Basics on Family Reunion

The law differentiates between reunion among

  • spouses
  • minor children
    but also
  • further reunion to foreigners or Germans.

When it comes to family reunion to Germans, the law thinks in the settings if

  • to a German spouse
  • or for the purpose of raising one's German child
  • the minor child of a German.

This page is all about the subsequential family reunion to foreigners for such cases that one person has been in Germany for some time. If the not working spouse and / or children trail the breadwinner upon his entry, this will also be family reunion. Everything stands and falls with the breadwinner and his permit and needs no further explanation – in other words they are dependant on him.

My better half has been in Germany for some time. Now, I want to follow him to Germany. What are the requirements?

Generally, a spouse can receive a residence permit – if he wants to follow a relative to maintain or (re)establish family cohabitation in accordance with art. 6 GG and §§29, 27, 30 AufenthG. A residence permit will be granted to you if

  • your spouse has either a residence permit for at least two years,
  • Blue Card,
  • a settlement permission,
  • and meets the general requirements.
I have been living here for six years and now want my spouse to come here to live with me in Germany permanently. Will that be possible?

Start planning your second “wedding night”! Oh, yes. Be sure to have a recent photo from her at hand. Generally and according to §30 AufenthG, a spouse may follow if the residing foreigner has:

  • a settlement permission,
  • a residence permit for two years, or
  • a residence permit for less than five years, in which case the marriage has to already having been existing at the time of having granted the permit.
    § - §§
Can I subsequently have my kids follow me to Germany after I have found an apartment for all of us?

In general, minor children (under 18) can follow their parents to Germany if the parents have either an Aufenthaltserlaubnis or Niederlassungserlaubnis.

What about exceptions ?

The two just mentioned requirements do not have to be met if

  • you are an acknowledged asylum seeker or acknowledged refugee having a residence or settlement permit,
  • you relocate their center of your vital interests simultaneously to Germany and you both have a residence or settlement permit.

In these cases, your child is entitled to stay in Germany until he/she turns 18.

Are there any advantages to being the spouse of a German ?

Any advantages? Well, only a few unimportant ones. Being married to a German gives you the enforceable right to enter Germany. The German constitution guarantees the protection of the family as long as cohabitation exists (art. 6 GG). The condition of this right is that the German has his habitual residence in Germany – or at least started to have it. Pursuing this constitutional right, spouses of Germans must be granted entry. But this does not mean you can never be expelled. Keep in mind, this is only the very general concept. Continue reading!!

Hey, I recently heard the grape-vines telling me that new rules for non-German spouses of Germans have been set into force. Is this true?

Yes, this is true. Since mid 2007, the non-German spouse must show that he/she has a simple command of German. The official reason for this somewhat strange rule is that migrants are to be able to participate in social life – right from entry. Other voices say that has only been initiated to prevent forced marriages, which is an allegedly common phenomenon in Turkish and other (radically) Muslim families.

So okay, I need to show that I have a good grasp of German. Can’t I just enter and start learning in Germany ?

No. The knowledge of German is a prerequisite for you to successfully apply for a visa to enter Germany. In other words, no German no entry. It’s simple as that.

Oh, come on. Is this also true for me as an Aussi? Are there really no exceptions?

Sure there are exceptions! And you belong to them. Generally, you either have to be a well-trained person, refugee or self-employed. A rough list of exceptions:

  • you have a university degree or corresponding qualification,
  • Your spouse has a residence permit as
    • a highly-skilled employee,
    • a researcher,
    • a company founder,
    • a person entitled to asylum,
    • a recognized refugee,
    • a holder of a permanent residence permit from other EU countries,
    • Blue Card EU.
  • The spouse is unable to learn German because of a physical, mental or psychologoical disorder.
  • In order to prevent an undue hardship, showing A1 can be waived.
  • Your spouse is a citizen of one of the buddy states: Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, or the United States of America. Right, these citizens do not need a visa to enter Germany.

N.B. Do not expect that if you come up with the claim of an undue hardship that immigration will bow down and accept it. The officials are typically instructed to demand this proof and will only accept an exemption reluctantly. You need to show real and serious reasons! Why all this commotion? German parliament wants to curb forced or promised marriages as some Arabic or Persian cultures know. The hate word in this regard is "Kopftuch (headscarf)" or Kopftuchmädchen (headscraf wearing girl). Dare to ask any German about this reckon to hearing a long serenade...

How much do I have to speak to enter Germany? What is “simple knowledge of German”?

Level A1 of Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is required. This means you are to be able to understand and use common, everyday expressions and very simple sentences (e.g. asking for directions, shopping, etc). You should be able to introduce yourself and others and ask and answer questions about personal details such as where you live or what people you know. Of course, the person you are talking to must speak clearly and be prepared to help. In other words, what a language book for tourists shows is what you need. You should also have basic German writing skills, e.g. you should be able to enter your name, address, nationality, etc. on forms.

Hey great, I buy a language guide, study it, practice a bit and then I can prove my simple German, or?

That might work. However, if you are not able to orally tell the officer in the German consulate that you want to follow your better half to Germany and do not understand the application form, your chances are slim – at best. To nevertheless still successfully apply you will have to present the certificate "Start German 1" from a Goethe-Institute in your vicinity. This test can also be taken from a licensed language school or a Goethe-Institute Partner. If your country has no Goethe Institute or this test is not (yet) available then the officer in the consulate will decide. Only in exceptional cases will other language certificates suffice as a proof. Of course, if you speak German fluently just go to the consulate and don’t worry about this language problem.