The German reform on dual nationality – an incomplete reform?

Written by Zvezda Vankova, Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Group

The German government coalition reached an agreement on dual nationality reform. However, a thorough look at this reform reveals that it does not address the issue in a coherent fashion. Dual nationality will still remain an obstacle to the naturalisation of immigrants who meet all of the other demanding legal requirements to become German citizens.

Any change in Germany’s MIPEX score?

 The reform does bring positive change. Coalition partners agreed to remove the dual nationality restriction for German-born children with an immigrant background, thus guaranteeing equal treatment for citizens on the basis of ius soli and ius sanguinis.  If assessed today, Germany’s score on access to nationality would increase from 59 to 66 out of the 100-point-MIPEX-scale, becoming ‘slightly favourable for integration’.

However, by failing to recognise dual nationality for all naturalising immigrants, the policy change maintains Germany’s fragmented approach to dual nationality, which allows exemptions for second generation immigrants, EU citizens and immigrants from many other nationalities, such as Afghanistan, Algeria, Eritrea, Iran, Cuba, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia. Refugees, elderly third country nationals (over 60 years old), foreigners facing excessive fees or immigrants from countries that do not recognise the renunciation of citizenship, are among the other beneficiaries of dual citizenship. Yet, many third-country nationals, from Turkey for example, are excluded from this possibility.  This represents the main barrier to naturalisation for these immigrants, as reported in the Immigrant Citizens Survey.

Restrictive liberalisation?

It seems that even though German politicians agree that Germany is a country of immigrants, they have failed to follow the trends of the most established countries of immigration, which accept dual nationality for naturalising immigrants. Newcomers in 18 of the countries assessed according to MIPEX III are entitled to dual nationality, among which France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada and the United States. More and more countries in last decades are reforming their legislation to embrace dual nationality, e.g. Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, Italy, Switzerland and more recently Czech Republic and Poland. In 2006 Portugal’s Parliament approved a coherent approach to reform access to nationality, which can serve as a model for new reforming countries. Favourable conditions once reserved for people form Portuguese speaking countries were opened to all residents speaking basic Portuguese. Liberalisation in this regard is planned also in Denmark.

According to the MIPEX findings, naturalisation applicants in Germany enjoy improving and secure legal procedures, and one of the more professional ‘citizenship tests’ among MIPEX countries. However, applicants are rejected if not already well integrated economically (as in only 11 other countries) and linguistically (explicitly in 6 other countries).

All of these shortcomings show that the coalition agreement falls short of removing the major obstacles to access to nationality for first generation immigrants.