Endlich, after many years and exams I have finally received my Permanent Residency in Germany. So now I can (with confidence) break down the details for any of you who are also eager to secure your German home for the long run.
💡 What is a Permanent Residence permit?
A German Permanent Residence Permit, also referred to as a Settlement Permit, once received, allows its owner to stay in Germany indefinitely* and gain access to the labor market.
*with some conditions to keep in mind
- If you leave Germany for more than a period of longer than six consecutive months, it will expire.
- It’s not the same as having German citizenship, but it holds more security than having an Aufenthaltserlaubnis.
🤔 What are the Requirements for a permanent residence permit?
Non-EU and non-EEA citizens (as well as UK citizens) living in Germany are able to apply for permanent residency after a period of at least five years in the country (although there are the occasional circumstances that allows earlier qualifications, which I describe briefly below).
Fast-track permit cases
- Sometimes it is possible to receive your Permanent Residence Permit in just two years. Usually this would apply to those who graduated from a German university and then lived and worked in Germany for two years after.
- Individuals married to German citizens can also apply for a Permanent Residence Permit after three years.
- Finally, another opportunity to receive a Permanent Residence Permit in under the normal five years is open to those who are highly qualified in a specific technical/research area.
Normal permit cases
The above exceptions are never 100% certain, unfortunately, so most often one will qualify after five years, as long as they are able to meet the following requirements:
- You have held a Aufenthaltserlaubnis for a minimum of 5 years.
- You are able to support yourself without benefit payments (your working contract and typically the last three months salary slips will be requested)
- Proof of current and paid health insurance (and documentation showing at least 60 months of social security contributions)
- You hold the proper permissions to gain employment in Germany
- You have a completed B1 language exam and Einbürgerungstest (Kenntnisse über die Rechts- und Gesellschaftsordnung sowie die Lebensverhältnisse in Deutschland), which is an exam testing you on basic knowledge of common law and life in Germany.
- You have sufficient living space for yourself and your family (a copy of your rental contract is requested)
- You do not have a criminal record
I personally am an individual employed by a company, but in case you are self-employed, there’s a special case for you too. If you’re looking to dig up some tips on this, here are the details I’ve been able to confirm for you:
As a self-employed person, you can apply for permanent residency after three years.
In order to qualify, you must be able to provide a valid residence permit for self-employment, have already successfully set up your business and prove that you have the financial stability to support yourself indefinitely.
It is important to keep in mind that the German tax system does distinguish between Freelancers and Self-Employed persons (commercial activity). So if you are only freelancing, unfortunately you will not qualify for the reduced application period.
📝 The Application Process
It is important to know that this process is never exactly the same for every person, and once in a while individual circumstances can change things up a bit (speaking from personal experience…), but generally speaking, this is how it should go.
So once you have confirmed you meet all the previously mentioned bullet points, it’s time to go grab your application form, the Antrag auf Erteilung der Niederlassungserlaubnis, from the local immigration office and make an appointment.
Then make sure you have all the following required documents on hand before your appointment:
- Completed application form
- Proof of current and paid health Insurance
- Valid Passport
- B1 level German certificate and Integrations course / Einbürgerungstest certifcate
- 1 x biometric photo
- Certificate of German degree (if applying for a fast-tracked Permanent Residence Permit as a graduate of a German university)
- Marriage Certificate (if applying for a fast-tracked Permanent Residence Permit due to marriage)
- Proof of being financially secure (bank statements for employed individuals and tax returns for self-employed)
- Employment contract
- Proof of accommodation and registration
- Professional license (if applying for fast-tracked Permanent Residence Permit as a result of being highly skilled in a field)
- Money for your permit fee (The standard fee for a Permanent Residence Permit is about €135, for self-employed people, it is €200…prices do very, keep this in mind!)
Depending on the grounds of your application, next to having your documents will be checked, you may be interviewed about your application and intention for long term residency. (This was a bit intimidating in my interview but in the end, it worked out great.)
One of the reasons why I adore Germany so much is down to the basic fact that, if you have all the correct paperwork, you are 9 times out of 10 guaranteed to receive what you want. And this fact has always played out for the best in my experience.
And finally, the big question to sum up all the excitement: how long does it take to get a residence permit in Germany?
To which this answer is, of course… it ALWAYS varies. 😛
In my experience, this particular Amt does like to take its precious time getting my documents and permits to me, so it’s tough to say precisely how long yours will take.
They do say that on average, from the time of your interview appointment it will be around 2-3 weeks for your Permanent Residence Permit to be processed and provided (but I’ve got my fingers crossed it will be nice and schnell).
So there you go. That was my 411 on the German permanent residency process. In all honesty, my situation was not one of the standard ones outlined and was a bit more fast-tracked (but still a bit tedious, as bureaucracy always is).
However, I hope those details were helpful to you all…and best wishes my little long-term Deutsch fishes!