Germany is making it Easier to get Citizenship in order to Deal with Labor Shortages

EU | August 24, 2023, Thursday // 12:05|  views

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Germany wants to lower its citizenship requirements following the example of France, the government announced, continuing its reform program to tackle labor shortages, EURACTIV reported.

German citizenship law has long been known for being particularly restrictive.

"Our economy urgently needs a new skilled workforce and a modern immigration law that includes citizenship," Interior Secretary Nancy Faeser told reporters on Wednesday (23 August).

To attract more skilled workers, the government wants to make acquiring German citizenship easier and faster and allow dual citizenship. The new regulations will allow foreigners to acquire German citizenship after five years of permanent residence, instead of the previous eight. In addition, German-born children of foreign nationals will receive automatic citizenship if their parents have lived in the country for five years. Dual citizenship will in principle be open to all. Feser even wants to allow naturalization after three years in case of "special integration achievements".

"Think of a professor of artificial intelligence helping the country move forward () and a woman who volunteers as a firefighter," the home secretary said.

The moves are linked to wider efforts by the coalition government to attract skilled workers, which include a recent overhaul of the country's immigration law. The German Economic Institute (IW), a research institution, estimated that Germany lacked about 600,000 skilled workers last year. The gap is likely to grow as the country's population ages rapidly.

However, the Conservative opposition believes the legislation will create false incentives.

"Reducing requirements at a time of record migration means provoking further polarization of society," warned Alexander Dobrindt, parliamentary chairman of the center-right CSU, illustrating the complex situation in Germany between the need for foreign labor and the increase in illegal migration. However, the legislation will actually tighten restrictions in several cases: access will be limited to applicants who can prove they can support themselves financially, with few exceptions. People convicted of anti-Semitic, racist, xenophobic or inhumane acts will be denied naturalization.

"Those who do not share our values cannot become Germans," emphasized Feser.

As for the model law, the government looked at France in particular, Feser said, as well as the United States. French law also sets a five-year residency requirement for naturalization and includes fast-track procedures as well as restrictions based on shared values, income and criminal records.

"The authorities already seem overwhelmed - so yes, it's a problem," the minister admitted, pointing to the different waiting times for citizenship applications in different provinces.

The new legislation has yet to be passed in the German parliament, where the government has a comfortable majority. Reuters also notes that the draft, first unveiled in May, cuts the required residence time for migrants to five years from eight years, and to three if migrants make so-called special integration efforts, such as speaking German very well or doing volunteer work. Official estimates show that Germany's aging society will experience a shortage of seven million skilled workers by 2035.

German citizenship is not a job requirement for migrants, but Germany wants to establish itself as a migration destination for foreign talent, similar to the US and Canada, and Berlin hopes the prospect of a smoother and faster path to German citizenship will attract skilled migrants.

The draft law would also simplify the path to a German passport for thousands of foreign "guest workers" who arrived decades ago from Turkey and southern Europe to rebuild Germany's post-war economy. This will be done by reducing the German language proficiency requirements and by removing the naturalization test.

But with German authorities already swamped by thousands of backlogged naturalization applications, some experts doubt the reforms can quickly achieve their primary goal of attracting global talent to fill hundreds of thousands of vacant positions.

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Tags: Germany, citizenship, workers, legislation


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