Dual Citizenship in Germany – Life with two Passports

Dual Citizenship in Germany - Life with two Passports
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Dual Citizenship is a frequently discussed topic in German politics, especially when elections draw near. Conservative and right-wing players in particular like to invoke debates on the matter in order to score with their constituents. In 2016, the continuing discussion on dual citizenship came back onto the table: First, in the summer after large-scale pro-Erdogan demonstrations in the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey in July. Second, after the CDU party conference in December. The delegates voted to reinstate the so-called “Optionspflicht” (option obligation) as a measure against terrorism. This law forces adolescent owners of two nationalities to decide for one of their passports between the age of 18 and 23. Even though Angela Merkel aims to preserve the status quo of the dual citizenship, the vote ignited the debate once more.

There is an unwritten principle in the German handling of multiple citizenships: it is to be avoided. The idea is to eschew legal complications. Nonetheless, the reality is a different one, as up to roughly 4% of Germans have at least two passports. I’m being so coy on the number, as the real figures are quite unclear as well, meaning Germany’s dual citizens have never been fully counted.

The legal Situation of Dual Citizenship in Germany

In Germany, a dual citizenship is allowed within the borders of the European Union. If all requirements for gaining German citizenship are fulfilled, the existence of a second nationality will be accepted. The legality of two passports, of course, depends on the respective laws in both countries concerned. I, for example, have a Danish as well as a German passport, which before September 2015 was only possible through a loophole in Danish law, but Denmark changed its policy on multiple citizenships and now I am officially allowed to keep both nationalities. Dual citizenship concerning Germany and a country outside the EU is a very different matter.

International Regulations

There are, for example, countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Morocco, or Tunisia, that basically don’t “let go” of their citizens, even if they take on another citizenship and have lived in another country for most of or all of their lives. If you are born to a German parent, you’ll automatically have German citizenship, whether you’ll keep the nationality of your other parent, depends on his or her country of origin. Since 2014, children of non-EU citizens born and grown up in Germany are allowed to keep their parents nationality as well, if they lived in Germany for at least 8 years until the age of 21, went to a German school for at least 6 years, graduated in Germany or have a German training certificate.

Political Motivation of depriving Citizens of their German Citizenship

So what is the CDU, in the person of Minister of the Interior, Thomas De Maizière, aiming at, when it speaks of depriving people (in this case Islamic terrorists) of their German citizenship and when it dwells on limiting the statutes on dual citizenship? To be clear: It is virtually impossible to lose German citizenship if it’s the only one you have. Thus, this threat is only addressing owners of at least two citizenships. In the case currently debated, the 677 people that reportedly went to Syria and Iraq to fight for Daesh that would concern roughly 170 persons. So, even though life would be undoubtedly harder for those people, it seems the De Maizière’s motives are driven by the hopes of appealing to its own right. Numerous other CDU-Politicians aim at abolishing dual citizenship once and for all.

In 2008, about half of all countries on earth allowed dual citizenship, confirming a trend that more and more nations were increasingly tolerant in the matter. Recent rises in right-wing populism and extreme conservatism across Europe and numerous other parts of the world might, of course, turn that trend around.

Getting married in Germany: A Primer

Getting married in Germany: A Primer
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If you are thinking about getting married in Germany, or if you are considering a civil partnership there, prepare yourself for some formalities that may be different from your home country.

Which public Authority is relevant for you Marriage?

In Germany, all marriages are handled by the local registry office (Standesamt)  located in the Town Hall (Rathaus) local to either you or your partner. You must be living in that locality (or, if using your partner’s locality, they must be living in that locality) for at least 21 days. You must go there and give notice of the impending marriage, so you go there ahead of when you want to get married; because the Standesamt might only be open for a few hours, it is prudent to check the hours of the office before you go.

Which Documents are needed to get married?

You will need to submit documentation to the Standesamt to prove that there are no legal impediments to the marriage – i.e., that if there were any previous marriages, they have been permanently dissolved through death or divorce, etc. Documentation varies (so again, prudent to check with your locality first!) but can include:

  • Passport
  • Official Statement of Residency (Meldebescheinigung )
  • Original long form birth certificate (with parents’ names)
  • Certificate of Free Status (Ehefähigkeitszeugnis) certifying both parties are single and legally free to marry

If you or your potential spouse has been married previously at all, additional documentation might be needed, such as the marriage certificates of any and all previous marriages, certificate of finality of divorce or death certificate, and so on. Note that a simple divorce decree might not be enough.

