As laid out in the partnership agreement of the ruling coalition parties, the center-left Social Democrats Party (SPD), the Greens party, and the liberal Free Democrats Party (FDP), the German government is moving forward, albeit very slowly, with its plans of modernising immigration and citizenship through a series of reforms. The German Minister for Interior Nancy Faeser through her ministry forwarded the draft legislation for voting to other ministries last week.
If passed and enacted into the law, the reforms will bring Germany at par with the countries with some of the most liberal immigration policies including some of its neighbours such as France and the Netherlands. But exactly what will these reforms entail and who will benefit from this? Keep on reading for some of the salient features of the planned reforms.
Salient features of Germany’s new immigration law:
The German media has reported heavily on the issue citing the draft itself. Here is a summary of some of the key points as reported in the German media.
1. German passport in 5 years:
The new law will require only five years of residency in Germany before one can apply for the citizenship. Currently, an eight years of residence is required in order to be eligible for the German citizenship. Moreover, those with “exceptional integration measures” such as voluntary work for the betterment of the society or advanced German language skills (C1 and above) will have the residency requirement reduced to three years only, currently the residency requirement with exceptional integration measures is six years.
2. Dual-citizenship will become possible
Currently, Germany is one of the strictest country when it comes to allowing its citizens to have a dual nationality, demanding those wishing to acquire the German citizenship to relinquish their current citizenship, unless they belong to a few countries with whom Germany has bilateral dual-citizenship agreements. This, too, shall change with the new law. This effectively means, it would be possible for new Germans to keep their current citizenship as well.
3. Relaxed language and citizenship tests requirements for the elederly
The draft legislation proposes to make things easier for what’s known as the “guest-worker” generation, whereby those above age 67 who have lived and worked their whole lives in Germany but are unable to naturalise under the current law because of not being able to pass language and citizenship tests. Most of these people already speak the language but still have hinderances of taking and passing formal language and citizenship tests mainly because of lack of literacy or not being able to read and write. The law proposes to waive the language and citizenship test requirements for those the age of 67 and above. As long as they are able to communicate in everyday situations, it should suffice for them to become German citizens.
The draft legislation has invited an uproar even before it is being tabled for voting, with most of the criticism coming from the center-right and Angela Merkel’s outgoing ruling party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and its Bavarian branch CSU, as well as from the far-right forces and media outlets known for orientalist and xenophobic positions. The biggest talking points from all sides criticising the upcoming legislation are; that the new law will devalue the worth of the German citizenship, that it will open door to irregular immigration routes while acting as a “pull factor”, and that it will have an influx of immigration into the country’s social welfare system instead of the skilled-workers-starved job market.