The number of Britons applying for a German citizenship last year was up by approximately 2,300% compared with the year before the Brexit referendum, driving up the number of naturalisations in the country to a 16-year high.
According to data released by the federal statistical office on Wednesday, the total number of citizenship applications granted in 2019 increased by 15% year on year to 128,900, with 14,600 granted applications from British citizens accounting for almost half the increase.
Since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, 31,600 Britons have acquired German citizenship. Most of them, the country’s office for statistics said, had chosen to keep their British passport, as remains possible during the transition period ending on 31 December 2020.
“Of those Brits that have managed to get a German passport, all of them reported Brexit as a key motivation,” said Daniel Tetlow, co-founder of the British in Germany association and co-author of a study by Oxford in Berlin and the Berlin Social Science Centre on the reasons behind British ex-pats choosing to become citizens of another country.
“For most of the people we spoke with, it didn’t mean any kind of rejection of Britishness but more the compliment of being British European. And it’s a plain insurance policy, a no-brainer for Britons who have their livelihoods here and want to continue to have the rights and freedoms that come with an EU passport.”
While Brits can try to apply for German citizenship after living in the country for six years, most of those who had been naturalised in 2019 had been away for the UK for longer: half of those who gained citizenship last year had been in Germany for more than 26 years.
They also tended to be older than those applicants with a Turkish, Polish or Syrian background: half of the Britons who applied for a German passport were aged above 54 years old. The oldest applicants were aged 90.
Tetlow said one of the reasons why the numbers of granted applications had risen so steeply was that German officials had also spotted the current circumstances as an opportunity to get British workers to commit to the country long term.
“One thing we have seen, for example, is German immigration offices committing more staff to deal specifically with British applications,” Tetlow said.
“There has been no schadenfreude on the part of German officials, just a lot of solidarity in spite of the tone of the political debate around Brexit.”
While the total number of people granted British citizenship over the same period were comparable, Germans in Britain appeared to be less reluctant to commit to a British passport. Out of 125,346 applications for naturalisation granted in the UK in 2019, only 3,269 were by German citizens.