German 'naturalisations' fall as Brexit effect fades

An anti-Brexit activist demonstrates as British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet to discuss Brexit, at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 9, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

BERLIN, May 26 (Reuters) - The number of foreigners who obtained German nationality last year fell by 15% to 109,900, and half the decline was due to fewer British nationals becoming citizens of Germany, the Federal Statistics Office said on Wednesday.

Worried about losing the right to live and work across the European Union, many Britons living in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, rushed to apply for German citizenship before Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 last year.

Britons could take up dual citizenship while Britain was still an EU member, and Germany allowed them to retain their British citizenship on applications accepted up to the end of a Brexit transition period that ended on Dec. 31, 2020.

"However, given the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, many Britons seeking naturalisation had applied earlier," the Statistics Office said in a statement.

In the five years since the 2016 Brexit referendum, a total of 36,500 Britons have naturalised in Germany, the Office added. In 2020, the number fell to 4,900 from a peak of 14,600 in 2019.

Britons usually need to have lived in Germany for eight years to qualify for citizenship. Applications often take more than six months to process.

Excluding Britons, naturalisations fell 8% from 2019 as the coronavirus pandemic meant authorities were able to process fewer applications, the Office said.

Turks remained the largest group of naturalised citizens in Germany.

Writing by Paul Carrel Editing by Gareth Jones

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