If one partner is under 18, parental consent is required for marriage, and so a statement of parental consent would be included in the documentation requirements for these cases.

Again, please check with the Standesamt beforehand to make sure you have what you need. Also be sure that in addition to the documents themselves, which have to be issued within the previous six months (so you might have to budget extra time into your schedule to make sure you can get any documents issued or re-issued as necessary from the appropriate authorities), all documents not already in German must be translated into German by a sworn translator.

Special rulings may apply to members of foreign (non-German) forces abroad, so please check with your home country for rulings and instructions. For example, if you work for the United States military in Germany, the US Department of State has further instructions for you here: http://germany.usembassy.gov/acs/getting_married/

However! Once the documentation has been processed, now you can get married. You must get married within six months of the documentation being processed, or else new documents (and more processing) will be required. Both partners must physically attend the civil wedding ceremony, which is held at the Standesamt local to one of the partners. There are wedding rooms kept for exclusive use for civil ceremonies and these rooms are quite lovely, often in the finer buildings in town, albeit they are careful to avoid any decorations that might be deemed too religious in nature.

As the ceremony is conducted in German, you might wish to have a translator present, depending on how fluent you are in German.

Most Germans do not have anything other than this civil ceremony; if you want to have a ceremony within your faith tradition, that must only occur after the civil ceremony.

A further note: civil marriages accord all the legal rights and obligations of marriage. While the documentation and procedure for registering the union are similar for same-sex unions (civil partnerships), legal rights – especially when it comes to sensitive issues like healthcare coverage, taxation, and adoption procedures – are not equal to each other, which are different than even some places in the European Union and may be different from laws in your home country. Please be aware these matters are still being discussed in German politics and in the courts, and make the best decision you can.

Types of Companies in Germany

Types of Companies in Germany
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OHG! This Guy listed different Types of Companies in Germany, you won’t believe what happened next…

When moving to Germany in order to work here, it might be helpful to know a little about the types of companies you might encounter. That’s why we thought we’d provide you with a short overview. When we speak of company types, we refer to the legal form. In Germany, we differentiate between individual companies or enterprises (Einzelunternehmen), private companies or partnerships (Personengesellschaften) and (stock) corporations (Kapitalgesellschaften). Let’s start with the individual enterprises.

Individual Enterprises

There is actually only one form of individual enterprise, which is surprisingly called: individual enterprise. This type of company is mostly interesting for free-lancers and single entrepreneurs such as artists or craftsmen. The advantage of this legal form is that you have full control over your business. But you are also completely and personally liable for it.

Individual Companies:

GbR

The Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts is the equivalent of a simple business partnership, basically at least two entrepreneurs working together. The bureaucratic challenges are limited when founding and running a GbR and you don’t need starting capital. The downside of the relative legal freedom is that every partner remains fully liable. The GbR is very popular among start-ups and founders.

PartG

The Partnergesellschaft is not seen as often as the GbR for example. It is specifically interesting for freelancers from different trades partnering up. The PartG is more complicated in terms of bureaucracy but offers advantages as well. The company can be registered and the company’s capital is liable before any personal responsibilities.

OHG

The Offene Handelsgesellschaft has a high esteem among credit institutions and business partners. The reason is that members of an OHG are personally liable for their businesses actions. Unlike the GbR, the OHG is entered into the commercial register.

KG

The Kommanditgesellschaft is made up of the general partner, who is leading the business, and the limited partners. The latter hold shares in the company but are only liable to the extent of those shares. Only the general partner is fully liable.

Corporations:

GmbH

The “Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, short GmbH, is probably the best-known type of company in Germany. It’s British or American equivalent would be the limited company. If you want to found a GmbH you need starting capital and are facing a number of bureaucratic hurdles, but are afterward not personally liable to the extent of the company’s capital.

GmbH & Co. KG

Similar to the KG, the Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung & Companie Kommanditgesellschaft is a company for entrepreneurs who need extended capital. The limited partners provide the minimum capital for the GmbH (25.000 €), which is the liable body of the company.

