Getting your paperwork in order is perhaps the most stressful part of moving to Germany, but it doesn’t have to be as bad as you think! Knowing the tips and tricks will help you avoid common mistakes. Doing your research is always the best way to prepare. Read through our frequently asked questions to smoothly sort out all your bureaucracy, so you can get back to enjoying living and working in Germany.
What you need to know
Do I need to obtain any documents before I leave my country of origin?
EU citizens as well as citizens of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland do not need a visa to enter Germany. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and South Korea may enter Germany without a visa for a period of up to 3 months, and then apply for a residence/work permit to their visa once they are in Germany. Citizens of Andorra, Brazil, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino are legally allowed to obtain a visa and a residence permit after entering the country, but only if they are not seeking to undertake any type of paid employment.
Citizens of all other countries will be required to apply for a visa at their nearest German embassy before they enter the country. These could change, so be sure to confirm the individual requirements of your home country.
* Tip: citizens of Canada and the Korean Republic between the ages of 18-30 (18-35 for Canadians) can apply in their home country for a Youth Mobility or Working Holiday Visa for Germany before they leave their home country. This is an easy way to get started and gives you a year to live and work in Germany. If you are from Australia, Japan or New Zealand and between the ages of 18-30, you apply for this visa from within Germany. Check here for more info, or check with the German consulate in your home country.
How do I register my residence in Berlin?
Once you are in Germany and have found a place to live, you will need to register your residence. You officially have seven days of registering from when you first get permanent accommodation. This is the first step for many other bureaucratic necessities like getting a residence visa and a bank account.
To register for a residence registration number, at the registration office you will need to provide a valid passport and visa (if applicable), a copy of your rental agreement (or your landlord’s copy if you are renting a room), and a completed registration form. You will usually find these forms at the Bürgeramt itself.
Once you have submitted these documents, you will be given a confirmation form as proof of your registration (Anmeldebestätigung or Anmeldung). In the weeks that follow, you will also receive a further confirmation with your registration number by post at your personal address, and an income tax card if you are eligible for one. Your income-tax card will be used by your future employer to deduct your income and social security taxes once you have found a job.
* Please remember that you must notify the residence registration office of any subsequent change of address you may have within Germany!
To find your local residence registration office in Berlin please visit: http://www.berlin.de/buergeramt/.
- Special note for Berlin: The latest news on registering your residence in Berlin is that it is now very difficult to make an appointment online. All of the Bürgeramts in Berlin have switched to appointment only (whether they say so or not on their websites) but when you try to book an appointment, it is rare to find an open slot in the next two months. As an Anmeldung is essential for visa appointments and setting up a bank account, this can be a stressful situation. Our best advice is to check online early in the morning, in the first five minutes of the Bürgeramt opening, as canceled appointments are posted then. Alternatively, you can make an appointment in person, but the best is to arrive before opening hours. Try to be patient and polite!
To make an online appointment (online termin buchen) to register your residence please click on one of the following :
How do I get a residence visa for Germany?
If you are from one of the countries that can enter Germany without a visa (see “Do I need to obtain any documents from my home country” above) you have 90 days to stay in Germany before you need to get a residence visa. Once you are in Germany and have registered your residence, it is time to make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner's registration office). It is best to do this online, and book as soon as possible as appointments fill up months in advance. At your appointment, you will required to participate in a short interview, during which an official will look through your documentation. If all your papers are in order, your application can be processed immediately, and you will be given an official permit placed into your passport. If it cannot be issued right away, you will be provided with a certificate as evidence that you are awaiting your permit.
Visas are generally linked to the specific purpose of your stay in Germany and there are many different types, such as tourist visas, student visas, attending a language course, employment visas, etc. For more information on the different types of visas for Germany please visit the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
Whether you are applying at the embassy in your home country or from within Germany, you'll need similar information:
Visa Application Procedure:
- passport with 3 months validity beyond the end of the visa, with two blank pages available for the German visa.
- application form(s).
- 2 biometric passport photographs.
- evidence of adequate means of financial support during stay.
- evidence of medical insurance coverage.
- evidence of purpose of visit and / or a return ticket to your home country.
- letter from an employer or place of study. If you are self-employed this could be a letter from a solicitor, accountant, or bank manager.
If you are applying from within Germany you will also need a copy of your residence registration (Anmeldung) and a copy of your rental contract.
Please make sure that you double check the requirements on the website of your local German embassy and on the website of the foreigner’s registration office (Ausländerbehörde / LABO). You will find a list of German embassies worldwide here.
For the homepage of the foreigner’s registration office in Berlin please visit: http://www.berlin.de/labo/auslaender/dienstleistungen/
If you are applying in your home country, we highly advise that you make your visa application at least six weeks before your departure as it might take time for it to be processed.
