Types of permits and application procedures
Germany: Visas & Permits
Everyone staying in Germany for more than 3 months must obtain a residence permit. Only EU citizens and citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are required to register with their local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt).
You can obtain residency permits from your local immigration office (Ausländeramt), but you must first register your residence at the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), before you can apply for a residence permit for Germany. You can get the application forms for a residence permit at the registration office.
Citizens of Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbuda, Barbados, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Macedonia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Serbia, the Seychelles, Singapore, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Taiwan, Uruguay, the United States of America, the Vatican and Venezuela are permitted to apply for a residence permit after arriving in Germany without a visa.
Citizens of other countries must apply and be granted a visa before they enter Germany, which is also an option US citizens have. Applications must be made at a Germany embassy or consulate in the citizen’s country of residence. So-called Frontier Workers, people who work in Germany but live outside the country, should apply for a residence permit at the local authority of their place of employment.
When you apply for a residence permit for Germany, you must have all or some of the following documents – check with your nearest German Embassy’s website for the latest regulations:
- a valid identity card or passport with visa
- two biometric passport photographs that must be recent
- an original or certified copy of your birth certificate and marriage certificate (if applicable)
- your residence registration (Anmeldebestätigung)
- proof of health/medical insurance
- proof of means of financial support: this can be a bank statement showing your savings for students or the non-employed or a grant or similar, but more typically, this is a letter from your employer. The “Finanzierungsnachweis”, or proof of adequate financial resources, should confirm you have around €700/month to support yourself. Self-employed people do not have to prove their financial status.
- your rental contract for accommodation (if applicable)
- a Certificate of Good Conduct (Führungszeugnis), which you can obtain from your home country’s embassy or consulate.
- a Certificate of Health for Residence Permit (Gesundheitszeugnis für Aufenthaltserlaubnis), which you can obtain from any German doctor or local health office (Gesundheitsamt). You’ll have to pay around €150 at a doctor’s for a certificate or ca. €75 at the Gesundheitsamt.
As well as the above documents, and depending on your status during your stay in Germany, you must also prove why you are in the country with one of the following documents:
- Students must provide proof of their registration at university or other full-time educational institution
- Employees must show proof of employment or offer of employment, which is usually in the form of an employment contract or letter from the employer.
- Frontier Workers, people who work in Germany but live across the border in another EU member state and return there at least once a week, must show proof of their employment status and proof that they are resident in that EU member state.
- Self-employed people must prove their status, by showing they are either a member of a professional or trade body, have a VAT number or registration on a trade register. If you are an artist, different rules may apply – check with your local German embassy.
Always check the latest requirements with your local German embassy, before going to the local immigration office, as requirements change often. Spending time at an Ausländerbehörde is not a lot of fun, so try to avoid going there several times just because a document is missing. Be sure to check opening times: most immigration offices are closed in the afternoon.
Queues can be long, so allow plenty of time for your visits. You can usually spot the Ausländerbehörde from a distance by the long queue in front of its doors. The early bird spends less time waiting in the queue! Do the crossword puzzle, read a book or magazine to help you pass the time.
If all your documents are in order, you will be spending around ten minutes with the interviewer, when your turn comes. The official will check your documentation for completeness. If anything is not there, you will be turned away and must go through the whole process again on another day.
It takes about a week to two weeks for the application for your residence permit for Germany to be processed. To cover that time you will receive a certificate confirming you are waiting for your residence permit.
A residence permit is only valid when shown together with your national identity card or passport. If either one of these expires while you are residing in Germany, you will be asked to go through the whole residence permit application process again, when your new identity card or passport arrives!
For this reason, it is advisable to renew your identity card or passport before leaving, if either one are about to expire in the near future. It will avoid a lot of time-consuming form filling and waiting in queues!