While Germany is in the process of reforming its citizenship law, aimed at introducing dual citizenship and reducing residency requirements, prospective applicants may still face substantial delays in obtaining their German passports due to backlogs in naturalization offices across the country.
A recent study by MEDIENDIENST INTEGRATION reveals that there are currently approximately 115,000 pending citizenship applications throughout Germany. The study contacted the naturalization offices in the 23 most populous cities in the country, discovering varying waiting times ranging from 6 months to 3 years.
Cities like Augsburg, Braunschweig, Essen, Hamburg, Munich, and Münster reported an average processing time of around one year for citizenship applications. Others, including Aachen, Bremen, Karlsruhe, and Stuttgart, estimated an average processing time of approximately 1.5 years. In contrast, Chemnitz reported waiting times for German citizenship ranging from six months to three years. Berlin had the most open applications, with approximately 26,000 currently in process, and there are expectations of significant delays in 2023 as the city undergoes a restructuring of its naturalization processes.
One of the primary factors contributing to these lengthy waiting times is the increasing number of people applying for German citizenship in many cities throughout the country. Cities like Braunschweig, Bremen, Dresden, and Düsseldorf saw a substantial increase of around 30% in naturalizations in 2022 compared to the previous year. In North Rhine-Westphalian cities like Münster and Wuppertal, these numbers rose by 40% and 56%, respectively. In Gelsenkirchen, there were twice as many applicants for German citizenship in 2022 compared to 2021.
The majority of new German citizens in these cities originally come from Syria, with Iraq, Turkey, and Iran also contributing a significant number of new citizens. Among EU citizens acquiring German citizenship, many hail from Poland and Romania.
To address these delays, MEDIENDIENST reported that the cities have implemented or are planning various measures. Most cities are prioritizing digitization, increasing staffing, and enhancing information services. Some cities like Bielefeld and Munich already allow citizenship applicants to apply digitally, while others such as Bonn, Braunschweig, Essen, and Gelsenkirchen are considering a transition to digital applications. In Wuppertal, naturalization applications can be submitted via email.
Additionally, Leipzig established a dedicated naturalization department in early 2023 to streamline the application process. Berlin’s plans to create a centralized naturalization office with 120 additional staff members in 2024 aim to expedite procedures further.
Thanks to increased staffing and digitization efforts, Düsseldorf, for instance, has doubled its naturalization figures within the past few years, with around 3,000 people naturalized in the city in 2022 compared to an average of 1,500 per year before the pandemic.
Several cities also provide comprehensive information and support services to assist individuals in preparing for the citizenship application process. For years, “naturalization guides” in Hamburg, Bremen, and Hanover have been offering guidance to foreign citizens seeking naturalization. Münster and Wuppertal organize information events on naturalization and provide additional resources on their websites.