Moving to Germany is an exciting adventure. It’s a place full of diverse people, and the opportunities are endless. There are gorgeous cities and beautiful nature. You will not regret moving there for a second. The downside is that you’ll have to jump a few hoops until you are settled in. Germany is known as a place with a lot of bureaucracy. It’s said to be a red-tape nightmare, so you’ll have to go through a few processes to stay in the country.

This article will simplify the procedures and show you how to get yourself a German residence permit.

What is a German Residence Permit?

If your only goal is to visit Germany for touristic purposes, you don’t have to fret about a residence permit. A tourist visa allows you to stay in Germany for about 90 days and explore the country and all it has to offer. Staying beyond the permitted 90 days is not possible though without a residence permit.

A German residence permit allows you to stay in Germany for a more extended period than only 90 days. During that time, you can study, work, or engage in other activities in the country.

But how do you know whether you need a residence permit? Except for people from EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein, all other foreign nationals need a residence permit to stay in Germany for more than 90 days.

Many foreign nationals will have to apply for the residence permit for Germany from their home countries or get a Schengen visa to enter Germany for 90 days. For some countries, though, it is possible to enter Germany without a visa during those first 90 days and apply for the residence permit from inside the country.

Visit the Do I need a Visa for Short Stays in Germany to determine whether you can go into the country without a Schengen Visa.

It should be noted that although each German residence permit involves different requirements, the expert immigration lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte provide comprehensive legal advice on all residence permit matters. Visit their German Immigration to Germany Information Center to find out more about the services they offer and contact them now if you want expert legal oversight when preparing your residence permit application.

Types of Residence Permit

Depending on your length of stay and the requirements you fulfill, there are various types of German residence permits. In general, three residence permits allow you to stay in Germany for different periods.

Temporary Residence Permit

As its name suggests, the Temporary Residence Permit or Limited Residence Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) is for shorter stays in Germany. When you get this type of residence permit, you can stay in Germany for one year only. However, it has the possibility of extension provided that your situation does not change and that you fulfill the requirements.

The Temporary Residence Permit is granted to foreign nationals if they have a specific reason for staying in Germany. When you apply for this type of permit, you state why you want to stay, and the card released to you specifies it. Afterwards, you cannot engage in an activity that your residence permit doesn’t allow. For example, if you apply for the temporary residence permit for studying, it will state that you can only study and not work. The other way around applies as well.

The temporary residence permit is the first type of permit that most foreign nationals get. It creates a basis for a more permanent stay in Germany. One of the requirements, then for the permanent permit is to have held the temporary permit for a specified period of time. Only those with exceptional cases can surpass this requirement.

There are many reasons that a person would want to have a temporary residence permit for Germany. Here we will outline the three most common ones. 

Employment Purposes

Finding a job in Germany qualifies you to get a temporary residence permit. You can initially start your job hunt from your home country, or you can get a Germany Job Seeker Visa to go and search for one within Germany. Either way, after you get an employment offer, you can apply for a temporary residence permit. You are not allowed to start working before you obtain the document.

You need to meet several requirements before being allowed to work in Germany with a residence permit. Some of them include German proficiency, and then you and your employer must prove that the job position could not be filled by other German citizens, EU citizens, or priority workers. Priority workers are those who have been in Germany for a longer time. Additionally, you must get approval from the Federal Employment Agency or Bundesagentur fur Arbeit.

After you get your approval and meet the requirements, you can apply for the residence permit. Your employment contract determines the period of time you are allowed to hold your permit. If your contract is for only two years, your permit will also be valid for two years. However, you can extend it as many times as you need as long as you maintain your employment status. 

Studying Purposes

Temporary residence permits are also given for students who will be completing an undergraduate, graduate, or vocational degree in Germany. They usually get the residence permit for the length of their program. During their education, they can work full time for 120 days or half-time for 240 days. Besides, they can engage in work-study positions. However, they cannot enter long term contracts.

After they finish their degree, students can extend their temporary permit for another 18 months to find a job in Germany. German authorities allow this since they want to retain educated people within the country. If the students find a job, they can then apply for an Employment Residence Permit. 

Marriage Purposes

Marrying a German citizen or a person who has a permanent residence permit in Germany allows you to stay in the country, but you will still need a residence permit. There is no single German residence permit through marriage, but this means that you will get your permit to stay in the country for family union purposes. Same-sex couples are also accepted in Germany and are eligible to obtain residence permits after they get married.

The requirements include a good grasp of the German language at a B1 level, and they are similar to the needs of other residence permits, which will be outlined below. The residence permit will be temporary, but after a few years of marriage (usually two years) and time spent in Germany (three years), the spouse becomes eligible to gain permanent residence.

During this time, the spouse can apply for permits that are for employment or study purposes. 

