The number of foreign nationals being naturalized into German citizenship has increased by 1.7 percent in 2009. However the figures are only a fraction of the numbers earning German passports earlier in the decade.
Applicants must renounce any previous nationality
According to figures released Tuesday by the German Federal Statistics Office, 2009 saw a slight increase in the number of people earning German passports. However, compared with the figures for 2000 to 2007, the number has decreased dramatically.
In 2000, the German government changed its citizenship and nationality law to come in line with European Union law. It reduced the length of the mandatory waiting period for naturalization, and as a result between 2000 and 2007 on average 140,000 foreign nationals became German citizens.
Comparatively, the 2009 figure of 96,100 new passport-holders is significantly less. It is however a slight increase of 1,650 cases (or 1.7 percent) from 2008.
"The figures are not shocking," said Demetrios Papademetrious, president of the Migration Policy Institute. He told Deutsche Welle the statistics reflect that the pool of people who could meet naturalization requirements may be "drying up."
In the first year of the new rules in 2000, 186,700 people became naturalized German citizens
Papademetrious argued the figures may suggest that many of the migrants to Germany have residency status but may not feel the need to get a passport and become fully naturalized citizens.
In order to be considered for German citizenship, foreign nationals are obligated to learn German and profess loyalty to the German constitution. Cases of dual nationality are highly unusual, so foreign nationals (from outside the EU) must also renounce any other citizenship.
"Many migrants already feel secure in Germany and feel no need to get a passport," Papademetrious said.
"Unlike in the United States where citizenship has many benefits, you can do well enough in Germany without becoming naturalized," he added.
The largest group of foreign nationals being naturalized as German citizens comes from Turkey, with 24,600 new passport holders – 25 percent of the total. The next largest was Serbia and Montenegro and successor states with 5,700 cases, Iraq with 5,100 cases and Poland with 3,800 cases.
The statistics show that the migration relationship between Germany and Turkey is still strong, with an estimated 3 million Turks living in Germany.
Papademetrious said this number is unlikely to drop, and even if fewer Turks decide to gain German citizenship, Turkey will remain a "building block for future migration."
"The numbers are not petering out, as the reasons for continual migration, namely family and ancestors are still there," states Papademetrious. "I think we will see even more migration from Turkey," he added.
Losing skilled workers
Experts say non-EU immigration is good for Germany
At a time when countries like the United Kingdom are examining introducing a cap on non-EU immigration, experts warn that if Germany were to go down a similar path, it could have consequences for the economy.
Such a move would be "a knee-jerk reaction" said Jean-Philippe Chauzy from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Countries who place caps on migration risk losing out on skilled workers and specialist expertise. "There could well be future competition between countries to attract the most skilled workers," Chauzy told Deutsche Welle.
"The economy will rebound, and slamming the door shut now means it will be difficult to reopen it when the economy picks up," Chauzy added.
His argument is echoed by Papademetrious who said that if Germany was to further reduce opportunities for non-EU migrants, it could end up losing out to other countries when it comes to enticing specialist knowledge or skills to the country.
Author: Catherine Bolsover
Editor: Rob Turner