What has been Agreed by the Coalition?
Although they are not yet in German law, the traffic light coalition has set out its aims for its time in government. The proposed changes to dual and multiple citizenship laws are among a comprehensive series of other alterations, such as lowering the voting age to sixteen, increasing the number of electric cars in Germany and legalising cannabis. In dual- and multiple citizenships, the parties have pledged to modernise German citizenship law and simplify the path to German citizenship. They have stated that they will change the law to enable ‘multiple citizenships’, which indicates that it will be possible for non-EU citizens to have easier access to dual-/multiple citizenship.
The agreement reached between the parties, if implemented as planned, will also change the naturalisation rules for those living in Germany. Naturalisation has been possible for non-German citizens if they have lived in Germany for eight years continuously. However, the proposed changes will shorten this time frame for applying for naturalisation to only five years. In the case of certain notable integration achievements, the application time frame may even be reduced to three years.
These changes will significantly impact citizenship applications and should allow citizenship laws to better reflect current German society. In particular, many people from Turkey came to Germany during the post-war years to help build German cities. Many of them, and their family members, have not gained German citizenship due to the current process and the lack of allowance for dual- or multiple- citizenships. The state government in Berlin has already stated that they want to increase significantly the number of citizenship applications per year, and such proposed changes could lead to this eventuality.
These changes have not yet been implemented; however, they will have a great impact when they are. Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte will keep you informed about the development of dual citizenship law in Germany. If a change in the current legal situation becomes apparent, we will notify you via our website. If you have any further legal issues regarding the existing or proposed regulations, please feel free to contact us today.
The Current Status of German Dual Citizenship Law
Current German dual citizenship law is complex, and dual citizenship law generally is complicated, as the other nation’s laws also play a huge role. Some countries do not permit dual citizenship, and therefore, even with the proposed alterations to German law, it may still not be possible for applicants to gain dual citizenship. Some countries have laws that do not permit their citizens from renouncing their citizenship, whereas others force their citizens to renounce their citizenship when gaining citizenship from elsewhere. Germans applying for citizenship of a non-EU country, such as the USA, Canada or elsewhere, have been required to renounce their German citizenship unless they applied for a Retention Permit (die Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) in advance of their application.
Germany has generally been reluctant to allow dual- and multiple- citizenship. Exceptions were made to allow citizens of other EU countries and Swiss citizens to gain dual citizenship, but otherwise, it is a difficult process. Usually, when a person applies for German citizenship, they have had to renounce their previous citizenship. There are exceptions in cases involving those with refugee or asylum seeker status, those whose countries do not allow their citizenships to be renounced and in cases of hardship. If a child is born to citizens of other (non-EU) countries in Germany, there has been the need to lose one of the citizenships when the child has reached a certain age (generally in the early-20s).
For those applying for German citizenship by descent or ancestry from countries such as the USA, Canada or Israel, there has often been the need to give up their previous citizenship to gain German citizenship. However, a child born to an American parent and a German parent can acquire both US and German citizenship at birth, regardless of their place of birth. They may keep both for life without the need to choose one.
Becoming a German Citizen through Residence: Current Situation
Naturalisation through residency has been one of the main paths to German citizenship. This path has allowed those with permanent residence permits to gain German citizenship if they have resided in Germany for at least eight years. It is provided for under § 10 StAG and provides the following requirements for the application. The applicant must:
- Have an unlimited right of residence in Germany,
- Have been lawfully and habitually resident in the country for eight years,
- Be able to earn a living for themselves and their family without recourse to social assistance or unemployment benefit,
- Have sufficient knowledge of German: for adults, language level B1 is required. For those under 16 years of age, language development appropriate to their age,
- Not have been convicted of any criminal offence,
- Have passed the naturalisation test on the German legal and social order.
Exceptions apply for spouses of German citizens under § 9 StAG, whereby they can apply for German citizenship after three years of habitual residence in Germany. Other exceptions can also apply in discretionary cases involving hardship or where the person has notable achievements for Germany, particularly in science, research, business, art, culture, the media, sport, or in public service.
However, as we have seen, there has often been the need to renounce previous citizenship when applying to become a German citizen. With the proposed changes to German citizenship law, there will be significant changes to how naturalisation by residency will be in the future.
The Benefits of German Citizenship
There are many benefits relating to German citizenship, as the German passport is one of the strongest in the world. As Germany is a European Union Member State, its citizens have the right to live, work, study and travel freely across European borders. This benefit can be used at all stages of life, from studying at Europe’s finest universities to retiring in Germany, Spain or France. German citizenship opens up the entire European Union and provides its holder with visa-free or visa-upon-entry access to around 190 countries for those involved with international travel.
For entrepreneurs and professionals, holding German citizenship allows them to conduct business across Germany and the European Union with greater ease. Although Germany does not prevent non-Germans from opening a business in Germany, not requiring a visa or residence permit to operate in Germany means that the process is more streamlined. It also means that professionals can work in other EU countries without needing an EU Blue Card, ICT Card or another residence permit.
Another benefit of German citizenship, in contrast to permanent residency, is that it allows its holder to vote in German elections and run for political office. Being able to vote in general elections provides the person with more rights than a residence permit holder and allows them to have a genuine say in decisions made in Germany. It also means that they can benefit from access to German consular services worldwide.
Full-Service Legal Support from German Citizenship Lawyers
At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our German citizenship lawyers support clients worldwide in matters of dual citizenship. You can receive expert advice regarding German citizenship law and a thorough analysis of your German citizenship application by contacting our law firm directly. Our team will keep you updated regarding the implementation of the proposed changes to German citizenship laws.
From our offices and conference rooms across the major cities of Germany, we have advised countless clients and overseen their German citizenship applications. We provide all of our German citizenship services in English and German. Call us, send us an email or use our online form – we will be happy to give you an overview of your options as part of an initial assessment.