A record number of Britons became German citizens last year as a direct consequence of the Brexit referendum, according to Germany’s federal statistics office.
It said 2,865 Britons took German citizenship last year – a 361% increase. “The link to Brexit seems clear,” said Destatis.
It added that never before had so many Britons become Germans. “This is the highest ever level of registered British citizens,” the office said.
The number is expected to be considerably greater next year, as most Britons applying for a German passport did so only after the referendum and most applications take from six months to a year to process.
On average, new citizens – regardless of their origin – are 33 years old and have been living in Germany for 17 years. It is unusual for EU citizens to apply for German citizenship. On average, only 1.6% of all applications that are granted come from EU countries. But UK citizens, making up 3.9% of overall citizenships granted in 2016, alongside Romania (7.8%) and Bulgaria (6.3%), are among exceptions to the rule.
A total of 110,400 foreigners took up German citizenship last year, a 2.9% rise on the previous year. The largest group came from Turkey, although the total of 16,290 was down 17.3% from last year.
Anyone who has lived in Germany for eight years or has been married to a German for six, is eligible for citizenship. Applicants have to take a general knowledge and language test to prove they are competent German speakers, as well as paying a €250 fee.
Also eligible are those who can prove they, their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were expelled from Germany or murdered by the Nazis during the second world war. They are not obliged to take the tests.
Britons can maintain their dual citizenship indefinitely, as long as they are granted German citizenship while Britain is still a member of the EU.
Concern – which was already rife among Britons living and working in EU countries about the effect on their lives if Britain were to leave the single market and reject freedom of movement – has been compounded by last week’s UK general election result.
Now that Theresa May has lost her overall majority in parliament, there is even more confusion about what kind of Brexit deal might be reached.
Other EU countries including Ireland, Sweden, Italy and Denmark have reported similar spikes in applications from Britons.
Applicants say their main motivation has been to secure proper status in the EU, including harnessing the advantages of membership of the bloc, before Brexit. There are about 100,000 Britons living in Germany.