Germany's historic new citizenship law clears final hurdle

Germany's historic new citizenship law clears final hurdle

Germany’s 16 federal states have agreed: citizenship laws in the federal republic will be majorly reformed, simplifying the requirements for naturalisation and making dual citizenship possible in principle. 

Germany’s landmark citizenship law passes final vote

In a historic vote on Friday morning, the German Bundesrat - the upper house of parliament that represents the 16 federal states of Germany - passed a landmark reform to German citizenship laws. 

Among other things, the law will make it possible for someone to apply for German citizenship after living in the country for five years, rather than eight years as it was before. For people who can show that they are “specially integrated” (for instance, if they have strong German language skills), naturalisation should be possible after three years. For the first time, dual nationality will also be possible in principle for all, rather than just for EU citizens, as was the case previously. 

As well as pledging their commitment to Germany’s Basic Law, anyone taking German citizenship will in future also have to signify their commitment to protecting Jewish life - an amendment that was added to the reform bill in recent weeks. 

SPD and CDU lock heads over citizenship reform

The Bundesrat’s approval came after a lengthy debate between delegates from the Social Democrat (SPD) and Christian Democratic Union (CDU) parties. Malu Dreyer (SPD), the state premier for Rhineland-Palatinate, and Mahmut Özdemir (SPD), the State Secretary for Internal Affairs, both argued in favour of the law, with Dreyer arguing that it was long overdue: “Millions of people have been waiting for it,” she said, adding that the reform would pave the way for more integration and strengthen social cohesion. 

Özdemir added: "By allowing multiple nationality, we no longer make people give up a part of their identity when naturalising. In many countries around the world, this is already standard."

The interior minister for Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Strobl (CDU), argued against the law, saying that naturalisation was a significant prize, one which could come only after someone had successfully integrated: “First you integrate, then naturalisation follows.” 

He said that five years wasn’t long enough for someone to acquire the German language skills necessary to truly integrate. He also pointed out that the change in requirements would add an additional strain on the already-overburdened authorities trying to handle the applications. 

New citizenship law will come into effect in May

The Bundesrat’s approval marks the end of months of debates, deliberations and redrafts for the new citizenship law, which was set back multiple times on its way through parliament as ministers wrangled over details like whether benefits claimants could qualify for citizenship, and how to ensure that people with anti-Semitic views did not qualify. 

It is now set to be signed into law by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier later this month. It will come into effect three months thereafter, meaning the law is likely to apply from late May onwards. 

Image credit: Deutschlandreform /



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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