Germany Approves Eases in Citizenship Laws

On January 19, 2024, the German Bundestag approved new legislation easing the rules on obtaining German citizenship and eliminating restrictions on dual citizenship. The law was passed by a vote of 382 to 284. The German government sees the law, which is expected to take effect at the end of April 2024, as an essential step toward a modern immigration policy that will make Germany more competitive internationally.

The changes will simplify the process for foreign nationals seeking German citizenship, as well as German citizens seeking a foreign one, such as U.S. citizenship. Currently, German citizenship is automatically lost upon acceptance of foreign citizenship unless an application for retention (“Beibehaltungsantrag”) is submitted, involving additional effort and long processing times. The requirement for an application to retain German citizenship has now been removed, and German citizenship will continue to exist alongside any foreign citizenship without forfeiting the current passport.

Other important changes are:

  • The prior residence waiting period for naturalization will be reduced from eight to five years. In the case of special integration achievements (“besondere Integrationsleistungen”), such as obtaining a university degree, becoming proficient in German, or doing voluntary work, the period can be reduced to three years.
  • Children of foreign nationals born in Germany will automatically receive German citizenship by birth if one parent has lived in Germany for at least five years and has an unlimited right of residence.

This law is expected to increase citizenship applications, as approximately 14% of the German population does not possess German citizenship. By easing the path to dual citizenship, the government aims to make Germany more attractive to foreign talent and skilled workers.