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Obtain a German Residence Permit

Obtain a German Residence Permit

The legal requirements for obtaining residency in Germany vary based on the nationality of the foreigner moving here for various purposes. Thus, the German legislation distinguishes between foreigners who are citizens of the European Union (EU) and non-EU citizens. The residency criteria can also vary depending on the person’s legal status, but also on the duration of their stay in this country.

The German migration law for EU persons is given by the Act on General Freedom of Movement for EU Citizens (known as Freedom of Movement Act/EU), which grants such persons the right to free movement in this country. In this sense, EU citizens will not need to apply for a German residence permit, but they will have to register with the local authorities in order to prove they have a residential address in a German region.

Information regarding the procedures applicable to the EU citizens interested in relocation in Germany is available at the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers, which implements the regulations of the above-mentioned law.

However, in the case of non-EU citizens, more complex procedures are applicable and our immigration lawyer in Germany can assist with in-depth advice and legal representation on the procedures that have to be completed prior to arriving in this country or after a foreigner arrived here, depending on the persons’ specific situation.

If you have any questions on how to obtain a residence permit in Germany, we can answer them. In case you need other types of legal services in Germany or in Poland, such as debt recovery services, we recommend our partners.

We can also help you apply for German citizenship. We are at your service if you want to move to Germany from Canada.

Types of residence permits in Germany

Foreign citizens who want to relocate to Germany have several options in terms of residency. However, it should be noted that the requirements are different in the case of EU and non-EU citizens in the sense that the latter category also requires entry visas when coming to Germany for the first time. This one of the main reasons for which most of the immigrants choose to enter the country from other EU countries where they have obtained residence permits, including EU Blue Cards.

There are three types of residence permits available for those who want to immigrate to Germany, namely:

  • temporary or limited residence permit;
  • employment-based residence permits;
  • long-term or permanent residence permits.

There are several reasons to apply for a German residence permit. Among the key options are working, studying, and engaging in other activities. Depending on the reason for admission and the expected period of stay, there are many types of German residency visas. If you need support in selecting one, you can rely on our immigration lawyers.

Each comes with its requirements that can be explained in detail by our immigration lawyers in Germany.

 Quick Facts  
  Temporary residence permit types

Short-term, long-term, EU residence cards

Time needed to obtain the temporary residence permit (approx.)

Approx. 2-3 weeks

Temporary residence permit validity

 2 years
Documents for obtaining temporary residence Valid passport, application form, proof of accommodation, proof of stable income for self-sustenance, documents indicating the reason of relocation
Mandatory registrations with state authorities (i.e. with the population/municipality register) YES, with the local municipality
Dependents can join the temporary permit holder (Yes/No)

YES, it is possible to obtain a family reunion visa 

Temporary or permanent residency for investment purposes

Temporary residency in Germany is issued through investments

Types of investments available for residency purposes Business and job creation, real estate acquisition can lead to residency in Germany
Minimum investment amount EUR 250,000 is the minimum amount to be invested to acquire residency in Germany
Minimum temporary residence before applying for permanent residence 5 years
Residency for individuals married to a citizen of the country 2 years of marriage and 3 years of living in Germany can lead to residency by marriage
Documents for obtaining
permanent residence 
Application form, proof of contributing to the social security system for at least 60 months, valid passport, proof of self-sufficiency, other documents
Naturalization requirements Speaking German, knowing the German culture
Citizenship after permanent residence 8 years of living in Germany
Dual citizenship permitted (Yes/No)  YES, dual citizenship is now permitted
in Germany
Visa types  Work, study, family reunion, job seeker, entrepreneur, etc. 

 Application process

Please visit the local Ausländerbehörde, which is the German Immigration Office. 

 Financial requirements (yes/no)

Yes, demonstrate financial means to support yourself. 

Health insurance (yes/no)  Yes, mandatory health insurance coverage during your stay. 
Biometric data 

Biometric data like fingerprints and photos may be collected. 

EU blue card 

For highly skilled non-EU workers in specified fields. 

 Refugee status

 Submit your application at the German embassy in your country of origin.

Living cost 

On average it’s almost $1533.  


Germany is known for its high-quality education system, which is available to both German citizens and expat families.

 EU citizens Citizens of EU member states enjoy the privilege of unrestricted movement within the European Union. 
 Tax year

Same as the calendar year 


Residents are taxed on worldwide income. 

State/local income tax 


Visa-free access  

German citizens have visa-free access to 159 countries.  

German passport   According to the Passport Index, the German passport ranks second in terms of power. 

Residency permit requirements in Germany in 2024

Obtaining residency in Germany in 2024 is done through the residence permit, which represents a type of Germany residency visa, a document that can be granted for a determined period of time, or for an undetermined duration (permanent residence permit). The first type of permit is required in the case of foreigners outside the EU who plan to relocate to Germany for a period longer than three months. The temporary residence permit (also referred to as a limited residence permit) is issued for stays of up to one year.

