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Cologne stops accepting German citizenship applications due to 'enormous' backlog

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Cologne stops accepting German citizenship applications due to 'enormous' backlog
People on the Rhine promenade in Cologne. Foreign residents are unable to apply for citizenship in the city due to a backlog. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Banneyer

Many foreign residents are getting ready to apply for citizenship as the law is set to be relaxed. But one German city has paused applications because it doesn't have the capacity to manage the demand.


The city of Cologne's immigration office has stopped accepting applications for naturalisation until at least September.

A total of 8,000 people are currently waiting for an initial appointment so they can naturalise as German - but there are too few staff to process the applications. 

A notice by the City of Cologne on the citizenship application site reads: "We are currently receiving a large number of enquiries, especially for an appointment to submit an application.

"For capacity reasons, we are currently unable to offer any further appointments for the submission of naturalisation applications.

"All available dates for 2024 have already been exhausted."

According to the city, the number of residents looking to get German citizenship has risen sharply, from around 3,000 applications in 2022 to 3,800 last year. This year, the city expects the number of applications to triple to around 10,000 due to the reform that will reduce the hurdles to naturalisation.

Along with allowing people to hold multiple citizenships, the required residency period will be reduced from eight to five years when the new law enters into force on June 27th. 

READ ALSO: Requirements, costs and permits - 6 articles for German citizenship

Regional broadcaster WDR said there are currently 30 people working at Cologne's Foreigners' Office. This number is set to be increased to 90 over the coming months in a hiring spree to tackle the demand. 


WDR reported that the city felt it didn't have enough time to prepare for the consequences of the new law. Meanwhile, many refugees who came to Germany in 2015 and 2016 now fulfil the requirements for naturalisation, sparking a further rush of people seeking to get a German passport. 

A spokesperson from the City of Cologne told The Local that inquiries will not be processed until September "given the enormous backlog of applications and fully booked appointments until the end of 2024".

"It is no longer possible to process the rising number of applications with the existing number of staff," the spokesperson added. 

"Unfortunately, staff recruitment takes time."

The spokesperson said exceptions for appointments could only be made "for those who need German citizenship to work in the civil service, for example police officers".

In 2023, Berlin stopped processing citizenship applications because local authorities were overwhelmed.

At the start of this year, a new centralised office opened along with an online application process.

It means that things are speeding up - although there are still significant backlogs being worked through. 

READ ALSO: 'I've waited four years' - Foreigners in Berlin furious over German citizenship delays 

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