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Number of Syrians becoming German citizens triples in 2021

June 10, 2022

The number of people from Syria who became German citizens tripled last year. The increase came as many of those who fled the war-torn country between 2014 and 2016 are becoming eligible to apply.

A new German passport awaiting collection
Most of those who picked up new passports did so early, through special achievementsImage: Inga Kjer/photothek/imago Images

The figure for how many Syrian nationals became naturalized Germans in 2021 was three times higher than the previous year, figures published on Friday showed.

That increase — as many of those who fled Syria's civil war achieved eligibility — accounted for a jump of roughly 20% in the total number of naturalizations.

What were the figures?

The Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reported that roughly 131,600 foreigners had become naturalized German citizens — an increase of roughly 21,700 or 20%, compared with the previous year. 

Destatis said just over half of the increase was attributable to a large number of naturalizations of Syrians. 

Some 19,100 Syrian citizens were naturalized in 2021, which was almost three times the figure for 2020.

That rise was attributed to the number of Syrians who arrived seeking asylum in Germany between 2014 and 2016.

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Early naturalization through achievements

An increasing number had met citizenship requirements, Destatis said. These include adequate language skills, a secure livelihood, and a sufficient period of continuous residence.

However, the overwhelming majority of Syrians naturalized in 2021 (81%) have not been in Germany for the usual minimum residence period of eight years. 

Instead, Destatis said, most qualified after six years by showing a particular willingness to integrate. This was demonstrated, for example, by individuals showing strong German language skills and civic commitment. In such cases, family members can also be naturalized without a minimum period of residence. 

The average period for Syrians becoming naturalized was 6.5 years.

The total of just under 12,400 cases of such early naturalizations in 2021 is the highest for any year to date. Of those, 5,400 Syrians (43%) made up the most common nationality.

Who else is becoming German?

Apart from Syrians, naturalizations were most frequent among Turkish (12,200) citizens.

Next came Romanian (6,900), Polish (5,500) and Italian (5,000) citizens. One in four people becoming German had the citizenship of another EU Member State.

People with a total of 173 different citizenships became naturalized German citizens in 2021.

An increasing number of naturalized Germans are not required to renounce their original citizenship before receiving a German passport. The rise has been driven by internal EU migration and a higher number of refugees who apply. Both categories of applicants are not required to give up their previous citizenship.

Edited by Mark Hallam

Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.