These are notes from the British in Europe / Germany / Berlin Applying for Citizenship Panel Discussion and Q&A. Information from these notes should be taken as advisory, please consult your caseworker as the first point of call for any queries with your citizenship application.
State of Brexit Negotiations
- The government is focusing on Money, the Irish Border, and Citizens as these areas are pretty much the only things the government agrees upon.
- It looks like there will be one formal week of negotiations in every four.
- Jane Golding (JG) added that Michel Barnier has said that citizens rights are his first priority. May’s “fair and serious” offer to EU citizens in the UK is currently unclear. Full details will likely come out this Monday.
- Negotiations need to be finished by October 2018 to allow time for the ratification process to be finished within the 2-year time limit of Article 50.
- After that October deadline the British government should be able to start negotiating trade and free movement deals.
- The government will have to make compromises, and as yet it’s unclear where they will come from.
- Thankfully ‘no deal better than a bad deal’ seems to be dead.
First meeting with caseworker for Citizenship
- Bring two things: a passport and record of your qualifications
- Starts with getting an appointment at your local Staatsangehörigkeit office (Note: this MUST be the one in the Bezirk where you are currently registered) – use this link to see a full list by Bezirk and book an appointment – https://service.berlin.de/dienstleistung/318998/
- Go by yourself, make introductions, they will give you a checklist
- A lot depends on who your case worker is. Your case worker is assigned by the first letter of your surname.
Getting an appointment
Audience statement: If you can’t get an appointment at berlin.de then look for a day when you can turn up and take a number. Look on the Berlin.de website page for the ‘Einbürgerungs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsbehörde’ of your Bezirk to see their weekly opening hours.
Confidence, wearing a shirt, speaking German, and having things in order all makes it much more easy for the caseworker and easier for you.
Further Citizenship Process Details
- If you’ve lived in Germany for 8 years you’re good to go. Between 6-8 years you might be permitted to start the process on conditions such as passing an integration course and/or proof of B2 level German.
- If you’re married to a German national you may be able to start the process from as little as 3 years residence in Germany.
- “Special contributions to German language or culture” deemed by your caseworker to be notable may allow you to apply for citizenship sooner.
- Citizenship depends on proving that you are able to cover your financial needs. The amount required will depend on your living situation so you may be asked to show your lease/mortgage or other regular costs.
- Need to prove that you’re not a financial risk for Germany.
- If you have a full-time job it may be easier, as you have been automatically paying taxes and paying into the social system (health insurance, pension, unemployment, etc.).
- If you’re a freelancer or self-employed you may have to show contributions into the Rentenversicherung and proof that you have been paying taxes.
- You may be asked for proof of B1 or B2 German through a language certificate. If you do not have one, you may be asked to take a German language test through the VHS (this is a special test and the citizenship case worker will sign you up directly).
- Being a long-term government benefit claimant (for example, on ALG II or Hartz IV) or having a criminal record may count against you.
- If you’ve been working but were briefly unemployed and on ALG I, that’s ‘good unemployment,’ which should not count against you.
- There will be a German Citizenship and Government test. Numerous free tests exist online to try your knowledge – http://www.spiegel.de/quiztool/quiztool-33093.html.
- If you have done a degree in German at a German university then you may not need to do the language test. Once you start the citizenship process you’ll be given a case worker and you’ll want to continue till the end in that Bezirk. If you go to another Bezirk/city/state you’ll have to start from scratch.
- For later in the process, gather all possible paperwork like birth certificate, marriage license, degrees and qualifications, children’s birth certificates, lease, yearly tax assessments, CV, etc.. You may need to have important documents officially translated into German, but wait to check which documents with your case worker as this could be expensive.
- If you have Jewish ancestry in Germany, this is another potential citizenship route.
What citizenship doesn’t cover: Qualification and Pensions
216 qualifications recognised EU wide, but not all. Unless you re-qualify for the German equivalent these may not be recognised. EU have guaranteed the status quo but the UK have not.
Audience statement: Anecdotal evidence that within Germany some employers do not recognise these qualifications despite EU recognition. Labour market not catching up to regulations.
Pensions – Currently there’s an aggregated pension system EU-wide which acts as though you have only worked in one country, total pension contributions in each country added to your total. Not guaranteed this will continue past what you’ve currently accumulated regardless of what citizenship you hold.
- Be wary of a future pensions crisis
Audience question: 10 years in Germany and 10 years in the UK, are these all added together? Yes, Jane has held jobs in several countries and these are all treated as if you’ve worked in one country and totalled together.
- No-one will forced out overnight or told to leave within 48 hours. Even in the worst case scenario, there will be some type of grace period or time frame to get a residency permit or leave.
- Types of arrangements that currently exist that could be copied after negotiations:
– EEA (European Economic Area) members such as Iceland, Norway or Lichtenstein do not require a residency permit to have access to the German labour market
– Swiss have a Swiss Residency permit that is relatively easy to obtain
– Canada, NZ, Australia and U.S. have special arrangements with Germany to obtain
residency permits more easily than other nationals, but this is not ‘easy’ to get. One must
prove direct economic benefits for Germany, a place at a university or language school, or
other concrete reasons why it is necessary to live in Germany
Start of the negotiations last week
- Details on deal will be announced on Monday and given to Parliament. We should hold reservations until then.
- As it stands from what we know, the deal for EU and UK citizens could not be considered ‘generous’.
We are asking for the status quo of citizens rights to be accepted, to keep what they have now.
German with British Citizenship
Audience Question: Gained British Citizenship in 2011, going back to the UK would I have the same rights?
- You won’t lose any rights as a British citizen of German nationality if you went back to the UK
- If an EU national with dual citizenship you will be able to keep both after Brexit
- British nationality can’t be given up.
- [On if your status will affect your children’s dual citizenship] Your citizenship status will have no effect on the current dual citizenship status of your children.
- While the UK is in the EU dual citizenship in Germany will be allowed. After it is very unclear. Tia was able to keep her US citizenship as she proved an ‘exceptional reason’ as to why she had to. This will vary from person to person.
Worst case scenario on a bad EU-UK deal?
- EU has a Common Immigration Policy with an option for Long Term Residence after 5 years.
Right to vote in the UK while living in Germany
- It is unlikely that the UK law will change regarding expats losing the right to vote after 15 years outside of the country.