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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 though is that until you are settled in, you’ll have to jump a few hoops. 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 be able to stay in the country.

This article will simplify the procedures and will show you how to go about getting 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 allowed 90 days is not possible though without a residence permit.

So a German residence permit allows you to stay in Germany for a longer 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? Well with the exception of 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.

A lot of 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 find out whether you are allowed to go into the country without a Schengen Visa.

Types of Residence Permit

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

Temporary Residence Permit

The Temporary Residence Permit or Limited Residence Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) as its name suggests, is for shorter stays in Germany. When you get this type of residence permit, you are allowed to 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 the reason 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 special 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.

There are several requirements that you need to meet for 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. In addition, 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. The period of time you are allowed to hold your permit is determined by your employment contract. If your contract is for only 2 years, your permit will also be valid for 2 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 are allowed to work full time for 120 days or half-time for 240 days. In addition, they can engage in work-study positions. However, they cannot enter long term contracts.

After they finish their degree, students are allowed to extend their temporary permit for another 18 months, with the reason of finding 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 just get your permit to stay in the country for family union purposes. Same sex couples are also accepted in Germany and are eligible to get 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 requirements of other residence permits, which will be outlined below. The residence permit will be temporary, but after a few years of marriage (usually 2 years) and time spent in Germany (3 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 skilled employees means that they 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, they 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. In addition, their job should allow them to earn a minimum of 50,800 Euros annually and they should have a high 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 well they can get it after 21 months.

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

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. This is also called the Settlement Permit or in German, Niederlassungserlaubnis. With the permanent residence permit, you can work in Germany as well as travel in and out of the country whenever you need.

This permit is mostly given to people after they have held the temporary residence permit for a few years or for those with the EU Blue Card. They need to prove that they have worked for at least 5 years, that their job was approved by the Federal Employment Agency, and that they have paid the necessary taxes and contributions to the government. In addition, 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 will work in Germany, you will need a letter from your employer with the job offer and description
  • If you will study in Germany, you will need proof that you have been admitted into a university
  • If you will join your spouse in Germany, you will need proof of marriage such as a marriage certificate

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

Aufenthaltstitel: Unlike the previous permit that was attached to a passport page, the new eAT chip-card residence permit, issued since 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 in order 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 gotten health insurance in Germany, then you must do so before you apply 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.

In addition, 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, so as 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 wait time is 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 are allowed to stay in Germany for the length of time that it is granted to 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.

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