Germany Launches New Citizenship Law

19 January, 2024

In a significant move, Germany has overhauled its citizenship laws to expedite the naturalization process for long-term residents. The recent approval by the Bundestag reflects a notable shift in citizenship policies, offering residents the opportunity to acquire German citizenship more swiftly while retaining their original passport.

In a roll-call vote, 382 out of 639 votes favored the reform, while 234 were against it, with 23 abstentions. The SPD, Greens, and FDP factions supported the changes during the second reading, contrasting the opposition from the CDU/CSU and AfD. Non-attached MPs, primarily from the Left or the “Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance,” largely abstained from voting.

Key Reforms:

1. Accelerated Naturalization:
The waiting period for naturalization has been reduced from eight to five years.
Individuals demonstrating exceptional integration efforts, such as notable achievements in education, employment, or civic engagement, may qualify for naturalization after just three years.

2. Citizenship at Birth:
Children born to foreign parents in Germany will automatically receive German citizenship if one parent has legally resided in the country for five years, down from the previous eight-year requirement.

3. Dual Citizenship:
Those obtaining German citizenship can now retain their original citizenship, providing increased flexibility.

4. Tightened Regulations:
Exceptions to the requirement of self-sustenance will be limited to specific cases, enhancing accountability.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser defended the legislation as a significant step toward a more modern nationality law, aligned with the contemporary needs of society. Faeser emphasized the importance of recognizing and appreciating those who contribute to the functioning of German society.

However, critics from the Union, particularly CDU domestic politician Alexander Throm, voiced concerns during the Bundestag debate. Throm contended that the reforms were the most impactful with far-reaching negative consequences in the current electoral period, asserting that the naturalization process had become overly accelerated.

These changes mark a pivotal moment in Germany’s approach to citizenship, seeking to balance streamlined procedures with considerations for integration achievements and societal contributions.