UG

The Unternehmergesellschaft is a version of the GmbH. This legal form is suitable for small companies especially. You need only a minimal starting capital (1 €). The company is liable to the extent of its assets, but to be granted a credit you often need private securities to back your application up.

AG

The Aktiengesellschaft is a stock company. Apart from the large corporations, the AG can be a feasible alternative for medium-sized-companies. In this case, the company is not a member in a stock exchange and the shareholders usually are employees or clients of the company. There have to be an executive board, as well as a supervisory board and to found an AG you need a starting capital of at least 50.000.

eG

The eingetragene Genossenschaft (registered cooperative) serves as a legal form for teams of company founders and for a means of cooperation for small and medium-sized companies. It has numerous similarities to the registered association.

Why are British Jews applying for German Citizenship?

Why are British Jews applying for German Citizenship?
© Pixabay

Almost Unthinkable – Jewish UK-Citizens apply for German Passports

Somewhat 72 years after the end of World War II, hundreds of Jewish British citizens are applying for a German passport and have a realistic chance of getting one. As that would absolutely be unthinkable in many Jewish communities around the globe, you’d have to be inclined to ask: why? Plus, how is that even possible?

But, let’s take a step back to the second biggest surprise of 2016, only trumped by the US-President, the Brexit. A year and a half later, the future of Great Britain is still very much unclear, but many people suspect that it won’t be too bright. Consequently, people think hard about what they can do to safeguard their situation. There are legitimate fears that the economic situation in the United Kingdom will deteriorate once Britain has effectively left the European Union. One thing that definitely is in danger, is the freedom to move about in Europe without having to worry about visa, enabling you to take a job anywhere without too much trouble. And for Jewish citizens of the UK, this is where it gets interesting.

The constitutional base for the Applications for German Citizenship

The German Grundgesetz, our constitution that was issued in 1949, includes an article (No 116) that allows for descendants of Jewish refugees in World War II to obtain the German citizenship. The law is related to rescinding of the German citizenship for all German Jews leaving the country, which came into effect in 1941. While the German Embassy in London received approximately 25 applications for citizenship per annum in recent years, there have been more than 500 new inquiries about the application process since the Brexit Referendum. Now, 500 people aren’t the world, but in relation to the specific group and its history, the development is quite remarkable. The German Embassy is not the only one with increased application numbers. The same goes for the Embassies of Austria and Poland.

Still, for many Jewish People taking up German citizenship is unthinkable. Germany is after all the scene of the worst slaughter of Jews ever witnessed. And when you’re parents or grandparents have been its victims, 72 years is actually not that long ago. Even if a German passport wouldn’t mean that people would actually have to or want to live in Germany, for a lot of Jewish people the idea must be somewhat befuddling. But for some of the Jewish people applying for a German passport, it’s about more than keeping their personal options open. It’s also about Europe – a structure that was at least in part created to make war in Europe impossible, which it does, within limits. To some, it is even about reconciliation.

German Jewish Communities are growing and could be welcoming new Members

Interestingly enough, there are growing Jewish communities in Germany. Especially Berlin and other larger cities have had an influx of Jewish people from Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. In recent years, particularly the capital has seen a rising number of young Israeli moving in. There are a couple of Jewish organizations from the different streams, counting more than 100.000 members, a number which has rapidly grown from roughly 30.000 in 1989. The last 60 years witnessed the building of more than a hundred Synagogues and Jewish community centers. One can certainly say that there has been a return of Jewish life to Germany to some extent. Thus, British Jews actually coming to Germany would not even be early adapters.

So, whether it might be for practical reasons or to reconcile with their own and with our German past, there is a strong possibility that we’re able to welcome a few more Jewish Germans in the near future. As an advocate of transculturality, I think that’s amazing.

Germans obliged to take integration test – Re-education upon failure

Germans will be obliged to take integration test – Re-education upon failure

Germans obliged to take integration test - Re-education upon failure
(c) EvgeniT via Pixabay

 

Today, the German office for migration and refugees (BAMF) published a report which admitted a partial failure of their current approach of teaching migrants and refugees the German language and culture via so-called Integration Courses (Integrationskurs). Yet the problem doesn’t lie on the side of the migrants, but rather on the side of the culture they seek to integrate in.

