Germany’s laws and regulations on dual citizenship appear to be on the verge of enormous changes, ushering in a more inclusive and accessible era for those seeking to call Germany their second home. Germany has been traditionally reluctant to allow dual citizenship; however, in recent times, it has been more lenient to those from other EU member states and Switzerland and has allowed dual citizenship in limited other situations. German citizens living abroad have been permitted dual citizenship in cases where they first applied for the Retention Permit (die Beibehaltungsgenehmigung). This situation is also set to change.

In a historic move, the German Bundestag approved the groundbreaking changes to Germany’s citizenship legislation, marking a transformative shift in eligibility criteria and embracing dual citizenship. Following a concise 45-minute debate over the comprehensive 80-page law, the Bundestag voted decisively in favour. The approved law signifies a significant departure from the previous norms, allowing residents with five years of residency to be eligible for a German passport. Importantly, individuals will be able to retain their original nationality, meaning Germany will fully embrace the concept of dual citizenship.

Proponents of the law believe that allowing dual and multiple citizenships will lead to more people applying for German citizenship, which is, in turn, believed to achieve equal participation possibilities for the residents of Germany. These changes also aim to make Germany a more attractive immigration destination for workers looking to relocate, a necessary step in combating a potentially intense labour shortage in the German industry in the long term.

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our dedicated team of citizenship lawyers is committed to providing expert guidance and assistance to our clients on every facet of dual citizenship law in Germany. With a thorough understanding of the ever-evolving legal landscape, we strive to ensure a smooth and informed process for our clients. We prioritise delivering tailored and effective solutions, empowering our clients to make well-informed decisions about their dual citizenship journey.

Please do not hesitate to contact us directly regarding all matters concerning dual citizenship law in Germany.

You can contact our law office anytime if you have a particular issue or legal question concerning German Citizenship law. Our German lawyers can be reached by phone and email and provide video conferencing options. For more legal information, please visit our Citizenship law homepage.

Transformative Changes to German Dual Citizenship Law 2024

Please note that the new laws are not yet in place, and there may be changes to the law. However, this article refers to the proposed changes that the Bundestag has accepted in January 2024.

Dual Citizenship Changes

A groundbreaking change in the revised law is the embrace of multiple citizenships. Applicants will no longer obligated to renounce their original citizenship when acquiring a German passport. This development is especially significant for individuals from non-European Union countries, as it facilitates the acquisition of German citizenship without severing ties to their countries of origin. While dual citizenship was previously permitted for those arriving from other EU member states and Switzerland, and in specific scenarios for those from other states, this impending change will considerably broaden the accessibility of dual citizenship.

Moreover, under this provision, children acquiring German citizenship will retain their parents’ citizenship, demonstrating a nuanced approach that acknowledges and respects cultural heritage and ties to the parent’s country of origin. This step ensures that children enjoy the rights and privileges of German citizenship while maintaining a connection to their familial roots.

However, although the path is now more straightforward towards dual citizenship, applicants should be aware that dual citizenship cases can be fraught with difficulties. Such cases also require the laws of the other states to be amenable to dual citizenship, and it is generally advisable to consult with professional legal counsel before starting the process. Our citizenship law team at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte comprehensively advises clients of all nationalities regarding their ability to gain dual citizenship in Germany.

The Removal of the Retention Permit (die Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) Requirement

The revamped citizenship law also abolishes the requirement for German citizens based abroad to renounce their citizenship when naturalizing in another country. This monumental change reflects an understanding of the interconnected nature of the modern world and the significance of maintaining ties to multiple countries. This amendment promotes cultural diversity and fosters global connections by offering greater flexibility and opportunities for individuals seeking citizenship elsewhere without severing their German connections.

While an exception had previously existed for those with the Retention Permit (die Beibehaltungsgenehmigung), the overall policy shift now embraces a more inclusive stance towards dual citizenship. In recognizing the increasingly interconnected world, Germany’s impending changes to its citizenship laws signify a commitment to embracing diversity and fostering global connections.

Citizenship by Residency: German Citizenship After Five Years

The Bundestag’s recent approval of significant amendments to the German citizenship law promises to bring about substantial changes, with a particular focus on residency criteria. In a departure from the previous eight-year stipulation, the revised legislation now mandates a reduced residency period of five years. This transformative adjustment is geared towards expediting the naturalization process, enabling eligible residents to attain German citizenship more swiftly.

Among the pivotal aspects introduced by the legislation are alterations in citizenship rights for children born to foreign parents in Germany. Formerly, eligibility for German citizenship hinged on one parent having resided in Germany for eight years before the child’s birth. If fully accepted and implemented, the changes will alter this requirement to five years, recognizing the challenges faced by children born and raised in Germany who previously confronted extended residency prerequisites for acquiring citizenship.

