as well as not having claimed unemployment benefits for at least 20 months of the previous 24 at the time of their application.

Certain well-integrated foreigners who can also pass a C1 German test can potentially naturalise after three years under the new law.

Children born to foreign parents who have themselves been resident for at least five years at the time of their child's birth will also be eligible for German citizenship. 

However, these new residence requirements will only apply once the new law comes into force.  Until then, the current residence times of six to eight years will continue to apply. 

KEY POINTS: What you need to know about Germany's citizenship law reform


So when should I apply?

That's a choice everyone needs to make for themselves.

However, immigration authorities The Local has spoken to have confirmed that, when it comes to dual nationality, the law that applies when citizenship is granted is the relevant one - not the law that was in place on the date you applied.

In other words, if you apply for citizenship now and the law changes while your application is being processed, you won't have to give up your previous nationality. 

With current wait times - stretching into months or years at some authorities in Berlin and Munich - some people may choose to apply now and simply stall their application at the point where renouncing previous citizenship is required, waiting until the new rule is in place and renunciation is no longer required.

READ ALSO: What documents should you get after getting German citizenship?


However, some people - perhaps those who live in places where processing times are faster - may wish to wait to start their application until the new law takes effect, officially three months from whenever the President signs it. 

Equally, people who won't meet the requirements to for naturalisation until the new law comes in - for example, foreigners who have only been resident in Germany for five years - will have no choice but to wait until the law changes.

Of course, nothing stops potential applicants getting all their documents ready in the meantime - such as completing their language test or citizenship test.


With reporting by Imogen Goodman, and Rachel Loxton.


Comments (3)

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Samir 2024/04/12 14:22
What about those married to German citizens? Is the residence requirement to naturalization now reduced to 3 years instead of 5?
Chris 2024/02/04 09:51
Hi, I have a question re the estimated wait times. Is there a table or somewhere where I could find that out ? I am especially interested in Frankfurt but I am sure others would like a rough indication for their city.
John Kerr 2024/01/25 08:06
I'm sure I can't be the only British reader in their seventies interested in this topic. Can you clarify the requirements for us oldies now living in Germany?

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