The EU Blue Card 

The EU Blue Card is similar to the Temporary Residence Permit, but it targets a specific group of people and has longer validity. The EU Blue Card is for foreign nationals of non-EU countries who are highly skilled in a profession and want to work in Germany. Highly qualified employees have completed a higher education degree, such as a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Those who are more likely to get the EU Blue Card have an IT or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) background.

To qualify for the EU Blue Card, the applicant must find a job in Germany, which allows them to practice the skills they have gained during their degree. The job must be in the same field as their educational qualifications. Additionally, their job should allow them to earn a minimum of 50,800 Euros annually, and they should have a high level of German proficiency.

The EU Blue Card is valid for four years, and those who have it can then immediately get permanent residence if they maintain their jobs. They qualify to get the permanent residence after 33 months, but if they know German sufficiently, they can get it after 21 months.

If you have an EU Blue Card, you can also bring your spouse to Germany. The spouse does not necessarily need to have German proficiency and can work after you receive your permanent residence.

To find out more about the EU Blue Card or for specific legal advice on an EU Blue Card issue, we recommend the EU Blue Card Lawyers from Schlun & Elseven.

Permanent Residence Permit

To be allowed to stay in Germany for as long as you want to, you need to get the German Permanent Residence Permit. A permanent residence permit is also called the Settlement Permit or in German, Niederlassungserlaubnis. With the permanent residence permit, you can work in Germany and travel in and out of the country whenever you need.

This permit is mostly given to people after holding the temporary residence permit for a few years or those with the EU Blue Card. They need to prove that they have worked for at least five years, that the Federal Employment Agency approved their job, and that they have paid the necessary taxes and contributions to the government. Additionally, the German language proficiency requirements are more stringent, so you will need to know more advanced German.

If you have a permanent residence permit, your children and spouse are allowed to join you. They will first get a temporary residence permit, and after a few years, will be able to get the permanent permit.

German Residence Permit Requirements

To be given any of the residence permits, you will need to fulfill a few requirements. Most of them will be the same, such as:

  • Have a valid passport from another country,
  • Not have a criminal record,
  • Be proficient in German in at least a B1 level,
  • Have German health insurance,
  • Pass a health check which proves you are healthy enough to work and/or study,
  • Be financially stable and support yourself and your family,
  • If you plan on working in Germany, you will need a letter from your employer with the job offer and description,
  • If you plan on studying in Germany, you will need proof that you have been admitted into a university,
  • If you plan on joining your spouse in Germany, you will need proof of marriage such as a marriage certificate.

If you have all these documents and fulfill the requirements, you can begin your application process.

However, we recommend contacting a German immigration lawyer such as the dedicated immigration law practice group at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte if you want peace of mind when making your application. Such professionals will ensure that your application follows the requirements and greatly increases the likelihood of a successful application.

Aufenthaltstitel: Unlike the previous permit that was attached to a passport page, the new eAT chip-card residence permit, issued in 2011, is a credit-card-sized plastic card with biometric data. PHOTO: bamf.de

How to Apply for German Residence Permit?

The steps to applying for a German Residence Permit are as follows. 

Register your German address

Whether you are applying from Germany within the first 90 days or from your home country, the first thing you must do is register your new German address with the authorities. Germany has this requirement, and you must fulfill it to be eligible for a residence permit.

If you don’t register your address, you could get fined, and your permit might be denied. After you complete this requirement, you will get a certificate which you can attach to your documents. 

Health Insurance and Bank Account

If you haven’t already arranged health insurance in Germany, you must do so before applying for the residence permit. Germany requires you to be insured and will rarely accept foreign insurance policies. So, get yourself coverage from a German company.

Additionally, to prove financial stability, you might want to open a German bank account and transfer your funds there. You will then get any financial bank statements and attach them to your other documents, to prove you can support yourself and your family. 

Fill an application form and set an appointment.

You can apply from your local immigration office, where you can go and pick up an application form. Besides getting the application form, you can also set up an appointment. The sooner you set your appointment, the better. The immigration offices in Germany are always crowded and the waiting time can long, so you might as well get an appointment soon to avoid surpassing your 90 days.

Attend your Appointment

On the day of your appointment, try to get there as early as possible. You will most likely have to wait even if your appointment has a set time. Make sure you have your document file with you, and you are not missing anything.

When your turn is up, you will have an interview of around 10 minutes. The officer will look at your document file, and if everything is fine, you will be sent home to wait for processing. If you are missing any documents, you will have to set another appointment and bring the additional ones.

Your residence permit request will need to be processed for around two to three weeks, and then you will get an answer. If you get your permit, you can stay in Germany for the length of time that it grants you. If you are denied, you might want to check out the reasons why that happened and try to improve your application the next time. To make sure that your application is free of any mistakes, we recommend working with the mentioned Immigration to Germany Team from Schlun & Elseven.

If, however, you want to get German citizenship, check out the How to become a German Citizen article.

Download Germany Visa Application Form

Please ensure that you complete the form in full, – please also print, sign and bring with you when attending your Visa appointment. Handwritten forms will not be accepted.