Ministers call for German citizenship requirements to be eased
Integration ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states have called for the process of obtaining citizenship to be made simpler and more attractive, in a bid to encourage more migrants to apply for naturalisation.
Citizenship is a tall order in Germany
Around one in eight adults in the federal republic do not hold German citizenship. One of the reasons why this number is so high is because, in international comparison, a relatively small proportion of foreigners living in Germany become naturalised citizens: in 2018, around 1,1 percent of migrants in Germany gained citizenship, compared to around 6,8 percent in Sweden, 2,9 percent in the Netherlands, and 2,4 percent in France.
The majority of EU citizens living in Germany do not see any added value in acquiring a German passport. On the other hand, almost three quarters of immigrants from the rest of the world are interested in gaining citizenship, studies have shown. So, why don’t they seek it?
Well, according to some of Germany’s leading migration researchers, the barriers are simply too high. Alongside possessing good German language skills, renouncing one’s former citizenship and passing a naturalisation test, potential applicants must have lived in the country for at least eight years (with some exceptions). Compare that to the five-year requirement in place in Sweden, France and the Netherlands.
German ministers advocate “turbo naturalisation”
Ministers are therefore calling for these hurdles to be lowered. Last week, Germany’s Integration Ministers Conference (IntMK) argued in a press release that well-integrated immigrants should be able to become Germans via “turbo naturalisation”, after four, rather than eight years of residence. Resident children should also be offered citizenship after six years.
On top of that, the ministers suggested that Germany should be more accepting of dual citizenship (which is currently only allowed for EU or Swiss citizens, or under exceptional circumstances). They also suggested that German language ability at the mid-range B1 level be sufficient to test successfully for citizenship.
Ministers call for more voting rights for migrants
To further boost the integration of migrants, the ministers argued that Germany should at least examine whether it would be constitutionally possible to amend voting laws to allow foreigners to participate in local elections in their place of residence.
EU citizens are already allowed to vote in mayoral and local elections, and so the ministers said that the same rights should be extended to so-called “third country nationals”.
Doing so, they argued, would help to increase migrant representation in Germany’s parliaments, which currently do not reflect the diverse makeup of the wider population. In the Bundestag, for example, only 58 out of 709 members have a migration background, equivalent to 8 percent.