Can a naturalized German citizen become Chancellor

Basic dossier migration

The reform of the old citizenship law from 1913 was long overdue and was implemented by Red-Green in 2000. In the meantime, experiences with the reformed naturalization law are rated ambiguously.

The reform of citizenship law by the Red-Green coalition

Rita I. from Nigeria. She has lived in Germany since 1981 and is a German citizen. (& copy Isadora Tast for Körber Photo Award 2003)
In the elections for the 14th German Bundestag on September 27, 1998, the coalition of the CDU / CSU and FDP under Chancellor Helmut Kohl lost the majority. From then on, the SPD and Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen formed a coalition and elected Gerhard Schröder as Federal Chancellor. In the coalition agreement of 1998 they agreed to change the "Reich and Citizenship Law". In January of the following year, the then Federal Minister of the Interior, Otto Schily, submitted a corresponding draft law, which included, among other things, the extensive acceptance of dual citizenship. The aim was to make it easier for foreigners to acquire German citizenship. Above all, this question ("one-two") sparked a violent political dispute between the coalition and the opposition.

The CDU and the CSU responded with a nationwide signature campaign under the motto "Yes to integration - no to dual citizenship". Crude arguments were used to appeal to fears of foreign infiltration among the German population. Not least because of this "one-two-way campaign", the CDU and FDP were able to win the state elections in Hesse in spring 1999 and form a government. As a result of the change of government in Hesse, the majority situation also changed in the Bundesrat, whose approval for the reform of the nationality law was required. Therefore, a new draft law in the form of a "group motion" was introduced by members of the coalition factions and the opposition FDP faction - albeit at the price of establishing the principle of avoiding dual citizenship. After very controversial debates in the Bundestag and Bundesrat, the new Citizenship Act was passed in 1999 and came into force on January 1, 2000.

Key points of the nationality law reform

The most important innovations of the new Citizenship Act are the introduction of elements of the place of birth principle combined with an "option obligation" as well as changes to the regulations for naturalization.

1. The place of birth principle

For the first time in German legal history, the principle of descent ("jus sanguinis") was supplemented by elements of the place of birth ("jus soli") in citizenship law. The principle of descent means: A child receives German citizenship at birth if it has a German father or a German mother - and it stays that way. The place of birth principle means: A child of foreign parents who is born in Germany automatically receives German citizenship in addition to the nationality of its parents. One of the prerequisites is that at least one parent has been legally living in Germany for eight years at the time the child is born and has had a residence permit or a permanent residence permit for three years.

In a transitional arrangement, foreign children who had not yet reached the age of ten on January 1, 2000 and for whom the relevant requirements had been met at the time of their birth in Germany also received a corresponding naturalization claim. The possibility of "child naturalization" on application was limited until December 31, 2000. In this way, at least 43,700 children were naturalized.

2. Obligation to choose

The acquisition of citizenship according to the place of birth principle was combined with an option obligation, which is regulated in Section 29 of the Citizenship Act. This requires young people with a German passport and that of their country of origin (so-called dual nationals from third countries) between the ages of 18 and 23 to decide whether they want to have German citizenship or that of their country of origin in the future. When they are of legal age, the authorities will inform them of a corresponding obligation to provide a declaration. If you declare that you want to keep your foreign citizenship, you lose your German citizenship. This also applies if no declaration is made by the age of 23. If you opt for German citizenship, you must prove by the age of 23 that you no longer have foreign citizenship, otherwise you will lose your German passport. If giving up the other nationality is not possible or unreasonable, multiple citizenship can be accepted if a retention permit has been applied for by the age of 21 at the latest.

According to the Nationality Act, the federal states should implement the provisions on the obligation to opt. Corresponding notifications to those affected who had been naturalized through the transitional regulation for children under 10 years of age were first sent out by the authorities in spring 2007.

3. The regulations on naturalization entitlement

Non-Germans living permanently in Germany are entitled to naturalization after eight years of permanent and legal residence. Until 1999 this period was 15 years. In order to be eligible for naturalization, the following additional requirements must be met:
  • "sufficient knowledge" of the German language;
  • Impunity: Fines of up to 180 daily rates or suspended sentences of less than six months (suspended sentences of up to one year for juveniles) were not taken into account;
  • personal livelihood security (receipt of unemployment benefit or social assistance only harms if it is responsible), it was not required for people under 23 years of age;
  • Giving up citizenship of origin (acceptance of multiple citizenship only in exceptional cases);
  • Commitment to the Freedom-Democratic Basic Order, combined with a declaration that they have not pursued any anti-constitutional efforts.
The "General Administrative Regulations for the Citizenship Act" of the federal government bind the federal states, but leave them room for state-specific provisions and their interpretation, for example when determining that applicants for naturalization have "sufficient knowledge" of the German language. Here the federal states have initially developed different procedures. In the Immigration Act that came into force at the beginning of 2005 - in addition to the reform of the Nationality Act, the second major reform of the law on foreigners of the red-green coalition - an integration course for "new immigrants" was set up, which included a language course (600 hours) and an orientation course on basic knowledge of "law - and the social order and living conditions in Germany "(30 hours). It is organized by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremberg with uniform national standards. For people who have successfully completed this integration course, the period for naturalization has been shortened from eight to seven years.