Germany approves easing rules to get citizenship


The legislation will make people eligible for citizenship after five years in Germany, or three in case of “special integration accomplishments,” rather than eight or six years at present….reports Asian Lite News

German lawmakers on Friday approved legislation easing the rules on gaining citizenship and ending restrictions on holding dual citizenship. The government argues the plan will bolster the integration of immigrants and help attract skilled workers.

Parliament voted 382-234 for the plan put forward by center-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition, with 23 lawmakers abstaining. The main center-right opposition bloc criticized the project vehemently, arguing that it would cheapen German citizenship.

The legislation will make people eligible for citizenship after five years in Germany, or three in case of “special integration accomplishments,” rather than eight or six years at present. German-born children would automatically become citizens if one parent has been a legal resident for five years, down from eight years now.

Restrictions on holding dual citizenship will also be dropped. In principle, most people from countries other than European Union members and Switzerland now have to give up their previous nationality when they gain German citizenship, though there are some exemptions.

The government says that 14% of the population – more than 12 million of the country’s 84.4 million inhabitants – doesn’t have German citizenship and that about 5.3 million of those have lived in Germany for at least a decade. It says that the naturalization rate in Germany is well below the EU average.

In 2022, about 168,500 people were granted German citizenship. That was the highest figure since 2002, boosted by a large increase in the number of Syrian citizens who had arrived in the past decade being naturalized, but still only a fraction of long-term residents.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said the reform puts Germany in line with European neighbors such as France and pointed to its need to attract more skilled workers. “We also must make qualified people from around the world an offer like the U.S., like Canada, of which acquiring German citizenship is a part,” she told reporters ahead of the vote.

The legislation stipulates that people being naturalized must be able to support themselves and their relatives, though there are exemptions for people who came to West Germany as “guest workers” up to 1974 and for those who came to communist East Germany to work.

The existing law requires that would-be citizens be committed to the “free democratic fundamental order,” and the new version specifies that antisemitic and racist acts are incompatible with that.

Scholz said in a video message that, at a time of mounting concern over the far right’s intentions toward immigrants, “we are telling all those who often have lived and worked for decades in Germany, who keep to our laws: You belong in Germany.”

The reform means that no one will have to “deny his roots,” he added.

The conservative opposition asserted that Germany is loosening citizenship requirements just as other countries are tightening theirs.

“This isn’t a citizenship modernization bill – it is a citizenship devaluation bill,” center-right Christian Democrat Alexander Throm told lawmakers.

People who have been in Germany for five or three years haven’t yet grown roots in the country, he said. And he argued that dropping restrictions on dual citizenship will “bring political conflicts from abroad into our politics.”

The citizenship law overhaul is one of a series of social reforms that Scholz’s three-party coalition agreed to carry out when it took office in late 2021. Those also include plans to liberalize rules on the possession and sale of cannabis, and make it easier for transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to change their gender and name in official registers. Both still need parliamentary approval.

In recent months, the government – which has become deeply unpopular as a result of persistent infighting, economic weakness and most recently a home-made budget crisis that resulted in spending and subsidy cuts – also has sought to defuse migration by asylum-seekers as a political problem.

The citizenship reform was passed the day after lawmakers approved legislation that is intended to ease deportations of unsuccessful asylum-seekers.

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