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Residency in Germany

Germany is open to immigration. With foreigners making up around nine percent of its population, the Federal Republic is one of Europe’s highest ranked countries in this respect. The foreigners living in Germany are an economically and culturally important part of German society.

Stays in Germany lasting longer than three months are generally only permitted for specific purposes. Legal residence in Germany requires a legally verified residence status. German law distinguishes between the foreigner’s origin and situation in this case.

In just a few clicks, the interactive “Click the residence permit for clever minds” guide gives you an initial overview of the requirements for the residence purposes Employment, Studies or Vocational Training, Research, Family Reunification, or Job Search.

Foreigners can also be naturalised in Germany under certain conditions.

Find out about the most important principles of German residency entitlements below.

EU citizens, citizens of the EEA and Switzerland

As an EU citizen, you can enjoy the right to travel and work freely in Saxony and the rest of Germany. You may stay in the country for up to three months, and only need your ID or passport. No work permit is required, either.

Duty of registration

If you stay in Germany for longer than two months and move into one or more residential properties during this time, you must register with your local municipality within two weeks of moving into the respective property.

This duty of registration ceases to apply if your total stay in Germany is no longer than two months. If, however, you end up unexpectedly staying longer than two months, you are obliged to register within two weeks of this two-month period ending.

When it comes to determining if you are required to register, it does not matter whether or not you have kept your place of residence abroad, or how long you have been living here at one single property. The total length of your stay in Germany is the only crucial factor.

Stays of longer than three months

EU citizens can stay in a member state for longer than three months if they are entitled to free movement.

If they meet certain requirements, EU citizens are generally entitled to free movement. The same right also applies to their family members and partners, regardless of whether these are EU citizens or not.

Family members and partners who are entitled to free movement, and who are not EU citizens, can be issued with a residence card valid for five years.

Persons entitled to free movement under community law are:

  • EU citizens wanting to stay in Germany as employees, to look for work or to undertake vocational training
  • EU citizens, if they are entitled to be self-employed (this also applies for self-employed persons already settled in Germany)
  • EU citizens, who, without settling in Germany, wish to render services as self-employed persons (if they are entitled to render the services)
  • EU citizens receiving services
  • Unemployed EU citizens, if they have adequate health insurance and funding
  • Family members, if they have adequate health insurance and funding
  • EU citizens and their families, who have been granted permanent residency

Family members are

  • the spouse, partner, or the descendants of EU citizens entitled to free movement, as well as their spouses or partners who are under 21 years of age, and
  • Relatives (in ascending and descending order) of EU citizens entitled to free movement, their spouses or partners who are supported by these.
Please note! If you are studying in Germany, only your spouse/partner and their children, who are granted support, can exercise the right of free movement.

Note: Note that you may have to deregister in your home country even if you have registered in Saxony.

Citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland

Citizens of the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) also enjoy the same rights as EU citizens. According to the agreement dated 1999-06-21 between the European Community and its member states, and with the Swiss Confederation, regarding free movement, Swiss citizens are exempt from the residence permit requirement.

Please note! Citizens of the new EU member states Romania and Bulgaria require a work permit, which is issued by the Employment Agency. It checks whether there are German applicants or EU citizens entitled to work who are just as or more suitable for the position. Citizens of third-party countries also require a work permit and possibly also a visa. For more information, contact the German embassy / consulate in your home country.

Further information:

Citizens from third-party countries

If you are not a citizen of an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you always require a visa for Germany, though citizens of certain countries do not need this for visits of up to three months per half year. The website of the Federal Foreign Office contains an up-to-date list of countries requiring a visa.

For visa applications, contact the competent German embassy / consulate in your place of residence. The Federal Foreign Office provides information on the specific visa requirements.

Further information:

Please note! The processing time for visa applications may vary. Visa applications for short-term stays are usually processed within ten working days. Applications for longer stays can take several months.

If you hold a valid German visa, you can move freely within what is known as the Schengen Area. With a valid passport, you can travel to the other Schengen countries without a visa for up to three months per half year. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs contains information on the Schengen Agreement and the countries in which this applies.

More on the topic:

Residency for educational purposes

Saxony is world renowned as a hub for science and research. If you wish to study or continue your education in Saxony, you have several options.

If you require a visa to enter Germany, you must endeavour to get admitted to an educational institution before you arrive. Once admitted, you can then apply for the necessary visa from the German embassy / consulate at your place of residence. Foreigners can also be issued with a residence permit (for maximum nine months) for the purposes of applying for study.

Non-EU citizens not requiring a visa can also try to get admitted to an educational institution during their stay in Germany.

Note: In order to study in Germany as a non-EU citizen, you must be able to finance yourself and have adequate health insurance. Apart from studying, you can also engage in temporary employment.

Further information:

Residency for employment purposes

As a high-tech hub, Saxony offers attractive jobs for well trained specialists. If you don’t come from an EU member country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you require a residence permit in order to pursue employment in Germany. Apply for this from the German embassy / consulate at your place of residence before arriving in Germany.

Note:  Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America can also obtain the necessary residence permit from the competent Bureau for Foreigners in Germany on arrival.

Further information:

Employees with an income of approx. EUR 47,600 (as of 2014) per annum can obtain an EU Blue Card which makes it easier to travel within Europe and speeds up the process for obtaining permanent residency. Workers in so-called shortage occupations (scientists, mathematicians and engineers, doctors, as well as academic and equivalent specialists in information and communication technology) can receive an EU Blue Card if they earn a minimum annual income of approx. EUR 37,128 (as of 2014). Employees without academic qualification and who fall under the aforementioned income limits also have the possibility to work in Germany.

In special cases, highly qualified workers can immediately be given a permanent residence permit in the form of a »Niederlassungserlaubnis« in Germany. Highly qualified workers include scientists with special technical knowledge, or teaching staff in prominent positions.

Germany residency law also allows job-seekers to stay in Germany for six months.

Foreigners from third-party countries generally require the prior consent of the labour administration in order to gain access to the employment market. In some cases, consent is not required, e.g. for highly qualified persons as stated above, EU Blue Card applicants (except for shortage occupations) or graduates from a German university. The Federal Employment Agency does not check priority rankings for certain occupational groups, i.e. it does not check whether there is a preferential German or European worker for the specific job. For example, the priority check is not performed for employees in shortage occupations who thus hold an EU Blue Card, graduates of a qualified vocational course in Germany, graduates from German schools abroad with recognised or comparable university degree, or spouses of foreign experts, managers or specialists.

Freelancers or self-employed persons can obtain a residence permit to realise their business idea. This requires an economic interest or regional demand. Graduates from a German university, scientists and researchers do not have to meet these requirements in order to be self-employed in their field.

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