Keep Calm and Also Your Citizenship – Brexit and Dual Citizenship

Brexit has many consequences which we will probably not fully understand for some years. One of the most unpleasant consequences, which is already clear today, is the loss of EU citizenship for all Britons. UK nationals are no longer EU nationals and lose their right to freedom of movement.

With EU citizenship, the islanders also lose the possibility of dual citizenship. Nationals of EU Member States may hold other EU citizenship in addition to their own. EU nationals who become naturalised in Germany therefore do not have to give up their previous nationality. They can have several EU citizenships. UK nationals no longer have this privilege after the Brexit – it is now “either or”.

But not quite yet: although the UK left the EU at the beginning of the year, there is still the possibility for UK nationals to make use of the dual nationality privilege until the end of the year. This is made possible by the Brexit transition arrangements: Under Section 3 of the German Brexit Transitional Act of 27 March 2019, the obligation to renounce one’s UK nationality is waived when naturalising a UK national in Germany if the application for naturalisation is submitted by 31 December 2020 and if the “other naturalisation requirements” – including the naturalisation and language tests – have been fulfilled by then. The Berlin district offices inform that, in addition to the actual application, all proofs and documents must be submitted by the end of the year. In order to meet the deadline, the application must therefore be fully “ready for decision”.

Many British people living in Germany will not yet have made use of this option. Although the Brexit has been fixed since 2016, who would not have hoped that a different outcome could be found after long wrangling, multiple changes of government and tough EU negotiations? Unfortunately, that did not happen. So while the dispute over fishing grounds continues, you must now hurry: Those who want to become German and do not want to lose their UK citizenship must submit their application (including documents!) to the relevant citizenship authority by 31 December 2020. The authorities provide information about the application procedure – usually there is a separate form and information sheets on the necessary documents – on their websites.

In addition to maintaining the dual nationality privilege, British citizens living in Germany should also take care of their residence status. Until the end of the transitional period on 31 December 2020, UK citizens will retain their status as EU citizens (§ 1 German Brexit Transitional Act) and will therefore not need a residence title in Germany. However, this will change in the new year. From 2021 on, UK nationals will need a German residence title – presumed they have not already been naturalised. If such a permit has not yet been applied for, it is unlikely that the residence authorities will grant it this year. The procedure regularly takes several months. In order to avoid a gap in the residency status, the Land Berlin has introduced an online procedure which allows British citizens living in Berlin to register by the end of the year in order to secure their residence status from 1 January 2021 on. Once registered, the status is also considered secured if application cannot be submitted until next year. British people not living in Berlin should contact their local residence authority if they wish to continue living in Germany and secure their status for this purpose.

(27 November 2020)