Foreigners living in Germany could get a German passport within five, or even three, years if new proposals are passed into law | Photo: Winfried Rothermel/picture alliance
Foreigners living in Germany could get a German passport within five, or even three, years if new proposals are passed into law | Photo: Winfried Rothermel/picture alliance

The German Interior Ministry has published draft citizenship laws which should make it easier for foreigners to apply for citizenship in the country.

Germany has published new draft citizenship laws that could offer foreigners hoping to apply for citizenship more routes to residency.

Published at the end of last week (May 19) by the country’s Interior Ministry, the draft laws could reduce the length of the naturalization process from the current eight years to either five or three, if someone has special skills.

The German government in a press release that these laws are central to the reforms of the current legislature.

If they are passed, holding several different citizenships at once --- something that was previously difficult for citizens who were born outside of the EU --- will become "possible," stated the press release.

Also read: Germany to change immigration laws to attract skilled labor

Multiple citizenship could be possible

"Lots of people who migrated from other places feel German, but they don’t want to completely cut ties with their country of origin either. In the future, they would no longer be forced to do so, and this would remain a part of their identity."

Germany’s Interior Minister Nancy Faeser continued: "People who speak really good German, or are exceptionally successful in their jobs, or do voluntary work" would have the possibility to obtain citizenship on an even faster track, within three years."

Also read: Germany looks to migrants and foreigners to fill employment opportunities

Like many other ageing populations in Europe, Germany, the bloc’s biggest and most powerful economy, needs migrant workers to keep that economy going. The German government and business community has recognized that although many people want to live and work in Germany, the path to integration and recognition of the skills and qualifications those people might bring has been long and complicated.

Prior to the publication of the draft legislation, the government had already proposed lightening the bureaucratic burden and making requirements --- like language and recognition of skills and qualifications --- a little easier.

Participating democratically

"We want people who have become part of our society to be able to help share our country democratically," said Faeser in her statement, news agency Reuters reports.

Faeser said she wants to ensure there is "no tolerance" for "racist, discriminatory or anti-semitic views" for anyone wishing to become German.

The German government has been looking into various immigration models around the world and has often cited Canada as an example of what they would like to implement.

Germany has hundreds of thousands of vacancies from skilled workers, particularly in the social care sector, childcare and gastronomy, but also in IT and renewable energies, reports Reuters.

By the end of 2021, the German population consisted of 72.4 million German citizens and about 10.7 million foreign citizens.

A little over half of that population (5.7 million) had been in Germany for at least ten years. The citizenship law would partly target this population by making it a little easier to become naturalized in Germany and build a future in the country.

The press statement said that Germany, in comparison to other EU countries, had a very low application for citizenship rate. In 2021, it stood at just 2.45 % of the foreign-born population.

Modernization of citizenship laws

The statement said that although there are many people who have been living in Germany a long time and are well-integrated, most were not able to participate democratically in the society or exercise all their rights.

"This is why the citizenship laws should be modernized," the government said.

However, the proposed legislation has been met with opposition both from within the ruling coalition and from the conservative CDU / CSU alliance in opposition. Opponents to the legislation say they fear that relaxing the rules might encourage even more migrants to cross into Germany without the correct papers, in the hope that after a few years, they too would have a path to legal residency.

Also read: How Germany's new immigration laws give refugees hope

In the draft legislation, the government asks that anyone hoping to become naturalized commits to treating other people with dignity and equality and upholds the idea of a free society.

"Anyone who does not share these values, or even acts contrary to them, may not become a German citizen," it stipulates.

Guest-worker communities

The new legislation would also help the country's so-called "Gastarbeiter" (guest worker) migrant populations, who started migrating to Germany in the mid-1950s, to more easily obtain citizenship.

Previously, many of those with a Turkish background would have often had to choose between either German or Turkish citizenship when they reached 18, even if they were born and grew up in Germany.

Also read: Germany's dual citizenship reforms way overdue

The Interior Minister said she wanted Germany to recognize the "enormous life-long achievements of the guest worker generation." To this end, she said, she wanted to make it easier for this group in particular to apply for citizenship.

If the new laws are passed, anyone wishing to apply for citizenship needs to be "economically integrated." That means, said the government statement, that the income for the applicant and any family dependents needed to be adequate to support themselves.

For those who came to Germany as guest workers, the written language requirements will be waived and an oral proof of German language level would be asked for instead. Lastly, the German government statement says they want to celebrate every new citizen of Germany in a public celebration, to acknowledge and welcome them into the nation.

With Reuters


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