Germany at a Glance
Residence Permits in Germany
The All-Important Registration Certificate
EEA citizens or Swiss nationals need not apply for a visa or permit of any kind. Agreements between countries of the European Union have greatly simplified moving across borders. The only thing required of those hailing from an EU member state, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Iceland and 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.
If you do not originate from an EEA country (or Switzerland) 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 will 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 (i.e. the Meldebestätigung).
Please note, dependent family members of EU/EEA nationals who are not EU/EEA nationals themselves may join their partner, parent, or child, but need to get a so-called Aufenthaltskarte from the Foreigners’ Office.
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 standard 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).
After a successful visa application (for employment, business, study, family, etc.) prior to the move to Germany, it is rare to be denied a residence permit once arrived. 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.
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