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'Get in early': Your tips for applying for German citizenship

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
'Get in early': Your tips for applying for German citizenship
Iris Spranger (3rd from right, SPD), Berlin Senator for the Interior and Sport, stands after a naturalization ceremony with the recently naturalized people during a visit to the Central Naturalization Office of the State Office for Immigration (LEA) in Berlin-Wedding. PHOTO: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

Are you ready to apply for naturalisation in Germany? We asked readers about their experience applying for citizenship so far, and what tips they could share.

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With Germany’s new dual citizenship rules officially coming into effect on June 27th, some prospective new Germans-to-be have been gathering documents and taking their language tests.

Yet, plenty of other candidates for naturalisation are still waiting to hear back about applications submitted months or even years ago.

The Local recently polled readers who were either already in the process of applying, or planning to apply for citizenship soon. Of 121 readers who took our survey, 81 percent intend to apply for citizenship compared to 12 percent that were still unsure.

Additionally, six percent said they will not apply, and the remaining few had already naturalised.

READ ALSO: What would German citizenship mean to foreign residents?

Here are some concerns and helpful tips from readers who have already started an application for citizenship.

How are current applications going?

Asked how the application process has been so far, those who have already applied or started putting together their applications had radically varied responses.

It seems that applying for naturalisation can be pretty straightforward or wildly frustrating, depending on where you live.

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Some readers are having a relatively easy time with it, such as Nauman, from Pakistan, who notes that “in Berlin it is online, so all is good.” In the capital, the Landesamt für Einwanderung (LEA) opened up a central office at the start of the year and has entirely digitalised its processes, from the initial screening to the application itself. 

Not too far away in Brandenburg, Elshafie, who is 35 from Sudan, told The Local: “I'm getting quick responses by email – sometimes same-day responses.” So far Elshafie, who has lived in Germany since 2017 and is married with one kid, has secured an appointment for submitting papers in June.

Another reader also called out the ease of applying via a new digital portal. A 30-year-old reader who has lived in Germany for six years called the process “smooth”, adding: “I am lucky to be a resident of Hamburg which is one of the few cities that now have a digital application process.”

But even in places where a new, digital application process exists, people who applied prior to the digital process are sometimes left waiting while newer applicants . Such is the case for thousands of applicants in Berlin, many of whom have been waiting for years already.

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

“I applied in September 2023, and heard nothing back so far,” said Dilara, 30, a Turkish-born resident living in Berlin. As a bit of a sarcastic tip to other readers, she suggested applying as soon as you enter the country because “it will take years anyways”.

Dilara is not the only applicant left waiting without an explanation. In fact, a lot of readers had some choice words for the process, which in many cases can be very quite long and opaque. 

Daria, 26, from Russia said she applied in August 2023 in the city of Gießen. “They said to wait 20 months for the work on my application to start,” she told The Local. “Now they're saying to wait 22 months. They don't tell the name of the person in charge of my application and don't answer any questions regarding my case. I think of suing them a lot.”

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Another applicant consulted a law firm after the naturalisation office in Landkreis Harz said that they weren’t offering further consultations this year due to the high demand.

“I had my citizenship test and B1 language certificate ready. The last document I need now is my pension insurance history, and I just found out that the reason I don't have it, despite requesting it twice, is that my address on file was wrong,” said Ryan Thomas Sanders, 35, from the US.

Even for those applying from outside of Germany, long delays with no communication seems to be the norm rather than the exception here.

Veronica Dierick, 66, said she handed in her application for citizenship by descent to the German Embassy in Belgium on March 5th and is still waiting for a response. 

A citizenship applicants reads the German constitution.

A citizenship applicants reads the state constitution in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Advice from readers: gather your documents and start early

Bureaucratic processes in Germany are known to drive people crazy – even plenty of native-born Germans. 

So in some sense, the fraught process of applying for citizenship can be seen as the last, painful but vital step, toward truly becoming German.

That said, it’s definitely worth taking any and all extra precautions to make the process as easy as possible. So with that in mind, here are a few tips that might help.

Daria, who is still in the middle of a long wait on her own application, recommends making copies of all of your documents before sending them in, noting that she regrets not having done so herself – both to retain her own copies and also as means of proof of when and what she had submitted. 

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She added, “We're sitting in the same boat. Try to apply as soon as possible… as later you'll regret that you haven't applied sooner.”

Ryan Thomas Sanders suggests getting your language certificate and citizenship test out of the way early, even if you don’t yet meet the residency requirement: “These are probably two of the most time-consuming documents and you can and should get them taken care of early.”

Dani, 34, from the US said, “Always ask your local Amt about their current rules because they often differ from what is happening in Berlin or other larger cities.”

Meanwhile, Jon, 34, who has lived in Germany for five years provided an unsolicited endorsement for The Local, adding: “Because of this site, I'm feeling prepared and informed. I have everything ready to go once the applications are accepted for dual citizenship in June.”

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He added that applicants should “stay organised and allow extra time for each step like getting test results, documents from an employer, or translations of original documents.”

All of which is great advice, and is aligned with the advice told to The Local by immigration lawyer Andreas Moser, who advises making sure your application is as neatly organised as possible.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED - How to get a speedy response on your German citizenship application

If you’ve met all the requirements, gathered all the papers, and presented it all as neatly as possible, the only thing left to do is wait and hope or pray for the best. 

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