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Residency in Germany

    Representation of the Free State of Saxony in Berlin

    Representation of the Free State of Saxony in Berlin
    (© Sächsische Staatskanzlei)

    Germany is open to immigration. With foreigners making up around nine percent of its population, the Federal Republic is one of Europe’s highest ranked countries in this respect. The foreigners living in Germany are an economically and culturally important part of German society.

    Legal residency in Germany requires a residence permit, i.e. a legally guaranteed residency status. German law has different residence permits depending on the foreigner’s origin and situation. Below are the most important features of German residency law.

    Foreigners can also be naturalised in Germany under certain conditions.

    EU citizens, citizens of the EEA and Switzerland

    As an EU citizen, you can enjoy the right to travel and work freely in Saxony and the rest of Germany. You may stay in the country for up to three months, and only need your ID or passport. No work permit is required, either.

    Duty of registration

    If you stay in Germany for longer than two months and move into one or more residential properties during this time, you must register with your local municipality within two weeks of moving into the respective property.

    This duty of registration ceases to apply if your total stay in Germany is no longer than two months. If, however, you end up unexpectedly staying longer than two months, you are obliged to register within two weeks of this two-month period ending.

    When it comes to determining if you are required to register, it does not matter whether or not you have kept your place of residence abroad, or how long you have been living here at one single property. The total length of your stay in Germany is the only crucial factor.

    Stays of longer than three months

    EU citizens can stay in a member state for longer than three months if they are entitled to free movement.

    If they meet certain requirements, EU citizens are generally entitled to free movement. The same right also applies to their family members and partners, regardless of whether these are EU citizens or not.

    Family members and partners who are entitled to free movement, and who are not EU citizens, can be issued with a residence card valid for five years.

    Persons entitled to free movement under community law are:

    • EU citizens wanting to stay in Germany as employees, to look for work or to undertake vocational training
    • EU citizens, if they are entitled to be self-employed (this also applies for self-employed persons already settled in Germany)
    • EU citizens, who, without settling in Germany, wish to render services as self-employed persons (if they are entitled to render the services)
    • EU citizens receiving services
    • Unemployed EU citizens, if they have adequate health insurance and funding
    • Family members, if they have adequate health insurance and funding
    • EU citizens and their families, who have been granted permanent residency

    Family members are

    • the spouse, partner, or the descendants of EU citizens entitled to free movement, as well as their spouses or partners who are under 21 years of age, and
    • Relatives (in ascending and descending order) of EU citizens entitled to free movement, their spouses or partners who are supported by these.

    PLEASE NOTE! If you are studying in Germany, only your spouse/partner and their children, who are granted support, can exercise the right of free movement.

    NOTE: Please note that you may have to deregister in your home country even if you have registered in Saxony.

    Citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland

    Citizens of the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) also enjoy the same rights as EU citizens. Swiss citizens can additionally work and travel freely throughout Germany, but must apply for a residence permit.

    PLEASE NOTE: Citizens of the new EU member states Romania and Bulgaria require a work permit, which is issued by the Employment Agency. It checks whether there are German applicants or EU citizens entitled to work who are just as or more suitable for the position. Citizens of third-party countries also require a work permit and possibly also a visa. For more information, please contact the German embassy/consulate in your home country.

    Citizens from third-party countries

    If you are not a citizen of an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you always require a visa for Germany, though citizens of certain countries do not need this for visits of up to three months per half year. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs contains an up-to-date list of countries requiring a visa.

    For visa applications, please contact the competent German embassy/consulate in your place of residence. The Department of Foreign Affairs provides information on the specific visa requirements.

    PLEASE NOTE: The processing time for visa applications may vary. Visa applications for short-term stays are usually processed within ten working days. Applications for longer stays can take several months.

    If you hold a valid German visa, you can move freely within what is known as the Schengen Area. With a valid passport, you can travel to the other Schengen countries without a visa for up to three months per half year. The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs contains information on the Schengen Agreement and the countries in which this applies.

