The German passport. Germans can travel visa-free to 190 countries around the world, according to the latest Henley Passport Index/Photo: © TAC

Steep rise in naturalisations in Germany

About 131,600 foreigners became naturalised German citizens in 2021, according to a new report by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). The figure represents an increase of roughly 21,700 naturalisations, or 20%, compared with the previous year.

More than half of the increase is attributable to the large number of naturalisations of Syrians; 19,100 Syrian citizens were naturalised in 2021, which was almost three times the figure for 2020. Many Syrians are expected also to be naturalised in 2022.

The large number of Syrians naturalising is attributed to the arrival of many Syrians in Germany who had fled the war in their country between 2014 and 2016 and are becoming eligible for citizenship. According to the German Interior Ministry, about 520,000 Syrian citizens entered Germany during the period to seek asylum.

An increasing number of the Syrians had met citizenship requirements in 2021, Destatis said. These include sufficient language skills, a secure livelihood and, as a rule, a minimum period of residence of eight years.

However, the overwhelming majority of Syrians naturalised in 2021 (81%) had not been living in Germany for the usual minimum period of eight years. The average period for Syrians becoming naturalised was 6.5 years in 2021.

Destatis said most qualified after six years by showing “a particular willingness to integrate”. Those who want to naturalise after only six years of residence can do so through special integration achievements. These include, for example, particularly good language skills, academic or professional achievements, but also civic engagement.

Apart from Syrians, naturalisations were most frequent among Turkish (12,200), Romanian (6,900), Polish (5,500) and Italian (5,000) citizens in 2021.

Overall, people with 173 different citizenships became naturalised German citizens – one in four of them had the citizenship of an EU Member State.

Naturalising foreigners have to give up their original citizenship to become German, unless there are exceptional circumstances. Germany however allows EU citizens to have dual citizenship, meaning they can keep their original passport.

An increasing number of non-EU nationals are not required to renounce their original citizenship before receiving a German passport. This is partly because some countries prohibit or make it difficult for their nationals to give up their citizenship when taking up a new one.

For example, naturalising Germans from Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria don’t have to give up their original nationality.

Austin Ohaegbu

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