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German Citizenship-Seekers to Face Strict Tests

Jane Conway (als)
March 15, 2006

The German state of Hesse plans to introduce a test for foreigners seeking German citizenship. They would have to answer questions about German language and culture, and swear their loyalty to the country.

Hesse wants potential Germans to first fill out a lot of paperworkImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Hesse is the latest German state to consider citizenship test for foreigners desiring German status. The state's minister of the interior, Volker Bouffier, put forward the proposal.

"We will have to wait and see whether it turns out to be exactly as we have proposed today," Bouffier said. "But I'm very confident that the structure and the plan put forward will remain largely as it is now."

Potential German citizens drilled on philosophy

Immanuel Kant
Potential citizens should be familiar with Kant & CoImage: dpa

The proposal consists of a six-point program, which requires citizenship applicants to have sufficient knowledge of the German language, confirm their loyalty to the country and complete an extensive questionnaire.

Questions range from culture to politics, with applicants being asked, for example, to name three German philosophers and state how often national elections are held in Germany.

Citizenship test plans gaining ground

The move has solid support. Federal Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has already voiced his approval.

Hesse isn't the first German state to consider citizenship tests. Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber wants citizenship tests introduced across Germany by the end of April. The state of Baden-Württemberg has already proposed tests for language competency.

Opponents say exams are all politics

Ausländer in Berlin-Kreuzberg
Turkish women in GermanyImage: dpa

There are opponents to the proposal in Hesse, however. The Green party there has complained that the 100-question long test is too extensive. Others have criticized the nature of the questions and how relevant they really are for potential citizens.

The Social Democrats claim that Bavarian Christian Democrat Prime Minister Stoiber has proposed the citizenship test only to win votes from the right in upcoming local elections. The Advisory Council for Foreigners in Hesse has already rejected the proposal, saying it would deter potential immigrants.