Germany Modernizes Nationality Law to Encourage Social Participation

In a significant step towards fostering greater social participation, the German cabinet has approved a draft law aimed at modernizing the country’s nationality law. The move comes as a pivotal fulfillment of a key agenda from the coalition agreement.

Approximately 14 percent of Germany’s population, totaling around twelve million people, currently do not possess a German passport. Among them, about 5.3 million individuals have resided in Germany for a minimum of ten years. However, only a fraction of those eligible actually apply for naturalization. In 2022, just 168,545 people sought German citizenship, representing a mere 3.1 percent of long-term foreign residents. This naturalization rate of 1.1 percent is notably lower than the EU average of 2.0 percent. Addressing this disparity, the Modernization of Citizenship Law seeks to bring about change.

“Germany is diverse. That is why we adapt our laws to the different realities of life. Whether it’s about gender, names, or nationality – in the cabinet, we’ve made important decisions that continue to modernize our society,” stated Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Key Points of the Reform: The proposed reform introduces a paradigm shift by enabling multiple nationalities, acknowledging the diverse identities of immigrants. Acquiring German citizenship is seen as a commitment to Germany, yet immigrants often retain a connection to their countries of origin. The draft law ensures that they don’t need to relinquish part of their identity. To foster integration, the law reduces the pre-residence period required for naturalization from eight to five years, or even to three years for exceptional integration cases. Children born in Germany to foreign parents will automatically gain German citizenship if one parent has legally lived in the country for over five years with an unlimited right of residence. This change aligns with research indicating that early acquisition of citizenship enhances educational opportunities for individuals with immigrant backgrounds. Oral language skills will suffice for former guest workers seeking citizenship. The naturalization test is eliminated, acknowledging the contributions of the guest worker generation. In special cases, the requirement for sufficient knowledge of German can be reduced to oral proficiency. The requirement for integration into German living conditions is replaced by specific exclusion criteria. Polygamy or disregard for gender equality will preclude naturalization. Acts driven by anti-Semitism, racism, or inhumanity are considered incompatible with the Basic Law’s human dignity guarantee and will disqualify individuals from naturalization. The security clearance process is digitized and expedited, with expanded participation from security authorities involved in residency and expulsion procedures. The reform has garnered the support of the Federal Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, who highlights its significance for creating a modern immigration law that reflects Germany’s diverse society and modern values. This new citizenship law stands as a cornerstone reform of the coalition.