Bureaucracy and the formalities of moving to Germany

From the outset, I am going to give you a disclaimer. I don’t profess to know everything about German immigration. But for the past few months, I have been working as a relocation consultant for expats moving to Germany for large multinationals. I accompanied them to the Ausländeramt and filled out any number of forms for them. So here is what I know.

The two situations I have dealt with in recent times are expats moving from countries that do not require a visa for entry into Germany. This applies to Americans, for example, and also to South Koreans (and many more, I am sure). Those people can enter Germany without a visit to the consulate in their home country and without filling out any paperwork. However, in order to work, they need an elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel (eAT). This also applies to people who enter with a visa. I have had transferees from Russia, for example, who required a visa. At home, they have to fill out paperwork to apply for a  temporary visa. When they arrive, they have to apply for the eAT as well, and if they are allowed to work, they receive a Fiktionsbescheinigung, which they can hand in at work. Remember, I have only been working with people who are here to work. I can’t vouch for the way this works for others.

The forms for the Aufenthaltstitel are pretty basic. You’ll need to know your height, eye color, and parents’ names and dates of birth, on top of all the usual information you would expect on this time of application. You’ll need proof that you have health insurance, which can sometimes be quite daunting. It can’t be travel insurance, so don’t even try it. You need German health insurance from a regular health insurance company — like Techniker Krankenkasse or AOK, but  private health insurance also works. If you have kids in school, you’lll need a letter from the school confirming that they are enrolled in school. You will also need a passport picture for each person applying. Make sure you can prove that you have enough money to stay in Germany and support yourself. That means you will need to show your work contract or something that proves that you have income.

Once you register at the local town hall as a foreigner, the local foreigner’s office is informed of your arrival. You’ll eventually get a letter or card inviting you to an appointment at the Ausländeramt. That is when you will need all the documentation. You will also be asked to give the fingerprints of your two index fingers. Even children have to do this. They will also ask you whether you want the “electronic ID function.” You will be sent a PIN and at some point in the future, you might be able to use the card to identify yourself online, but from what I heard, you’ll need some sort of machine to do this. The people at the foreigner’s office told me that it isn’t really being used yet.

And don’t forget your cash. The fees aren’t all exactly the same, from what I can tell. But we paid 110 Euro for adults and 55 Euro for kids. The card your receive in about 3-4 weeks is then valid for the length determined by the foreigner’s office. If you came in on a Blue Card, which is the techie residency permit, you may even get 4 years. In that case, your spouse should also be able to work. In the last few cases I had, the first two years of work had to be at the company that sponsored the person, but after that, they could switch to any company.

Musterabbildung des elektronischen Aufenthaltstitels (source: BAMF.de)

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