German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (4th from left) with representatives of migrant organisations at the Schloss Bellevue, Berlin, in 2018. People with a migrant background currently account for about a quarter of the country's total population / Photo: Femi Awoniyi

Germany: Chancellor backs reform of citizenship law

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken out in favour of reforming Germany’s citizenship law. The country needs “better regulations” for naturalisation, the SPD politician said in his video message “Kanzler kompakt”.

People who have come to Germany in the past decades have contributed greatly to making the German economy so strong, Scholz said. “Some have lived here for a very, very long time and have children and grandchildren. And that’s why it’s very good when those who have lived with us for so long also decide to acquire German citizenship.”

In their coalition agreement, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP had agreed to make it easier for foreigners in Germany to obtain German citizenship. Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, a member of the SPD, is now pushing the issue.

The Federal Interior Ministry is working on a draft law that would allow foreigners residing in Germany to apply for naturalization after five years instead of eight, according to a report of the Bildzeitung. If they have completed “special integration measures” it could even be possible to apply for a German passport after three years, the daily newspaper reported.

Scholz said Germany had “become a country that is the land of hope for many.”

It was always very touching for him to take part in naturalisation ceremonies during his time as mayor of Hamburg, said Scholz. “Many were there with their families and friends, dressed in their best suits and dresses and were very touched by the moment when they received our citizenship. And together we always ended the event by singing the national anthem. Germany needs better regulations for the naturalisation of all these great women and men.”

The draft law of the interior ministry provides that people who have been living in Germany for several years to become German citizens more easily. Instead of after eight years, as is currently the case, people will be able to obtain citizenship after only five years of residence in Germany. In the case of “special integration achievements”, this should even be possible after only three years – for example, if immigrants have shown special academic or professional achievements or voluntary commitment, or have particularly good language skills.

Children born in Germany to foreign parents would automatically be granted citizenship if one parent has had “legal habitual residence” in Germany for five years and persons older than 67 would also no longer be required to take a written language test, the “ability to communicate orally” would be sufficient to gain citizenship are among the features of the proposed citizenship law.

Moreover, naturalised Germans would also be allowed to hold dual citizenship, which is currently only allowed for EU and Swiss citizens and nationals of countries that don’t allow or make it difficult for their citizens to renounce their citizenship.

Felix Dappah

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