Residence titles for Germany
Nationals of non-EU countries wishing to travel to or live in Germany must always hold a “residence title” (Aufenthaltstitel). Your residence title must state the reason for your stay in Germany, and whether you are entitled to work here.
Depending on your situation, you will need one of the following types of residence title: visa, residence permit, EU Blue Card, right to reside, permanent EC residence permit.
General conditions of issue
- Completed application form
- Ability to provide for yourself (including adequate health insurance cover)
- Verified identity and nationality
- No grounds for expulsion
- The issue of a residence title would not harm or jeopardize the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany
- Valid passport
- You entered the country with the correct visa
- You already supplied the relevant information during the visa application process/in your application form
Responsibility for issuing visas lies with the missions of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. its embassies and consulates-general, in whose geographical area of responsibility the applicant has their main place of residence/domicile.
Nationals of EU and EFTA (Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland) states and of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States do not require a visa to travel to Germany. If you need a residence title, you can apply for this after your arrival in Germany.
Nationals of all other countries need a visa to enter Germany.
A visa is not required for visits of up to 90 days in an 180‑day period for nationals of those countries for which the European Community has abolished the visa requirement.
Short-stay (Schengen) visas
- The purpose of your trip to Germany must be plausible and comprehensible
- You must be able to finance your living and travel costs from your own funds or income
- You must be prepared to leave the Schengen area before your visa expires
- You must be able to present an adequate travel health insurance policy valid throughout the Schengen Area for the entire duration of your stay
If you cannot prove that you are able to finance your stay from your own funds, a third party may show that they can finance your stay by submitting a formal declaration of sponsorship (Verpflichtungserklärung) in accordance with sections 66 and 68 of the Residence Act.
A visa will not be issued if your stay would pose a threat to security or law and order in the Schengen countries, or if you fail to satisfy one or more of the above conditions of issue.
Visas for longer stays
If you are planning a longer stay in Germany (i.e. a stay of more than three months or a stay leading to gainful employment), you must apply for your visa at the appropriate diplomatic mission before arriving in the country. Visa applications of this kind may need to be approved by the local foreigners’ authority in the place where you will live in Germany.
A residence permit is a temporary residence title issued to people wishing to live in Germany for one of the following reasons:
- International law, humanitarian or political reasons
- Family reasons
- Persons who left Germany as children and wish to return, former Germans, and long-term residents from other EU countries
A residence permit clearly shows whether its holder is entitled to work, and indicates the purpose for which it was issued.
Residence permits can be extended provided that the general conditions of issue are still met, and the original purpose of the visit still applies. Another factor that is always taken into account when considering applications to extend residence permits is whether the holder has successfully completed an integration course.
EU Blue Card
The EU Blue Card is a temporary residence title available to nationals of third countries holding a degree or equivalent qualification. It enables them to work in jobs appropriate to their qualification. Applicants must provide evidence of a gross salary from paid employment of at least two-thirds of the annual assessment ceiling (Beitragsbemessungsgrenze) for the general pension scheme (2015: 48,400 euros). For “shortage occupations” (Mangelberufe), the minimum gross salary has been lowered to 52 percent of the assessment ceiling (2015: 37,752 euros).
The first time an EU Blue Card is issued, if the duration of the employment contract is four years or longer, it will be issued for no more than four years. If the duration of the employment contract is less than four years, the EU Blue Card will be issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months.
Under the “Blue Card Directive”, changes in employer during the first two years of employment are subject to authorization by the foreigners’ authority.
After 33 months in highly qualified employment, EU Blue Card holders can obtain a permanent “right to reside” (Niederlassungserlaubnis) if they can show that they have paid their mandatory contributions to the statutory pension scheme for this period. If the holder can prove that they have achieved German language level B1, the right to reside can be issued after 21 months.
More information about the EU Blue Card can be found on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
Right to reside
The right to reside is a permanent residence title allowing its holder to work in Germany.
To obtain a right to reside you must satisfy the following requirements:
- Ability to provide for yourself
- Evidence that you have paid your mandatory contributions to the statutory pension scheme for least 60 months
- Clear criminal record
- Permission to work as an employee or in a self-employed capacity
- Adequate knowledge of the German language
- Basic knowledge of the legal and social order and life in Germany
- Adequate accommodation
Apart from the standard regulations governing the issue of a right to reside, a number of special regulations also apply according to which a right to reside can be issued, relating to:
- Highly qualified persons
- Graduates of German universities
- EU Blue Card holders
- Humanitarian reasons
- Persons moving to live with German family members
- Former Germans
Permanent EC residence permit
The permanent EC residence permit is another type of permanent residence title allowing its holder to work in Germany. It additionally grants the right to travel within the European Union, and holders of the permanent EC residence permit need meet only simplified conditions in order to obtain a right of residence for other European countries.