Receiving Welfare at Old Age: Hindrance for Naturalization

The BVerwG decided on February 19, 2009 (re BVerwG 5 C 22.08) under which conditions a senior may not be excluded when this person needs welfare.

Welfare is a reason against granting citizenship to a foreigner according to the citizenship law (§10 I 1 no. 3 StAG). In this case, the applicant needed support due to too small of retirement benefits (Grundsicherung im Alter nach SGB XII wegen zu geringer Altersrente).

The plaintiff, born in 1942, came to Germany as an asylum seeker in 1991. After his entry, he was without employment and received welfare for himself and his family. Since 2007, he has been receiving a tiny old-age pension of € 121 and supplementary benefits for basic needs in old-age ("Grundsicherung im Alter") following SGB-XII. He vainly applied for German citizenship. The office denied it because the plaintiff's income was dependant on welfare and because he had caused his own dependency on welfare. He therefore sought legal recourse. §10 I 1 no. 3 StAG requires for naturalization that the applicant be able to sustain for himself and his family without needing welfare pursuant to SGB-XII.

The court obligated the office to naturalize the plaintiff. It held that dependency on welfare usually hinders naturalization. This is not only the case, when applicant for naturalization caused his dependency but also when, like the plaintiff, he requires even greater support. Since the plaintiff was not employed for several years, he is responsible for his neediness. However, not all past incidents are to be assigned to an applicant as harmful for naturalization purposes. It cannot be, that a long-time resident meeting all other requirements, will never have a chance for naturalization. In consideration of this, all circumstances must be weighed. Even though, all his actions are the formative reason for his or her dependency on welfare, such responsibility will be dispensed with after a relevant time lapse, rather like a statute of limitations. Considering that §10 I StAG requires eight years of residency, after six years the negative effect of dependency of welfare will not be taken into account anymore. This time for the "statute of limitations" should have lapsed latest, when the hearing closed.

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