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EXPLAINED: Where do Germany’s political parties stand on dual nationalities and citizenship?

EXPLAINED: Where do Germany's political parties stand on dual nationalities and citizenship?
The proud owner of both a German and Turkish passport holds in front of the camera. Dual nationality is a fiercely contested issue in Germany - particularly in the context of the children and grandchildren of Turkish migrants. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder
Dual nationalities and citizenship are crucial issues for immigrants in foreign countries - but Germany has strict rules on both. Ahead of the federal elections, we looked at what the main political parties say about it.

Lots of foreigners living in Germany will have considered – or even managed to gain – a German passport while living here. But there are tough and complicated hurdles to overcome, such as the fact that dual-nationality is generally not allowed for non-EU citizens. 

With the election race heating up, we looked at what some of the major political parties say in their manifestos on the issue of citizenship – and what they are offering if they gain power. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about dual citizenship in Germany

CDU/CSU (or the Union)

Let’s start with the centre-right party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is bowing out of politics after the election.

Double or dual citizenship (doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft) is not mentioned anywhere in the CDU/CSU’s manifesto. This is unsurprising because it’s never been a goal of the party that’s currently in coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD).

Interestingly, when talking about immigration, the Union holds up the BioNTech founders as an example of successful integration from which Germany can profit.


Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) is known for taking a tough stance on migration – and he’s not alone in German politics. Though of course, in this picture, he is. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Despite paying lip-service to ‘profitable’ immigration, however, the note on the BioNTech founders is surrounded by swathes of text discussion how to make sure less profitable would-be migrants like asylum seekers never make it to Germany in the first place – or how they can be more easily deported.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: A breakdown of Germany’s Muslim population

In other sections of the manifesto, the need for highly qualified foreign workers is acknowledged, and even the reality that Germany has not become a sufficiently attractive destination for the brightest minds of the global workforce. However, the Union can’t seem to come up with much in the way of workable incentives to change this, seemingly paralysed by fear of foreigners migrating “into the social system.” (Which, for those who don’t speak ‘politician’, presumably means claiming benefits.) 

Dual citizenship is not mentioned at all in the entire document, and the words ‘Staatsbürgerschaft‘ (citizenship)’ ‘Einbürgerung’ (naturalisation) and ‘Mehrstaatigkeit‘ (multiple citizenship) are also completely absent from the 139-page programme. This alone speaks volumes about where they stand. 

Social Democrats (SPD)

The tone in the manifesto of the Social Democrats is fairly night-and-day in comparison to the Union. A section called ‘Zusammen leben’ (live together) quickly identifies goals including more societal acceptance, inclusion and freedom from discrimination for people with a migrant background.

The CDU’s current junior coalition partner also place an emphasis on the responsibility of migrants to integrate into German society. But they say it’s the state’s job to create routes to family reunification and offer support to well-integrated individuals who can’t financially support themselves. In their 2021 manifesto, the party also discusses the removal of discriminatory barriers to positions in the public sector, such as EU-only job roles.

As the manifesto puts it: “Our society of respect needs a modern nationality law.” 


Olaf Scholz’s SPD say they want to foster a culture of ‘respect’ where barriers to naturalisation are removed and the right to hold multiple nationalities is enshrined in law. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Pool | Michael Kappeler

Distancing themselves from the CDU’s anti dual-nationality stance, the Social Democrats suggest enshrining the right to hold more than one citizenship in law. This could mean that, if they succeed in winning the elections, people with migrant backgrounds could be freed from the gut-wrenching choice between German nationality and their own. 

READ ALSO: Brexit: How thousands of Brits in Germany will be in limbo after doors close on dual nationality

In addition, they want to eradicate existing barriers to naturalisation and shorten the time someone has to live in Germany to qualify for citizenship – though they don’t say by how much. 

Current rules generally allow naturalisation after eight years of legal residence in Germany, which can be lowered to seven years through an integration course, or to six years in case of further hallmarks of exceptional integration.

Grüne (Greens)

Like the SPD, the Greens support easier paths to citizenship and more state services to foster integration, including a European fund for access to social programmes and community life. They also advocate making language courses free and accessible to all. Like most of Germany’s progressive parties, the Greens want to speed up the naturalisation process, allowing it in standard cases after five years, and after three years for recognised refugees. 

