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German citizenship law change

March 27, 2014

Germany may soon introduce limited dual citizenship for young adults born to resident foreigners under a draft law from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition. Teenage residents of Turkish origin would mainly benefit.

Three students from the Rütli-Schule in Berlin - archive photo from 2007. (via dpa)
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Freedom to Not Choose - The debate over dual nationality

Social Democrats and conservatives in Chancellor Merkel's coalition agreed Thursday on the outlines of a limited citizenship law change. The amendment is likely to be debated in parliament in April. If passed, it could apply later this year.

Germany's long-standing legal assumption that its citizens have to be born to German parents was eased marginally in 2000 by the controversial Options Model, a system which still largely bars long-term dual nationality.

On Thursday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere of Merkel's conservatives and Justice Minister Heiko Maas of her coalition partners, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), said the draft law would drop that model and set thresholds based on the length of residency and education in Germany.

Eight years of residency

Youngsters born to parents of foreign origin would by the age of 21 need to have accumulated at least 8 years of residency or 6 years of schooling within Germany to entitle them to carry two passports, one German and one foreign.

Local authorities would obtain proof using Germany's system of resident registration but they would also have leeway to accept a young person's school leaving or trades training certificate obtained in Germany. They would also consider exceptional cases of hardship.

Reacting to the proposal, Green Party spokesman on internal affairs Volker Beck criticized the draft as only an extended variant of the current system.

'Options Model'

The current Options Model stipulates that young adults born to resident foreigners must decide by the age of 23 whether to adopt German citizenship while dropping the second nationality derived from their parents.

Alternatively, the model requires them to relinquish their temporary German citizenship granted during their childhood years and only keep their parents' nationality.

Freedom to Not Choose - The debate over dual nationality

Germany is home to around three million people with Turkish origins, including labor recruits of the 1960s and 70s.

One-fifth of Germany's population comprises persons with family links in foreign countries.

'Modern' citizenship

Maas described Thursday's agreement as a “very significant” step toward establishing a modern form of citizenship law in Germany.

Replacing the Options Model was part of the coalition's policy package agreed between the SPD and the conservatives just before the coalition took office in January.

De Maiziere said the draft contained “good and practicable” legal criteria and reflected the importance of having German citizenship “for our living together.”

Burden of proof reversed

The coalition government's migration commissioner, Aydan Ozoguz, a Social Democrat like Maas, said the draft reversed the burden of proof.

“That means: the youngster affected by the Options Model must not prove that he or she grew up in Germany, but instead the authorities must in cases of doubt prove the opposite [non-validity],” Ozoguz said.

Germany currently only accepts dual nationality in cases where the country of origin does not allow its citizens to renounce their citizenship. That applies to several countries in the Middle East and in Latin America.

ipj/slk (dpa, AFP)