The new German citizenship law - here you will find a summary of the most important changes - MTH Rechtsanwälte Köln
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Immigration law
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What does the new nationality law entail? What consequences, changes and advantages does it bring? Below is an overview and explanation of the new law, listing the changes individually and comparing them with the old rules.

Background

A large part of the German population does not possess a German passport. Despite being entitled to naturalization, only a few manage to obtain citizenship. With a naturalization rate of only 1.1 percent, Germany falls below the EU average of 2.0 percent. In 2022, only 168,545 people applied for the German passport, which corresponds to about 3 percent of foreign nationals who have been living in Germany for at least 10 years. These figures illustrate, that the current nationality law is not sufficient to support people with a migration background and to enable them to successfully integrate and plan for the future. In response to this, the new law was passed. The criteria for acquiring German citizenship, as well as for naturalization, are defined in the German Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz – StAG), which consists of 42 sections and covers various areas such as residence period, marriage, origin, flight, and nationality compensation in detail. The recent amendments to the law concern particularly Sections 4 and 10 of the StAG. The new law brings several changes to existing measures, which can have both advantages and disadvantages for naturalization applicants.

Legislative Procedure

On January 19, 2024, the Bundestag passed the “Law on the Modernization of Nationality Law (StARModG)”. It was approved by 382 members of parliament, 234 voted against, and 23 abstained. On March 26, 2024, it was then published in the Federal Law Gazette, and the date of entry into force is June 26, 2024.

Purpose of the Law

The primary aim of this new, revised law is to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship for foreigners who wish to live in Germany in the long term and to provide them with prospects for the future. At the same time, the Federal Government aims to make Germany more attractive to highly qualified professionals. The new German Nationality Act is intended to attract qualified workers in particular.

Changes

Several changes have been introduced, the most important of which are discussed in more detail here:

Approval of Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship is generally permitted for all individuals. All those willing to naturalize, regardless of their current nationality, can now retain their current citizenship if they wish to do so.

Old Legal Situation:

German nationality law has always aimed to avoid multiple nationality. Therefore, it has previously required acquiring German citizenship to necessitate giving up the previous nationality. German citizens lost their German nationality if they adopted the nationality of another country, unless they had previously applied for permission to retain it (retention permit).

However, there were already some exceptions, such as for EU citizens, Swiss citizens, or citizens of countries where renunciation of nationality was not possible (e.g., Iran). These exceptions resulted in nearly 70% of those willing to naturalize being able to retain their original nationality. These exceptions were strictly defined.

New Legal Situation (from June 26, 2024):

The Law on the Modernization of Nationality Law has now completely abolished the requirement to renounce the previous nationality upon naturalization. Dual citizenship is now possible for everyone.

Exceptions: Despite the new German law, there are some countries where dual citizenship is not possible. Some countries provide that acquiring the nationality of another country automatically leads to the loss of one’s own nationality.

These countries include, among others: Ethiopia, Belize, Bhutan, China, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras (if Honduran nationality was acquired through naturalization), India, Indonesia, Japan, Cameroon, Kazakhstan, Comoros (if the person concerned has reached the age of 21), Congo (Democratic Republic), Cuba, Libya, Madagascar, Mauritania, Micronesia, Monaco, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea (if the person concerned has reached the age of 18), São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Zimbabwe (if the person concerned has reached the age of 21), Sri Lanka, South Africa (if the person concerned has reached the age of 18), South Korea (Republic of Korea), Suriname, Tanzania (if the person concerned has reached the age of 18), Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda.

Naturalization Possible Sooner

Foreign nationals living in Germany are now eligible for naturalization earlier than before.

Old Legal Situation:

According to the previous legislation (before June 26), it was necessary to have resided lawfully in Germany for eight consecutive years to be considered for naturalization. However, there was an exception for naturalization applicants who successfully completed an integration course. For them, the required residency period was reduced by one year, so they had to wait for seven years. Under special circumstances, such as outstanding academic, professional, or qualification achievements, German language proficiency at level B2, or volunteer work, the minimum residency period could even be reduced to six years.

