Types of permit for long-term residence in Germany
If you are not a national of a Member State of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) and would like to remain in Germany permanently, you will need a residence permit to do so. In addition to your visa for entry and subsequent short-term period of residence, there are different types of permit for long-term residence in Germany:
- Temporary residence permit
- EU Blue Card
- Permanent settlement permit
- EU long-term residence permit
This is regulated by the Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory (Residence Act, AufenthG)
Temporary residence permit
“Section 7 Residence Act, AufenthG:
(1) The temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) shall be a residence title which is limited in time. It shall be issued for the purposes of residence stated in the following Parts of this Act. In justified cases, a temporary residence permit may also be issued for a purpose of residence which is not covered by this Act.
(2) The temporary residence permit shall be subject to a time limit which takes due account of the intended purpose of residence. Should a vital prerequisite for issuance, extension or the duration of validity cease to apply, it shall also be possible to subsequently reduce the length of validity.”
A residence permit is a temporary residence title (e.g. stay for humanitarian reasons; for the purpose of pursuing university studies; for the purpose of professional training or research; for the purpose of employment or self-employment; for the subsequent immigration of family members for spouses and children, provided the foreign national living here possesses the right of residence, or for the spouses and children of German nationals).
The residence permit - in spite of its initial time limit - constitutes the basis for a permanent right of residence unless its renewal was excluded right from the outset, e.g. in cases of time-limited purpose of stay. It opens up the possibility for a future unlimited right of residence (permanent settlement permit or EU Permit for Permanent Residency).
The EU Blue Card
Notably to encourage the immigration of highly qualified professionals to pursue gainful employment in Germany, the EU Blue Card was introduced on August 1st, 2012.
The EU Blue Card is a residence title which largely corresponds to a residence permit, which is why the regulations applicable to residence permits shall also be applied to EU Blue Cards on a regular basis.
EU Blue Cards are available to foreign nationals who have successfully completed a university degree program. In cases where a foreign national's university degree is not a degree awarded by a German university, the degree either has to have been officially recognized or has to be comparable to a German university degree. Recognition or establishment of comparability may even be done before entering Germany.
As the second prerequisite for award of an EU blue Card, the foreign national needs to present either an employment contract or a binding job offer paying a specific minimum salary. The minimum salary level is set annually and can be obtained from the internet offerings by the German Federal Department of the Interior (see "Related Links"). For 2017 the minimum salary level is 50,800 EUR. In cases where the minimum salary level is reached, the EU Blue Card may also be awarded without the German Federal Employment Agency's (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) consent.
For the understaffed professions (natural scientists, engineers, physicians, academically trained IT professionals), a lower salary level has been stipulated. For 2017 this minimum salary level is 39,624 EUR. In these cases, however, the German Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) will check whether the conditions of employment actually correspond to those of comparable German employees.
The EU Blue Card is a temporary residence title which in the cases of unlimited work contracts will initially be limited to four (4) years maximum. In cases where the duration of a foreign national's work contract is less than four (4) years, the EU Blue Card will be issued for the term of the employment contract plus an additional three (3) months. During the first two (2) years of a foreign national's employment, every job change has to be approved in writing by the Aliens Department.
The spouses of EU Blue Card holders are entitled to the issuance of a residence permit. This residence allows them to take up gainful employment.
After 33 months of highly qualified professional employment, or after only 21 months thereof in cases where proof of adequate proficiency in the German language can be established, EU Blue Card holders have the option of obtaining a permanent settlement permit.
After 18 months of being in possession of an EU Blue Card, foreign nationals are entitled, together with their family members, to relocate to another EU Member State (with the exception of Denmark, Ireland and Great Britain) and to apply for an EU Blue Card allowing them to pursue gainful employment in that country.
Applications for the EU Blue Card have to be submitted to the competent immigration authoritiy.
“Section 19a Residence Act, AufenthG:
(1) A foreigner shall be issued with an EU Blue Card pursuant to Council Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment (Official Journal no. L 155 of 18 June 2009, p. 17) to work in line with his or her qualification, if
1. he or she
a) holds a German or a foreign higher education qualification which is recognised or otherwise comparable to a German higher education qualification or
b) - to the extent that this is stipulated by a statutory instrument pursuant to subsection 2 below - if he or she has a comparable qualification demonstrated by at least five years of professional experience,
2. the Federal Employment Agency has given its approval in line with Section 39 below or if a statutory instrument pursuant to Section 42 below or an intergovernmental agreement stipulate that the EU Blue Card may be issued without the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, and
3. if he or she receives a salary equal to or exceeding that stipulated by the statutory instrument under subsection 2 below.