Can you explain the different categories of residence permits I can get in Germany?
There are three different residence titles which you are likely to be granted as non-EU citizen residing in Germany. These are governed by the Ausländergesetz (Aliens Act) and generally depend on your reason for residence. The titles are the following:
Limited residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
This a permit granting only limited residence. The specific entitlements it grants, such as the right to employment or subsequent immigration of family members, in most cases depend on the purpose for which the permit was issued (e.g. employment, refugee status, temporary asylum). An aufenthaltserlaubnis in fact, does not automatically give you the right to work.
You may only take up paid employment if your residence permit expressly entitles you to do this. The immigration authorities will normally ascertain whether you fulfill the legal prerequisites for foreigners before they will issue you this permit. If you have fulfilled these, they will then request approval for employment on your behalf from the Federal Employment Agency. You will likely be granted approval only if the work position cannot be filled by a German, EU citizen or other employees who have been living in Germany for a longer amount of time, given that these categories are normally granted preferential treatment.
Unlimited settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis)
This permit will grant you permanent residence in Germany. It will provide you with the right to take up almost any form of paid employment automatically. You should therefore apply for an unlimited settlement permit as soon as you meet all the conditions required. In some cases, this might be some time after you are granted a limited settlement permit. Highly qualified people with specific skills or people with specific origins (e.g. Jews from the former Soviet Union) may be granted a niederlassungserlaugnis for political or professional reasons shortly after arrival.
In order to apply for a permanent residency permit, you will have to meet the following criteria:
- You must have possessed a limited residence permit for at least five years.
- You must provide proof of five years of employment in Germany (including payment of social insurance contributions).
- You must provide proof of your secure livelihood.
- You must give evidence that you can provide sufficient accommodation for you and your family in Germany.
- You must have a sufficient knowledge of German.
- You will have to give evidence of some basic knowledge of the German legal and social systems.
Permanent stay permit for the European Community (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt – EG).
The permanent residence permit for the European community is very similar to the permanent settlement permit. It will enable you to work and secure your permanent residency in Germany. Aside from permanent residence status it will also grant you the possibility of mobility within the European Community, and enable you to request limited residence permits in other countries at the same time.
*For more in depth information on other specific types of residence permits please visit:
How do I get a work permit in Germany?
Your application for a work permit in Germany is directly linked to your application for a residence permit for employment purposes. There will therefore be no need for you to apply for a work permit separately. If you are granted a limited residence permit, you might need to wait for the approval of the Federal Employment Agency before you will be officially permitted to undertake employment. (See What are the different types of residence permits I can apply for in Germany?).
What is the Blue Card EU (die Blaue Karte EU)?
The Blue Card EU, is a special type of EU residence permit which enables non-EU nationals to stay in Germany for a period of up to 4 years. To be eligible to apply for this permit, you will need to provide evidence of a university degree or a similar qualification and you will need to provide proof of an offer of employment in Germany. Your employment in Germany will have to be in accordance with your qualifications, and your salary must be above €47,600 gross per year (as of 2014).
You will be eligible to receive a permanent settlement permit after 4 years on your Blue Card EU, as long as you will be able to guarantee that you have paid your contributions to your annuity insurance. If you are able to demonstrate adequate knowledge of the German language (from level B1 upwards) you will be able to apply for a permanent residency permit after a period of only 21 months.
For further information on the Blue Card EU please visit: http://www.apply.eu
Will I be able to bring my family to Germany?
As a non-EU national, you will be able to bring your spouse and your children with you to Germany as long as you fulfill the following criteria:
- you hold a residence permit, i.e. you are a temporary or permanent residency holder and you are employed in Germany;
- You can provide accommodation for your family, i.e. you have rented accommodation in Germany which is large enough for your family to live in;
- You have sufficient funds to provide for your family;
- Your spouse is of legal age, i.e. your spouse is above 18 years of age.
* All EU nationals are automatically allowed to bring their family to Germany.
Can I apply to become a German citizen?
You will generally be entitled to apply for German citizenship as long as you are able to fulfill the following criteria:
- you have been a legal resident in Germany for a period of at least 8 years;
- you possess a valid residency permit;
- you can provide evidence that you can guarantee the livelihood of you and your family without the aid of social welfare and unemployment benefits (valid for those above 23 years of age);
- you can demonstrate adequate knowledge of the German language and culture;
- you can prove that you can abide by the principles of the German constitution;
- you will (in most but not all cases) give up your former citizenship.
* For further information in regards to acquiring German citizenship, please visit: http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/EN/Infoservice/FAQ/Staatsangehoerigkeit/Uebersicht.html?nn=479790
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