Nationality law: Shorter naturalization period: “Lip service” is not enough

Nationality law: Shorter naturalization period: “Lip service” is not enough
Nationality law: Shorter naturalization period: “Lip service” is not enough

The authorities expect the new citizenship law to lead to more applications. It is intended to encourage people who meet all the requirements to become German citizens. A look at the small print.

With the entry into force of the new nationality law, the traffic light coalition has implemented one of its central goals in migration policy. The new rules provide for shorter deadlines and allow dual citizenship for everyone with immediate effect. They are still controversial.

It is good that the feeling of many citizens of having multiple homes and affiliations is now finally manifesting itself in the form of two passports, said the Federal Chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), Gökay Sofuoglu. For the Turkish population in particular, this is an act of recognition of their reality and of appreciation of their achievements in the past, present and future. “This makes the renewed pessimistic debate, in which people act as if something would be given away for people who do not make an effort here, all the more disturbing,” said Sofuoglu.

The Union faction had announced that it wanted to reverse the reform after the next federal election, if it was then able to do so. The AfD faction leader, Alice Weidel, said: “The migration crisis is being exacerbated, the German people, the sovereign, is being transformed without consent.”

Countries received application instructions

In order to enable a uniform implementation of the reform across the country, the Federal Ministry of the Interior says it has sent preliminary application instructions to the states a few days before the start date of the new rules for naturalization.

However, these are not binding for the states whose authorities carry out the naturalizations, as a spokesman explained. He told the German Press Agency: “However, practice in recent years has shown that the states are guided by the application instructions of the Federal Ministry of the Interior so that the legal regulations on citizenship law are applied uniformly.”

The law formulated by the traffic light coalition stipulates that the right to naturalization now exists after five years instead of the previous eight – provided the applicant meets all the conditions. If they have made special efforts to integrate, foreigners should be able to become German after just three years. The prerequisites for faster naturalization are good performance at school or at work, excellent language skills or voluntary work. Multiple nationality is generally permitted.

Previous residence period of five instead of eight years

All children born in Germany to foreign parents will now receive German citizenship and can keep the citizenship of their parents if at least one parent has lived legally in Germany for more than five years – instead of the previous eight – and has an unlimited right of residence. The so-called option regulation, which previously applied to young people who did not grow up in Germany, no longer applies. In order to recognize the achievements of the GDR contract workers and the so-called guest workers, the requirements for naturalization have been lowered for these groups.

“Many have been waiting for this for decades,” said the Federal Government’s Commissioner for Integration, Reem Alabali-Radovan (SPD). With the reform, Germany “finally has a citizenship law that is up to date.”

Hurdles not lowered

The FDP pointed out that the hurdles for naturalization would not be lowered overall despite the shorter deadlines. “Getting a German passport will be quicker in the future, but it will be more difficult because the requirements for naturalization have been significantly tightened,” said FDP interior politician Stephan Thomae.

A higher number of applications does not necessarily mean that there will be significantly more naturalizations in the long term. Because, unlike before, anyone who wants to become German will have to stand on their own two feet financially, said the FDP member of parliament. “We are also tightening up the checks so that anti-Semites and people who do not share our values ​​are not naturalized,” he added.

The interior authorities of the states and the German District Council, on the other hand, expect a significant increase in naturalisations. “We estimate that the number of naturalisation applications will double, in some cases triple,” President Reinhard Sager told the “Bild” newspaper.

“Lip service” to Germany’s historical responsibility is not enough

According to the Interior Ministry, the application instructions sent to the states include information on what could be indications of ineffective “lip service” to the free democratic basic order of the Basic Law and to “Germany’s special historical responsibility for the National Socialist injustice and its consequences”. These include, for example, “calls for the destruction of the State of Israel” and corresponding expressions of sympathy on social media, as well as “warmongering” and homophobic actions.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior also provides the states with practical advice on how to determine whether someone who, as a member of the so-called guest worker generation, does not have to provide written proof of language skills, at least has sufficient oral language skills.

There are also concrete indications of the now restricted possibility of so-called discretionary naturalization. This is possible, for example, due to a serious illness or if someone is unable to fully support themselves because they have to care for relatives. Ministry sources say that the prerequisite for naturalization based on the hardship rule is that someone who belongs to one of the “vulnerable groups of people” mentioned in the law has done “everything objectively possible and subjectively reasonable” to secure their own livelihood and is nevertheless dependent, in whole or in part, on public benefits.

Left criticizes: “Naturalization becomes a lottery”

Left Party leader Janine Wissler criticized the fact that despite the relaxation of the restrictions, many people were still excluded from naturalization. These included single parents who could not work full-time due to a lack of daycare places. “For those affected, naturalization becomes a lottery, as it is up to the discretion of the office whether these people are naturalized or not,” said Wissler. She also complained that because the authorities are overloaded, many interested parties will probably have to wait years for their German passport.

The number of naturalizations has already risen sharply in recent years: in 2023, around 200,100 foreigners were naturalized in Germany – more than ever since the time series began in 2000. According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were around 31,000 more (plus 19 percent) than in the previous year, after the number had already risen by around 37,000 (plus 28 percent) in 2022. One reason for the increase is that many people who came to Germany as asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016 now meet the requirements for naturalization.

Source: Stern

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