At first glance, the language in the Greens’ platform regarding multi-nationality appears encouraging: “We want to abolish the requirement to choose [in the Nationality Act] and instead recognise multiple citizenship,” the party says. 

However, under closer inspection this stated intention falls short of a declaration to anchor a universal right to hold multiple citizenships in federal law: the focus here lies on the situation of the demographic growing up in Germany with roots in two or more nations, and less on third-state non-EU passport-holders moving to Germany and seeking to naturalize.


The Greens have made positive noises about dual nationality, but on closer inspection, this appears to exclude first-generation immigrants. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Strauch

The Greens want to ensure that multinational children are not forced to renounce one of their citizenships upon reaching adulthood, but shy away from explicitly breaking a lance for double citizenship in general. “Mehrstaatigkeit anerkennen” (acknowledging multi-citizenship) is the kind of wishy-washy language that can easily mean only recognizing multinationality in cases where it already exists, and not standing up for the institution on principle. 

 READ ALSO: More trains and energy grants: What a Green election win could mean for Germany

With such carefully couched language in the election program, it’s hard to imagine that the Greens would suddenly fight tooth-and-nail for universal double citizenship in coalition negotiations with, for instance, the Union. 

FDP

When it comes to multiple citizenships, the Free Democrats are, as in many issues, a perplexing blend of more liberal on some points and less progressive on others. 

Multiple citizenship isn’t a footnote in the FDP platform – it’s explored in detail in their programme. Naturalisation is defined as the result and goal of successful integration under fulfillment of clear criteria. The FDP supports universally permitting multiple citizenship in the case of naturalisation. For first-generation immigrants, this would mean a more progressive system than under the status quo and some of the competing parties.

READ ALSO: Who will replace Angela Merkel as German chancellor?

For multiple generations with migration history, it gets complex. Like the Greens, the Liberals don’t want to force children of immigrants to choose one passport. However, from the third generation onward, the FDP believes children should have to choose, except in cases where the loss of the second citizenship would be connected with extraordinary hardship or the individual holds citizenship of another EU state or a country that doesn’t accept renunciation. In other words, the current mishmash of exceptions to the no-double-citizenship rule, but pushed off to the third generation.


FDP leader Christian Lindner is pictured here next to a campaign poster that reads “Deutschland needs speed.” With the FDP advocating the shortest route to citizenship, that’s certainly the case for their migration policy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

On speeding up naturalisation, the FDP edges ahead here, underbidding the Greens and the Left (who suggest lowering the requirement to five years) with a suggestion of four years. The option of permanent residency is suggested after three years, under prerequisites such as a clean criminal record, demonstrated language abilities and complete economic self-sufficiency for the needs of the family.

On social inclusiveness, the FDP retains a more stringent focus on economic self-sufficiency as a prerequisite to naturalisation than, say, the SPD. On the other hand, they suggest opening naturalisation as an endpost for all migration pathways, including humanitarian options that previously ruled out the normal stepping stones to a German passport.

Die Linke

The Left, like the lighter-red SPD, supports more liberal naturalisation laws.

In their manifesto, the Linkspartei lays out their plan: the right to get German citizenship after five years, and a right to multiple citizenship for all children born in Germany to parents residing in the country long-term.

READ ALSO: COMPARE: Which European countries have the toughest rules for gaining citizenship?

The election programme is less clear regarding multiple citizenship for first-generation immigrants, but bills drafted by their current parliamentary group indicate clear support, advocating for a “naturalisation offensive” with the general recognition of multiple citizenship for immigrants and universal jus soli (i.e. birthright) citizenship for those born in Germany. 


The Left Party is unapologetically pro-immigration, and has previously advocated for dual nationality rights and called on the government to take more refugees. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | David Hutzler

Unlike the FDP, the Left supports making the right to naturalisation independent from the question of income, economic self-sufficiency or use of social welfare programs. You’re still going to need to speak basic German though, so start booking those Sprachkurse (language courses) folks.

As an added bonus, the Left supports opening the right to vote on all levels to all people with migration history residing long-term in Germany, even non-naturalised individuals. This would be a significant expansion of enfranchisement over current systems, which restrict federal voting rights to citizens and most local elections to residents with German or EU citizenship.

