Family Reunion to Foreign Spouses

Moving to Germany to foreign spouse

This page is all about the subsequential family reunion to foreigners for such cases when one person has been in Germany for some time. If the non-working spouse and / or children trail the breadwinner this will also be considered a family reunion. But in these cases everything stands and falls with the breadwinner and his permit – in other words they are dependent on him.

What are the general requirements for a trailing spouse to live in Germany?

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 if

  • your spouse / partner has either a residence permit or permanent residency (aka settlement permit),
  • your spouse is already living here for two years for indefinite purposes (e.g. not as a speciality cook or au pair),
  • having a residence permit, the marriage already existed prior to relocation to Germany and the intended stay is for at least one year,
    as well as the following generic requirements:
    • you have enough room to live together,
    • you have sufficient health insurance,
    • you have sufficient funds to sustain your livelihood,
    • no reasons for expulsion are evident.
      § - §§§
My better half has been in Germany for some time. Now, I want to follow him to Germany. Will that be possible? He has a one-room apartment, a job with a low salary and a residence permit.

In this case, I am sorry to tell you that your wish will not come true. The apartment is too small, the salary too low. These are already 2 K.O. criteria.

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 a residence permit or settlement permission. The same is applicable when the parents jointly relocate to Germany.

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 through the grapevine 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. Keep on reading!

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 as shown in §30 AufenthG:

  • 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 psychological 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.
  • The breadwinner will be applying for a residence permit based on self-employment (§21 AufenthG).
How easy is it to claim an undue hardship?

N.B. Do not expect that 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 to be proven and only reluctantly will accept an exemption. 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 and prepare to listen to 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 will hardly work. However, to successfully apply you will have to present the certificate "Start German 1" from a Goethe-Institute or accredited language school 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. Of course, if you were a German or studied Germanistics then mention this in your application.