Upon the expiration of the document, the foreigner is allowed for an extension, but only if the reasons for which the first permit was issued are still available. For instance, a person who has obtained a temporary residence permit for study purposes in Germany can prolong the document for the same purpose.

The document can be issued for the following purposes: studying, working, or getting married to a German citizen or a person who has a permanent residence permit. It can also be issued for family reunification purposes, as long as the applicant is a family member of a person living in Germany, who is a citizen of a country outside the EU.

Another document that can be required by foreigners is the EU Blue Card, a permit that is similar to the temporary residence permit, but which is available only for highly skilled persons moving to Germany in 2024 and who arrive here for employment purposes. Our immigration lawyer in Germany can present extensive information on the immigration law referring to the employment of foreigners.

The document can be obtained by non-EU persons who have a higher education degree and who will be employed in Germany in the field in which they have obtained their degree. There is also a financial criterion that must be met, in the sense that the EU Blue Card can be issued for those earning at least EUR 50,800 per year and who have proficiency in the German language.

Foreigners are also entitled to a permanent residence permit when moving to Germany. The document is also known as the settlement permit. It can only be granted if the person has been living in Germany for a period of 5 years at the moment when the application was made, and it may be obtained by the holders of temporary residence permits or EU Blue Cards.

You cannot be considered a German citizen if you are a permanent resident of Germany. This places some limitations on your status, which is why so many German citizens desire to become permanent residents. However, if you meet the requirements for German citizenship, you can address our immigration lawyers who will help you obtain it.

Here is also an infographic on German residence permit:

The main options for obtaining a German residence permit

There are several options for foreign citizens who want to move and obtain residency in Germany. These are:

  1. residency by employment which is one of the safest ways of moving to Germany;
  2. residency through self-employment which is another good option for foreigners immigrating to Germany;
  3. residency through business establishment which is a great solution for foreign entrepreneurs;
  4. residency by marriage and studentship is also an option for foreign citizens from non-EU states;
  5. residency by investment is also a possibility for foreign investors who want to establish themselves in this country.

These options are all available for non-EU citizens moving here. Our immigration lawyers in Germany can offer detailed information on the main types of residence permits that can be acquired by those who relocate here from countries that are not part of the European Union.

EU citizens and their residence options in Germany

As a member of the European Union, Germany aligned with the other member states and does not impose any visa requirements upon entering the country from other EU states, however, these can obtain permanent residence after living here for several years.

It is also worth noting that for non-EU citizens moving to Germany based on residence permits obtained in other EU member countries, there will be no need to apply for an entry visa.

Our lawyers in Germany are at your service with details on the immigration procedure for EU citizens.

The temporary residence permit in Germany

Temporary residency is accessible to all foreign citizens who want to move to Germany for short periods. Its validity does not go beyond maximum one year, however, it can be renewed. For this purpose, the holder must meet the same requirements under which he or she first entered the country or meets other requirements that enable him or her to remain here.

The main particularity of the temporary residence permit for Germany is that it can be issued for specific purposes only, as the card released by the authorities will also mention the reason for which it was issued. This also means that engaging in activities that are not specified by the permit are prohibited.

In most cases, temporary residency is issued for study or work purposes, however, at the end of its validity or, better said, before expiration, if a person wants to renew it, he or she can specify other reasons for staying and obtain a new card. This usually occurs in the case of foreign students who can find employment and decide to remain in Germany.

The temporary residence permit is the first type of card most non-EU citizens obtain upon immigration to Germany and it can be used to set the grounds for permanent residency.

If you are considering moving to Germany and require assistance with family reunification or obtaining a residency visa, our team is here to help. You have the privilege to seek family reunification for your immediate family members, and our dedicated professionals can also guide you through the process. Whether you are seeking assistance with paperwork, navigating requirements, or understanding the procedures involved, we can help you.

How to obtain residency by employment in Germany

Employment is one of the safest ways for both EU and non-EU citizens who want to relocate to Germany. If in the case of EU residents, these can enter Germany and start looking for a job directly, for non-EU citizens, certain steps must first be completed.

Foreigners coming from outside the EU must first secure employment contracts, followed by moving to Germany. These are required to file the following documents before relocating:

  • the valid passport;
  • recent photographs;
  • a bank statement indicating the applicant has sufficient funds to sustain him/herself before earning money here;
  • the employment contract;
  • health insurance;
  • proof of residential address (a rental agreement can be signed before arrival).

Also, the German company hiring foreign employees will also have to complete a few of the steps for relocating the applicant.

Employment is considered one of the safest ways of immigrating to Germany, as the country is one of the most stable economies in Europe and the demand for a workforce is a high one.

You can rely on our immigration law firm in Germany if you need guidance in preparing your relocation dossier.

