The temporary residence permit is the most common type of residence permit issued to expats coming to live and work in Germany. There are many different types of permits; this page focuses on the eight most common ones and their requirements.
Which one you can apply for is determined by the purpose of your stay in Germany, and must match the information you provided on the application for your visa (if you submitted one). If you are unsure which best describes your situation check with your local citizens' office (Bürgeramt).
1. Permit to study in Germany
This type of residence permit, usually valid for two years, is issued to those who come to Germany to study. It allows you to work up to 120 days (or 240 half days per year).
It is usually possible to continue extending your residency until you have completed your course. After you have completed your studies, you also have the option to extend for an additional 18 months while you seek employment related to your qualification.
To apply, you will need to prove that you have either been accepted by a state-recognised higher educational institution, or have enrolled in a full-time language course or preparatory company traineeship. You will also need to prove that you have the financial means to support yourself for the duration of your studies (for instance, by opening a blocked account).
A 9-month residence permit is also available for those applying for university in Germany. You are not permitted to take up employment if you hold this kind of residence permit.
2. Permit for vocational training
Aimed at attracting skilled expats to work in Germany, this type of temporary permit enables you to take up vocational education or training. Usually, this requires the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) unless the training has been pre-approved. If you will be working towards a vocational qualification, you are also authorised to work (in any role) up to 10 hours a week.
If you successfully complete the training, you can also extend your residency by up to one year to find a job connected to the qualification.
3. Permit for the purpose of taking up employment
If you have secured a job in Germany, you can be issued with a residence permit valid for up to three years, depending on the planned duration of the employment. You will face, however, some of the strictest requirements. By law, the admission of foreign workers must serve the German economy and combat unemployment.
This is realised in the Vorrangprinzip (priority principle), which requires an employer to prove that the job could not have been filled by a German, an EU citizen or someone with permanent residency. The employer’s reasons for hiring a foreign worker have to be approved by the BA before a residence permit can be issued.
For applicants with backgrounds in “high-demand” professions, such as medicine, mathematics, IT, natural sciences or technology, the approval of the BA is not always necessary. (Note that, as of 2019, the priority principle ruling is being reconsidered by the German federal government and may likely be abolished in the near future, to combat Germany's worker shortage).
Once the temporary residence permit has been granted, it can be regularly renewed for as long as your situation remains the same (i.e. you stay in the same job). If you require approval from the BA, you will also need their approval to change jobs within the first two years of employment.
To apply, you will need to provide an employment contract, a role description filled out by your employer and documentation of your professional qualifications.
4. Permit for qualified skilled workers seeking employment
As a skilled worker, you may be issued a six-month residence permit for the purpose of searching for employment in Germany befitting your qualifications. To be defined as a "skilled worker" you need to have graduated from a German higher education institute or foreign equivalent, or an accredited foreign university. You can check with the Central Office for Foreign Education Affairs to see if your foreign qualification is recognised in Germany.
Holders of this permit are not authorised to pursue an economic activity, meaning that if you find a job you will need to apply for a residence permit for employment (as above). The six-month expiry cannot be extended. If you do not find a job, you will have to leave Germany and remain abroad for at least as long as you stayed in Germany before applying for another visa.
To qualify, you will need proof of your academic qualifications and proof of finances to cover the duration of your stay in Germany (a blocked account is one way you can prove this).
5. EU Blue Card
As of May 2009, highly-skilled workers from outside the EU may be granted a residence permit known as the EU Blue Card. This is reserved for those coming to work in Germany who possess either a German or a foreign higher education qualification (or at least five years of professional work experience). Your occupation is classified as "highly skilled" if your earnings meet the minimum threshold. In 2019 this was 53.600 euros.
For those possessing skills in high demand (for instance, mathematics, IT, natural sciences, technology or medicine), the minimum earnings threshold is reduced to 41.808 euros. The Federal Employment Agency decides whether your profession is considered “in demand”.
The EU Blue Card is valid for a maximum of four years, or the length of your employment contract plus three months. After 33 months, holders of an EU Blue Card may also be issued a permanent settlement permit, provided you have held your employment position, have basic German language skills, and made contributions to the statutory pension scheme for that period. This is reduced to 21 months if you can prove knowledge of the German language (level B1).
If your spouse wishes to join you, as an EU Blue Card holder, they do not require German language certification in order to be granted a residence permit.
6. Permit for research
As an academic researcher, you can receive a temporary residence permit for the purpose of research, as long as you have a "host" agreement with a research institute. This is valid for the length of the research project, up to a maximum of three years. You are entitled to take up research and teaching activities at the research establishment, and to work as a teacher or a freelancer.
For your application, you will need an admission agreement or contract with the research establishment. You also need to demonstrate an adequate salary for research activities. As of 2018, this is a monthly net salary of 1.796,67 euros.
After your research activities have concluded, it is possible to extend your residency by up to nine months for the purpose of seeking employment connected to your qualification.
7. Permit for self-employment
A residence permit for self-employment, up to a maximum of three years, may be issued to entrepreneurs. In order to qualify, you need to establish that there is an economic interest or regional need for your planned business that it is expected to have a positive effect on the economy, and that you have the personal capital or an approved loan to realise your idea.
Usually, you will be expected to submit a business plan, financing plan and revenue forecast as part of your application. If you are above the age of 45, you also need to demonstrate adequate provision for old age, such as savings or a pension plan.
If, after three years, your business venture is a success, you will have the option to apply for a permanent settlement permit, as long as your income ensures the subsistence of both yourself and any dependents.
8. Permit for family reunification
If you have family members who wish to join you in Germany, they will need to apply for a temporary residence permit for family reunification. The rules vary according to your nationality.
EU Citizens’ Family Members
If your family member has European citizenship, they can join you in Germany to live, work or study without restrictions.
If your family member does not have EU or EEA citizenship, they must apply for a national visa to enter Germany and then apply for a family reunification residence permit. According to EU law, your family has the right to residence, even if they are not EU nationals.
Non-EU Citizens’ Family Members
Dependents of nationals from outside the EU will be considered on a case-by-case basis, according to the following requirements:
- You must possess a residence permit in order for your spouse to join you.
- You need to demonstrate that sufficient living space is available and that your finances can provide for the entire family unit. This will be assessed by the German Mission and the Foreigners’ Office. If you are receiving welfare benefits, for instance, your application will likely be refused.
- Your spouse needs to be able to communicate in German at least on a basic level (exceptions are made for highly-qualified or self-employed workers, and for those who cannot reasonably be expected to learn German, due to physical/mental illness, disability or extreme personal circumstances).
- The residency may be extended as long as marital cohabitation continues.
- Children are entitled to join, provided they are under the age of 16 and unmarried. Otherwise, they need to apply for a different type of residence permit separately.
- If you are an EU Blue Card or permanent settlement permit holder, your spouse will not need to demonstrate German language skills in order to be eligible.
- Holders of a family reunification temporary residence permit are permitted to work without restriction.
The German residence permit application procedure
If you fulfil the requirements for a temporary residence permit, you may want to start the application procedure. It can take several weeks to process your application, so be sure to apply well in advance of the expiry date of your visa.
Visit our residence permit application procedure page to get all the information you need on the application process: where to apply for your residence permit, the forms and documents required, and how much the application costs.