General Questions on Residence

Until the end of 2004, there were several different and confusing permits granting you legal abode. Now there are only two different titles of residence; one gives you either a temporary permission to stay, and the other permit grants you permanent permission to remain in Germany. Visas will never grant a status that will enable you to receive a permanent residence at some time in the future. Temporary residency permits might enable you to obtain permanent residency. That depends on the purpose of your sojourn.

A visa is a permit exclusively for a temporary sojourn for up to six months. The new rules apply to persons first entering Germany now and to those, whose permits are to be renewed. The following graphic will give you an overview of all possible kinds of statuses following the rules valid from 2005.
Structure of Residence titles

As the graph on the right shows, now there is only one temporary and only one permanent residency permit. The rules of your (temporary) status are very much dependent upon the reason for living in Germany. This means a student will have different rights than a self-employed person.

What do I need to get a Residence Permit?

You will have to meet several general prerequisites next to the special ones for your reason of sojourn. These general conditions are listed in §5 AufenthG. Generally, you

  • have to have meet passport requirements,
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  • must have your identity and citizenship clarified,
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  • must have assured means of subsistence,§§
  • have entered with the correct visa, wherever applicable,
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  • have submitted all necessary data in the visa application for the application ,
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  • have given no reason for expulsion,
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  • have given no grounds that conflict or interfere with Germany’s interests,
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  • do not fight the democratic order of Germany,
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  • use violence while following political interests,
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  • do not call out violence,
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  • are not a terrorist,
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  • must not be engaged in a contrary asylum procedure that is still running, unless you have a right to being granted a residence permit.
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What does it mean to have assured means of subsistence? Don’t tell me I have to have as much money as Rockefeller!

Your means of subsistence are considered to be assured if you can meet the cost of living yourself, 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 a minimum – if you can show that you have/earn more the better it will be.
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You may remain outside of Germany for a maximum time of six months (§51 I no. 7 AufenthG). Spouses of persons falling into the categories mentioned below will receive special discretion. This rule is strict, but

  • you can get around it by getting your residence permit ahead of time, so it will still be valid when you return,
  • it does not apply if you are drafted and return within three months after the end of service.
  • it does not apply if you have a settlement permit.
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What will happen if I apply to renew my permit too late?

First of all, you might jeopardize your previous status of having accumulated years for a permanent residence permit. Your status is that you are legally in Germany, but without a residence permit. Either you apply to renew or leave. Be assured that you will not be in for real trouble, if you only missed expiration by a day or two. Everything else is a matter of the individual case.
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How long is my residence permit valid?

Just read the stamp in your passport.
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How long is my permit supposed to be valid? You never know how the officers decide.

This depends on the kind of residence you applied for. Until you have a settlement permit, you can usually reckon that the first period will be for one or at most two years. Upon extension for any kind of employment, you will usually get two years. If a permit for self-employment is to be extended, then you will either get one or two more years – depending on how many you received first. The authority wants to check business at least once before they grant a settlement permit. This is decided to discretion of the officer.
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When do I apply to renew my residence permit?

There is no statutory time limit in the law. Practice shows the office prefers an application for a renewal three months prior to expiration. More and more offices are offering appointments that can be booked online.
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Just having turned 18 and proud as a teenie can be to have become a (wo)man, what about my residence permit? Am I still dependent on my parent’s status? Please, don’t be disturbed by my proudness!

Young (wo)man! As an attorney, I have the duty to consult you with the accurate legal opinion and nothing but the truth – even if it might disturb you. Anyhow, you need not worry. Coming of age means you are now responsible for your own rights and duties. Supposing your parents were to jeopardize their permits for Germany, you may still remain – unless you yourself get into trouble with the law (§34 AufenthG).
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How long does it take to get the permit?

That varies from city to city. As a rule of the thumb, you have to reckon one to two months. If the Labor Agency has to be consulted, consider waiting one more month. In most employment cases, the Labor Agency has to be consulted.
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My husband has been offered a job in Germany which means I want / have to move with him on a residence permit. Does this mean I will automatically have permission to work there? If not, what is required so I can look for a job there? What is a trailing spouse entitled to in Germany?

No, just because your husband has a job, does not mean at all that you get a permission to work just because of his status. However, you are not barred from searching for a job and then applying for one. However, when applying, you will not be preferred over Germans or Europeans! Generally, the normal rules are applicable. In other words, start reading this part again. Keep in mind, you will not have to leave Germany first to apply for a work permit even when you require a visa to enter Germany. Since you are already here, you need only to apply for a work permit with the required documentation – no more, no less.
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