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How to apply for a German residence permit?

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Applying for a German residence permit may not come easy for many people. The procedure includes several steps from filling up the application form to getting health insurance and opening a bank account. It is a series of documentation.

How to apply for a German residence permit?

Regardless of your job, qualification, or nationality (except for citizens of EU countries, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), the process to apply for a German residence permit is the same. This means that if you are a citizen of a non-EU country and wish to stay in Germany for more than 90 days, you must apply for a residence permit. This includes those who wish to study, work, or join a family member in Germany.

German work permit vs residence permit

The federal government has easen the process of obtaining a residence permit by the end of 2011. Now you don't need to apply to different authorities for the permission to live and work. A single permit now covers both.

However, obtaining a residence permit does not allow you the right to be involved in economic activities. The type of residence permit you have determines whether or not you are entitled to work.

If you are not sure whether you can work in Germany with the permit you have, the documents you receive with your residence permit will explicitly state whether you are allowed to work.

Steps to follow

Register at Bürgerbüro / the citizens’ office

An Anmeldebescheinigung / registration certificate is one of the documents you need to have before you can apply for a residence permit. This can easily be obtained from your local citizens’ office / Bürgerbüro.

Health insurance

You must also prove that you are covered by health insurance from Germany. Insurance policies from a foreign countries are generally not accepted.

Open a German bank account

To prove your financial status, you need a German bank account. This is mostly required if you are applying for a family reunion visa. It is the best option to show your financial stability.

Open a German bank account and transfer your money from your current bank account to the new German bank account.

You can use your bank statements as a supporting document to prove your financial stability.

Supporting documents

There are multiple documents required to support your German residence permit application. Your local foreigners’ office should be able to guide you through all documents you need to submit along with the application.

Generally the supporting documents include:

  • Completed application form

  • Valid passport

  • One biometric photo (not older than 6 months)

  • Certificate of registration

  • Proof of health insurance

  • Proof of secure livelihood

  • Purpose of living in Germany.

  • Employment contract

  • Proof of pension plan

The list of supporting documents depends on the type of residence permit you are applying for.

Once the application and the supporting documents are ready, you may get an appointment at your local foreigner’s office / Ausländerbehörde and bring along the documents.

Cost of applying for a German residence permit

The cost of a German residence permit application is usually between 50 and 110 euros. It varies on the location and the complexity of your case. The exact charges may be obtained from your local foreigner’s offices website.

The fees may not be refunded in case your application is rejected. Additionally, please note that not all foreigners offices accept credit cards.

German Residence permit application processing time

Once the forms are submitted and the fees have been paid, the next step is for the foreigners’ office to evaluate your application. Depending on the type of the residence permit, they may contact the Federal Employment Agency for additional information.

The process usually takes two weeks to a month. However, it can take even longer depending on the pending cases and vacation periods. You will get a certificate from the local foreigners office to cover you during this period.

What if my German residence permit application is rejected?

If your application is rejected, you will receive a letter detailing the reasons for the rejection. Mostly the reason for a rejection is failing to provide relevant supporting documents or incorrectly field applications.

The letter will also explain the next steps, including how to file a counter.

How can I collect my residence permit

If your application is approved, your residence permit will be issued and you will get notified to come to the local foreigners’ office to collect it. You must pick it up in person or you can have someone else authorised by you to collect it for you.

How to renew a German residence permit?

It is advised to start the procedures to renew your residence permit as early as possible to avoid an illegal stay which may land you in a position that you are banned from entering Germany in the future.

The cost of renewing a residence permit is generally 50-80 euros. However, depending on location and the complexity of your case, it may vary.

If you have a temporary residence permit, it will be valid for one year. Generally, the foreigners’ office does not notify you if your residence permit is due to expire.

Therefore it is wise to remember the expiry date of your residence permit and take the steps to renew in advance.

Renewal of a temporary residence permit in Germany is a complex procedure as long as your personal circumstances are the same as when you initially applied. If your employment, financial or marital statuses changed significantly, you may contact your local foreigners’ office to check the ways to renew it.

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