German citizenship For Members

REVEALED: The citizenship waiting times and backlogs in major German cities

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
REVEALED: The citizenship waiting times and backlogs in major German cities
Two German passports. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

After the city of Cologne stopped accepting citizenship applications due to hefty backlogs, we look at the situation in other German cities as they face a massive increase in requests for naturalisation.


Excitement for the introduction of the new citizenship law is building in Germany, with many foreigners desperate to take advantage of lower residence requirements and the right to hold dual nationality.

But one nagging question is prevalent in the run-up to June 27th: will citizenship offices in Germany really be able to cope with a flood of new applications after the new law comes in?

The growing backlogs at German citizenship offices have been common knowledge for some time now, culminating in May with the announcement out of Cologne that no new applications would be accepted until at least September.

Speaking to The Local, the authority said they had made the decision after finding themselves unable to keep up with the high number of enquiries they were receiving. 

Much like Cologne, many immigration offices in Germany are currently struggling to deal with low staffing levels and an influx of applications from Syrian refugees, many of whom have recently become eligible to apply for naturalisation. 

Once the dual nationality law comes into force in June - accompanied by a campaign promoting the new citizenship rules - authorities are expecting a tidal wave of applications.


So, how are things looking in immigration offices at the moment, and are authorities prepared for the upcoming changes? 

Here's what's going on in nine major German cities. 


Since the new centralised citizenship authority opened at the start of the year, there are signs that things are moving a lot faster in Berlin.

With additional staff, an online eligibility check and digital applications speeding up the process, many new applicants are waiting just a few months to hear back from the Landesamt für Enwanderung (LEA) and receive their German passports.

Naturalisation ceremony in Berlin

Engelhard Mazanke, director of the LEA, speaks at a naturalisation ceremony in the Berlin district of Wedding. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

That said, the LEA revealed to The Local that there were still around 40,000 applications from before the start of the year hadn't yet been processed. That's because these old paper applications have needed to be scanned into a computer and digitalised before being handled by a case worker.

If documents from these old applications are out of date, that may delay things still further as applicants have to resubmit proof of employment and other time-sensitive documents. 

In addition, around 16,000 online applications have been submitted online since the start of the year, meaning case workers at the LEA currently have their hands full.


Once the new law comes in, the authority estimates that as many of 80,000 applications could be submitted this year. They are currently aiming to increase the amount of applications they can process from 9,000 per year to 20,000.

READ ALSO: Foreigners in Berlin furious over German citizenship delays


As of the end of April this year, 17,592 naturalisation applications were currently being processed in the Bavarian capital.

A spokesperson told The Local that it currently takes around 12-18 months to process an application once it has been submitted.

"This processing time is due to the high number of applications that are received and those that could not or cannot be further processed or finalised for various reasons, such as missing documents, lack of cooperation from customers, and staff shortages," the spokesperson said. 

German Grundgesetz

Two copies of the German Grundgesetz, or Basic Law, lie on a table in a library. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Molter

In Bavaria as a whole, the number of applications received by authorities has tripled over the past ten years, and the state government expects a significant spike in applications after the new law comes in.

However, the use of an online 'quick check' tool to screen applicants means that foreigners don't need to wait for an initial consultation, and applications can also be submitted digitally. 

READ ALSO: How German immigration office delays hurt lives of foreign workers


In the state of Hesse, applications for naturalisation are handled by municipalities and towns with residents of 7,500 people or more before being forwarded to the central authority in Darmstadt.

Due to the fractured nature of the system, no overall figures are available for the amount of applications currently being processed. 

However, a spokesperson for Frankfurt City Council revealed to The Local that applications had risen significantly over the past five years, from around 3,500 in 2019 to more than 6,200 in 2023.


The average waiting time for citizenship in Frankfurt is approximately six months - though this is increasing over time - with an additional 18 months required for processing at Darmstadt Regional Council.

The authorities expect the number of applications in Frankfurt to "double or triple" when the new law comes in. "No additional staff is available for this task," the spokesperson added. 


In Hamburg, around 26,000 applications are currently being processed, with average waiting times of over a year.

However, the local citizenship authority is hoping to speed things up this year with an increased number of staff and the introduction of the Online Access Act, which allows foreigners to submit a naturalisation application digitally.

Much like in Berlin and Bavaria, potential applicants can also check if they are eligible via an online 'quick check' tool rather than waiting for a phone consultation. 

President Frank Walter-Steinmeier naturalisation ceremony Hamburg

President Frank Walter-Steinmeier (SPD) speaks at naturalisation ceremony in Hamburg in 2018. Photo: picture alliance / Christian Charisius/dpa | Christian Charisius


Around 4,000 naturalisation applications are currently submitted in Stuttgart every year. According to the latest figures, 8,000 are currently being processed and applicants can expect waiting times of around 9-10 months. 

A spokesperson told The Local that, based on estimates from the federal government, they expect the number of applications to increase by a factor of 2.3 once the new naturalisation law comes into force, meaning more than 9,000 naturalisation applications per year would be expected in the city after June.

With around 11 new staff positions created at the city's naturalisation office in 2024, the authorities are hoping this will help cope with the influx. 

READ MORE: Stuttgart's immigration queues are gone, but problems persist


As of May 28th this year, 5,800 naturalisation applications were currently being processed in the city of Dortmund in western Germany.

At the same time, around 4,000 people were waiting for an appointment to apply for naturalisation. According to the local citizenship authority, the waiting time for this consultation is around 6-8 months.


"The demand for naturalisations has already been rising continuously since 2021 and is not exclusively due to the entry into force of the new Citizenship Act," a spokesperson for the authority told The Local. 

"Accordingly, the City of Dortmund has already been taking various organisational and technical measures to strengthen the naturalisation authority since 2021. The number of employees in the naturalisation office has also more than doubled between 2021 and 2024."


A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry in Bremen told The Local that the city state was currently processing around 10,840 citizenship applications in total.

These include 6,600 "largely unprocessed" applications, around 1,260 applications that are in the initial stages of processing and around 2,260 that are in the final review stages.

In addition, around 720 people have been provisionally granted citizenship on the condition that they give up their previous nationality - and have yet to do so. 

A woman shows the booklet with her naturalisation certificate at Neukölln town hall in Berlin in April 2016.

A woman shows the booklet with her naturalisation certificate at Neukölln town hall in Berlin in April 2016. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

The ministry expects applications to double to around 10,000 this year after the new law comes in - up from 5,749 in 2023 and 5,031 in 2022. Waiting times for citizenship are currently around two years. 

"The expected significant increase in the number of applications will lead to a further strain on the already overstretched naturalisation authorities," a spokesperson for the citizenship office told The Local.

"It must be taken into account that the new regulations will lead to a reduction in processing times, for example because it will no longer be necessary to release the old citizenship.

"At the same time, however, the reduction in workload will be offset by the very high workload due to the sharp rise in the number of applications."



The western German city currently estimates that about 4,900 applications are being processed - while another 8,000 may be waiting to apply.

Yet city authorities are estimating the demand to increase shortly to 25,000 applications as a direct result of the law change. A spokesperson for Essen says the city has prepared for this by tripling the number of employees in has working on naturalisation cases, yet some of them will still need to be trained - even if staff numbers have adjusted to meet the new demand in general.


The Saxon city says it currently has just over 800 unprocessed applications - and has seen a large increase in interest in recent years.

Right now, Leipzig gets about 200 applications a month - which it expects to increase to 300 per month once the new law comes into force.

To cope, the city has tripled its naturalisation staff since 2021, revamped its website for more information and introduced electronic filing to help deal with the increased demand.



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