Germany eases rules for foreigners seeking citizenship
New law cuts time that applicants must live in the country and lifts ban on dual nationality for those from outside EU
The German parliament has passed a law that will make it easier for foreigners to acquire citizenship, as Berlin looks to immigration to solve a dire shortage of skilled workers. Under the law, passed by 382 votes to 234, people will be able to apply for citizenship after living in Germany for five years, rather than eight as at present. Those who have made a particular effort to integrate — for example by becoming proficient in German or doing voluntary work — can apply after three years. It also lifts a ban on dual nationality for people from non-EU countries. “We have to make an offer to skilled people from all over the world, just like the US and Canada do,” said Nancy Faeser, interior minister. “We must show our appreciation for the people who come to this country and contribute to keeping our society going.” Reem Alabali-Radovan, the government’s integration commissioner, said the law would enfranchise millions who were not yet full members of society.
Official statistics show that about 10mn people living in Germany do not have a German passport, and 5.7mn of them have lived in the country for at least 10 years. “Anyone who is an integral part of our society should be able to vote and be elected,” Alabali-Radovan said. The measure sets Germany apart from other countries in Europe that are tightening naturalisation criteria. Under an immigration law passed by the French parliament last month, children born in France to immigrant parents will no longer automatically acquire citizenship but will have to request it between the ages of 16 and 18.
Alexander Throm, domestic policy spokesman for the opposition Christian Democrats, said the new law “devalues citizenship” and “goes in completely the wrong direction”, adding: “While other countries such as France, after painful experience, are toughening their rules for naturalisation, we are massively reducing the requirements.” The legislation came a day after parliament passed a law making it much easier to deport foreigners.
The combination of the two measures underscores the delicate balancing act western governments are being forced to tread: on one hand trying to attract more foreign workers to solve demographic deficits while on the other taking a tougher line on illegal immigration — one of the drivers of surging support for rightwing populist parties such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD has been under pressure after it emerged that politicians from the party met rightwing radicals in November to discuss plans to deport from Germany millions of people with an immigrant background, including those with German citizenship. The deportation law passed on Thursday simplifies procedures for removing people who have no official leave to remain. People facing deportation often go into hiding in Germany, and the new law gives the authorities the power to detain individuals before their expulsion for up to 28 days, compared with 10 days before.
“Anyone who has no leave to remain in Germany must leave Germany,” Faeser said on Thursday. “That is a precondition for ensuring that immigration is accepted by society and integration works.” Under the new law, police looking for deportees will be able to enter the rooms of third persons in migrant hostels, which was previously illegal. The law also stipulates that the timing of repatriations must no longer be announced to deportees in advance. In addition, it creates more grounds for deportation, including entering the country with forged papers or committing antisemitic acts.