One of the first things to consider is your residency permit if you’re a non-EU citizen or your registration if you are an EU citizen.

Germany is rich in history and captivates people from around the world. It has a diverse culture and resilient economy that continues to attract foreign businesses and professionals. 

You might be moving to Germany because of promising job opportunities or a better quality of life. Whatever is bringing you to this amazing country, Germany promises a fruitful adventure. 

Your residency in Germany

If you’re a non-EU citizen and you’re planning to reside in Germany for longer than three months, you are required to obtain a residence permit which is called an Aufenthaltstitel. There are two categories of the Aufenthaltstitel, limited and unlimited and below you can see the difference between them. 

  1. Aufenthaltserlaubnis (Limited Residence Permit):This is a temporary residence permit that allows you to stay in Germany for specific purposes only. Family reunification, studying and working in Germany can be purposes for staying in the country and covered by this residence permit. Once you have the residency permit, the initial purpose tied to it has a time limit. You will need to renew or extend this permit after a period of time. As an example, if you apply for the Aufenthaltserlaubnis because you came to Germany to study and complete a degree, the residence permit will be valid for the duration of your studies and no longer. When it expires, you will need to either leave Germany or apply for a different type of residence permit in order to extend your stay. 
  2. Niederlassungserlaubnis (Unlimited Residence Permit): With this residency permit, you can stay in Germany indefinitely. It’s an unlimited residence permit and you are not restricted to a specific purpose like the limited residency permit above. With the Niederlassungserlaubnis, you have more rights and can take up any employment that you wish. You also don’t need to continuously extend this permit and almost have the same rights as a German citizen, although you’re not able to have a German passport or vote. 


In order to be eligible for the Niederlassungserlaubnis, usually you will be required to have had an Aufenthaltserlaubnis previously for a certain amount of time, typically 5 years. You would also need to demonstrate that you have paid into the German social security system, can support yourself and also have a good understanding and command of the German language. Specific requirements may vary so it’s always good to check with your local immigration office. 


If you’re a citizen from a specific country such as Japan, Israel, USA, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia can enter Germany without a visa and apply for a residence permit while you’re in Germany. If you’re not from these countries then you will need to apply in your country of residence at the embassy or consulate. 

Visa and residence permit are not the same thing and this is good to remember. A visa allows you to enter Germany for a short period of time while a residence permit gives you the right to stay long term.

Residence Permits in Germany 1

Documents required for a residence permit as a Non-EU Citizen

  1. Your valid passport.
  2. Complete the application form: Each type of residency has its own application form. 
  3. Biometric photo: Two passports that adhere to the biometric requirements
  4. Proof of income: You can provide your employment contract and bank statements. 
  5. Proof of health insurance: It’s a requirement that you have valid health insurance coverage while living in Germany. 
  6. Proof of address in Germany: A property contract or rental agreement
  7. Proof of marital status/family relationships if applicable: A marriage certificate and/or birth certificates of children. 
  8. Work permits and studying: For studying you will need a letter of admission from a German university and for work permits an offer/contract from a German employer. 


This is a general list to give you an overview of what you will need and the exact documents required can vary depending on the type of residency permit you are applying for so we always recommend that you check with the local embassy or consulate as to what documents you will need for your specific circumstances.


You don’t need to apply for a residence permit as an EU Citizen

If you’re a person from the EU, you don’t require a residence permit in the same way as someone from outside the EU does. However,  if you’re planning on staying in Germany for more than 3 months, you will need to register your address at the ‘Bürgeramt’ which is the local citizens registration office. 

Here are the documents required to register:

  1. A valid passport or ID
  2. Address registration at the Bürgeramt: You are required to register your address within a few weeks of arriving in Germany
  3. Proof of income: You might need to prove that you can support yourself (and any dependents living with you)  financially even if a residence permit is not required.
  4. Proof of health insurance: You will need to show that you have valid health insurance coverage while living in Germany. As an EU citizen you may be able to transfer the health insurance from your home country to Germany through the EHIC – European Health Insurance card.

Registering and Formalising your stay

In order to stay in Germany legally, you will need to get a registration certificate. Registering your address has been mentioned in the list of requirements for EU citizens but eventually all residents are required to do this. The registration certificate is called a ‘Meldeschein’ and can be obtained from your city or community’s local  ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’ which is the registry office in German. 

As well as a Meldeschein, you would require a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung, a form that confirms your place of residence. This form is filled out and signed by the property owner or landlord. It’s a mandatory requirement for German citizens as well as foreign residents.

Employment in Germany

Finding employment in Germany can be difficult for non-EU citizens but because Germany has low employment rates there are plenty of job opportunities. When you find the job that you are looking for in Germany they might assist you in getting the necessary work authorization.

If you’re a highly qualified professional or have in-demand skills you will have a higher chance of getting a work permit. Immigration laws in Germany are aimed to encourage highly skilled workers to migrate to the country which is why it’s such an attractive location for foreign professionals worldwide.

eAT, The Electronic Residence Permit

German residence permits transitioned from paper-based to an electronic format that resembles a credit card. The card contains a biometric chip, two fingerprints and a photo and it can be used as an electronic ID as well as electronic signatures. 

The transition happened from September 1st 2011 and was an initiative to standardize residence permits across the European Union.

Permanent Living in Germany

As a citizen of the European Union and due to the Freedom of Movement act in the European Union, you can establish residency in Germany. These rules mean that you can undergo training, study and work in Germany without the need for a residence permit or a visa.

Once you have lived in Germany for 5 years and this period has not been interrupted, you automatically gain the right of permanent residence in the country. 

If you want to apply for German citizenship, you can do this through naturalization once you have lived in Germany legally for at least eight years. You can work in the German labor market as an EU citizen without any restrictions. Your school leaving certificates will be recognised if you choose to study in Germany. If you have qualifications from other EU countries, they are considered equivalent to those in Germany so you don’t need to look for recognition of foreign qualifications in Germany. 

Establishing yourself in Germany will entail a lot of paperwork but you can rest assured that it will all be worthwhile once you can experience everything Germany has to offer.

Download a pdf explaining more about the new electronic residence permit.

Germany is now issuing the new EU Blue Card to highly skilled, qualified non-EU citizens. For more information click here.