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German citizenship For Members

Will Germany allow people to hold more than two nationalities under new citizenship law?

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Will Germany allow people to hold more than two nationalities under new citizenship law?
A British and German passport. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

Germany's naturalisation reform has been passed in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. Readers are keen to know if it allows applicants to hold multiple nationalities or only dual citizenship.

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What's happening?

The German Bundestag passed a landmark draft law In January, with the Bundesrat approving the legislation on February 2nd, paving the way for dual citizenship to be allowed for everyone naturalising in Germany. 

Under current laws, only EU citizens can keep their original citizenship when becoming German unless there's an exception, for example for people who are refugees or those from countries that don't allow citizenship to be revoked.

This will change in future. The new law is expected to come into force sometime in May this year, but we'll keep you updated on the latest estimations around that. 

"In future, everyone applying to become a naturalised German citizen will be able to retain their former citizenship without restrictions," the government says.

READ ALSOGerman parliament passes landmark dual citizenship reform

So dual nationality is allowed. What about multiple nationalities?

This is a good question because many news outlets (including The Local) and other organisations tend to call the legislation 'Germany's dual citizenship law', at least in the headlines. 

Although this is true, and for many people it will be about holding dual citizenship, the law says that multiple nationalities are allowed. 

That means if you are already a dual citizen, you can get German citizenship and keep all three passports (or indeed more if that's the case).

One reader, who is a British-Irish dual national, contacted us to ask if they would have to give up one of their nationalities when becoming German.

Under the new law, they are able to hold all three passports. 

The law states: "The principle of avoiding multiple nationalities is abandoned. In future, naturalisations will generally be carried out with the acceptance of multiple nationalities. It is therefore no longer necessary to renounce the previous nationality."

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

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Is there any case when I might have to give up a nationality?

Yes, there may be cases where people would have to give up a citizenship - but it won't be from the German side.

If a country where you hold citizenship doesn't allow dual or multiple nationalities when naturalising, you would have to think about deciding which country you wanted to belong to or if you want to apply for German citizenship at all. 

For example, Indian residents in Germany who are thinking about naturalising as German will have to consider this. 

The Indian Embassy in Berlin says: "Under Indian law, persons of Indian Origin, who have acquired foreign citizenship, are required to surrender their Indian passports to the nearest Indian Mission/Post immediately after acquisition of foreign citizenship.

"The Indian Citizenship Act, 1955, does not provide for dual citizenship. Holding Indian passport/acquiring Indian passport/ travelling on Indian passport after acquisition of foreign citizenship constitutes an offence under the Indian Passport Act, 1967, and attracts penalties."

Similarly, some other countries, including Austria, have strict rules regarding dual citizenship so anyone applying for German citizenship will have to check the rules of their home country and possibly consult with a specialist lawyer if they have any questions. 

READ ALSO: When is dual citizenship allowed in Austria?

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What if I apply now for citizenship in Germany. Will I have to give up my passport(s)?

Immigration authorities and lawyers have have confirmed that when it comes to dual or multiple nationalities, the law that applies when German 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 or nationalities. 

Check out our story below for more on the best time to apply for citizenship:

When and how can I apply for German citizenship?

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