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Becoming German

June 12, 2009

Fewer foreign residents of Germany chose to become naturalised German citizens last year than in any previous year since reunification in 1990.

A German passport
Germany needs immigrants, but fewer foreigners are choosing to become German citizensImage: BilderBox

Last year 94,500 foreigners applied for and received German citizenship, a drop of 16 percent from 2997, according to the Federal Statistics Office in Wiesbaden.

Analysts point to the entry of formerly communist eastern neighbors into the European Union in 2004 as well as a rule limiting dual nationality as likely causes for the continuing drop in naturalizations.

There was a surge in foreigners becoming Germans in 2000 when laws on becoming German were loosened, but a clause pushed through by conservative politicians makes it impossible for new Germans to keep their old citizenships.

A billboard in North Rhine-Westphalia
Some German states have resorted to publicity campaigns to encourage foreigners to become German citizensImage: picture-alliance /dpa

Of those who did successfully become German last year, 24,500 were of Turkish origin; nearly 7,000 were from Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and the former Serbia-Montenegro; and roughly 4,200 each from Poland and Iraq. Naturalizations from most countries dropped in 2008, with the exception of those from Iraq.

The drop may also have been partially caused by the implementation of a new naturalization test, for which some authorities and schools were not prepared, according to the Federal Integration Commissioner Maria Boehmer.

"I am already calculating a significant increase for 2009," she said.

There are about two million foreigners who have lived in Germany long enough to apply for citizenship, she said.

Editor: Chuck Penfold