BERLIN (AP) — Germany saw a 28% increase in the number of people gaining its citizenship last year, with people from Syria accounting for more than a quarter of those who were naturalized, official data showed Tuesday.
Preliminary figures show that about 168,500 people were granted German citizenship in 2022, the Federal Statistical Office said. That was the highest number since 2002.
Of those, 48,300 — or 29% — were Syrian citizens. That was more than double the previous year’s figure and seven times as high as in 2020, as increasing numbers of people who migrated to Germany between 2014 and 2016 fulfill the requirements for citizenship.
Those include a working knowledge of German and proof that they can support themselves financially.
In principle, there is a requirement for people to have lived in Germany for at least eight years, though that doesn’t apply to spouses and children. It can be reduced to six years for people who show “special integration accomplishments” such as very good knowledge of the language, professional achievements or civic engagement. There were 23,100 such “early” naturalizations last year, nearly twice as many as in 2021 and 60% of them Syrians.
Turkish citizens were the second-biggest group of people gaining German citizenship last year — 14,200 of them, a 16% increase compared to 2021, and with an average of more than 24 years living in Germany.
The statistics office said that 5,600 Ukrainians gained German citizenship last year, nearly three times as many as the previous year. They had spent an average 13.3 years in Germany, compared with 6.4 years for their Syrian counterparts.
Germany’s socially liberal government plans to ease the rules for obtaining citizenship, reducing to five years from eight the number of years people are supposed to live in the country before gaining a German passport. People with “special integration accomplishments” would be eligible after three years.
The government also plans to ax restictions on holding dual citizenship. In principle, most people from countries other than European Union members and Switzerland currently have to give up their previous nationality when they gain German citizenship.
Conservative and far-right opposition parties have assailed those plans. It isn’t yet clear when parliament will consider them.
Germany has about 84 million inhabitants.