The UK’s decision to leave the European Union will bring big changes for many. For Germans citizens in the UK, options for acquiring British citizenship or re-settling in the UK at a later date are likely to be impacted significantly.
Although the post-Brexit situation is not yet clear, for Germans in the UK holding German-British dual citizenship is likely to get a lot more difficult, or perhaps impossible for some.
What’s the issue?
Historically, a German citizen who naturalised in another country would automatically lose German citizenship. However, since 28th August 2007, German citizens can acquire the citizenship of another EU country or Switzerland without automatically losing their German citizenship.
Since that time German citizens could become British citizens through naturalisation or registration without any impact on their German citizenship.
However, since the triggering of Article 50, the United Kingdom is set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. With the UK no longer in the EU, the exception to the loss of German citizenship will no longer apply unless specific arrangements are made by the German government.
The German Foreign Office recently presented a draft law on the acquisition of German citizenship for British nationals in Germany during the transition period — but to date there have been no similar proposals for Germans living in the UK.
Therefore, as it stands, German citizens who wish to naturalise in the UK would subsequently lose their German citizenship if they acquire British citizenship on or after Brexit-day, which is now fewer than 240 days away.
What can be done?
If you are a German citizen in the UK and meet the requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen, there’s still time to gain British citizenship before the UK leaves the EU. This would guarantee your right to UK-German dual citizenship.
However, this process takes several months — and the clock is ticking. Those who do not start the process soon may miss the deadline and the opportunity to secure UK-German dual citizenship.
Applying for British citizenship after Brexit
It will still be possible for German citizens to naturalise in the UK after Brexit. However, German citizens who wish to acquire another citizenship from a non-EU country can only avoidlosing German citizenship through receipt ofan official government permission to retain their German citizenship (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung). Applying for a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung requires a well-presented argument and relevant evidence to convince the German authorities togrant you such permission.
Moreover, the Beibehaltungsgenehmgung is only valid for two years. It would be essential to obtain British citizenship within this time frame to prevent the automatic loss of German citizenship.
Currently, the average processing time for such applications is between four or five months if all required documents are complete. However, waiting timesare expected to increase significantly after Brexit due to greater demand.
As the UK is still in the EU, it is not yet possible to apply for a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung when applying for British citizenship. Therefore it is impossible to “pre-emptively” apply for a Beibehaltungsgenehmigung before Brexit for an application made after Brexit.
What does Passportia recommend?
The decision to naturalise is a personal one and your own specific circumstances must be carefully considered.
Advantages include a totally indefinite and unrestricted right to live in the UK, as well as a second passport if dual UK-German citizenship is acquired.
Unlike settled status or Indefinite Leave to Remain, British citizenship does not lapse after a period of absence. (Two years for Indefinite Leave to Remain, and a proposed five years for those with settled status.) In other words, a British citizen is free to return to the UK after any period time, allowing greater freedom for study, work or retirement abroad while leaving the option of re-settling in the UK open — forever.
Potential complications must also be taken into account. Before naturalising in the UK a German citizen would need to consider how this will affect derivative residency rights for family members and relatives. This is a complicated area of law. We recommend seeking the advice of an OISC-regulated advisor or other qualified immigration practitioner.
If you do wish to naturalise in the UK, and want to ensure that you do not lose your German citizenship in the process, we advise consulting a qualified immigration and nationality advisor as soon as possible to find out if you qualify and to ensure your application will be successful on the first attempt.
In any case, it is important to take full advantage of the time remaining before Brexit.