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Germany

Report: Sharp Increase in Immigrants Seeking German Citizenship

Since the 1999 reform of Germany's once-strict citizenship laws, more than 480,000 immigrants living here have become naturalized citizens. The increase suggests foreigners are feeling more comfortable in Germany.

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Opting for the German passport

Germany is a nation of immigrants. It has been for a long time. You see signs of it everywhere -- from the corner Döner stand to the Asian supermarkets that can be found in nearly every urban center. And though many Germans still don't see it that way, it's clear that foreigners are starting to feel more welcome here.

The evidence lies in the government's latest annual report on the state of foreigners in Germany. Two times as many people are now becoming naturalized German citizens than did so prior to the liberalization of the country's citizenship laws two and a half years ago.

On Friday, Germany's commissioner for foreigners, Marie-Luise Beck, released the fifth annual report produced under her leadership.

The right to dual citizenship

After years of heated debate over the question of immigration, Beck said the government had succeeded in its aim to liberalize citizenship laws, giving many foreigners the right to dual nationality.

Since the law's passage, more than 100,000 foreign children living in Germany have become citizens. Previously, the children of foreigners were not automatically granted citizenship if they were born in Germany.

Enabling people to feel German

"A policy of integration also requires giving people the chance to become citizens of this country," Beck said. "That is particularly important for young people. By offering them the right to claim citizenship based on their place of birth, we are enabling them to identify with this country."

During the last two years, Beck said, approximately 180,000 people per year have become naturalized German citizens. Overall since the law was passed, she noted, around 480,000 have obtained German citizenship – more than double the number of people who became citizens under the previous government.

At the same time, the commissioner for foreigners criticized the fact that not all states, particularly Bavaria, have sought to integrate immigrants under the same principals.

"The reform of the national citizenship law also has an effect on how Germany views itself as a society," she said. "It's a move away from nationalist thinking toward republican thinking that whoever is born on German ground also belongs here."

More integration still needed

Beck added that integration measures should include more than just German language courses. The governing coalition wants to continue reforming the country's immigration laws if it wins the election in September, particularly with the aim of improving foreigners' status.