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Who qualifies for German citizenship under the new draft law?

Germany’s traffic light coalition recently unveiled the latest draft of its forthcoming citizenship law, shedding light on who will be eligible to apply under these new provisions. However, those eagerly anticipating the opportunity to apply for German citizenship may need to exercise some patience, as the law’s passage has encountered delays during extensive Cabinet discussions. Originally slated for parliamentary debate in April, it is now expected to be brought before the Bundestag in the autumn.

Despite the delay, the publication of the new draft clarifies the criteria for prospective German citizens. Here is an overview of the key points:

1. Residency Requirement:

  • The draft underscores the importance of expediting the naturalization process to promote integration.
  • The standard residency requirement for German citizenship application will be reduced from eight to five years.
  • Generally, applicants must demonstrate continuous residence in Germany for five years and attain at least a B1 level of proficiency in the German language.
  • Exceptions to the language requirement will be made for individuals from the “guest worker” generation, who will only need to provide oral evidence of their ability to communicate in everyday situations in Germany, eliminating the need for a written test.

2. Special Attributes and Three Years’ Residency:

  • The draft bill allows those who have made significant efforts to integrate into German society to apply for naturalization after just three years of residency.
  • Qualifications for this accelerated path to citizenship include proof of exceptional academic, vocational, or professional performance, civic commitment, and language proficiency at level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

3. Dual Citizenship:

  • The draft law introduces a significant change in Germany’s stance on dual citizenship.
  • The previous general prohibition on dual citizenship for foreign nationals from non-EU countries will be eliminated.
  • Naturalized citizens will now be allowed to retain their original nationality, as the draft recognizes the outdated nature of the ban on dual citizenship and aims to prevent immigrants from being forced to relinquish part of their identity.
  • Applicants should be aware of their country of origin’s rules, as some countries, such as India, China, and Singapore, do not permit dual citizenship.

4. Financial Self-Sufficiency:

  • Financial self-sufficiency is a crucial requirement for naturalization. Applicants should be capable of supporting themselves and their families without relying on state assistance.
  • Individuals receiving benefits such as Sozialhilfe (social welfare) or Bürgergeld (long-term unemployment benefits) must demonstrate full-time employment or at least 20 out of the previous 24 months of work at the time of their application.
  • Some exceptions apply, particularly for individuals from the guest-worker generation and married or registered partnership couples with children who are in full-time employment.

5. Children Born in Germany:

  • Children born in Germany to foreign parents will automatically acquire German citizenship if one parent has had “lawful habitual residence” in Germany for five years.
  • German children adopted by non-German parents will not lose their German citizenship under the new provisions.

6. Exclusions from Citizenship:

  • The draft law, in response to the Free Democratic Party’s (FDP) insistence, outlines explicit criteria for excluding individuals from naturalization.
  • Acts of racism, inhumanity, or anti-Semitism are explicitly mentioned, with the public prosecutor’s office responsible for notifying the naturalization authority about such individuals.
  • Additionally, those with multiple concurrent spouses or who reject gender equality will be excluded from citizenship.

Although the law’s enactment may take longer than expected, individuals who meet the citizenship criteria should begin preparing their documents in advance. There is no need to wait for the law to pass to organize language tests, naturalization exams, or document translations.

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