German upper house approves bill easing citizenship rules

Lawmakers in the upper house of parliament passed the legislation that will simplify the process of naturalisation.

germany upper house
The bill was initially put forward by centre-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

German lawmakers have passed a bill that makes the process of obtaining citizenship easier, and moved to simplify repatriations.

The naturalisation reform, approved by the upper house of parliament on Friday, allows people to become German citizens while keeping their original citizenship.

People will be able to apply for citizenship after living in Germany for five years rather than eight years. Children of parents from abroad will also be granted German citizenship at birth if one parent has been legally residing in Germany for five years rather than eight.

If applicants demonstrate “special integration achievements” through particularly good performance at school or work or civic engagement, they may be able to be naturalised after only three years.

One important aspect of the new law is that people who obtain their German citizenship will not have to give up the citizenship of their native country, previously only possible for residents from other EU countries in Germany.

This will allow tens of thousands of German-born Turks to become voters.

Likewise, Germans who wish to become citizens of another country will no longer need special authorisation from German authorities.

The bill was put forward by centre-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition. The main centre-right opposition bloc had criticised the project, and argued it would cheapen German citizenship.

The bill was approved by Germany’s lower house two weeks ago. At the time, Scholz hailed the legislation and said it was for those who had lived and worked in Germany for “decades”.

“With the new citizenship law, we are saying to all those who have often lived and worked in Germany for decades, who abide by our laws, who are at home here: You belong to Germany,” Scholz said.

Filiz Polat, a Green Party migration expert, welcomed the prospect of dual citizenship and slammed parties opposing the law as failing to understand the “modern immigration society that has long existed in Germany”.

Al Jazeera’s Dominic Kane, reporting from Berlin, said there were “speeches in favour and there were speeches against” the bill in the state’s house of parliament.

“But in the end, the house decided not to vote in favour, but also, not to vote against,” Kane said. This means that the law goes through because of Germany’s constitution.

“The elected house of parliament had already voted in favour of it,” he explained.

The legislation still has to be approved by Germany’s upper chamber of parliament, and by the president as a formality, before it becomes law.

It will come into effect by mid-May at the earliest, Kane said.

Hundreds of thousands of people are already in the system, meaning there will likely be a massive backlog before new applications are processed, our correspondent added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies