A Step by Step Guide to pave your way to Immigration

This page will give you a – step by step – overview what happens in which order and what is to be done when applying.

  1. Do you need a visa to enter Germany for residential purposes or can you apply from home? In other words, do you enjoy visa waiver privilege and can you apply after entering? Click here for the answer!
  2. On what grounds do you want to enter Germany?
  3. Collect relevant documents for your application and have a copy ready.
  4. Either make an appointment at the next German consulate (visa section) or enter Germany on your 90 day visa waiver. When arranging the appointment at the consulate do make sure you mention that you want / need a national visa for residential purposes, otherwise you might have come in vain.
  5. After entering Germany, Move into your apartment / house,
  6. Register with basic suppliers like electricity, gas, telephone, internet, etc.
  7. Register your address at the Meldestelle of your city,
  8. Now you can open a private bank account,
  9. Make an appointment at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) of your municipality. Depending on the grounds of your application, you might get the permit on the spot or you will receive a Fiktionsbescheinigung when your visa waiver period or entry visa is about to expire.

This is about how it all works. Sounds simple? We admit; the process so abstractly described is really easy. The problems lie in how persuadingly show that you meet the requirements. Case deciders in immigration tend to more deny then grant.

Good to know about registering your address ...

Did you know that when you first arrive in Germany, you can rent an apartment temporarily and use its address for your initial address registration? Once you are fully settled you can start looking for your dream home and then change the address registration later. The authorities require an address registration from all visa applicants, but this doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever. Germany is a free country. You can check out the following providers:

  • 9flats,
  • Booking.com,
  • t.b.a.

Previous Introductions to Immigration Law

Valid from 2005 until August 2012

Best heads will receive red carpet treatment; specialists are free to have a job even before privileged persons have had a chance to accept it. What is this red carpet? "Settlement permit" will be your reward! Petty qualified are not at all attracted to live and work in Germany. There are already more than enough low educated persons existing and not having a job. "Other reasons" will get a chance. This "chance" goes hand in hand with your citizenship, i.e. in as much as your country is a buddy country of Germany.

The most outstanding change in the requirements for permanent residency is “integration”. The previous law (prior to 2005) did not even know the word “integration”. This does not only stress a prominent wish of the German government but also places a demand on the foreigner to integrate or leave and on the German government to promote integration. While preparing this presentation, a neat pun showed up. First, it seemed German law was demanding or in German “fordern” the integration but then after a second look they were also fostering “fördern” the integration. This pun exactly describes the situation. Germany expects you to integrate but also helps you to do so. How does Germany help you integrate? Integration courses are the name of the game.

General Requirements for Residence Permits to Germany

This page will help you understand what general requirements for any kind of permit are needed when you want to apply for a residence permit for Germany. The provided descriptions are of general nature and can vary depending on the residence permit you apply for.

What does it mean to have assured means of subsistence for a residence permit? Don’t tell me I have to have as much money as Rockefeller! You know not even my cousin belongs to the Rothschilds.

Equation for Sufficient Means of Subsitence

  general costs for living for all family members
+    costs for appartment / house
+    costs for health insurance for all family members
=    sufficient means of subsitence

Your means of subsistence are considered to be assured if you can meet the cost of living yourself or through a sponsoring close relative, and have sufficient health insurance coverage without having to make a claim on public funds. In numbers this means: € 345 in Berlin and Germany’s older states of Germany and € 331 in the newer German states (former GDR). In other words, you are renting an apartment for € 400, you must be able to show in Hamburg € 745 and in Dresden € 731. Please understand these limits as an absolute minimum – if you can show that you have/earn more the better it will be.
§ - §§§

How do I show that I have assured means of livelihood?

This can be shown via

  • bank statements,
  • income tax assessments,
  • credit cards,
  • accountant's statement of income,
  • dividends,
  • income slips,
  • etc.

It will be best to have an accountant or tax consultant (from home) issue an income statement. (Don't forget to submit the original and a translation in German!) If you intend to freelance, you have to have this amount available or already have assignments lined up that will come up with at least the minimum you need here to survive.

What does it mean to have sufficient health insurance?

Health insurance is considered sufficient if it includes such benefits as medical treatment by a doctor, dentist treatment, treatment in a hospital, and treatment for childbirth (for women during child-bearing age) - and all this inside of Germany. The law determines that statutory insurance meets these requirements ex lege.

May I continue on my insurance from home?