New Legal Situation (from June 26, 2024):

The new legal situation also provides for a certain minimum residency period, which has been shortened. Naturalization is now possible after five years of lawful residence instead of eight. With special integration proofs, naturalization is even possible after three years. These include special qualifications in the profession, voluntary engagement (e.g., membership in the voluntary fire brigade or voluntary work in the church), and especially advanced language skills (C1 certificate). However, the new modernization law no longer provides for the successful completion of an integration course to automatically reduce the residency period by one year.

Facilitations for the Acquisition of German Citizenship by Birth

Children born in Germany automatically acquire German citizenship if at least one parent has been lawfully residing in Germany for five years and holds an indefinite residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis).

Old Legal Situation:

Under the previous law, children born in Germany to foreign parents could acquire German citizenship based on the principle of jus soli (right of the soil) principle. For this, at least one parent had to have been lawfully residing in Germany for eight years and have an indefinite residence permit, such as a settlement permit.

New Legal Situation (from June 26, 2024):

The Law on the Modernization of Nationality Law facilitates this possibility by making the requirements less strict. Thus, the minimum residency period for one parent has been reduced from eight to five years. As a result, more children born in Germany to foreign parents can obtain German citizenship at birth without reservation. This regulation aims to strengthen the sense of belonging and promote a deeper rootedness in German society. However, it applies only to children born after the new law comes into effect.

Facilitations for the Guest Worker Generation

Old Legal Situation:

In the past, there were hardly any integration opportunities for immigrants in the western federal states and for contract workers in the former GDR, although they all contributed to the development of Germany. People who have been living here for 30 or 40 years and still have not obtained citizenship will now have easier access to it. So far, these individuals also had to prove language skills (both oral and written). Additionally, members of the labor migrant generation had to pass a naturalization test.

New Legal Situation (from June 26, 2024):

Naturalization is facilitated for members of the so-called guest worker generation, including contract workers, due to their long-standing contributions. A naturalization test is no longer required, and the required language proficiency is limited to oral comprehension only. Individuals who have integrated well, engage in volunteer work, and have a C1 certificate in German can be naturalized after only three years.

Exceptions for certain individuals who do not have to prove German language skills or take a naturalization test:

– Persons who have been engaged in full-time employment for at least 20 months in the last two years.

– Persons living in a household with a full-time employed person and a child.

– The so-called “guest workers”

– Contract workers who entered the Federal Republic of Germany until 1974 and until 1990 in the former GDR.

Commitment to the Basic Law (Grundgesetz)

The recognition of the basic democratic order remains a requirement for naturalization. It is complemented by the recognition of Germany’s special historical responsibility for the unjust regime of National Socialism and its consequences.

Old Legal Situation:

Previously, anyone who wanted to be naturalized in Germany had to commit to respecting the liberal-democratic basic order of the Basic Law and declare that they do not pursue any unconstitutional aspirations.

New Legal Situation (from June 26, 2024):

In addition to these obligations, according to the new regulation, another requirement is added: Only those who “acknowledge Germany’s special historical responsibility for the National Socialist tyranny and its consequences, especially for the protection of Jewish life, as well as for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and the prohibition of waging aggressive war” may be naturalized. The change in the law aims to strengthen these principles and make it clear that individuals who adopt such contemptible attitudes have no right to naturalization in Germany. Therefore, during the naturalization process, particular attention is paid to whether the applicants genuinely acknowledge the guarantee of human dignity as the highest value of the constitution and the resulting fundamental democratic order and make a correct declaration. Individuals who commit acts motivated by antisemitism, racism, or any other form of contempt for humanity are excluded from naturalization. If specific facts indicate a contemptuous attitude of the naturalization applicant, a supplementary discussion ensures that the commitment to the basic democratic order has been truly understood, and the legal requirements for naturalization are fulfilled. This declaration is a new cornerstone in the immigration law.

