What is written in Germany’s draft dual citizenship law?
On Saturday Germany’s Interior Ministry released the draft of its new citizenship law, which details quicker routes to German citizenship and the expected abolition of laws which forbid dual citizenship for non-EU passport holders.
These new laws could be in place as early as this summer and the draft is currently making the rounds in parliament. But what specific changes does it include? And what are the next necessary steps for the draft to progress through parliament?
German dual nationality rules expanded
For non-EU migrants to Germany, the changes to the law on dual nationality are perhaps the most life changing. Currently, only those who hold EU passports or have one parent from Germany are permitted to hold dual German citizenship. Under the new draft law, however, non-EU migrants will no longer be forced to choose between their home country nationality and German nationality in order to graduate from holding a residence permit to having a German passport.
As the law stands, there are a number of exceptional cases where people can take dual German citizenship, for example if they hold a passport from a country which forbids relinquishing nationality or the candidate could prove they would face poverty if they were to give up their passport.
But these specific situations do not apply to the majority of non-EU passport holders with permanent residence in Germany. In most cases, the inability to adopt dual nationality forces residents to make an unnecessarily life-altering decision, meaning they risk being unable to return to their home country for extended periods or forgo the benefits and rights which come with German citizenship, such as voting.
Under the new law this is all expected to change, with applicants not just able to adopt dual nationality but also hold “multiple nationalities”.
Reducing residency period requirements
The draft law also outlines that the amount of time that people must be legal residents in Germany before they can apply for citizenship will be reduced. At the moment, foreigners must have been living in Germany continuously for a minimum of eight years before they can apply for a German passport. In cases where applicants can prove “exceptional” integration (through work, study or volunteering) and language skills, this can be reduced to six years.
With the new law, the standard period will be reduced to five years. For those who can prove “exceptional” integration, including C1-level command of German, the wait will be cut to three years.
Lower language-level requirements for older applicants
Proving a lower-intermediate level of German is currently required for naturalisation in Germany. With the new law, B1-level skills will remain the minimum requirement for most applicants.
However, in a small number of cases, the language requirements for citizenship will be relaxed. The biggest group this applies to is those over the age of 67. People who are older than statutory retirement age will not have to have advanced German. They will also no longer be required to pass a citizenship test. While this will apply to all over-67s the new regulations are designed to naturalise a large number of the guest-worker generation.
German citizenship for second-generation migrant children
According to the draft, Germany’s “option obligation” will be totally abolished, meaning that young people who are second-generation migrants to Germany won’t be forced to choose between German citizenship and the citizenship of their parents’ home country.
As it stands, children are entitled to German citizenship if they were born to at least one German parent, or were born within Germany to at least one parent who has lived here legally for a minimum of eight years. Under the newly drafted law, those born to foreign parents will be eligible for citizenship if one their parents has been legally resident in Germany for five years rather than eight.
Semi-abolishing the German integration clause
Since 2019 Germany’s citizenship law has ambiguously required applicants to prove their “integration into German living conditions”. When introduced the requirement was said to create barriers for those migrants who chose not to adopt Germany’s moral compass, when it comes to religious extremism or polygamy, for example.
This opaque citizenship regulation is now to be dropped, after critics said it left citizenship office caseworkers free to discriminate against applicants, since the regulation can be applied so liberally.
Nevertheless, according to the draft, citizenship will remain out of bounds to applicants who are “married to several spouses at the same time or if he or she shows by his or her behaviour that he or she does not accept the equal rights of men and women laid down in the Basic Law".
When will the draft law be enshrined?
Now that the draft law has been written, it will be passed through government departments and anyone inclined to suggest changes can do so. Once amendments have been made, the law will be re-drafted and put to cabinet. If and when the re-draft passes through cabinet it will be put to a vote in the Bundestag.
Though most German laws are required to pass through the Bundestag and Bundesrat before they can be enforced, ministers have written this specific draft bill manner that would not require it to be voted on in the Bundesrat, since it does not have consequences for the finances of individual federal states.
At these final stages, the draft law is expected to face criticism from the CDU / CSU factions, who have already accused the German government of “throwing away” the prestige of German citizenship. In this case, the government may have to compromise some of the above listed changes in order to get the bill through parliament.
If the bill does not need to advance to the Bundesrat, government spokespeople expect the law to be enshrined by summer 2023.
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