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What effects will the new German citizenship law have?

What effects will the new German citizenship law have?
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The German passport is considered one of the most powerful in the world. The country’s new citizenship law will make it easier to become a citizen. What does this mean for immigrants and asylum seekers?

Congress recently passed legislation relaxing naturalization laws and expanding access to dual citizenship. In view of the significant shortage of skilled workers, the Federal Government wants to use this law to help Germany become more attractive to international skilled workers.

Passport after five years

The most striking change is the new timeframe. Foreigners living in Germany would be able to apply for a German passport after just five years instead of eight. If the applicants are “exceptionally well-integrated,” citizenship would be possible after just three years.

Germany’s Minister for State for Migration, Refugees and Integration Reem Alabali-Radovan says the new move ensures the country is sustainable for immigration “with laws that enable equal opportunities and participation for all. With a mindset that does not divide us and them, but instead embraces diversity and openness.”

In Germany, roughly 14 % of the population, that is more than 12 million people, holds a non-German passport. Almost half of them have been living in Germany for over a decade. The country’s naturalization rate is well below the EU average.

Dual nationality

Another important aspect of the new law is dual nationality. Under the new German law, it will be possible for foreigners to retain their previous nationality without any restriction. Earlier, dual citizenship in Germany was possible mainly for EU member states and some other countries.

“We are finally recognizing the realities of life for millions of people with a history of immigration in terms of belonging and homeland, which is also possible in the plural. We are creating the possibility of dual citizenship for everyone. Two passports. That is the most normal thing in the world in 2024 and has long been a reality in many countries,” said Alabali-Radovan.

It’s important to clarify that dual nationality would be applicable on a reciprocal basis. A spokesperson from the German Interior Ministry told InfoMigrants that whether an individual can retain their citizenship or not will depend on their country of origin.

“It will then depend exclusively on the national law of the country of origin as to whether the citizenship of the respective country of origin can be retained in the event of acquiring German citizenship,” said the spokesperson for the German Interior Ministry.

Citizenship for newborns

Citizenship reform would be specifically beneficial for newborns. German-born children would automatically get citizenship if one of their parents has legally lived in Germany for five years. Currently, this cutoff period is eight years.

It is also important to note that citizenship would be granted only to those who can support themselves and their dependents. The website of Germany’s Foreign Ministry (Auswärtiges Amt) has more details. They state for instance: “In order to be entitled to naturalization, foreign nationals must not be in receipt of any benefits in accordance with Paragraph 2 or Paragraph 12 of Germany’s Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB).”

Who does not qualify

However, there would be exceptions for three groups, according to the details published on the ministry’s website: Former “guest workers,” (Gastarbeiter), foreign nationals who have been working full time for at least 20 months over the past 24 months and spouses of fully employed persons who are living in a family household with these persons and a minor child.

It is also worth mentioning that applicants should have no criminal records. Although minor offenses, including fines of up to 90 days and suspended sentences of up to three months, will not usually get in the way of citizenship, immigrants convicted of criminal offenses of antisemitism or racism will not qualify for the naturalization process, regardless of the severity of their sentences.

Germany has experienced several antisemitic incidents following Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. Due to its Nazi past, antisemitism is a sensitive subject, and the country does not tolerate it in any form.

The legislation has already been passed by the Bundestag, the lower house of the German parliament. It must be cleared by the Bundesrat, the upper house, and then it will be sent to President Frank-Walter Steinmeier for the final signature. It is expected that the formalities will be completed before the summer, and then it would come into force.

Mzaad
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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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