Dual citizenship in Germany: Current law and future changes
Thinking of applying for German citizenship? Aykut Elseven from Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte examines the current laws on citizenship and dual citizenship in Germany and explains what could change in the near future.
As Germany prepares to significantly overhaul its citizenship laws, particularly those relating to dual citizenship, it is vital to examine what the rules are now and what the German government will likely change in the future.
The current law: German dual citizenship
Germany has typically been reluctant to allow dual citizenship. Angela Merkel’s CDU government was quite opposed to stretching the law to allow more people to become dual citizens. However, the new traffic light coalition government has made updating German law relating to citizenship a major priority.
Currently, until the changes are implemented, German dual citizenship is allowed in the following situations:
- Children who have at least one German parent (and a foreign parent) at the time of birth.
- Children who are born in Germany to foreign parents, so long as at the time of birth one of the parents has lived in Germany for at least eight years.
- Naturalised citizens who cannot forfeit their previous nationality. Countries such as Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina and Morocco do not allow their citizens to renounce their citizenship.
- Naturalised citizens who cannot give up their previous citizenship due to age, poor health, or a poor financial situation (hardship case).
- Naturalised citizens who are from another EU country or Switzerland.
- German expats who have successfully applied for a retention permit (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung) and have been given permission to keep their German citizenship and get another nationality. This retention permit is not required if the other citizenship is that of another EU Member State.
- Foreign citizens who are descendants of German nationals.
Remember, the other country must also allow for dual citizenship. If the other state does not permit dual citizenship under any circumstances (as is the case in, for example, China) there is little that can be done from the German side.
Proposed changes to German citizenship law
Changing German immigration and citizenship laws was one of the most significant promises made by the new German government on the election campaign trail. Their priority was to allow more qualified people to come to Germany, and, once in the country, make it easier for them to obtain citizenship within a shorter time with an easier application process.
The government has proposed that applicants will be able to gain citizenship after five years of legally residing in Germany. Currently, the law states that this is only possible after eight years of living in Germany.
The coalition government also wants to open up the prospect of dual citizenship to more people in Germany. This would make it straightforward for not only people from EU countries and Switzerland, but also for those from third countries, such as the USA, UK and elsewhere, to become dual German citizens. They could gain German citizenship without having to renounce their previous citizenship.
Under the government’s new skilled labour strategy, there are also proposed changes that would allow skilled workers to become naturalised Germans after three years. Applicants would need to complete special integration measures, such as German language courses and integration courses, to qualify for this status.
Reasons for the change in policy
Voices from within the government have outlined some of the reasons for the current proposed developments, and they focus on the idea that Germany needs to modernise its laws for the sake of its economy and society. The labour minister, Hubertus Heil, has stated that changes to the law will allow more skilled workers from abroad to come to Germany, and this will help Germany to face the issues of digitalisation and worker shortages in crucial sectors.
In 2020, Germany introduced the Skilled Immigration Act to bring more skilled workers to Germany. This act was introduced to allow skilled workers with vocational and non-academic training from outside the EU to migrate to Germany to work. Under this act, applicants who have completed vocational training in Germany or acquired a recognised vocational qualification abroad are able to apply to come to Germany and access the labour market.
Although the act has helped Germany get over 60.000 applications from foreign skilled workers, the government will still need to consider more drastic changes to its immigration policies to prepare the economy for the challenges of the coming years and decades.
Why become a dual German citizen?
There are many reasons to become a dual citizen. If you have lived and worked in Germany, citizenship not only gives you lifelong residency rights in the federal republic, but also brings benefits for your family, allows you to get a German passport, and means you can vote in elections.
If you live outside of Germany, German citizenship enables you to connect with your ancestral roots, while benefiting from some of the following conditions of German citizenship:
- The option to live, study, work and retire in Germany or any other EU country
- Visa-free travel to over 170 countries
- Consular assistance and protection from German missions abroad
- Opportunities to open businesses in Germany or invest in property
- Benefits for your family and children
With incoming changes to German citizenship and dual citizenship rules on the horizon, if you are considering applying for citizenship it is essential to stay ahead of the developments as they happen.
If you would like to determine whether you can become a German citizen, the citizenship lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte can analyse your case and determine whether you can apply, and how German laws on dual citizenship will impact you. They work with clients worldwide and manage German citizenship applications daily.
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HAJIHUSSEIN2 20:32 | 3 November 2022