The Changes for the “Gastarbeiter Generation”

The new German citizenship law will also modify the language skills requirements for those from the “Gastarbeiter Generation” – the “guest worker” generation in Germany, primarily individuals who migrated from other countries in the 1950s and 1960s to address the post-war labour shortage. Instead of demanding B1 level German, the new law considers conversational German language skills sufficient for those of this group. Additionally, the requirement for a citizenship test for the Gastarbeiter Generation will be waived, further streamlining the process.

Limitations on acquiring dual citizenship based on where an individual was from have also played a substantial role in discouraging those from the Gastarbeiter Generation from becoming citizens. Many of the Gastarbeiter Generation came from Turkey and other third countries and were often not eligible for dual citizenship. They would have had to give up their previous citizenship to gain German citizenship, which many were unwilling to do. They, therefore, did not become German citizens despite living in the country for decades.

The prospect of allowing dual citizenship alongside simplified language requirements and a waived naturalization test applicable to the Gastarbeiter Generation might change that.

Exclusion from Citizenship Due to Criminal Activity

Even with the aim to promote citizenship acquisition, the new law maintains a careful balance by excluding individuals with specific criminal convictions. Aligned with Germany’s commitment to the “free democratic fundamental order,” the changes reflect that matter by showing criminal convictions related to anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, or inhumane acts are opposed to this order and can serve as grounds for exclusion from German citizenship.

This provision reinforces Germany’s unwavering stance against hate crimes, ensuring that those engaged in such behaviour are not granted the privileges and rights associated with German citizenship. The legislation acts as a protective measure to uphold the integrity of German citizenship, reserving it for individuals genuinely committed to inclusivity, respect, and equality.

Dual Citizenship Law in Germany Before the Changes

It should be noted that the new German citizenship law is not yet in place and that dual citizenship matters are currently more strictly definite and limited. In the past, Germany maintained a stringent stance on dual citizenship, but that has loosened to some degree in recent times. While dual citizenship, legally defined as holding multiple citizenships, is permitted, it is not the default or guaranteed. German citizenship law has undergone several amendments over the years, creating exceptions that facilitate dual citizenship in specific circumstances.

EU Citizens

Citizens of other EU member states who reside in Germany have the right to dual citizenship. This means that if an EU citizen becomes a German citizen, they can maintain their original citizenship alongside German citizenship. It grants them the benefits and rights associated with both nationalities, including the freedom to live, work, and study in both Germany and their home country.

Two Citizenships from Birth

  • Children who get German citizenship by descent from one parent get to keep the citizenship of the other parent.
  • Children who are born in Germany to foreign parents can get German citizenship by birth (ius soli) if their parents have been resident in Germany for at least 8 years and keep their parents’ citizenship as well.

Dismissal from Another Citizenship is not Possible or Reasonable

Such a scenario can occur for a variety of reasons. Some states require an administrative fee that is not considered reasonable, and therefore, the applicant cannot be forced to pay it to give up their citizenship. The applicant might also not be physically able to travel back to the country of origin to keep an appointment with the local administrative offices.

The Country of Origin prevents the Renunciation of Citizenship

Some countries have laws in place that do not allow citizens to give up their citizenship. In that case, applicants are allowed to keep their current citizenship alongside the German one. Please consult a lawyer based in your country of origin for more information regarding national laws.

Members of a Group that Deserves Special Protection

Applicants are allowed to keep their current citizenship if they are

  • entitled to asylum or a recognized refugee under the Geneva Refugee Convention and in possession of a travel document for refugees under Article 28 of the Geneva Refugee Convention
  • or are threatened with persecution in your country of origin.

Benefits of Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship offers many advantages. One significant benefit is the ability to freely reside, work, and study in both Germany and the second country of citizenship. Dual citizens have the right to participate in political processes, including voting and running for office themselves in both countries.

Furthermore, having dual citizenship can foster more robust ties to cultural heritage and promote a sense of belonging to both countries and cultures. Dual citizens can access social benefits and services in both countries, including healthcare, education, social security, and retirement benefits.

Family reunification with family members in the second country of citizenship can be easier by remaining a citizen. Dual citizenship can also be advantageous for cross-border business opportunities, more accessible travel and, in some cases, helpful or necessary for handling inheritance matters.

Lastly, being a citizen of two nations provides an extra level of security as you are not as dependent on the political or economic situation of the nation you reside in. By having dual citizenship, you have the privilege of being able to reside in and enjoy the benefits and opportunities offered by the second country of citizenship as well.

Schlun & Elseven: Expert Advice in German Citizenship Law

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our seasoned German citizenship lawyers are here to guide clients through the complexities of German citizenship law, including the upcoming proposed changes to the law. Whether guiding through eligibility assessments, paperwork preparation, or legal proceedings, our dedicated team ensures compliance with all requirements.

As Germany undergoes transformative citizenship law changes, including reduced residency requirements and acceptance of multiple citizenships, our lawyers stand ready to facilitate a streamlined naturalization process.

Amidst these pending changes, collaboration with our legal professionals becomes vital for individuals dealing with the German citizenship process. Our team is ready to guide you through the new legal changes, evaluate eligibility, and manage documentation intricacies by providing expert advice and unwavering support.