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Germany's parliament approves easing dual citizenship

January 19, 2024

German lawmakers have voted in favor of changing the law, which would open up the possibility of dual citizenship to swaths of the population. The bill would also reduce the time needed to qualify for naturalization.

A view of the inside of the Bundestag
Under the new rules, citizenship will be available after five years' residence in GermanyImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, on Friday voted to ease the law on naturalization and widen access to dual citizenship

The German government says the law should help make Germany more attractive to skilled workers internationally, helping to ease stifling labor shortages.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats, the Free Democrats and the Green Party, which make up the ruling coalition government, voted for the legislation. 

The opposition conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) opposed the bill, along with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

From the 639 votes cast, there were 382 yes votes and 234 no votes, with 23 abstentions.

What are the rule changes?

Under the new law, foreigners would be able to apply for a German passport after five instead of eight years in Germany. In cases where applicants are "exceptionally well integrated," naturalization would be possible after three years.

Dual nationality is usually only allowed for citizens of other EU countries or Switzerland, although it is permitted for other immigrants in certain exceptional cases.

The loosening of the rules would make it possible to gain direct access to dual citizenship no matter where the applicant comes from.

Germany's interior minister said the change would help attract much-needed skilled workers as the country struggles with labor shortages.

"We have to keep pace in the race to attract skilled labor," said Nancy Faeser ahead of the vote.

"That means we need to make an offer to qualified people from the world over, just as the United States and Canada do. German citizenship is obviously part of that."

The move would allow tens of thousands of Turks, including third-generation immigrants whose parents and grandparents arrived from the 1950s to 1970s as "guest workers," to become citizens and voters.

While the legislation is broadly aimed at making naturalization easier, the government wants to make it more difficult for people who cannot support themselves or who do not support the "free, democratic basic order in Germany."

Conservative opposition to changes

The CDU-CSU bloc opposed the new rules, demanding amendments to "preserve the value of German citizenship."

 They are seeking a tougher line on immigration in a bid to stem the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has enjoyed a surge in the polls.

The government itself has promised a tougher line on certain types of immigration, promising faster deportations of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers.

Germany to speed up deportation of rejected asylum-seekers

The Bundestag passed a bill on Thursday evening to extend custody to prevent deportations from failing at the last minute.

That includes extending the legal maximum duration of detention pending deportation from 10 days to 28 days.

rc/ab (dpa, Reuters)

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