BERLIN — In a new effort to attract talented foreign workers to the country, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has announced plans to reform Germany’s immigration system and citizenship laws.
On Monday, Scholz reiterated his support for Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s plans to revise rules to make it easier to naturalize immigrants, whom he hailed as playing a vital role in rebuilding and strengthening Germany. Naturalization figures in Germany are stagnating, with 1.3 acquisitions of citizenship per 1,000 people; according to Eurostat, this is below the European average of 1.6 acquisitions per 1,000.
With job vacancies at an all-time high – 853,315 openings were reported from 2022 to October, according to data analytics firm Statista – Berlin is looking for highly skilled labor from abroad to fill this void .
Scholz announced at an event in Berlin that his cabinet would decide on “key points” for skilled labor immigration reform on Wednesday. The Chancellor said a “transparent and unbureaucratic” points-based system will be introduced, as has long been common practice in other countries. It will also become easier for foreigners to undertake studies or vocational training.
Under Faeser’s plans for citizenship law reform, immigrants will be allowed to hold dual citizenship. In addition, they will be able to become naturalized Germans in five years instead of eight, according to a 39-page draft plan previewed by some media on Friday. In the case of “special integration results”, such as voluntary work or exceptional language skills, naturalization will be possible after three years. And children born in Germany to foreign parents can become German if one or both parents have officially resided in Germany for five years instead of eight.
“Those who live and work here permanently should also be able to vote and be elected … with all the rights and duties that come with it,” Scholz said Monday. However, he warned that there are limits to the country’s ability to absorb immigrants.
Not everyone agrees with the plans. Critics come from the opposition, as well as Scholz’s pro-business coalition partner, the FDP. “Selling German citizenship does not promote integration,” said opposition politician Alexander Dobrindt of the center-right CSU.
FDP General Secretary Bijan Djir-Sarai meanwhile said it was too early for such a far-reaching reform, adding that first repatriations should be implemented more quickly.
A Home Office spokesman reiterated on Monday that the citizenship reform bill is “almost ready”. It will be coordinated within the government “in the coming days” and discussed in the Council of Ministers “soon”.
Responding to criticism from government coalition partners, the spokesman said the plan was “exactly in line” with the coalition agreement.