In a significant move that’s been long in the making, the German government’s cabinet unanimously approved critical citizenship reforms on August 23. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser was the bearer of this pivotal news during a press conference, marking a turning point for non-German residents living and working in the country.
Citizenship Reforms Gain Unanimous Support from German Cabinet
After an exhaustive review of the most recent draft of these reforms during a cabinet meeting, the government’s cabinet members wholeheartedly endorsed these transformative changes. Speaking during a midweek press conference, Nancy Faeser, serving as the Interior Minister for the coalition government, hailed these reforms as a “recognition of a modern Germany” and touted them as one of the “most significant reform initiatives of the traffic-light coalition.”
These reforms have a clear objective: to simplify the citizenship journey for long-term residents in Germany. The government’s vision is not only to retain current residents but also to attract fresh talent to the nation. As Faeser aptly stated, “We are amid a global competition for top talent, and many sectors of our economy are in desperate need of skilled workers. However, attracting the best minds hinges on granting them full democratic rights upon their arrival in Germany in the foreseeable future.”
What’s in Store with the New Citizenship Law?
The recently ratified draft introduces a slew of groundbreaking changes. Most notably, migrants residing in Germany can now apply for German citizenship after just five years of residence, a significant reduction from the previous eight-year requirement. Moreover, individuals with strong German language skills, active voluntary contributions, or impressive professional achievements can, under specific circumstances, even apply for citizenship after a mere three years in the country.
The most groundbreaking shift in the new law is the provision allowing non-European Union citizens to retain dual citizenship, alongside their new German passport. Up until this point, this privilege was exclusively reserved for EU citizens. Faeser emphasized that this reform would no longer compel migrant workers in Germany to “sacrifice a part of their identity.”
Currently, children can secure German citizenship if they have at least one German parent or if they were born within Germany to a parent who has legally resided in the country for a minimum of eight years. However, the proposed law suggests a reduced residency requirement for children born to foreign parents, potentially granting eligibility after just five years of their parent’s legal residence in Germany. Faeser highlighted the significance of this change, noting its positive impact on children’s academic performance.
The existing process allows individuals with a German residence permit to apply for citizenship under specific conditions, mainly related to social security benefits. However, the new law is poised to shake things up, demanding applicants to be well-versed in the evolving criteria.
Long Wait Times Expected for Citizenship Applications
While these reforms bring much-needed relief to long-term residents, ensuring their secure residence and voting rights upon gaining citizenship, it’s anticipated that the already lengthy queues for citizenship applications will extend further if the law passes through the Bundestag.
Presently, around 100,000 individuals eagerly await the processing of their citizenship applications in Germany. In some areas, waiting times have stretched to as long as three years, leading frustrated applicants to seek legal recourse against the German government. In 2023, Berlin alone witnessed over 60 individuals filing lawsuits related to inaction in the realm of “citizenship law/naturalization.”
Germany faces a dual challenge: implementing a new immigration law designed to attract more foreign workers to address a record-high labor shortage while ushering in these transformative citizenship reforms. As a result, overburdened and understaffed administrative offices are bracing for an even more substantial paperwork load in the coming days. Keep an eye out for updates on this monumental development in Germany!