Applying for residency in Germany by setting up a business

As one of the most prolific economies on the Old Continent but also in the world, Germany attracts foreign entrepreneurs from every corner of the world. These can relocate and start their own businesses here by registering as self-employment individuals, by setting up sole proprietorships, or by incorporating a company.

In the last case, residency by investment requires the foreign entrepreneur to invest at least 250,000 euros and create at least 5 full-time jobs in order to obtain a German residence permit which is also a great way to citizenship here.

For those seeking to move here as self-employed individuals or sole traders, a business plan and proof of experience, qualification, and references can help with relocating here and obtaining a German residence permit.

No matter the way you choose to immigrate to Germany, our lawyers are at your disposal with updated information on the requirements applied to every situation.

Family reunification as a way of migrating to Germany

Like in other countries around the world, foreign citizens who have family members established in Germany can apply for family reunification visas and move in with these. Family reunification is available for the foreign spouse and child or children of a German resident.

Understanding that each category of relatives may have specific requirements is crucial. For example, spouses might be required to demonstrate basic proficiency in German, while children under 16 may not face such language prerequisites. Additionally, the German government evaluates applications based on factors such as living arrangements and financial stability. Thus, comprehending the eligibility criteria for family reunification in Germany is essential, which primarily hinges on your current status in the country. If you are:

  • a German citizen,
  • a non-EU/EEA national possessing a valid residence permit,
  • an EU/EEA national exercising your right to free movement.

How to obtain residency in Germany through marriage

One of the main ways through foreign citizens can obtain residency in Germany is by marrying a German citizen or a permanent resident of this country. In this case, a temporary residence visa will be issued for the foreign spouse to be allowed to live here. This is also known as a family reunification visa and obtaining it implies filing specific documents that attest to the relation between the spouses (the marriage certificate is usually required). If the couple registered their marriage in another country, the marriage certificate must be translated into German before being submitted.

Obtaining residency in Germany through marriage is not difficult even if two people got married in other states, as the German authorities recognized documents issued in other countries through various agreements, as well as through several procedures.

When seeking to obtain German residency through marriage, both spouses must meet certain requirements. The German citizen or permanent resident must:

  • submit proof of having an address where the foreign spouse can live;
  • indicate proof of being able to support the foreign spouse.

The foreign spouse, on the other hand, must have a good command of German (usually a B1 level is required).

The temporary residence for the foreign spouse is usually issued for a period of two years, however, its main advantage is that after living in Germany for 3 years, the holder becomes a good candidate for permanent residency. Also, the foreign spouse can apply for a study or work permit alongside the residence visa.

Obtaining an EU Blue Card in Germany

Germany is one of the most important economies in the European Union and moving here implies a series of benefits for those who choose this country for relocation. They can obtain EU Blue Cards which are the equivalent of temporary residence permits, however, they also have a few elements that differentiate them. The EU Blue Card has a longer validity period and is destined to highly skilled migrants.

EU Blue Cards are not issued in Germany only, as most EU countries seek to attract highly skilled professionals who can work in areas that require such specialists.

In order to qualify for this type of residence permit and relocate to Germany, one must secure a job here which will enable him or her to work in the field in which one is specialized. The person must also have a good knowledge of German.

How long does it take to obtain permanent residency in Germany?

Germany has different rules for obtaining residency here based on the reasons for immigration and the type of temporary residence permit holders. Among these, we mention the following:

  • 5 years for professionals working as freelancers and sole traders;
  • 4 years for those who came here as professional workers and researchers;
  • 3 years for self-employed individuals and foreign family members of German residents or citizens;
  • 2 years for those who are skilled workers who have superior studies or vocational training;
  • 33 months for those who have obtained EU Blue Cards in other states of the Union.

We can also guide you on German citizenship. Please watch our video below:

What is the demand for EU Blue Cards in Germany?

As we presented earlier, one of the ways for moving to Germany in 2024 is by applying for an EU Blue Card, which grants the opportunity to a non-EU citizen to work in any of the EU countries, Germany included, as long as the person meets specific requirements related to his or her skills and education. It must be noted that Germany has the highest demand for this type of document, through which one is entitled to German residence, the following data being available:

  • Germany ranked first among EU countries in terms of the number of first residence permits granted in 2022;
  • Germany issued a total of 538,690 residence permits, constituting 15% of all permits granted within the EU;
  • Germany’s net migration rate in 2023 was 1.727 per 1000 people, down 35.92% from 2022;
  • Germany’s net migration rate in 2022 was 2.695 per 1000 people, a fall of 26.45% from 2021;
  • in 2021, Germany’s net migration rate was 3.664 per 1000 people, a 20.9% decrease from 2020.

We invite foreigners to address our immigration lawyer in Germany for extensive information on the documents one must prepare for the process of obtaining German residency. We can assist with advice on all the formalities involved in this process and we remain at your disposal for other legal matters related to Germany immigration. Please feel free to ask us anything about the residence permit in Germany.w