 

90% of Germans would fail an integration test

“Those who have created these integration courses especially the part where participants are supposed to learn about the German culture, social life, history and politics must have lived in a different Germany that anyone we interviewed. We asked about 2000 Germans the same questions course participants have to answer and 90% would have failed that same test,” said the head of intercultural studies at Viadrina University Frankfurt Oder, Prof. Dr. Hans Deutschendorf. “It almost sounds like an April Fool’s Joke,” he continues, “but we simply can’t ignore the evidence any longer.”
Ironically about 92% of the migrants pass that test (see official statistics of the BAMF here).
As a consequence the BAMF in cooperation with the ESF (European Social Fund) have worked out a new approach to optimize the integration process: All Germans citizens (18 and above) will be obliged to take the same integration test migrants have to take.

“We can’t have a situations where migrants end up to be the better Germans,” states Dr. Willer Nixsagsehör of the BAMF. It’s time the citizens of this country brush up their knowledge about the culture they expect others to learn about.

 

Political and Social Re-Education of Native Germans

Those who fail the test, will be obliged to spend 100 hours in so-called re-integration processes (Re-Integrationsprozess or short: RIP). That’s how many classroom-hours current integration course participants have to spend to learn everything relevant about the German culture therefore it should be more than enough for native Germans. Those courses can be taken in the evenings or on the weekends after work hours and will last between 3-6 months.

 

Proper Language trainings

It has become also blatantly obvious that High German, the language that is being taught in current integration courses and that ironically is even being used to teach German in those courses, is only spoken by about 3,14% of the German population (that’s pretty exactly the exact number of citizens of Hannover the capital of Lower Saxony). Though through some miraculous circumstance most Germans understand each other even in extreme situations (check this seemingly miraculous example of inter-dialectal communication) it would be humanly impossible for anyone to learn all 250 remaining German dialects. The new initiative therefore aims at making regular High German training obligatory for those who fail their High German oral exam which will be conducted via various institutions like the Goethe Institut or the Volkshochschulen over the coming ten years with all German citizens born after 1945. Participants will be randomly assigned to their exams so some Germans might still have a couple of years before they will have to face re-education. “We hope that everyone will take matters into their own hands and start brushing up on their language skills voluntarily.”

 

Heavy support from the EU

While the budget of approximately 600 billion EUR (that’s approximately 1000 EUR per German citizen) for the next ten years might seem steep at first glance, the economical benefit of a better integration on both sides and of fewer language related issues among Germans themselves will soon make up for this investment. The European Union is also heavily funding this project with 75% of the costs which is no surprise as Germany is the EU’s strongest link.

 

Similar consequences as for migrants

Those who fail their re-integration process, will have to face grave consequences e.g. loss of voting rights and continuous re-education until passing the test. “In a democracy we can’t have people vote, who have no clue why and what they actually vote for.”, says Prof. Deutschendorf. He continues: “We also think that the Germans will become more empathetic with migrants that had and still have to go through the same experience, especially when they realize how irrelevant this kind of knowledge actually is and when they are subsequently threatened with harsh consequences.”

Currently integration course participants might face shortenings of their already rather limited state welfare or non-prolongation of their right to stay.

 

Merkel welcomes new approach

Woman chancellor Merkel welcomes this initiative and, setting a good example, is already participating in one of the first model re-integration courses herself together with her favorite party member Horst Seehofer of the CSU, hoping to pass her test by the end of her current term. “I wouldn’t bet my house on Horst passing though”, Merkel said only half-jokingly.

Beam of hope for German citizens

We at smarterGerman are already developing a course for German natives to help them pass their Integrationstest with flying colors and to become better citizens of this beautiful Merkelocracy. How is your German today? Can you already answer the following questions from the final test of current integration courses? Give it a try. The questions are in German of course.

TEST: COULD YOU INTEGRATE INTO THE GERMAN CULTURE (CLICK HERE)?

 

 

Racist Germans soon Obliged to take ASSimilation Courses

german integration courses
© fgmsp via Pixabay

Germany is Reacting to Growing Population

In 2016, Germany welcomed 2.136.954 immigrants and said good bye to 997.552 emigrants (https://de.statista.com/themen/46/einwanderung/). That left a net influx of 1.139.403 people mostly from other cultures (some were Germans returning to their roots)

To guarantee a successful integration of all new citizens, the BAMF (Bundesamt für Migräne und Flüche) has been working on a new edict according to which “difficult” natives are obliged to take so called assimilation courses (short: ASS, not kidding, Ass (n) means ace in German), so Klaus Besserwisser, unofficial spokesperson of the BAMF today. All chambers agreed unanimous that the edict will be become effective today on the first of April 2017.

