The Berlin backlog: 27.000 expats waiting for citizenship application response

The Berlin backlog: 27.000 expats waiting for citizenship application response

The delay is only getting longer for Wahlberliner waiting to hear back on whether their German citizenship application was successful, according to new figures published by German broadcaster RBB24. While local and federal governments make moves to ease the route to citizenship, Berlin's administrative bodies are buckling under the weight of unprocessed applications.

27.000 in Berlin citizenship application queue

We already knew the Berlin stack of backlogged applications for German citizenship was big. Now it’s grown. There are currently an estimated 27.000 citizenship applications waiting to be processed in the capital’s administrative offices, compared to the 26.000 counted at the end of 2022.

Berlin’s Beamte (civil servants) are only processing applications at the rate of 8.000 per year, and Wahlberliner can expect to wait an average of 2,4 years before they receive their shiny, new burgundy passports in the post.

Application processing in other German cities is similarly slow, but since 20 percent of people in Berlin don’t have a German passport, the capital is particularly vulnerable to long waiting times. What’s more, the local government announced in March that processing passport applications at individual district authorities would be paused while the capital’s new citizenship centre is under construction. 

The centre is supposed to open in 2024, and until then, everyone in Berlin who submitted their documents in 2023 has been told that their application has gotten stuck on the now very long to-do list, also known as being officially on hold.

German citizenship draft law will likely cause further delays

To spice up the whole debacle a bit more, the German government is in the process of completing its new citizenship draft law. This is likely to reduce the number of years that people have to be resident in Germany before they can apply for citizenship from eight to five years. The draft law is expected to be voted on in the Bundestag as early as this summer.

If the law passes, it will be great news for the 18 percent of Germany’s current population who are immigrants, speeding up the route to settling in Germany long-term and giving the security and voting rights which come with citizenship status. The law will also change the rules about who is allowed to hold dual German citizenship. Currently, only EU passport holders can keep their original citizenship and have German citizenship at the same time, unless they have one German parent.

It is suspected that around 25.000 Berliners have already fulfilled the current eight-year residency requirement to apply for citizenship, but may not have submitted an application because they want to retain their original, non-EU citizenship. If the dual citizenship law makes it through the Bundestag vote, many of these people will likely make the step to naturalisation.

Local authorities are optimistic that the new citizenship centre should be able to process 20.000 applications per year in the capital. However, if the centre does not reach this goal, delays could get longer and there is a danger that the backlog will continue to grow.

Thumb image credit:Love Solutions /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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