Will Germany Allow Dual Citizenship with The UK After Brexit?
If you are a British national planning to acquire German citizenship, or a German national wishing to apply for British citizenship, you may be unsure how Brexit will impact on your ability to hold dual citizenship. Germany is one of a few countries in the EU, including Austria, Estonia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands which places strict controls on dual citizenship. In this article, we will review how the UK’s full departure from the EU at the end of the 2020 Brexit transition period will impact on dual German UK citizenship.
What Is the German Government’s Policy on Dual Citizenship?
According to the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community, as defined in the countries Nationality Act, dual citizenship is only permitted in limited circumstances:
“In certain cases, German nationality law allows its citizens to have or acquire an additional citizenship. Multiple nationality may result from the following situations: As a rule, children born to a German and a non-German parent, or to parents with dual nationality, acquire the nationalities of both parents at birth, according to the principle of descent.
Ethnic German repatriates and family members admitted with them acquire German citizenship when they are issued a repatriate’s certificate, in accordance with Section 7 of the Nationality Act; they do not have to give up their previous citizenship. If allowed by their countries of origin, their children born in Germany then acquire at birth both German citizenship and that of their parents. In certain cases, German citizens may apply for dual nationality, allowing them to acquire foreign citizenship while retaining their German citizenship”.
One of these cases is being an EU citizen; “Given the aim of increasing European integration, EU citizens are not required to give up their previous citizenship. According to Section 25 para. 2 of the Nationality Act, Germans who become naturalized citizens of another EU country may retain their German citizenship”.
When the UK was part of the EU, this policy applied. However, at the start of 2020, the UK left the EU and entered the Brexit transition period.
The German Transitional Brexit Act
Germany brought into force the Transitional Brexit Act on 1st February 2020 with the aim of providing greater clarity and certainty for federal law during the transitional period. Part of this Act makes it clear that during this period, the policy on allowing dual citizenship for EU nationals still remains. The Federal Foreign Office website explains this further, “The Act also includes a provision to help British and German citizens who apply for citizenship of the other country before the end of the transition period. Under this provision, they will be allowed to retain their original citizenship even if the decision on their naturalisation is made after the end of the transition period. In such cases, dual citizenship will be tolerated under certain conditions”.
This means that as long as you acquire dual UK-German citizenship before the end of 2020, you will be able to keep this right and you will not be required to choose one citizenship over the other.
What Will Happen After the Brexit Transition Period Has Ended?
If you plan to apply for British citizenship or German citizenship after 31st December 2020, then, under German law, you may have to renounce one or the other. As such, it is advisable to try to acquire citizenship before the transition period comes to an end.
Is It Worth Becoming a German Citizen If I Will Have to Renounce My British Citizenship?
This is very much a personal decision. If you currently live in Germany as a British national, you will be able to remain under the terms of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. The explanatory text accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement makes this clear, “Those protected by the Withdrawal Agreement who have not yet acquired permanent residence rights – if they have not lived in the host state for at least five years – will be fully protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and will be able to continue residing in the host state and acquire permanent residence rights in the host state also after the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU. EU citizens and UK nationals arriving in the host state during the transition period will enjoy the same rights and obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement as those who arrived in the host state before 1 February 2020”.
So, while a UK citizen living in Germany will have their residence status protected, they will not enjoy the same rights as German (or other EU) citizens who will be able to continue to move freely within the EU. This will be a difficult decision for some; do you relinquish your British citizenship in order to gain full access to the EU as a German and EU citizen? Or do you protect your British citizenship, have the right to reside in your host nation, but lose your free and unfettered access to the EU. Factors such as family connections and future plans will no doubt play a large part in making this very important decision. For this reason, as previously stated, if you can apply for German citizenship before the end of the transition period, this would give you the best of both worlds – British and German citizenship, and the right to live, work, and study in any other EU country.
The decision of the UK to leave the EU has placed many British and EU nationals in a very difficult position. The rules preventing German dual citizenship certainly add to the complexity of the situation and will make decision making regarding future plans all the more difficult. If you need to discuss your situation and that of your family, it is advisable to speak to an immigration lawyer
who will be able to clarify your position and explain any other options you may not have considered.