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Residence in Germany

If you would like to make Germany your home or have moved to Germany already, the rules of the Residence Act are particularly important. The basic conditions governing your right of residence in Germany depend on whether you are a citizen of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or whether you come from another country or if you are immigrating as an ethnic German repatriate.

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If you are not a national of a member state of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland and would like to remain permanently in Germany, you will need a permit to do so: this is called a residence title. In addition to your entry visa and subsequent residence, there are three residence titles for long-term residence in Germany.

  • Residence permit
  • Permanent settlement permit
  • Permit for permanent residence-EC

Residence permit

The residence permit is issued for a limited period of time. It is granted to persons who

  • would like to complete a vocational training course in Germany (§§ 16-17 of the Residence Act)
  • would like to work in Germany (§§ 18-31 of the Residence Act)
  • are entitled to remain in Germany for humanitarian or political reasons or under international law (§§ 22-26 of the Residence Act)
  • are immigrating to Germany for family reasons (§§ 27-36 of the Residence Act)
  • are foreign nationals and former Germans, who would like to return to Germany (§§ 37, 38 of the Residence Act)
  • hold a permanent right of residence in another member state of the European Union (§ 38a Residence Act)

A residence permit can be extended. In this case, the fact of whether the foreign national has attended an integration course in accordance with the rules will be taken into consideration.

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Foreigners may work in Germany only if the residence permit expressly allows this.

The EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is a residence permit, initially generally awarded for a four-year period, available to nationals of third country`s with a university degree or equivalent qualification, with the aim of enabling them to take up employment on the basis of their qualification.

A further prerequisite is that the individual can supply evidence of an employment relationship through which a minimum annual salary of two thirds of the annual contribution assessment ceiling for general pension insurance (2012: EUR 44,800) will be earned.

With regard to professions for which there is particular demand in Germany, the salary limit is lowered to 52% of the contribution assessment ceiling (2012: about EUR 35,000).

Holders of an EU Blue Card who can prove that they have been in qualified employment over a period of 33 months and that they have paid (compulsory) contributions to statutory pension insurance or comparable benefits shall be granted a permanent settlement permit.

Provided that the individuals concerned can demonstrate having language skills at level B1, the settlement permit shall be granted after a period of 21 months.

Proof of German language skills is not required in the case of accompanying spouses or spouses who subsequently move to Germany to live with their husband or wife.

Spouses of holders of an EU Blue Card shall have immediate access to gainful employment.

Permanent settlement permit

The permanent settlement permit does not have a time limit. It allows you to work in Germany. To obtain a permanent residence permit, you must, as a rule, have had a residence permit for five years and also fulfil further conditions. Anyone wishing to apply for a permanent settlement permit, must, for example, make his/her own living and secure the financial independence of his family members, have adequate German-language skills and not have a criminal record. In certain circumstances, a permanent settlement permit can be granted without the relevant conditions in relation to periods of time having been met, in the case of highly qualified immigrants for example.

Permit for permanent right of residence-EC

In the case of the permit for permanent right of residence-EC, this also involves an unlimited residence title that entitles the holder to seek gainful employment. The conditions of its issue are closely based on those of the settlement permit. In contrast to these, the permit for permanent right of residence-EC entitles the holder to mobility within the European Union by granting a right to a limited residence title in other member states. It is not permitted to grant both these unlimited residence titles to one person. In addition, foreign nationals with a specific legal status in Germany, e.g. those for whom refugee status has been established, cannot obtain a permanent residence-EC permit.

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The proof of adequate German-language skills required for a settlement permit and a permanent residence-EC permit can be obtained by attending an integration course and passing the exam.

Date 7 August 2012

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