Non-EU Citizens Moving to Germany

Understand the visas and permits you will need if you are from a non-EU country...


Note: The non-EU spouse, registered partner, or minor child (unmarried) of a German citizen will be issued with a residence permit as long as they are coming to Germany to join the German citizen already living in the country. There are very few formalities to follow, apart from proving the relationship and (depending on the country of origin) having a visa issued prior to departure.

Non-EU nationals planning to stay in Germany for more than 90 days must obtain a residence title (Aufenthaltstitel) prior to moving to Germany; a residence title can be obtained from the German embassy or consulate in the current country of residence. This can be done in conjunction with the required visa application. Exceptions apply to citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States who do not need a visa to enter Germany and may therefore apply for the necessary permit after arrival...

Non-EU nationals: obligatory police registration

On moving to Germany Non-EU nationals must initially follow the same obligatory registration process (Anmeldung) as EU citizens. Registration must be made at the local residency office (Einwohnermeldeamt or Bürgeramt), often found in the local town hall (Rathaus) within one or two weeks, depending on the state, of finding permanent accommodation. They will then be issued with a certificate of registration ( Meldebestätigung)

The following documents are required when registering:

  • Valid EU passport or national identity card
  • A completed registration form (Anmeldeformular)
  • A copy of the lease or rental agreement (Mietvertrag) as proof of accommodation or a signature from the landlord on the registration form

The registration form can be obtained free from the local registration office (Meldeamt or Meldestelle)

Note that any change of address must be re-registered with the registration office.

Non-EU nationals: residence permit

here are several different types of residence permits (Aufenthaltstitel) available in Germany; some are short-term and temporary, and others are permanent. These permits include:

  • Aufenthalterlaubnis
  • EU Blue Card
  • Niederlassungserlaubnis

Aufenthalterlaubnis is a temporary permit which is granted to those moving to Germany for a specific purpose, for example, to study, to carry out research or for employment. The permit is only valid for the length of the intended purpose of the residency, but there is often the chance to extend when necessary.

The EU Blue Card is another temporary permit available to the highly educated or skilled workers. A degree is necessary in order to apply for the EU Blue Card in Germany; any university graduate can apply as long as they have a current contract of employment with a salary of at least €46,400. Where there are professions with a shortage of skilled workers in Germany, the salary requirement is lowered to €36,192. These positions include, among others, engineers, academics and doctors. For more information on the EU Blue Card and how to apply visit the EU Blue Card website

A Niederlassungserlaubnis is an unrestricted residence permit for permanent residency in Germany and was introduced in 2005. It can be applied for once certain conditions have been met. In some cases it is granted automatically on arrival in Germany to citizens who are accepted for political reasons or who have specific high qualifications to contribute to the German labour market, but usually it is issued once a person has completed an acknowledged period of residency in Germany.

An unrestricted residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) is usually dependent on the following criteria being met:

  • Minimum of five years' residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) being held
  • Proof that the applicant has been employed for five years and has paid the relevant social insurance contributions into the German system
  • Proof of ongoing financial support
  • Proof of suitable accommodation for the applicant and their family
  • Sufficient knowledge of the German language
  • Basic knowledge of German legal and social systems

Spouses and children of those who already hold a permit, are usually also granted a settlement permit (Niederlassungerlaubnis) on the basis of certain conditions being met. For more information visit the Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz.

How to apply

A residence permit must be applied for within three months of arriving in Germany. This is obtained from the local authority for foreigners (Ausländerbehörde). Most towns and cities have their own website, which will have details of the local Ausländerbehörde , as well as opening times and a list of fees. Some also have the relevant forms available to download and complete before applying in person.

The following documents are required:

  • Completed application form (PDF in German and English)
  • Passport
  • Two recent passport photographs
  • Employment contract or confirmation of student enrolment
  • Evidence of financial support (Finanzierungsnachweis), for example student grant, letter from employer, employment contract or payslip, bank statement
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Police registration form (polizeiliche Anmeldung)

Applications must be made in person and can involve a lengthy wait. Opening hours can be limited and the number of applications processed on one day limited. Check opening times before going and enquire if it is possible to make an appointment in advance.


Special regulations exist for issuing settlement permits for recognised refugees. They can usually receive a settlement permit after three years. Refugees are dealt with by the Foreign Authorities for Refugees and Deportees in Berlin (Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten).

  • Foreign Authorities for Refugees and Deportees in Berlin (Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten)
    Ausländerbehörde (Abteilung IV)
    At: Nöldnerstr. 34-36, 10317 Berlin
    Tel: 030 902 690
    Open: Monday and Tuesday 07:00-14:00, Thursday 10:00-18:00, closed on Wednesday and Friday

Working Holiday Programme

A bilateral agreement exists for citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Japan aged between 18 and 30 to reside in Germany for up to 12 months as part of the Working Holiday Programme. For more information contact the nearest German mission beforehand.


Naturalisation is possible for non-EU citizens after eight years of legal residence in Germany.

Further Information

  • Headed to Berlin? Read the Berlin file to get an inside understanding of each district in this eclectic city