How Brexit pushed thousands of Brits to get German citizenship

Brits are driving an increase in the number of foreigners getting German citizenship, official figures show.

How Brexit pushed thousands of Brits to get German citizenship
A German passport. Photo: DPA

In 2019, roughly 128,900 foreigners obtained German citizenship. The Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) reported on Wednesday that the number of naturalisations was up by 16,600 – 15 percent – on the previous year, reaching the highest level since 2003. 

And, almost half of the increase (+8,000) is due to the growing numbers of Britons applying for a German passport.

In 2019, more Britons – a total of 14,600 – received German citizenship than in the preceding two years altogether. In 2018 the number was 6,600 and in 2017 it was 7,500.

In 2015 – before the EU referendum held in the UK – roughly 600 Britons obtained a German passport.

Britain left the EU on January 31st this year after years of negotiations. As The Local has been reporting since the 2016 referendum, many Brits have chosen to apply for German citizenship due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and their rights.

READ ALSO: Number of Brits leaving UK for Germany at 10-year high due to 'uncertainty surrounding Brexit'

British citizens stand to lose European citizenship rights such as freedom of movement or recognition of qualifications due to Britain leaving the bloc.


Obtaining a nationality of an EU member state is a way for British citizens to guarantee maintaining EU citizenship rights that many people's professional and personal livelihoods over the years have come to depend on.

Britons have until the end of the transition period (currently December 31st 2020 but that could change) to apply for German citizenship if they meet the criteria, and they'll still be able to keep their British citizenship.

After the transition period Brits applying for a German citizenship will have to give up their British citizenship.

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Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.