Securing the Means of Subsistence

Compared to the previous rules, the new legislation tightens the conditions and makes naturalization more difficult. From now on, naturalization is no longer possible if the means of subsistence cannot be secured from one’s own resources (without state support). There are only a few exceptions, which, however, are very rare. Therefore, individuals with low incomes, the elderly, the sick, as well as part-time employees will face greater difficulties in meeting the necessary conditions for naturalization.

Old Regulation:

To obtain naturalization in Germany, applicants had to be able to provide for their own livelihood and, if necessary, that of their family. However, receiving state aid did not automatically prevent naturalization, as long as the applicant was not responsible for it.

New Regulation (from June 26, 2024):

Proof of financial security is one of the fundamental requirements for naturalization, as the ability to provide for one’s own needs and those of the family is a crucial step towards full integration and participation in society.

According to the new regulation, applicants must also be able to independently secure their livelihood. Therefore, no state support may be received anymore. The exception for individuals who were unintentionally dependent on this assistance has been lifted by the new law. However, some exceptions have been introduced exempting them from the requirement of securing their livelihood. Affected are:

      • Applicants for naturalization who have worked full-time for at least 20 months in the last two years.
      • Likewise, persons raising a child with a spouse who has been employed for these 20 months do not need to prove their own financial support.
      • Finally, even immigrants and their spouses who receive social benefits can be naturalized, provided they are not responsible for them.

Required Documents for Naturalization:

Completed Naturalization Application:

This is the formal document used to apply for naturalization.

Personal Documents:

This includes your passport or identity card, as well as any other documents that prove your identity and citizenship.

Biometric Photo:

A recent passport photo according to the requirements for biometric photos.

Residence Permit:

If you are not a German citizen, you need your valid residence permit confirming your legal residence in Germany.

Proof of Means of Subsistence:

You must provide documents demonstrating that you and your family (if applicable) can independently provide for your livelihood. These may include employment contracts, pay slips, bank statements, or other proof of income.

Language Proficiency Certificates:

Depending on your individual circumstances, you may need to complete a language test or provide language certificates (B1) to demonstrate your proficiency in German.

Evidence of Integration and Values:

This includes evidence of your integration into German society, such as participation certificates from integration courses or certificates of voluntary engagement. Additionally, you must document your commitment to the liberal-democratic basic order and your recognition of German laws and values.

Naturalization Test:

Proof that you have passed the naturalization test.

It is important to note that the exact requirements may vary depending on your personal situation, and there may be additional documents that may be required. It is recommended to contact the naturalization authority directly to obtain an accurate list of the required documents for your specific case.

Short Summary:

– Admission of Dual Citizenship: The possibility of retaining the previous citizenship is allowed for all applicants for naturalization.

– Facilitations for Acquiring German Citizenship: The minimum residency period for naturalization has been reduced, and special integration proofs can lead to earlier naturalization.

– Facilitations for Children of Foreign Parents Born in Germany: The requirements for acquiring German citizenship at birth have been relaxed.

– Facilitations for the Guest Worker Generation: Individuals who have been living in Germany for decades have facilitated access to naturalization.

– Commitment to the Basic Law: A commitment to the liberal-democratic basic order and to Germany’s historical responsibility is required for naturalization.

– Securing the Means of Subsistence: Naturalization is made more difficult as the means of subsistence must be secured without state support. However, there are some exceptions for certain groups of people.

Important : The content of this post has been created to the best of my knowledge and belief. However, the complexity and constant change of the matter treated make it necessary to exclude liability and guarantee.

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4 Comments

  • Do naturalisation test and language tests have it´s validity once they are passed? For example, I pass both today and I have a right to aplly for German citizenship in 4 years.

    1. Hello,

      naturalisation test and language test have no validation period. They do not expire.

      Best regards

      Lawyer Helmer Tieben

  • Will this new Law help Germans that lost their citizenship because they acquired a different citizenship?
    For example they became US citizens and lost therefore the German citizenship.

    1. yes, it will help. Because now you can have dual citizenship and the reason that a person has had the German citizenship before helps to get the German citizenship again

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