Germany is a diverse immigration country – and has been since the 1960s. Many people who came to us from other countries have found a new home in Germany. They have lived and worked here for decades. They are volunteers. Her children and grandchildren were born in Germany and go to daycare and school here. They are part of our society, they belong.
But that is only half the truth: Many of these people cannot fully help shape their homeland because they do not have German citizenship. They are not allowed to vote in elections and they are not allowed to run for public office, even though Germany has been their home for many years.
I would like people with an immigrant background to feel welcome in Germany and to really feel that they belong. They should help shape our country democratically and be able to get involved at all levels of our country.
The prerequisite for this is that they also become a legal part of our society and accept German citizenship. The new citizenship law that this coalition is in the process of rolling out gives them the opportunity to do so.
Many people with a history of immigration feel like Germans, but don’t want to cut ties with their country of origin completely. Your identity has more than a single affiliation. And their personal history is often closely linked to their previous citizenship.
Giving up old citizenship is painful for many
It is therefore wrong to force people to give up their old citizenship if they want to apply for German citizenship. For many, this is a painful step that doesn’t do justice to their personal history and identity.
The previous principle in German nationality law of avoiding multiple nationalities prevents many people who have lived in Germany for decades and are at home here from being naturalized.
With the reform of citizenship law, we are therefore introducing a paradigm shift and will accept multiple citizenship in the future. In this way, we make naturalization easier and adapt our law to the reality of life.
Create incentives for integration instead of creating obstacles
Acquiring German citizenship is a strong commitment to Germany. Because anyone who wants to become a German says yes to life in a free society, to respect for the Basic Law, to the rule of law and to equal rights for men and women – yes to the elementary foundations of our coexistence. It is this commitment that matters, not whether someone has one or more nationalities.
For cohesion in Germany, it is crucial that people who come to us can also participate in society – that they are quickly and well integrated. With the new nationality law, we are therefore creating incentives for integration instead of building up hurdles and demanding long waiting times.
People who have immigrated to Germany and have a qualified right of residence should in future be able to be naturalized after five years instead of having to wait eight years as before. Those who are particularly well integrated can shorten this period to three years – people who, for example, speak German very well, achieve excellent results in school or work and do voluntary work. Achievement should be worthwhile.
In the future, all children of foreign parents born in Germany should also receive German citizenship without reservation if at least one parent has lived legally in Germany for more than five years and has an unlimited right of residence. In this way, we ensure integration right from the start.
By allowing multiple nationalities, they can also take on the nationality of their parents and keep it permanently – they no longer have to decide for or against part of their identity.
It is particularly important to me that the new nationality law also does justice to the lifetime achievements of the so-called guest worker generation. These people came to Germany from Italy, Spain, Greece or Turkey in the 1950s and 1960s – and they didn’t receive any integration offers at the time.
That is why we will make it easier for them to naturalize by dispensing with a written language certificate and the naturalization test. Because they have achieved outstanding things for our country and thus deserve the recognition of society as a whole.
In the past, there have been many debates about citizenship law in Germany, which have been characterized primarily by resentment and propaganda and have hurt many people deeply. Above all, however, they do not do justice to a modern immigration country. The reform of our citizenship law is long overdue and a great opportunity to strengthen our social cohesion. That’s why we’re tackling it now.