Three year German residence permit? Check.
While it’s somewhat fresh in my mind, I’d like to share my experience obtaining a German Residence Permit in Berlin. Hopefully it will serve as some sort of guide for others in a similar situation.
The first thing you need to know is that German bureaucracy is real — even the paperwork requires paperwork. I won’t go into detail, but applying to grad school was an ordeal of it’s own. The only personal documents I didn’t divulge were my dental records, and that’s hardly an exaggeration.
Currently, Americans are allowed entry into Germany (and the entire EU) without a visa, and can stay for up to three months. Given the current POTUS, let’s see how long this privilege lasts. If you want to stay longer, say to study or to work, then you must get a residence permit.
For purposes of studying, detailed information on how to obtain a German residence permit follows.
Note: While the requirements for a German residence permit are generally the same from country to country, the information I have provided is based on my experience as an American. It’s worth checking to see if your country requires any additional documents.
Booking an Appointment at the Ausländerbehörde
Appointments are held at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office), and can be booked in person or online. I didn’t want to go in person because of the countless horror stories of waiting in line for three hours at 4am and still not getting an appointment. I thought online would be easier, but then I attempted to book an appointment online every day for an entire week, and there was no availability for the foreseeable future.
So, Max asked around and was given a rather odd, but effective, insider tip: wake up at least an hour before the Ausländerbehörde opens (7am) and try your luck then. And weirdly enough, it worked! But be sure to book in advance — I booked my appointment at 6am on April 10th, and the soonest appointment I was able to get was on May 15th.
Side note: this insider tip also worked for my friend, so there’s definitely truth to it!
This one is pretty straight forward — you must have a passport that is valid for the extent of your stay in Germany.
2. Passport photo
One current biometric photo is required. There are photo booths specifically for this purpose scattered throughout the city at train stations, grocery stores, and shopping malls. I had mine taken at one of these photo booths outside of the Real in Wedding for 7€ and it worked just fine.
3. “Application for a Visa or Residence Permit”
The application form must be printed and filled out by hand (not electronically).
Find the form online.
4. Proof of residence (Anmeldung)
The Anmeldung is compulsory registration required of everyone (German citizens and foreigners) living in Germany for an extended stay. Registration can be done at any Bürgeramt (Civil Office) in your city. Appointments are necessary, but easy to obtain via phone or in person. If you don’t speak German or have a German-speaking friend that can make the call for you, I would recommend booking the appointment in person as the automated phone recordings are only available in German.
Find your local Bürgeramt
Find a list of the required documents for the appointment
5. Health insurance
Health insurance is also required by law of everyone living in Germany. I’m using the private provider offered through my university, but there are various options, both private and public. As a point of reference, I pay 75€ ($84) per month.
6. Proof of enrollment (Studienbescheinigung)
This is simply a sheet of paper given to you by your university, stating that you are, in fact, an enrolled student there.
7. Proof of sufficient financial status (Blocked Account)
Germany requires that you have a minimum of 720€ ($809) per month for the entire duration of your studies. This means that if your program is eighteen months long, like mine is, you must have at least 12.960€ (18 x 720€), or $14,570, at your disposal. In order to prove that you have sufficient funds, you must open a blocked account. A blocked account is a German bank account that caps your monthly withdrawals at 720€. You can sign up for a blocked account with Deutsche Bank, Sparkasse, or Volksbank, to name a few. I can only recommend Deutsche Bank, as it’s the bank that I chose for opening my blocked account. The paperwork/back-and-forth with the bank takes a few weeks, so again, do this in advance. I actually initiated the process from the US, which saved me a lot of time and stress.
Find information regarding Deutsche Bank’s blocked account options
8. Blocked account bank statements
Proof of your blocked account is not sufficient — you must bring print-out copies of at least one month’s bank statements.
9. Residence permit fee
The residence permit fee varies from 40€ to 120€ depending on your nationality. For Americans it is 60€.
My Personal Experience at the Ausländerbehörde
My residence permit appointment was for 9:30am, so in natural German fashion (and very unnatural Fran fashion), I arrived fifteen minutes early. Do not arrive anywhere late in Germany or you will be chastised. Really, though. The entrance is located on the back side of the building at Keplerstraße 2, 10589 Berlin, just one block from the U7 Miriendorffplatz station. And in very typical Fran fashion it took me a good ten minutes to find the entrance because back-of-the-building entrances are not for the directionally impaired.
The Ausländerbehörde in Charlottenburg is three floors (if I remember correctly) of offices and waiting rooms. When I originally booked the appointed online, I received a confirmation email that detailed room number and floor. All of the waiting rooms were packed full, so I was quite surprised, and thankful, that my number was called after just twenty minutes.
I went into the assigned office with all necessary documents, presented them to a very nice lady, paid the 60€ fee, and was out within ten minutes with a three year residence permit in hand. Just to explain, my program is eighteen months long, and you are allowed to get an initial residence permit for up to double the duration of your studies. Confusing, yes, but I’m not complaining.
So, elevator pitch of residence permit process: paperwork is a real bitch, but it’s totally worth it because the actual appointment is a breeze and damn does it feel good.