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EXPLAINED: When might Germany's new dual citizenship law come into force?

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: When might Germany's new dual citizenship law come into force?
A dual British and German national holds up their passports. Under proposed new rules, non-EU nationals will be able to take on German citizenship after living in Germany for five years, while retaining their original nationality. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Holger Hollemann

The German Bundestag has cleared the governing coalition's draft law allowing dual citizenship and the legislation is scheduled to hit the Bundesrat on Friday. It's still not exactly clear when the new rules will actually come into force - but late May looks likely.

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What are the next steps for this draft law?

The draft law, which passed the Bundestag on January 19th, must now clear Germany's upper legislative chamber, which represents the states - the Bundesrat.

The chamber is currently scheduled to consider the draft law on February 2nd, with parliamentarians The Local has spoken with expecting the legislation to easily pass there.

However, the draft law isn't quite done even then. Once the Bundesrat passes it, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and responsible ministers - which includes Interior Minister Nancy Faeser in this case - will countersign it and send it to the Federal President for final review and signature.

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What does the Federal President have to do with this law? How long might it take?

Germany's Federal President - currently Social Democrat Frank-Walter Steinmeier - has a largely ceremonial and constitutional role in German politics, similar to the Crown in British Commonwealth countries. He must scrutinise all draft laws to ensure their compatibility with the German Basic Law - the country's constitution - after legislation has passed the Bundestag and Bundesrat.

Assuming the Bundesrat passes Germany's citizenship reform bill on February 2nd as expected, the President's office will begin this review. Although it's typically a formality, this process takes a bit of time.

"How much time this takes can't be predicted with certainty in advance," Tobias Scheufele, a spokesperson with the Federal President's Office, told The Local. "On average though, the review takes about two weeks. After successful verification, the President issues the order to proclaim."

German President Frank Walter Steinmeier (SPD).

German President Frank Walter Steinmeier (SPD) has a largely ceremonial role in German politics, but will still need to do a constitutional review of the new citizenship law. Photo picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Once the President does this, Germany's new citizenship rules, which will allow dual citizenship and shorten the time someone needs to have been resident in the country before applying for citizenship, are technically law.

However, even after this, there will still be a slight delay before the new rules come into effect.

READ ALSO: German parliament passes landmark dual citizenship reform

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What's the reason for this delay?

It's fairly common in Germany for new laws to have a transition period from when they're passed to when they come into effect fully and new rules are actually implemented by the German civil service.

This is typically to give public administrators time to adjust. They may do this through new staff trainings, revised application forms, and new information resources that reflect the updated rules on government websites and such.

The draft citizenship reform law specifically gives authorities three months to adjust from the time when the law is certified by the Federal President.

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

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So when might that be?

If the Bundesrat passes the citizenship reform law on February 2nd as expected and the Federal President's review takes around the two week average most new draft laws need to clear its office - the new rules could be proclaimed as German law by mid to late February.

Counting three months from then puts the date for the new rules to actually come into force at somewhere between mid to late May. This is, of course, assuming that no unexpected delays happen during either Bundesrat deliberations or the President's constitutional review process.

The projected timing may have some implications for when people who are currently eligible to apply for citizenship - may end up deciding to do so. You can read more about that at our link below.

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