Navigating the changes: German citizenship law in 2023

Navigating the changes: German citizenship law in 2023

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The German government is on the brink of majorly overhauling its citizenship laws, revolutionising the process for those seeking German citizenship. Julie Schäfer, a citizenship law specialist from Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, outlines the proposed changes, the benefits of German citizenship, and the benefits of working with experienced German lawyers specialising in citizenship law.

The German government has recently introduced a new citizenship bill that may result in significant changes to its citizenship law, revolutionising the process for those seeking German citizenship. These amendments aim to streamline the requirements and provide more accessible pathways to citizenship while upholding the respected principles of integration, language skills, and commitment to a free democratic order. 

Should these changes come into effect, individuals must understand the new landscape. For expats in Germany, these developments will majorly impact how they live and work. These changes should make German citizenship more attractive for citizens from third countries living in Germany, as it should grant them more straightforward access to German citizenship without the need to give up their previous citizenship.

The proposed changes 

Here’s what’s expected to change with German citizenship laws this year:

Reduced minimum residency requirement

One of the major proposed modifications is the reduction of the minimum residency requirement. Currently, individuals must reside in Germany for a minimum of eight years before becoming entitled to German citizenship through residency. However, this period will likely be shortened under the new law to five years. This adjustment aims to acknowledge the value of individuals who have made Germany their home and seeks to expedite the process of integration and inclusion. 

Moreover, under certain circumstances, some individuals would be able to obtain German citizenship after just three years of residency.  This discretionary naturalisation includes individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary educational or professional accomplishments, displayed notable social commitment, and possess special language skills (C1 level). This innovative approach to citizenship reflects Germany's commitment to recognising and valuing exceptional individuals and their contributions. 

Dual citizenship changes 

Germany has traditionally held a cautious approach towards multiple citizenships, especially towards residents of third countries. However, the new German citizenship bill seeks to embrace the acceptance of multiple citizenships. 

Under the new proposed bill, applicants will no longer be required to relinquish their initial citizenship when obtaining a German passport. This change recognises the global nature of modern society and respects the cultural and personal ties many expats in Germany may have with their countries of origin. It should be noted that currently Germany allows for dual citizenship for those from other EU countries and Switzerland, and also in other limited circumstances. However, the proposed changes will expand this allowance and will be of immense value to those hailing from non-EU countries. 

Another significant proposed change in the German citizenship law is the removal of the requirement to give up German citizenship when obtaining citizenship in another country. Currently, individuals who acquire citizenship elsewhere automatically lose their German citizenship unless they gain a German Retention Permit before their naturalisation. However, this restriction will likely be eliminated, allowing individuals to hold dual citizenship and maintain ties to Germany and their country of origin.

The general admission of multiple nationalities also means that if the proposed bill proceeds, "the option rule" for ius soli acquisition will be completely abolished. In future, all children born Ius-soli will receive and permanently retain German citizenship and the citizenship of their parents without any reservation. At the same time, the acquisition of Ius-soli will be facilitated by significantly reducing the required period of residence of the relevant parent in Germany from eight to five years.

Similarly, the loss of German nationality in the case of adoption by a foreigner according to § 27 of the German Nationality Act (StAG) is to be abolished under the proposed bill. 

It is important to note that while Germany allows multiple citizenship, the laws of other countries may differ. Some countries prohibit dual citizenship, which can complicate matters. Therefore, consulting with experienced citizenship lawyers is crucial to navigating the potential challenges and implications of multiple citizenships. 

Changes for the "Gastarbeiter" generation 

The new law also addresses the concerns of the "Gastarbeiter" generation, who arrived in Germany to fill jobs during the “Economic Miracle" between the 1950s and 1970s. The new citizenship bill aims to alter their language proficiency requirements to accommodate their unique circumstances. 

Only German oral language knowledge (communication in German in everyday life without significant problems) would have to be proved rather than the B1 level normally required. Additionally, the requirement for a citizenship test has been waived, recognising the challenges faced by the "Gastarbeiter" generation, who had limited access to language and integration courses. 

The benefits of German citizenship

A German passport offers the holder a number of benefits, including but not limited to the following:

International travel and mobility

For expats in Germany looking to settle down in the country, German citizenship provides enormous opportunities for themselves and their families. German citizens have the right to work, study and live anywhere within the EU, opening the door to a vast job market. This mobility due to European Freedom of Movement allows German citizens to explore career opportunities and start their own businesses across the European continent. 

That mobility is not restricted to just the European continent, as German citizens have the privilege of holding one of the world's most powerful passports. German citizens can travel visa-free to a vast number of countries, thus allowing them to benefit from largely hassle-free international experiences.

Social benefits

As a German citizen, you can rest assured that the German state will look after you even in challenging times. The German social benefits system is open to German citizens, allowing them to access health insurance, unemployment benefits, pensions, parental leave, and childcare subsidies without fear that it might affect their residency status. 

Family and education

Your family will also greatly benefit from you becoming a German citizen, as under the proposed laws it will be easier for children of expats born in Germany to gain German citizenship. Greater access to German citizenship also allows expats to live in Germany without needing to be concerned about visas, residence permits and other such matters. Many expats experience greater stability, security, and connection to Germany by becoming citizens, allowing them to flourish in the country.

Should your children grow up in Germany, they will benefit from accessing the German education system. The German education system is known globally for its diversity of educational opportunities. Should they decide to go to university, as German and European citizens, they will have greater access to higher education facilities across Germany and the EU, whether through the Erasmus+ scheme or by studying in another country full-time. 

Why work with German citizenship lawyers?

Although German citizenship law is changing and German citizenship is becoming more accessible, working with a German citizenship lawyer is still strongly recommended. With changes to the law comes new challenges, particularly in the initial stages following its implementation. Navigating the intricacies of German citizenship law can be daunting, particularly if you are not a native German speaker. 

An expert German citizenship lawyer will understand the complexities and nuances of the German legal system, give personalised guidance based on your residency status, nationality, personal history, and unique circumstances, and meticulously manage your citizenship application and required documents. Should complications arise, your lawyer will be there to advocate on your behalf, protect your rights, and liaise with the relevant state authorities.

Above all, working with citizenship lawyers with a deep understanding of German citizenship law will provide you with confidence and peace of mind. If becoming a German citizen is a key priority for you and your family, then allowing expert legal professionals to oversee the process takes away the uncertainty and stress of the issue. It also outsources the administrative process and dealings with the German authorities to the law firm, allowing the applicant to focus on their daily life rather than on the bureaucratic requirements of obtaining German citizenship. Essentially, they will provide the required reassurance and support you throughout.

As Germany embraces a more inclusive approach to citizenship, the expertise and support of experienced lawyers may be crucial for your case. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, a team of dedicated citizenship lawyers is committed to assisting clients in navigating the new German citizenship law. They have a deep understanding of the legal framework, a wealth of experience dealing with German authorities, and a track record of success in citizenship matters. Get in touch today to see if you benefit from the latest law changes and to ensure a smooth and efficient journey towards obtaining German citizenship. 

Julie Schäfer


Julie Schäfer

Ms. Julie Schäfer is a German citizenship lawyer at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte. She has assisted numerous individuals with navigating the complexities of German citizenship law. Her in-depth knowledge and...

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