AIn view of the debate on the reform of citizenship law, it is worth looking at what foreigners have had to do to date to be naturalized and from which countries of origin most people who decide to take this step come. In any case, German citizenship does not come for free. For adults, there is a naturalization fee of 255 euros, for minors who are naturalized together with their parents, it is 51 euros per capita.
As a rule, anyone who has lived in Germany for eight years, has a permanent or permanent right of residence, has language skills at level B1 and can take care of themselves financially, has no criminal record and is committed to the free-democratic basic order is entitled to naturalization confesses. In addition, identity and nationality must be clarified and marriage with several spouses is not permitted.
Since 2008, a naturalization test has been required in which, among other things, questions can be asked about which festival people in Germany wear colorful costumes and masks to or when the statutory night rest begins in Germany. Possible answers to the last question: when the sun goes down, when the neighbors go to sleep, at midnight or at 10 p.m.
Another requirement is the fundamental surrender of the previous nationality. Along with the minimum length of stay, this criterion is one of the two major bones of contention in the reform debate. If the traffic light coalition has its way, naturalization should usually be possible after five instead of eight years and multiple citizenship should be allowed. The waiting time can already be shortened to six years if someone can demonstrate special integration achievements, such as very good language skills or social commitment.
The political scientist Martin Weinmann from the Federal Institute for Population Research points out the exceptions that exist with regard to giving up citizenship. “De jure, there is no dual citizenship in Germany, but de facto, on average, more than fifty percent are naturalized, accepting multiple citizenship,” says Weinmann.
EU citizens may keep their previous citizenship. Under certain conditions, people from non-EU countries can also be naturalized if they have multiple nationalities. That is the case when there is no possibility of renouncing the citizenship of the country of origin, as is the case in Morocco.
Syrians were the most likely to be naturalized last year. According to the Federal Statistical Office, there were 19,100. In addition, Turkish (12,200), Romanian (6,900), Polish (5,500) and Italian (5,000) nationals were most frequently naturalized. A total of around 131,600 people from 173 countries were naturalized. This corresponds to an increase of 20 percent compared to the previous year (2020). Every fourth naturalized person had the citizenship of an EU member state.
In the summer, the German Advisory Council on Integration and Migration pointed out that by 2024 a significant increase in the number of naturalizations for Syrians was to be expected, because a large proportion of the refugees from 2015/16 would have fulfilled the minimum length of stay by then.
In quantitative terms, the most important country of origin of naturalized people in Germany since the nationality reform of 1999/2000 is by far Turkey, says political scientist Weinmann. They have made up a good quarter of those who have been naturalized since 2000. Nevertheless, their share of all naturalizations from more than 44 percent in 2000 has leveled off in recent years at under 15 percent, sometimes under ten percent. Overall, the number of naturalizations has remained at a similar level in recent years, with two exceptions: once in 2019 due to Brexit and last year due to naturalized Syrians.
In a European comparison, there are rather few naturalizations in Germany. While the rate in 2020 per thousand inhabitants was 7.7 in Sweden and 3.2 in the Netherlands, for example, it was 1.3 in Germany. The Federal Statistical Office also determines the so-called exhausted naturalization potential. It relates the number of naturalizations to the number of foreigners living in Germany who, according to the Central Register of Foreigners (AZR), have been in Germany for at least ten years. Last year, the value increased slightly by 0.3 percentage points to 2.5 percent.
In principle, foreigners acquire the right to vote in local and federal parliaments, the so-called German fundamental rights (freedom of assembly, etc.) and the non-forfeitable right of residence upon naturalization. For EU citizens, the right to elect the Bundestag is a tangible change. However, there are far more incentives for third-country nationals.
Weinmann highlights two factors that can inhibit naturalization. For third-country nationals, this is the obligation, as a rule, to give up their previous citizenship. For non-EU citizens, however, the fact that naturalization gives hardly any additional rights compared to resident status.
The state must have an interest in the naturalization of its residents: “The discussion is often about integration, but it is essentially a question of democratic theory,” says Weinmann. Namely, that a “congruence between the electorate and the resident population is to be established”.