The number is record-breaking: 168,545. That’s how many people, with a total of 171 different nationalities, were naturalized last year and thus received a German passport. That was 28 percent more than in the previous year, said the Federal Statistical Office in Wiesbaden. It was said that not so many new residents had been registered in 20 years.
With a share of 29 percent, Syrians make up the largest group of naturalized persons last year; that was 48,300 people. Many of them had fled from their homeland to Germany during the turmoil of the civil war since 2014 and had sought protection here. They have now found a new home and many have received German passports. Syrians are followed by Ukrainian (plus 3,700), Iraqi (plus 2,400) and Turkish nationals (plus 2,000).
So far high hurdles for naturalization
The requirements for naturalization include sufficient language skills, a secure livelihood and, as a rule, a minimum stay of eight years. The identity of the applicant must also be clearly clarified.
Oral and written language skills are just as important as basic knowledge of living and legal conditions in Germany and having passed the 33-question naturalization test. Applicants must also commit to the free democratic basic order of the Basic Law and pay a naturalization fee of 255 euros. Anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime has no chance.
“Almost half of the naturalized people from Syria got their German passport after just six years – because they could show exceptional integration achievements,” says Jan Schneider from the independent Advisory Council for Integration and Migration of DW. The expert’s forecast for 2023: “Indeed, it can be expected that the number will continue to rise this year.”
Comprehensive reform of citizenship law planned
This is also due to the fact that the ruling parties SPD, Greens and FDP want to fundamentally change citizenship law. The governing coalition argues that Germany urgently needs qualified immigration and wants to enable people who are already living here to integrate and obtain citizenship.
To this end, she recently presented the first key points. Among other things, the naturalization of foreigners should be made easier. In essence, shorter minimum stays for naturalization are provided – instead of eight years, five years should then be sufficient. In the case of special integration services, only three. In addition, applicants should no longer be forced to give up their previous citizenship in order to obtain German citizenship.
In principle, it should also be possible for migrants of Turkish origin, who make up the largest proportion of the German population with a migration background, to obtain dual citizenship. Migration expert Schneider believes that for some of the approximately 1.3 million Turks who have been living in Germany for some time, “the dual passport after naturalization should definitely be an incentive.”
Opposition criticizes the reform
The Federal Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, who is responsible for migration issues, spoke of an overdue reform. According to the minister, the new law should offer incentives for integration instead of creating obstacles. Criticism was already pouring down from the conservative opposition parties. The new record numbers for naturalizations have now triggered another storm of protest from critics.
The Parliamentary Secretary of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Thorsten Frei, told the newspaper “Welt”: “Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s plans increase the risk that more people will be naturalized who are not sufficiently integrated.” There are no convincing reasons to lower the requirements for the German passport.
Massive increase in naturalization applications forecast
Around six million foreigners have been living in Germany for more than eight years. Migration expert Schneider calculates that if the minimum length of stay for naturalization is five years, well over eight million people will soon meet the criteria for naturalization.
Even if it is not possible to predict today how the reform of naturalization will come about as a result of the parliamentary procedure, one thing can be predicted: “a massive increase in applications for naturalization”. The German authorities already have their hands full. Migration expert Schneider: “In many nationality authorities, applications for naturalization are already piling up.”