Figures released by the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) on Tuesday showed that 1,086 Americans received German citizenship last year – an increase of 33 percent on 2015, and nearly twice the number in 2009.
A spokesman for Destatis said that this was a record high since at least 2000, the earliest year for which he immediately had records. He added that it was not clear why the number of Americans choosing to become German has been increasing so quickly in recent years.
“It’s a good question, but we don’t have any data for the motivation,” the spokesman told The Local.
“Why this has increased remains for us relatively cryptic.”
He added that unlike the dramatic increase in Brits seeking German citizenship right after the Brexit vote last year, there were not any clear developments – including major legal reforms – that he was aware of for Americans.
'Like giving up your religion'
American Berlin resident Bill told The Local that he and his wife are considering applying for German citizenship, and would therefore have to renounce their American citizenship. The 45-year-old Texas native and musician in Berlin said the couple had long thought about becoming German since moving 16 years ago, for various reasons.
“We are happy here, our kids’ educational opportunities are better than they would be in the places where we would move back to, Texas or Georgia… and health care,” Bill said.
“We are constantly hearing stories from friends in the States having to make difficult decisions because of health care issues,” he continued, mentioning one woman he knew who was diagnosed with cancer, but had to keep working to pay for her insurance.
Bill added that the current political climate following Donald Trump’s election as president has also been a factor.
“I would be lying if I did not say we had lost a good deal of confidence since November in the American system of government, and even in the people voting,” he said.
Still, Bill added that though they have scheduled an appointment for citizenship consultation set for next year, they will likely still wait before actually applying and giving up their American passports.
“We both have ageing parents we want to visit, so as long as our parents are there, we would not give up our citizenship,” he said.
“Giving up your American citizenship is kind of like giving up your religion or family. It seems like such a heavy thing that many of our American friends might be offended by.”
Bill also said that he did not know of any Americans in Germany who had changed citizenship. But he said one reason some people are applying could be the country’s changed international reputation, especially those who have been essentially raised German but somehow still have American passports.
Mainly living abroad
One interesting takeaway from the data was that the vast majority of those who gained German citizenship were not actually living in Germany – 79 percent.
The Destatis spokesman explained that this group of 860 people is mostly made up of those who have a right to German citizenship due to their family members having to flee Nazi Germany, such as Jewish Germans. Such people can apply for German citizenship without living in the country, and also are allowed to keep their American citizenship.
Americans who apply to become naturalized German citizens are generally required to renounce their US citizenship.
The Destatis spokesman said that of Americans living in Germany who became Germans, 55 percent gave up their American passports. The remaining 45 percent were able to keep them.
Of those who became German and did live inside the country, the largest group was residing in the southern state of Bavaria (44 people), followed by Baden-Württemberg (38), Hesse (30), Berlin (27), and North Rhine-Westphalia (25).
Those who gained German citizenship last year were also split almost perfectly 50-50 for men and women. The average age was about 40.
The biggest age group was those between the ages of 45 and 55 (86 people), the second-biggest group were between 55 and 65 (75 people) while 70 people aged 25 to 35 made up the third largest group.
Most people were either single or divorced (611 people).