Only a few foreigners apply for naturalization: the Council of Economic Experts finds the hurdles for naturalization too high – politics

© dpa / Julian Stratenschulte

Today 12:43 pm

EU citizens often see no reason to be naturalized in Germany. Immigrants from other parts of the world are deterred by the high hurdles.

The Expert Council for Integration and Migration (SVR) has recommended that the federal and state governments lower the practical barriers to naturalization. Naturalization procedures should be standardized nationwide and user-friendly, suggests the advisory committee in its annual report published on Tuesday.

In a European comparison, the proportion of foreigners who have become naturalized in Germany is relatively low. This results in a lack of political participation by people with a migration background. Only in Denmark, Austria, Slovakia and Lithuania would fewer people become citizens through naturalization.

According to the SVR, the special Brexit effect in 2019 meant that the naturalization rate among Britons living in Germany was higher than among foreigners of other nationalities. And in absolute numbers, Turkish citizens made up the largest group with 16,235 naturalizations in the same year. However, among the Turks, only 1.2 percent of those entitled made use of the opportunity to be naturalized.

Of the Syrians, however, 19.7 percent of those who had the opportunity to do so based on length of stay and other criteria did so. As a rule, a foreigner has to wait eight years before he can apply for naturalization – it is faster for immigrants who enter into a marriage or civil partnership with a German or a German.

According to the SVR, a “turbo naturalization” should be made possible after four years of residence if foreigners are particularly well integrated, speak very good German, have clearly moved their center of life to Germany, and if their police clearance certificate is impeccable.

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In the opinion of the experts, the naturalization test should not be overrated. The questions are known; since its introduction in 2009, over 90 percent of the participants have passed it. The fees or the language test were more of a deterrent.

Hamburg and Thuringia have the highest naturalization rate

Turks in particular often cite the wish not to give up their old citizenship as an obstacle. The SVR supports the “generation cut model” here. It stipulates that dual citizenship would initially be accepted upon naturalization. In the next generation or the next but one, the passing on of the original citizenship would then be interrupted.

In a comparison of the federal states, Hamburg and Thuringia have had the highest naturalization rate for years – four percent of those eligible recently took their German passport. In Berlin and Saarland, the rate was particularly low at 1.9 percent.

The Council of Economic Experts considers it problematic that EU nationals in Germany are allowed to vote and run for candidates at municipal level after a short stay, but foreigners of other nationalities are not. A prominent example of a foreign local politician is the non-party mayor of Rostock, Claus Ruhe Madsen, who is known for his unusual anti-corona strategy. The entrepreneur is Dane and, by his own admission, has no plans to become German.

The SVR experts consider a municipal right to vote for foreigners from non-EU countries to be desirable. However, they assume that a constitutional amendment might be necessary for this.

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In their annual report, with reference to several studies, they also state that states that are shaped by the welfare state, such as Germany or the Scandinavian states, tend to attract less highly educated migrants. Other factors also played a role in the choice of the destination country – for example the language.

In general, welfare state benefits could have a negative impact on the migration decisions of migrants who have a good chance of quickly finding employment in the destination country that matches their qualifications and who contribute to the financing of the welfare state through taxes and duties.

The interdisciplinary council of experts was founded in 2008 by eight private foundations. In December 2020, the federal government decided to take over the funding of the advisory body. (dpa)

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