Whether you have entered Germany on a national visa and now need to convert it into a residence permit, or you entered without a visa and are applying for residency for the first time, the application process for a residence permit can seem daunting. This page walks you through every step of the German residence permit application procedure.
Required steps before your residence permit application appointment
To gather all of the documents required for your residence permit application, there are several steps you will need to take in advance of submitting your application.
Register at your local citizens’ office
One of the documents you will be asked to provide as part of your residence permit application is your registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung). This document can easily be obtained by attending a registration appointment (Anmeldung) at your local citizens’ office (Bürgeramt).
Obtain German health insurance
For most residence permit applications, you will also have to provide proof that you are covered by German health insurance. Foreign insurance policies are not usually accepted so you may need to take out a new policy.
Open a German bank account
Often you are required to prove your financial means, especially if you are applying for a family reunion visa. One of the best ways to demonstrate financial stability is to open a German bank account and transfer your money there. Your bank statements can then be used in your supporting documentation to prove you can provide for yourself and your family.
Open a blocked bank account
If you entered without a visa and have no income in Germany (for instance, if you are here to study or look for a job), you need to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your living expenses before you can get a residence permit. The most common way of proving this is opening a blocked account (Sperrkonto), a special type of bank account into which you deposit a lump sum of money that is then withdrawn at monthly intervals.
Submitting your residence permit application
Once you have gathered all the required documentation, you can submit your residence permit application at your local foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde). You can find your local office on the website for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. These centres are usually very busy and have limited availability. To avoid surpassing your three-month limit, it would be wise to book an appointment as soon as possible. Note that some centres do not offer appointments and run a drop-in service only.
German residence permit application forms
You can usually find a digital version of the application form for a German residence permit on the website of your local foreigners’ office. Alternatively, you can pick up a paper copy when you arrange your appointment. Usually, you have to fill out this form in advance and bring it along to your appointment.
Supporting documents for a German residence permit
You will be required to submit several documents for your temporary residence permit application. The foreigners’ office will be able to advise you on exactly what you need to bring to your appointment. This usually includes:
- Valid passport
- One current biometric photo
- Completed application form for a temporary residence permit
- Certificate of registration
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of secure livelihood (e.g. bank statements)
- Proof of purpose in Germany. Depending on the type of residence permit you apply for, you may need to submit additional documentation such as an employment contract, certificate of enrolment or proof of a pension plan. Check with your foreigners’ office for the latest requirements.
At your appointment, the official will check through your documentation and, if everything is in order, submit your application for processing.
German residence permit application fees
The foreigners’ office will charge a fee to process a German residence permit application. The cost is usually somewhere between 50 and 110 euros (less for minors), depending on location and the complexity of your case. You can check the exact prices with your local office. Your fees will not be refunded if your application is rejected. Be aware that not all offices in Germany accept credit cards.
Residence permit application response time
Once your forms are submitted and your fee has been paid, the foreigners’ office will assess your application. Depending on the type of residence permit you have applied for, they may also have to contact the Federal Employment Agency. The process usually takes two to four weeks but it can be longer during busy periods. During this time, you will be covered by a certificate stating that you are applying for a residence permit.
Collecting your residence permit
If approved, your residence permit is issued and you will be asked to come to the foreigners’ office to collect it. You must pick it up in person. You may also be sent a PIN code in the post which you will need to collect your permit.
Since September 2011, the paper residence titles have been superseded by an electronic "credit card" residence title. This electronic residence permit (eAT) is issued as a plastic credit card with a chip containing all your personal data, your passport photo, and fingerprints. Existing paper titles will retain their validity until August 31, 2021.