Citizenship reforms: Will benefit recipients be able to apply for a German passport?
The German government is currently planning a major overhaul to the county’s citizenship law. If the draft law passes through the Bundestag and Bundesrat this summer, eligibility criteria for citizenship will change. This includes changes to the rules about which benefits people can claim without it hindering their application.
Which new groups will be eligible for a German passport?
Germany’s coalition government has now agreed upon a 49-page draft document designed to reform the country's citizenship laws. If all goes to plan, the law will face a vote in the nation's parliament as soon as this summer.
Most significantly, if the draft law is passed in its current form, migrants living in Germany will be able to apply for citizenship after five years rather than eight. In certain circumstances, where good German skills, voluntary work or impressive occupational achievements are proven, some people will be able to apply for a German passport just three years after moving to the country.
Additionally, the new law will allow non-EU citizens to hold dual citizenship with their new German passport. Until now, only EU citizens have been able to keep both their original passport and German passport simultaneously.
Currently, people who have a German residence permit are eligible to apply for citizenship if they are receiving some kinds of social security benefits, but not others. Which benefits residents can receive and still expect their application to be successful is also set to change with the new law.
Applying for German citizenship while receiving benefits
Currently, citizenship applicants who receive social security benefits (with the exception of Kindergeld) are unlikely to be granted a passport. If the new draft law passes through the German Bundestag and Bundesrat, this will largely remain the case, though there will be some changes and exceptions.
Who will be able to apply while receiving benefits?
People who are in full-time work but still aren’t paid a sufficient enough wage to support themselves - so receive supplementary income benefits - will be able to apply for naturalisation if they have worked in Germany for at least 20 months of the two years prior to their application. In a marriage or legal partnership where only one person works full-time to support the other partner and a young child, exceptions will also be made.
However, some people who receive social security benefits and are eligible to apply for citizenship as the law currently stands will likely have their applications rejected under the new rules. Two of these groups are children and carers.
On the one hand, the new rules will grant citizenship to children born in Germany if, at the time of the child's birth, at least one of their parents has been a permanent resident for a minimum of five years. On the other, children born outside the country whose parents receive social security benefits and people who do not work because they are unable to or because they care for dependents will likely have their applications rejected under the new rules.
Changes to German citizenship law to be confirmed
It is important to note that these limitations only apply to people who are receiving benefits at the time of submitting the application for naturalisation. For example, if you have lived in Germany for seven years and you received Arbeitslosengeld in the third year of residence, but have since started working again, your application should not be affected by the time spent claiming benefits.
Furthermore, these reforms are according to information from the current draft version of Germany’s citizenship reforms. Further changes could be made before the law faces a vote in parliament.
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