 

Assimilation for a Better Understanding

The assimilation courses will last 7 months and teach participants the basics (B1) in either High Arabic or the Romanian language as well as the basics of the chosen culture as most immigrants in 2016 came from these countries.

In only 3.5hrs per day participants will study the language and culture of Germany’s newest inhabitants. Highly educated natives as well as common folks from various Arabic countries and from different regions in Romania will teach them everything there is to know about their cultures, values and religions. 
The lessons will be held exclusively in the target language to simulate the pain migrants experience when sitting in integration courses. This way Besserwisser hopes to strengthen the empathy on side of the native Germans who at times struggle heavily with adapting to the changes that meeting new people evokes.

With this approach the BAMF hopes to reduce the gap between native Germans and new German inhabitants and is confident to have found a good addition to the already existing Integration Courses.

Both Sides need to come Closer Together

Integration Courses oblige current migrants to study the German language up to level B1 within 7 months and only 3 hours of study time per day. To make sure they get the most out of this opportunity, participants have to sign in and sign out every single day they attend. They are also lucky to be able to participate in a two week crash course on German politics, culture, religion, society and basic legal matters. In the last decade this approach has been proven to provide immigrants with a solid foundation of cultural knowledge and confident language skills. As many as 60% of course participants pass their B1 exam at the end of an Integration Course which Besserwisser contributes to the outstanding performance of institutions conducting those courses and the genius idea to teach the German language by only using German so that every course participant understands equally nothing and doesn’t feel behind the other participants.

Like in the integration courses, the group size of the new assimilation courses is usually limited to 30 students only and while attendance is voluntary for most native Germans, Germans who have been noticed for racist slurs e.g. on Facebook, Twitter or in public are obliged to participate. The BAMF plans to arrange a special social media task force whose sole task will be to scan the internet for hateful and racist posts and comments to make sure the ASS-courses are filled accordingly. This way Besserwisser says, the courses will become profitable within the next 24 months.

A Win-Win Situation

At the end of the ASS-course participants will take a language exam on level B1 and a multiple choice test with 33 questions (out of 365) about politics, culture, religion, history and society of the culture they have chose.

Successful participants will be granted amnesty in case they had been convicted or a free hand enlargement operation to better cope with their inferiority complex. Voluntary participants will receive the infamous German “feuchter Händedruck”, literally: a wet handshake for their efforts as it is already tradition with all those teachers in integration courses all over Germany.

What to do when your passport gets stolen?

What to Do if Your Passport Gets Lost or Stolen
© Pixabay

To add to the already stressful situation of losing your passport, you may not know what to do when you lose it in another country. Admittedly, there is some variance based on what your country of origin is, and where you may have lost your documents (or had it stolen), but these are some tips you can follow.

In any case, it is a good practice – even if you still have your passport! – to retain a photocopy of the first page of your passport for your records. Store this copy in a safe place. This way, if your passport does get lost or stolen, you can more easily replace it (see Step 3).

First: Inform local Authorities, if possible.

Second: Inform your nearest Embassy/Consulate of your Country of Origin.

For the second step, obviously this depends on your country of origin, but the procedure for nationals and permanent residents of the United States of America is outlined here  and the government of the United Kingdom encourages people to cancel their passport at once to avoid identity fraud.

Third: Go through the Process to replace your Passport.

This process may vary, but the embassy/consulate you contacted in Step 2 will be able to help you. For US citizens, the documents you might need in order to replace a lost or stolen passport might include:

  • Police report, if available
  • Evidence of US citizenship (birth certificate, copy of existing passport)
  • Identification
  • Travel itinerary, if relevant

These are just some of the documents you may need, but because of these, it is a good plan to keep photocopies of important identification documents in a safe place in case a situation like this does arise. If you are a UK citizen in Germany, you may also want to check this page.

If you are a member of armed forces abroad, special requirements and procedures may apply. Again, check with your embassy/consulate, and also the branch of the armed forces to which you belong, for assistance.

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