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Daiki Saito

Living in Germany, from Japan

"When my company decided to send me to Essen, I took a quick look at the local community and said: Please do!"

Cristina Fernandez

Living in Germany, from Argentina

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Germany at a Glance

Residence Permits in Germany

You are surely aware that living in Germany has many advantages. What might surprise you, though, is that while everything is clean and well-ordered, there is also an abundance of cultural and leisure activities throughout the year. In this Guide, InterNations introduces you to expat life in Germany.

Alien Registration

EU citizens need not apply for a visa or permit of any kind. Agreements between countries of the European Union have greatly simplified moving across country boundaries. The only thing required of EU members planning on living in Germany is a registration certificate officially proving their residence in Germany, called a Meldeschein or Meldebestätigung.

Acquiring a registration certificate is not limited to EU nationals or foreign residents in general: This registration is required for every change of address, whether you move to another neighborhood, from Frankfurt to Hamburg, or from Tokyo to Düsseldorf.

To complete your registration, just take your passport and your rental contract or sale agreement to the local Registry Office (Einwohnermeldeamt). Once you have lived in Germany for a while, you will notice that this office is crucial for all sorts of bureaucratic issues, such as driver’s licenses and license plates, income tax cards, German ID cards, etc.

Residence Permit

If you do not originate from an EU country and want to live in Germany, you also have to go to the Einwohnermeldeamt and register your new address. However, this is not where it ends. After obtaining your Meldebestätigung, you need to apply for an Aufenthaltserlaubnis, a residence permit, as well. You can receive a residence permit from the local Foreigners’ Office (Ausländerbehörde).

For this, you may need a valid passport, proof that you have enough financial means in order to support yourself (i.e. a bank statement or an employment contract), proof of health insurance cover, and proof of residence for the city in which you’ll be living. People moving with their dependent family members only need one person to apply for a residence permit, if they are an EU national. If not, family members must apply for their own residence permits.

For more information on how to get a German residence permit, please consult our Germany: Visa and Administration section. 

Types of Residence Permits

There are two types of residence permits: limited and unlimited ones. As their names suggest, one is valid for an infinite time and need not be renewed. Options include the residence permit (issued for a limited period of time), the EU Blue Card (initially awarded for four years, but reserved for individuals with certain educational and salary qualifications), and the settlement permit (unlimited, but you must have already had a residence permit for five years).

It is rare to be denied a residence permit for Germany, unless paranoid government officials are convinced that you are applying in order to take advantage of social welfare benefits. Keep in mind however, that a residence permit is not the same as a Meldebescheinigung (registration certificate). The latter is obligatory for all residents in Germany, including German citizens.

It is important to note that any kind of visa (employment, business, study, family, etc.) for a stay longer than three months needs to be applied for before entering the country. More about the visa application process can be found in the section on moving to Germany.


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InterNations Expat Magazine