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The Provisions of the New Citizenship Law (August 1999)

Despite conservative opposition, the red-green federal government coalition reformed the citizenship law by adding the principle of birth in Germany (jus soli) to the traditional principle of ethnic descent (jus sanguinis). The reform also eased the process of acquiring citizenship, provided that certain conditions – like knowledge of the language – were met.

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Reform of the Citizenship Law

Otto Schily, Federal Minister of the Interior

On May 21, 1999, the Bundesrat approved the law on the reform of citizenship rights. The essential parts of the law enter into force on January 1, 2000.

At the heart of the reform is the augmentation of the traditional principle of descent (jus sanguinis) with the acquisition of citizenship through place of birth (jus soli). This will make it easier for children born in Germany of foreign parents to identify with Germany as their home. They will be given the chance to grow up as Germans among Germans.

Enshrined in the new law is another important measure to promote integration: the shortening of the naturalization period for foreigners who have already lived in Germany for a long time. Since integration is not a one-way street, this opportunity entails certain minimum requirements. Whoever wishes to live in Germany permanently must respect our constitution and our system of laws. It also goes without saying that he or she will have to learn the German language. Integration can only succeed where there is a will on both sides – among Germans and among the foreigners living in Germany.

Admittedly, the new framing of the German citizenship law cannot “prescribe” integration. But it can give those fellow citizens from abroad who live here permanently a clear signal of our commitment and our desire to promote the peaceful coexistence of all peoples, irrespective of their cultural heritage.

Source: Otto Schily, Federal Minister of the Interior, foreword to the brochure “Citizenship Law,” published by the Federal Commissioner for Foreigner Affairs, the Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government, August 1999).

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