AfD

Most mentions of ‘Einbürgerung’ in the  AfD platform are in combination with ideas to make attaining it more difficult, or introducing options to revoke citizenship in cases of naturalised citizens committing crimes. Unsurprisingly for the manifesto of a fiercely anti-migrant party, double citizenship isn’t even mentioned. But if you want to know what they really think about it, parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel has been helpfully candid in the past, stating: “The possibility of double citizenship should be abolished immediately.” 


Alice Weidel of the far-right AfD has made her feelings clear on the subject of dual nationality. (Spoiler alert: she hates it.) Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

READ ALSO: Germany’s far-right AfD chooses hardline team ahead of national elections

Returning to the party programme, there’s also a part dedicated to explaining what a precious gift that German citizenship is, and then diving into concepts for denying it to more people – namely, by rolling back liberalisations on the jus soli (birthright) citizenship front and returning to the jus sanguinis (citizen by heritage) rule that was in operation until 2000. The AfD would also like to make the requirements for first-generation immigrants striving for naturalisation considerably more difficult. Who could have guessed it? 

Volt

The dark horses of 2021, or rather the dark miniature ponies. Included as a curiosity, this relatively young and new party is unlikely to find electoral success in this year’s federal vote. Nonetheless, their posters are widely visible in cities like Berlin, adding something fresh to the established spectrum of players and raising the visibility of the topic ‘Europe,’ whatever that means in detail.


The pro-European Volt party unsurprisingly takes a liberal, inclusive stance on immigration issues such as dual nationality and German citizenship. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Volt | Fons Janssen

Confusingly, double citizenship is mentioned in the Volt Deutschland Grundsatzprogramm, but not in the more prominently linked Volt Europa Wahlprogramm zur Bundestagswahl 2021 – perhaps a mere oversight, or perhaps the worldly ‘Generation Europa’ can’t quite relate to the central place this question holds in the lives of global citizens born without an EU passport. However, the policy statement does endorse easier paths to naturalization and supports making double citizenship possible in principle.

READ ALSO: Candidate barred from standing in German local election challenges removal of Brits’ EU rights

They also get points for a progressive idea on page 163 of their election program: the suggestion of creating a special European passport for climate refugees, of which there will sadly be more and more as the earth continues to warm in the coming century.

RECAP: So which parties support double citizenship again, and in what way?

  • Union (CDU/CSU): Nope. They don’t like double citizenship. Your wistful dreams of having Jason Bourne’s safe deposit box full of pretty passports are the stuff of their nightmares. Far from liberalising multinationality, leading conservative politicians like current Interior Minister Horst Seehofer would like to further restrict it.
  • SPD: Yes. They think it should be possible to gain multiple citizenships more easily, and want to anchor that option in law. They also want to make the naturalisation process generally easier and faster.
  • Greens: Jein. They support faster, less bureaucratic routes to gaining a German passport, and are opposed to forcing those born with two possible nationalities to pick between the two.  But their federal election platform stops just short of articulating a clear commitment to support a right for all first-generation immigrants to attain or retain multiple passports in the case of naturalisation.
  • FDP: Yes for first-generation immigrants, yes for their children, no for the grandchildren unless they can squeak through an exception, comparable to the current loopholes to the no-double-citizenship rule. They also support making naturalisation easier and faster, with the shortest general time requirement of any party.
  • The Left: Yes. The platform explicitly endorses it for children of immigrants, their parliamentary record indicates that they also support the universal right to multinationality for first-generation immigrants. They want to reduce the minimum period in-country for naturalisation to five years.
  • AfD: 100 percent no.
  • Volt: Yes. They support double citizenship and easier pathways to citizenship in theory. In practice, they won’t make it into the Bundestag this time around.

Member comments

  1. This is a great article.

    Fascinating that not a single manifesto actively opposes multiple citizenship!

    To me, this kinda suggests that the status quo is unsustainable. Only open question is the extent to which an incoming government would consider reforms to be a priority.

  2. Might be a lifeline for Brits who missed the threshold to qualify for double citizenship on the basis of no longer qualifying from a EU state..

    1. Agree! Although the lawfulness of the current policy is dubious in my view. Double citizenship is allowed for Swiss-Germans! Why? It’s discriminatory.

  3. Probably not at the forefront of most voters minds but I do think that the Union, the SDP and the Greens do realise that if they want to persuade highly skilled professionals to immigrate, the current offer of living, working and settling in Germany falls well short of what those highly skilled professionals will accept

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