Germany’s non-existent “Immigrant Problem”

Posted by John Rosenthal

The German Bundesländer last week agreed to introduce new requirements for naturalization, including, notably, not only a language test, but also the successful completion by candidates of a "citizenship course". In its weekend edition (6/7 May), the Neue Züricher Zeitung (NZZ), however, wonders whether the Bundesländer may not have found a solution "for a problem that in reality does not exist":

One can hardly speak of a "run" on German citizenship these days. Since the reform of the relevant law in 2000, which in principal was supposed to facilitate naturalization, the number of naturalizations has fallen continually and has nearly been cut in half.


In the American press and in the European press outside of Germany, the 2000 reform of German citizenship law was almost universally presented as a "liberalization". In fact, apart from lowering the number of years that candidates have to have lived in Germany (from 15 to 8), in all other respects the 2000 law already made the conditions for naturalization more onerous.


The only significant "liberalization" contained in the 2000 law concerned not naturalization, but rather the ascription of citizenship. Henceforth, children born in Germany of foreign parents, at least one of whom has lived in Germany for 8 years, were to be automatically ascribed German citizenship. However, even this reform represented less of a liberalization than it might appear on first glance. In fact, such children are ascribed both German citizenship and (per pre-existing bilateral accords) the citizenship of their parents. In reaching 23 years of age, they must choose between the two. Those who fail expressly to renounce their foreign citizenship have their German citizenship withdrawn. The latter detail shows that the status they are attributed at birth is not really citizenship, since other German citizens, needless to say, cannot nowadays have their citizenship withdrawn.


The NZZ concludes that the latest raising of the hurdles for naturalization "serves, above all, to calm German fears of being overrun by foreigners".

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