Not really. You are expected to have an insurance that can operate in Germany. When your policy is in English it would be best to supply a simple translation or have your agent write in German the basics of the policy. The policies of all foreign insurance companies will be checked with more scrutiny. An insurance will be typically denied when your policy has some kind of financial limitations – even if only in the millions. A limitation is a limitation and you never know how high medicamentation costs will develop in the future.

Gee, I am supposed to have a place to live even before I am in Germany. Argh. What kind of dwelling do I need to show? Will my houseboat suffice?

You deserve a decent place – of course. Law sets the minimum standards for living space for all persons in Germany. These standards require, for each person, older than 6 years, at least 9 m² of living space, and for each person from 2 through 6 years at least 6 m² (§2 IV AufenthG). Babies will be excluded from these calculations. In your special case, I would not mention that you will be living in a houseboat and only provide a normal physical address (= street and house number). If you have friends that will "lend" you their postbox until you enter Germany, that will suffice. Once you are in Germany, you will really need to have a real rental contract.
§ - §§§§

What is better statutory or private insurance?

Well, this is a wrong question. Your question ought to be: "Can I choose which insurance scheme I wish to take out?" When you are in the statutory health insurance system as a mandatory member (§5 SGB-V), family member (§10 SGB-V), or voluntarily member (§9 SGB-V), then you are always sufficiently insured. You will only have to produce a membership certificate. To know more about the health insurance system in Germany, click here.

Health insurance when Entering Germany
I was supposed to receive my residence permit and was told I have to register with the police but others said at the registration office. What is meant by this? Does not having a residence permit mean that I am registered in the town where I live?

Receiving a residence permit does not mean you have your address registered. It only gives you the right to stay here. Your permit was granted by the foreigners authority (Ausländeramt) and not the registration office (= Meldeamt or "Einwohnermeldeamt). These are two very different authorities. Everybody who lives in Germany must register their address. This applies to everyone – Germans as well as foreigners. A fine can be imposed for not registering with the police. The concept behind this is for the authorities to have formal competence on your situation.

How do I find this office?

Though the formal requirement is sometimes still called "police registration (polizeiliche Anmeldung)", be aware that at most municipalities, you do not register at the police but at the “Meldestelle” in your city hall.

By when do I have to register my address?

Do not delay registration because – by law – you only have two weeks to get it done after moving in. Practical experience, however, shows that the administration will be happy as long as you claim to have a rental contract no older than six months, and as long as you tell them you moved in within the past week. Now do not come up with the idea that you can go to the office ahead of time into to instruct them that starting next month, you will have a new address. That will not work because it is too early. The authority wants to know where you live and not where you intend to be living.

EU Citizens and Non-EU Spouses and Relatives 

My husband belongs to an EU country, but I do not. I know my spouse is entitled to free entry and freedom of movement. I suppose being married to him will enable me to have the same rights. Is that correct?

Yes, that is correct! You have the same rights as your husband. Your status is generally dependent upon marriage. Especially, in your case it would be wise to register at the foreigners office in order to get a "residence card (Aufenthaltskarte)". This stamp will make sure that no (police) officer comes up with the idea you are living here illegally. N.B. This is not a permission granted (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung) but just a formal acknowledgment of your status.

Do my relatives from non-European countries have the right to follow me to Germany?

Supposing you, as a European, are gainfully employed (self-employed as well as employees) then you are entitled to have your closest family members follow you to Germany. The same goes for your spouse even if he or she is from a third-land country. These persons are:

  • spouse,
  • (grand)children younger than 21, (grand)parents.
Do any formalities have to be met or can I just move in?

Oh, yes indeed. You have to show that you have enough funds to sustain your life and sufficient health insurance.

Do I have to apply for a visa when entering Germany from outside Schengen Area?

Yes, unfortunately you will have to apply for a visa. However, if you have clean records, it should be no problem.

What does it mean to have one’s livelihood secured? Don’t tell me I have to have as much money as Rockefeller.

Your livelihood is secured if you can yourself meet the cost of living, including sufficient health insurance coverage, without having to make a claim on public funds. In numbers this means: € 345 in Germany’s older states (including all Berlin) and € 331 in the Germany’s newer states (former GDR) and on top of this go the rental costs. In other words, an apartment for € 400 will mean in Hamburg € 745 and in Dresden € 731. N.B. These values are the absolute minimum!

How do I prove that my means of livelihood are sufficient and secured?

This can be bank statements, credit cards, tax auditor’s statement of interest, of dividends, etc.

EU Citizens

I have a European citizenship, what permissions do I need to enter and live in Germany?