(2) The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs may determine the following by means of statutory instruments:
1. the level of pay pursuant to subsection 1 no. 3,
2. professions where five years of professional experience demonstrate a qualification comparable to a higher education degree
3. professions where nationals of specific states are to be denied an EU Blue Card, because there is a lack of such qualified workers in the country of origin.
Statutory instruments under nos. 1 and 2 shall require the approval of the Bundesrat.
The EU Blue Card shall be issued for a maximum period of four years from the date of initial issue. Where the duration of the employment contract is less than four years, the EU Blue Card shall be issued or extended for the period covering the employment contract plus three months.
Holders of the EU Blue Card wishing to move to another position within the first two years of employment shall require permission by the foreigners authority; such permission shall be granted if the conditions in subsection 1 are met.
1. who meet the conditions in Section 9a (3) nos. 1 or 2,
2. who have applied for the determination of whether the conditions in Section 60 (5) or (7), sentence 1, or in Section 60a (2), sentence 1 are met,
3. whose entry into a member state of the European Union is subject to obligations arising from international treaties to facilitate the entry and temporary residence of specific categories of natural persons exercising trade- or investment-related activities,
4. who have been approved as seasonal workers in a member state of the European Union,
5. whose deportation has been temporarily suspended pursuant to Section 60a,
6. who come under Directive 96/71/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 1996 concerning the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services (Official Journal no. L 18 of 21 January 1997, p.1), for the duration of posting to Germany, or
7. who, owing to treaties between the European Union and its member states on the one hand and third countries on the other, enjoy rights of free movement equivalent to those of Union citizens.
shall not be issued with an EU Blue Card.
(6) Holders of an EU Blue Card are to be issued with a permanent settlement permit, if they have held a position of employment in line with subsection 1 for at least 33 months and have made mandatory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme for that period, or if they furnish evidence of an entitlement to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension scheme or from an insurance company and if the requirements of Section 9 (2), sentence 1, nos. 2, 4 to 6, 8 to 9 are met and if they have basic German language skills. Section 9 (2) sentences 2 to 6 shall apply mutatis mutandis. The period referred to in sentence 1 shall be reduced to 21 months if the foreigner has a sufficient command of the German language.”
Permanent settlement permit
The settlement permit does not have a time limit. It allows you to work in Germany.
To obtain a settlement permit, you must, as a rule, have had a residence permit for five years and also fulfil further conditions.
Anyone wishing to apply for a settlement permit must for example make his/her own living and secure the financial independence of his family members, have adequate German-language skills and not have a criminal record. In certain circumstances, a settlement permit can be granted without the relevant conditions in relation to periods of time having been met, in the case of highly-qualified immigrants for example.
“Section 9 Residence Act, AufenthG:
(1) The permanent settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) shall be a residence title which is not limited in time. It shall entitle the holder to pursue an economic activity and may only be supplemented with a subsidiary provision in those cases which are expressly permitted by this Act. Section 47 shall remain unaffected.
(2) A foreigner shall be granted the permanent settlement permit provided that
1. he or she has held a temporary residence permit for five years,
2. his or her subsistence is secure,
3. he or she has paid compulsory or voluntary contributions into the statutory pension scheme for at least 60 months or furnishes evidence of an entitlement to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension scheme or from an insurance company; time off for the purposes of child care or nursing at home shall be duly taken into account,
4. the granting of such a temporary residence permit is not precluded by reasons of public safety or order, according due consideration to the severity or the nature of the breach of public safety or order or the danger emanating from the foreigner, with due regard to the duration of the foreigner’s stay to date and the existence of ties in the federal territory,
5. he or she is permitted to be in employment, if he or she is in employment,
6. he or she is in possession of the other permits which are required for the purpose of the permanent pursuit of his or her economic activity,
7. he or she has a sufficient command of the German language,
8. he or she possesses a basic knowledge of the legal and social system and the way of life in the federal territory and
9. he or she possesses sufficient living space for himself or herself and the members of his or her family forming part of his or her household.
