Recent changes in German citizenship law

In June 2019 the German legislator has passed a number of significant changes to German citizenship law.

According to Section 28 of the German Nationality Act, a German citizen loses his or her nationality if he or she has been actively fighting for a terrorist militia abroad, provided that the person does not become stateless due to this deprivation. Hitherto, German nationality could only be lost if a person voluntarily enlisted “with the armed forces or a comparable armed organisation of a foreign state whose citizenship he or she possesses”. The new regulation significantly extends the personal scope. Dual nationals, in particular, are a target group of the regulation, even if the ‘other’ nationality has no connection to the involvement in terrorist activities. Besides the growing inequality of treatment among nationals, the core concept of ‘terrorist militia’ remains vague and open to political interpretations.

According to a second reform, the period in which a withdrawal of citizenship is possible will be extended from five to ten years in cases of identity fraud (Sec. 35 (3) German Nationality Act), thereby making citizenship through naturalisation ever more a ‘second-class’ type of citizenship accompanied by an extended period of insecurity about the final membership status. This reform is in line with a second development, according to which in the future naturalisation will always require that identity and previous citizenship of the applicants are clearly settled. This will create new burdens of proof and ultimately new obstacles for those applicants coming from states that do not issue the relevant documents.

Finally, the German legislator has included a clause in Section 8, 9 and 10 of the German Nationality Act. The clause establishes that a person can only be naturalised if he or she has been integrated into the German living conditions (“deutsche Lebensverhältnisse”). According to the legislator, this provision is meant to prevent persons in polygamous marriages from becoming German citizens. However, critics have pointed out that such a fuzzy clause will ultimately open the door for new discrimination and an implicit requirement to assimilate to an alleged ‘German lifestyle’ (“Leitkultur”).

For more information on citizenship in Germany consult our Country Profiles page, the Global Databases on Modes of Acquisition and Loss of citizenship. If you have specific queries, you can write to our country expert, Anuscheh Farahat, who is the author of this news item.