Number of new German citizens hits highest level in 20 years as many Syrians naturalize

BERLIN (AP) — Germany saw a 28% increase in the number of people obtaining citizenship last year, with Syrian nationals accounting for more than a quarter of those naturalized, official data showed Tuesday.

Preliminary figures show that around 168,500 people were granted German citizenship in 2022, the Federal Statistical Office said. It was the highest number since 2002.

Among them, 48,300 – or 29% – were Syrian citizens. This was more than double the previous year’s figure and seven times more than in 2020, as a growing number of people who emigrated to Germany between 2014 and 2016 meet the requirements for citizenship.

These include a working knowledge of German and proof that they can support themselves financially.

In principle, people must have lived in Germany for at least eight years, although this does not apply to spouses and children. It can be reduced to six years for people who have “particular integration skills” such as a very good knowledge of the language, professional achievements or civic engagement. There were 23,100 such “early” naturalisations last year, almost twice as many as in 2021 and 60% of them were Syrians.

Turkish citizens were the second largest group of people granted German citizenship last year – 14,200 of them, a 16% increase from 2021, and with an average of over 24 living in Germany .

The statistics office said 5,600 Ukrainians were granted German citizenship last year, nearly three times as many as the previous year. They had spent an average of 13.3 years in Germany, compared to 6.4 years for their Syrian counterparts.

The socially liberal German government plans to ease the rules for obtaining citizenship, reducing from eight to five years the number of years people are supposed to live in the country before obtaining a German passport. People with “special integration achievements” would be eligible after three years.

The government also plans to lift restrictions on holding dual nationality. In principle, most people from countries other than members of the European Union and Switzerland currently have to give up their previous citizenship when they obtain German citizenship.

Conservative and far-right opposition parties have attacked these plans. It is not yet known when Parliament will consider them.

Germany has approximately 84 million inhabitants.

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