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Residence Permits in Germany

Life in Germany can offer expatriates many advantages. Not only can you expect things to be clean and well-ordered, there is also an abundance of cultural and leisure activities throughout the year. In this guide, InterNations introduces you to expat life in Germany.
Visit the Octoberfest and buy your significant other a gingerbread heart!

The All-Important Registration Certificate

EEA citizens or Swiss nationals need not apply for a visa or permit of any kind. Agreements between countries of the European Union have greatly simplified moving across borders. The only thing required of those hailing from an EU member state, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Iceland and planning on living in Germany is a registration certificate officially proving their residence in Germany, called a Meldeschein or Meldebestätigung.

Acquiring a registration certificate is not limited to EU nationals or foreign residents in general. This registration is required for every change of address, whether you move to another neighborhood, from Frankfurt to Hamburg, or from Tokyo to Düsseldorf.

To complete your registration, just take your passport and your rental contract or sale agreement to the local Registry Office (Einwohnermeldeamt). Once you have lived in Germany for a while, you will notice that this office is crucial for all sorts of bureaucratic issues, such as driver’s licenses and license plates, income tax cards, German ID cards, etc.

Residence Permit

If you do not originate from an EEA country (or Switzerland) and want to live in Germany, you also have to go to the Einwohnermeldeamt and register your new address. However, this is not where it ends. After obtaining your Meldebestätigung, you need to apply for an Aufenthaltserlaubnis, a residence permit, as well. You can receive a residence permit from the local Foreigners’ Office (Ausländerbehörde).

For this, you will need a valid passport, proof that you have enough financial means in order to support yourself (i.e. a bank statement or an employment contract), proof of health insurance cover, and proof of residence for the city in which you’ll be living (i.e. the Meldebestätigung).

Please note, dependent family members of EU/EEA nationals who are not EU/EEA nationals themselves may join their partner, parent, or child, but need to get a so-called Aufenthaltskarte from the Foreigners’ Office.

For more information on how to get a German residence permit, please consult our Germany: Visa and Administration section. 

Types of Residence Permits

There are two types of residence permits: limited and unlimited ones. As their names suggest, one is valid for an infinite time and need not be renewed. Options include the standard residence permit (issued for a limited period of time), the EU Blue Card (initially awarded for four years, but reserved for individuals with certain educational and salary qualifications), and the settlement permit (unlimited, but you must have already had a residence permit for five years).

After a successful visa application (for employment, business, study, family, etc.) prior to the move to Germany, it is rare to be denied a residence permit once arrived. Keep in mind however, that a residence permit is not the same as a Meldebescheinigung (registration certificate). The latter is obligatory for all residents in Germany, including German citizens.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Daiki Saito

"When my company decided to send me to Essen, I took a quick look at the local community and said: Please do!"

Cristina Fernandez

"On InterNations I did not only meet interesting people but I also found a flat near Bochum and settled in quickly. A great platform."

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