Germany approves new
citizenship law

On 19 January 2024, Germany’s parliament passed a new citizenship law that significantly relaxes naturalisation pathways.

There are many reasons why people choose to permanently move away from their country of nationality, for example work or family reasons. Germany is a popular country for foreign nationals looking to relocate, and recent changes to the Skilled Immigration Act are set to make it even easier for qualified professionals to find work in Germany.

According to government estimates, more than 12 million people (or approximately 14% of Germany’s population) does not have German citizenship, and around 5.3 million of those have lived in Germany for at least 10 years. Most foreign nationals are well integrated into German society, but without being naturalised, they are unable to participate equally in German democracy.

The German government wants to change this, to make it more attractive to live in Germany and to bring the country in line with other EU member states such as France.

If the new law is ultimately accepted and implemented, it will allow foreign nationals in Germany to apply for German citizenship after five years of residency, a notable reduction from the current requirement of eight years. The changes will also transform German dual citizenship law, as the revised law includes the acceptance of multiple citizenship.

The draft law must still be passed by the Bundestag and then announced before it can come into force. It is expected to come into force in spring 2024. Below is a brief summary of the proposed changes.

Changes regarding duration of stay

The recently accepted changes will significantly reduce the residency requirement for obtaining German citizenship. These adjustments aim to expedite the naturalisation process, allowing eligible residents to attain citizenship sooner and fostering a stronger sense of belonging and integration within German society.

  • Most applicants will be eligible for citizenship after five years in Germany, instead of the current eight-year minimum stay.
  • Accelerated naturalisation may be possible for certain individuals who can show special integration achievements in school, training or work, or particularly good language skills. These exceptional cases will be able to qualify for citizenship within three years.
  • Children born in Germany will gain German citizenship automatically if one parent has been legally resident for five years before birth, down from the current eight years.

Changes to dual citizenship

A groundbreaking change that the revised law brings is the acceptance of multiple citizenships. This change is particularly significant for non-EU nationals, as it will allow them to acquire German citizenship without severing ties to their countries of origin. Before this legal change, dual citizenship was permitted for those coming to Germany from other EU member states and in some different situations; however, this pending change will make dual citizenship much more accessible.

It also offers greater flexibility and opportunities for German nationals seeking citizenship in other countries without severing their German connections.

The proposed changes regarding dual citizenship are as follows:

  • Foreign nationals wishing to apply for German citizenship will no longer need to renounce their original citizenship to receive a German passport.
  • Children who acquire German citizenship through this provision will retain their parents’ citizenship.
  • German nationals wishing to naturalise outside of Germany will be able to keep their German passport.

Relief for guest workers

The term “Gastarbeiter generation” refers to the guest worker generation in Germany. These individuals primarily migrated from other countries (often from Southern Europe and Turkey) in the 1950s and 1960s to address post-war labour shortages.

The new citizenship law intends to recognise the significant contribution this generation made to the economic development and cultural diversity of Germany.

The new law will modify the language skills requirements by considering conversational German language skills sufficient for this group instead of demanding B1 level German. Additionally, former guest workers will no longer be required to take a citizenship test, further streamlining the naturalisation process.

Other Changes

  • German citizenship will be denied to individuals who are married to more than one partner, or show any behaviour that disregards the equal rights of men and women as specified in Germany’s Basic Law.
  • German citizenship will also be denied to individuals with certain criminal convictions. In alignment with Germany’s commitment to inclusivity and upholding democratic values, the new law expressly states that criminal convictions related to anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic, or inhumane acts serve as grounds for exclusion from German citizenship.
  • It is expected that an applicant who works full time will be able to secure living so a naturalisation can be approved.
  • The credit for a previous stay in Germany is reduced from 5 to 3 years.

Speak to a German immigration expert

In light of these new developments, German citizenship could soon be a viable option for many more people. Those wishing to apply for naturalisation in Germany are encouraged to seek legal advice before submitting an application.

Our experienced immigration advisors at Smith Stone Walters’ office in Germany can help assess your eligibility and prepare the application for submission. Our Frankfurt based team can advise on all aspects of obtaining German citizenship by descent, residency, dual citizenship and more. To speak to an advisor, please contact us today.


Disclaimer: In accordance with the German law governing legal advice and services (RDG, section 2 subsection 1) our services do not include any legal advice.

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