If you are a European Union citizen, under the European Union Regulations, you are not required to obtain a visa or work-permit to live or need to relocate, study or work in Berlin. The only requirement is for you to register at your local Residence Registrations Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) within one week of obtaining permanent accommodation, this must be completed within your first three months. To register, you will need to present your passport, a copy of your rental agreement and a completed registration form, which you can acquire from the office. The Residence Registrations Office will be located at the town hall in your neighbourhood.
Regulations also allow for spouses and children under 21 years of age to accompany you. Non-EU family members will require the necessary visas.
All other non EU citizen wanting to live, travel and/or work in Germany for more than 90 days, will require a visa. This visa can either be applied for prior to coming to Germany or during your initial 90 days.
In Germany there are three types of residence permits:
1. Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis or Niederlassungserlaubnis – refer to #2), this is for a pre-defined length of time and must be applied for to allow you to seek employment. For all Non – EU foreigners, this is the required visa to stay in Berlin – whether you are working, studying or retiring.
2. Settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) this is for an unlimited period, and necessary for seeking employment, but only within Germany.
3. EC longterm residence permit, this is for foreigners in the EU legally having held a residence permit for over five years. This is issued for an unlimited period and allows access to employment and insurance opportunities in any EU country.
There are two types of residency permits you can apply for when you first come to Berlin, an Aufenthaltserlaubnis and a Niederlassungserlaubnis. The first is limited for two years and forbids you from working without permission from the labour office (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). The second is an unlimited residency permit and includes the right to work in Germany.
Most foreigners will have to wait five years before qualifying for an unlimited permit, unless you are a professor, IT specialist or anyone with an annual salary above €85,500. Self-employed entrepreneurs can also qualify for a Niederlassungserlaubnis before or shortly after entering Germany, however it is important to note that the German government defines ‘self-employed’ as someone who invests €500,000 in their business and creates five new jobs within Germany.
As long as all your paperwork is in order, generally speaking applying for a visa relatively easy.
If you apply for your permits prior to arriving in Berlin, you need to do so through your local German Embassy, in most cases if you are being transfered by your employer, they will assist you with this.
If you decide to apply after your arrive in Berlin, you need to go to the aliens registration office (Ausländerbehörde) located in Wedding at Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24 to register. This office is only open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and it is strongly advisable to get an appointment.
The website also allows you to download the application for residency permits. The application is in four different languages, including English. In addition to your application form and depending on your status i.e. employee, job-seeker, self-employed, student, retired, you may also be required to produce one or more of the following documents:
- Employees must produce proof of employment or offer or employment;
- Persons setting up in a self-employed capacity must provide evidence of their status, such as membership of a professional or trade body, a VAT number or registration on a trade register;
- Service providers must produce supporting evidence.
- two fully completed visa application forms for a residence permit
- two recent passport photographs (35 x 45 mm, front facial view).
- your national passport.
- proof of sufficient funds (bank statement covering the last 3 months, pay slip, credit cards, proof of income etc.) OR a Formal Obligation (“ Verpflichtungserklärung”) from your inviting party; forms for a “Verpflichtungserklärung” are available at the local foreigners’ authority (“Ausländerbehörde”) in Germany.
- proof of medical insurance.
- the visa fee
Your application will usually take between 1 – 2 weeks. You will be provided with a temporary certificate while you wait. Certificates may be restricted to a time period, however this can be extended at a later point in time.
Spouses and minors are given approved permits of the same level as the primary permit holder.
- A residential permit for more than one year is €60 each.
- A resdiential permit for minors is €30 each.