Assessing the Consequences of the 1999 German Citizenship Act

in German Politics and Society

This special issue of German Politics and Society offers a retrospective look at

the German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz, StAG), which passed in

1999 and came into force in 2000.1 The law was and continues to be understood

by many academics, policymakers, and lay commentators as constituting

a “paradigm shift” in German citizenship policy and, by extension,

prevailing conceptions of German nationhood. The introduction of the law

of territory (jus soli), in particular, was greeted as a welcome acknowledgement

of Germany’s de facto status as a modern immigration country. Children

born and raised in Germany would no longer be rendered permanent

foreigners as a consequence of the dominance of the law of descent (jus sanguinis)

in the Reichs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (RuStAG), 1913. Proponents

assumed that the reduction of the residency requirement for naturalization

would also allow greater numbers of long settled immigrants to assume the

rights and privileges of German nationality. Just as importantly, Germany

would join the European mainstream as regarded citizenship policy. The

stigma associated with its traditionally ethnic conception of nationhood

would give way to a more positive, civic identity.

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