The requirements of sentence 1, nos. 7 and 8 shall be deemed to be fulfilled if an integration course has been successfully completed. These requirements shall be waived if the foreigner is unable to fulfil them on account of a physical, mental or psychological illness or handicap. The requirements of sentence 1, nos. 7 and 8 may also be waived in order to avoid hardship. The aforesaid requirements shall further be waived if the foreigner is able to communicate verbally in the German language at a basic level and has not been entitled to participate in an integration course pursuant to Section 44 (3), no. 2 or has not been obliged to participate in an integration course pursuant to Section 44a (2), no. 3. The requirements of sentence 1, nos. 2 and 3 shall also be waived if the foreigner is unable to fulfil them due to the grounds stated in sentence 3.
(3) In the case of cohabiting spouses, it shall suffice if the requirements in accordance with subsection 2, sentence 1, nos. 3, 5 and 6 are fulfilled by one spouse. The requirement in accordance with subsection 2, sentence 1, no. 3 shall be waived if the foreigner is undergoing education or training which leads to a recognised school, vocational or higher education qualification. Sentence 1 shall apply mutatis mutandis in the cases covered by Section 26 (4).
(4) The following periods shall be taken into account with regard to the periods of possession of a temporary residence permit which are necessary in order to qualify for issuance of a permanent settlement permit:
1. The duration of former possession of a temporary residence permit or permanent settlement permit, if the foreigner was in possession of a permanent settlement permit at the time of leaving the federal territory, minus the duration of intermediate stays outside of the federal territory which led to expiry of the permanent settlement permit; a maximum of four years shall be taken into account.
2. A maximum of six months for each stay outside of the federal territory which has not led to expiry of the temporary residence permit.
3. Half of the period of lawful stay for the purposes of study or vocational training in the federal territory.”
EU long-term residence permit
The permanent EU residence permit is also an unlimited residence title that entitles the holder to engage in gainful employment.
The qualifying conditions are very similar to those for the settlement permit. However, the permanent EU residence permit also entitles the holder to mobility within the European Union by granting a right to a limited residence title in the other Member States.
“Section 9a Residence Act, AufenthG:
(1) The EU long-term residence permit is a permanent residence title. Section 9 (1), sentences 2 and 3 shall apply accordingly. In the absence of any provisions to the contrary in this Act, the EU long-term residence permit shall be equivalent to the permanent settlement permit.
(2) A foreigner shall be issued with an EU long-term residence permit pursuant to Article 2, letter b of Directive 2003/109/EC provided that
1. he or she has been resident in the federal territory with a residence title for five years,
2. his or her subsistence and the subsistence of his or her dependants whom he or she is required to support is ensured by a fixed and regular income,
3. he or she has sufficient command of the German language,
4. he or she possesses a basic knowledge of the legal and social system and the way of life in the federal territory,
5. the granting of such a residence permit is not precluded by reasons of public safety or order, according due consideration to the severity or the nature of the breach of public safety or order or the danger emanating from the foreigner, with due regard to the duration of the foreigner’s stay to date and the existence of ties in the federal territory and
6. he or she possesses sufficient living space for himself or herself and the members of his or her family forming part of his or her household.
Section 9 (2), sentences 2 to 5 shall apply mutatis mutandis to sentence 1, nos. 3 and 4.
(3) Subsection 2 shall not apply if the foreigner
1. possesses a residence title pursuant to Part 5 which was not issued on the basis of Section 23 (2) or holds a comparable legal status in another member state of the European Union and if he or she has not been recognised as eligible for international protection in the Federal Republic of Germany or another member state of the European Union; the same shall apply if he or she has applied for such title or such legal status, and the decision on this application is pending,
2. has applied for recognition as being eligible for international protection or for temporary protection within the meaning of Section 24 and the decision on this application is pending,
3. possesses a legal status in another member state of the European Union which corresponds to that described in Section 1 (2), no. 2,
4. is resident in the federal territory with a temporary residence permit pursuant to Section 16 or Section 17 or
5. is resident for another purpose of an inherently temporary nature, in particular
a) by virtue of a temporary residence permit pursuant to Section 18, where the time limit on the approval granted by the Federal Employment Agency is based on a maximum term of employment imposed pursuant to Section 42 (1),
b) if an extension to his or her temporary residence permit has been prohibited pursuant to Section 8 (2) or
c) if his or her temporary residence permit serves to enable the foreigner to live together or to continue to live together as a family with a foreigner who himself/herself is only resident in the federal territory for a purpose of an inherently temporary nature, where no independent right of residence would arise upon the family unity ending”.