Guest Article: Legal Aspects and Requirements
for a German Visa and Residence Permit
By Alexander Baron von Engelhardt,
editor of the Legal Guide to Germany (LG2G)
Introduction: The following guest article provides helpful information concerning a German entry visa and residence permit (eine Aufenthaltserlaubnis). It describes the procedures and regulations for the new combination visa and residence/work permit for foreigners staying in Germany longer than three months.
1. Visas or Short-Term Sojourns
In 2005 the previous German system of residency and work permits was replaced by a new residency permit that simultaneously regulates any permission to work in Germany. In other words, you can no longer obtain a residence permit without a decision on a work permit. The Aliens Office (Ausländeramt) will internally consult the Federal Labor Agency (Bundesamt für Arbeit) to decide whether to allow employment (§4 II 2 Aufenthaltsgesetz, Residence Act). The long promised “one-stop agency” has arrived. In general, it brings many clarifications and makes the application process simpler, but the law has not lost its complexity, unfortunately.
Whether or not you need a visa to enter Germany depends on your citizenship. Persons from an EU country do not need a visa to enter and stay. Those coming from outside the community usually do. However, certain non-EU citizens, including US citizens, are freed from visa requirements to enter for up to three months (§ 41 Zuwanderungsdurchführungsverordnung, Implementation Ordinance for Immigration Act).
Note: For specific American citizens’ requirements for a German residence permit see Requirements for US Citizens.
If you need a visa, you will usually obtain it from a German consulate in your home country. Check out www.auswaertiges-amt (in German, with map) to find your local German consulate. German authorities are entitled to set conditions for residence permits and renewals (§12 II AufenthaltsG). Such a condition can be that a domestic person will guarantee to cover the costs of your expulsion. There is hardly anything you can do about it, if your visit is subject to such a condition.
Upon entering Germany, the first question on your mind will be: What does a visa allow me to do in Germany? You can do anything that is not forbidden or unlawful. You are entitled to short-term stays of up to three months as a tourist or for business purposes. Within this time, you are also allowed to visit all other Schengen countries (most of western Europe). You may not follow a job offer! However, you can use this time to start preparing your application for a residence permit. This time will be valuable for getting in contact with prospective employers or project granters, as well as looking for an apartment, etc.
A visa legalizes your entry into and your stay in Germany for up to three months per half year. It is not really intended to be extended any further. You can only get an exception if you are hospitalized, incapable of traveling, or summoned to court or an administrative office. These exceptions are handled very strictly. This time you will have to leave but next time apply for a national visa if a longer stay is foreseeable and reasonably explainable.
Next, the residence permit...
Also see: Requirements for US Citizens - a detailed look at the German visa and residence permit rules for American citizens
NEXT > Part 2: The Residence Permit
MORE > The identity card and other red tape
Guest article copyright © 2008-2009 Alexander Baron von Engelhardt
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- The identity card (Ausweis) and other German red tape
- Expat Interviews - Learn from those who have already been there, done that.
- Germany.info - The website of the German Embassy in Washington, DC has a lot of good information for Americans traveling to Germany.
- Legal Guide to Germany by German-American lawyer Alexander Baron von Engelhardt - in English. LG2G is the "expat's concise guide to officialdom in Germany."
NEXT > Part 2: The Residence Permit