Berlin - This will come as no shock to many of you: Immigrants hoping to become German have to wait up to two years, though it's good practise for one of the biggest scourges of Europe's most populous country: bureaucracy.

Immigrants hoping to be naturalised in Pankow must wait up to 6 months for confirmation that their application has been received while those in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg have to be patient for a measly 10 days.

The entire process also takes longest in Pankow with an average wait of between one-and-a-half to two years until an applicant's Olympic uniform would bear the black, red and gold bars of the German flag.  

Fewer naturalisations, longer wait

The citizenship statistics are thanks to a Berlin government inquiry made by politician Cornelia Seibeld (CDU). The conservative politician said she was puzzled by a disconnect between the reasons for delays and the number of naturalisations performed by each borough.

The Berlin government, known as the Senat, said the delay is often due to wait times as applicants renounce their old citizenship. Other reasons given for the delays are efforts to confirm an applicant's identity, waiting for "the cooperation of applicants" and, if necessary, waiting for responses from criminal authorities such as prosecutors and the polizei.

Seibeld didn't discount the explanations but said it did little to clarify why it takes up to two years in Pankow, up to 20 months in Zehlendorf-Steglitz but only four months in Mitte or three-to-six months in Treptow-Köpenick to get naturalised.

Despite being responsible for the longest road to citizenship, Pankow hosted just 481 naturalisations last year. Meanwhile Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg welcomed the most new citizens in 2020 with 850, where the process averages just 12 months.

We could use some help

Seibeld says Berlin has to do better and was disappointed that several boroughs couldn't provide any information at all. 

State officical Aleksander Dzembritzki (SPD) couldn't even say how many applications were approved as well as how many of those actually led to citizenship. The figures are also only collected in the boroughs, not centrally. 

The leafy southern borough of Steglitz-Zehlendorf was the only one to give an explanation as to why the process seems to get longer every year: lack of employees.