Warm welcome gives rise to new citizens

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 October, 2007, 12:00am

Germany's liberal and cosmopolitan society is making it an ideal place to live for people who want to adopt the European Union's most populous member state as their homeland.

According to German government figures on naturalisation, the number of people who became German citizens rose sharply last year for the first time in several years.

The Federal Statistical Office reported that 124,830 people were naturalised in Germany last year. It was a 6.5 per cent rise over the previous year.

The peak year for people becoming naturalised Germans was 2000, when almost 186,700 obtained citizenship.

At the start of the new millennium, new regulations went into effect that eased requirements for foreign-born residents to become citizens.

As in previous years, Germans originally from Turkey made up the largest group of new naturalised citizens, 33,478, or 26.8 per cent, last year. Ethnic Turks have deepening roots in Germany: the first wave of post-war immigrants arrived from Turkey as guest workers invited by the government in 1961.

To a great extent Turks have assimilated into German society and this process is unfolding without any apparent loss of the minority's heritage or identity, as Friday attendance at many of the nation's Turkish-led mosques attests.

The group with the highest recorded increase of 'new' Germans hails from Israel. This number rose last year by no less than 50 per cent over the previous year to 4,313.

Also increasing sharply last year was the number of people from Europe's youngest nation-state, Montenegro, as well as their former-Yugoslav 'cousins' from Serbia.

Two-thirds of the people who became citizens last year were naturalised on the basis of the Nationality Act that went into effect in 2000. Under this act, to be eligible for naturalisation, a person has to have lived legally in Germany for at least eight years. However, applicants who have successfully completed a special government integration course are eligible for naturalisation after seven years.

Now that the German economy - Europe's largest - is humming again, demand for skilled workers from outside Germany is increasing, especially in the undersubscribed IT sector. At present, The German Information Technology Association estimates that 25 per cent of IT vacancies nationwide remain unfilled.

Labour shortages in the sector and elsewhere in the economy have led the government in recent years to adopt measures to encourage controlled immigration, especially for skilled workers. This is expected to give further impetus to the rising phenomena of non-Germans seeking German citizenship.

The German Immigration Act, which came into force on January 1, 2005, provides for highly qualified persons to be granted permanent residence and permission to work from the outset, rather than renew their five-year work permits as was previously the case. However, these professionals must have a concrete job offer in hand on arrival, and approval from the government's Employment Agency.

The act is also respectful of family life and the family unit.

Thomas Berns, a German engineer from the city of Cologne who resides in Tseung Kwan O, said: 'Speaking as a German and an outsider adapting in a Chinese society - and making a bit of effort with Cantonese - I see an increasingly globalised world. Like the rest of Europe, German society is adapting accordingly.'

He added that, 'the appeal of German citizenship arises from a number of factors, including having a society that greatly respects diversity, and one that rewards work, enterprise and initiative. Germany today is a multicultural country with a high quality of life'.