People who belong to the European Union have the right to enter other EU countries at any time, to reside in any place of their choice (right to freedom of movement) and to settle there in the pursuance of their own goals (freedom to settle). Citizens of EEA countries who are not EU citizens are treated as equal to EU citizens with regard to freedom of movement (§12 FreizügG). So just move in.

Can you describe me a bit more what kind of privilege you are talking about?

The privilege of European status is that your right to be must be explicitly denied and the denial needs to be based on very strong arguments. These strong arguments must have to come from reasons of public order (committing many severe crimes), security (e.g. suicide bomber) or health (very contagious disease, e.g. ebola).

What formalities do I have to consider, when I want to live in Germany?

You just have to register your physical address at the "Meldeamt" of your municipality. Your stay in Germany is not subject to any permission! You enjoy the freedom of movement (Directive 2004/38/EC! You do not need to visit immigration! If immigration has an issue with you, rely that they will contact you.

Are there really no restrictions for Europeans to live in Germany?

Well, I would not really say restrictions but more expectations of the authority. Citizens of the Union enjoy the freedom of movement for

  • working in Germany either as employee, freelancer or as a comany,
  • searching for a job,
  • receiving services,
  • for other reasons (e.g. studying, living on retirment) when able to show the requirements of §4 FreizgG.
My spouse is however not from the EU? What about him? Does he not need a residence visa? Does he not need anything at all?

Non-EU family members enjoy the freedom of movement when accompaning or joining that European family member in direct line and when they can show sufficient health insurance and sufficient funds for their livelihood. If the EU ciitzen is visiting a university in Germany, then only the spouse (hetero or homo) who are receiving alimony resp. support.

What about these Non-EU family members, they just come and no formalities what so ever?

Oh, this would be a nightmare for the beraucrats if there were no formalities. Since third-country citizens should be able to show this status they have to receive a certificate (Aufenthaltskarte) on this European status within six months after all documents have been submitted (§5 I FreizügG/EU). This certificate is to be valid for at least five years. The office may only demand to see from the non-EU adult a proof of (self-)employment or of sufficient funds to finance your living in Germany, health insurance. Practically, some case deciders still consider these documentation as a residence permit... Also keep in mind, this card does not grant but only documents your freedom of movement!

Coming from Switzerland, I want to live for a while in Germany. What am I required to do? Do I need to obtain a residence permit?

You will generally be treated as a European Community citizen. Okay, Switzerland does not belong to the European Union but based on a “bilateral” treaty, Swiss are considered as if they were European.

I have been living here for six years with my spouse and kids. Not planning to return, what do I need to stay here permanently?

Nothing! After five years, you and your dependants have the permission to remain here permanently. However, Non-Europeans still have to apply for the recognition of this status.

What do you mean for other reasons?

Persons coming in for other reasons are

  • old-age pensioners,
  • those direct relatives that support their supported children,
  • (grand)parents being supported by the European.
Which family members may follow students?

These persons are exclusively the spouse or long-term partner and their children, who are entitled to their support.

Is this permanent residence permission not somewhat hypocritical? I can’t be expelled anyhow. The thing is that European law is superior to German law which gives me this freedom. Can Germany take this away from me?

No, it is not really hypocritical. National sovereignty has not been abolished. Europeans are subject to expulsion if they become a danger to public order, security, or health. The law does not talk of expulsion in these cases but of an ascertainment of loss of the freedom of movement. The standards to meet these prerequisites are high. There must be real and sufficiently severe endangerment, which would touch basic interests of society. This danger must also come from your actions. If you do not voluntarily leave, you will be expelled. No, do not worry; if you got a bunch of speeding or parking tickets. They do not jeopardize your residency status though they do your driver’s license. But, if you start dealing with anthrax, women, etc. that will give grounds for expulsion.

My non-EU member of my family was refused entry because she allegedly needed a visa. I though family members were allowed entry. What’s going on?

Just belonging to an EU family does not mean that these third-country persons have the same rights as members do. They are almost as much subject to the normal rules as if they were entering independently (§4 IV 2 FreizügG/EU). When you show the authorities, that you have been living together at home and plan to do so here, then you will easily get the permit. In other words, when the non-EU is sent off to Germany without the EU partner, then no privilege exists.

My EU family member passed away, will they now kick me out, just because I am not EU?

Generally, not! §4a FreizügG/EU allows you a permanent right of residence, when your European family member

  • resided here during the last two years before dying,
  • died due to an accident at work or occupational disease,