    Residency for educational purposes

    Saxony is world renowned as a hub for science and research. If you wish to study or continue your education in Saxony, you have several options.

    If you require a visa to enter Germany, you must endeavour to get admitted to an educational institution before you arrive. Once admitted, you can then apply for the necessary visa from the German embassy/consulate at your place of residence. Foreigners can also be issued with a residence permit (for maximum nine months) for the purposes of applying for study.

    Non-EU citizens not requiring a visa can also try to get admitted to an educational institution during their stay in Germany.

    NOTE: In order to study in Germany as a non-EU citizen, you must be able to finance yourself and have adequate health insurance. Apart from studying, you can also engage in temporary employment.

    Residency for employment purposes

    As a high-tech hub, Saxony offers attractive jobs for well trained specialists. If you don’t come from an EU member country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you require a work permit in order to pursue employment in Germany. Please apply for this from the German embassy/consulate at your place of residence before arriving in Germany.

    NOTE: Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America can also obtain the necessary residence permit from the competent Bureau for Foreigners in Germany on arrival.

    Employees with an income of approx. EUR 45,000 per annum can obtain an EU Blue Card which makes it easier to travel within Europe and speeds up the process for obtaining permanent residency. Workers in so-called shortage occupations (scientists, mathematicians and engineers, doctors, as well as academic and equivalent specialists in information and communication technology) can receive an EU Blue Card if they earn a minimum annual income of approx. EUR 35,000. Employees who fall under the aforementioned income limit can also work in Germany.

    In special cases, highly qualified workers can immediately be given a permanent residence permit in the form of a »Niederlassungserlaubnis« in Germany. Highly qualified workers include scientists with special technical knowledge, or teaching staff in prominent positions.

    Germany residency law also allows job-seekers to stay in Germany for six months.

    Foreigners from third-party countries generally require the prior consent of the labour administration in order to gain access to the employment market. In some cases, consent is not required, e.g. for highly qualified persons as stated above, EU Blue Card applicants (except  for shortage occupations) or graduates from a German university. The Federal Employment Agency does not check priority rankings for certain occupational groups, i.e. it does not check whether there is a preferential German or European worker for the specific job. For example, the priority check is not performed for employees in shortage occupations who thus hold an EU Blue Card, graduates of a qualified vocational course in Germany, graduates from German schools abroad with recognised or comparable university degree, or spouses of foreign experts, managers or specialists.

    Freelancers or self-employed persons can obtain a residence permit to realise their business idea. This requires an economic interest or regional demand. Graduates from a German university, scientists and researchers do not have to meet these requirements in order to be self-employed in their field.


    The right for the politically persecuted to seek asylum is a basic right stipulated in the German Constitution, meaning Germany has one of the securest rights of asylum anywhere in Europe. It is the only basic right dedicated solely to foreigners. The Federal Republic of Germany also abides by the Geneva Convention, which governs the handling of refugees.

    The right of asylum applies for the politically persecuted. According to the Geneva Convention, these are persons who, because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a certain social group, or political conviction, are persecuted by the government in their country.

    NOTE: General emergencies, such as poverty, civil war, natural disasters and unemployment, do not constitute reasons for granting asylum.

    In order to seek asylum in Germany, you must stay in the Federal Republic of Germany and undergo asylum procedures. It is not possible to apply from abroad. The website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees details the exact asylum process.

    Residence permit for specific purposes

    If you seek asylum in Germany, you’ll be given a residence permit for specific purposes, which allows you to stay in Germany legally. This permit applies until your asylum procedure is complete.

    During the asylum procedure, you cannot freely select your location, which means your stay is geographically limited to the area of the competent Bureau for Foreigners. Asylum seekers are distributed across all German states according to a special code.

    PLEASE NOTE: The residence permit for specific purposes is not linked with any work permit. You can only obtain a work permit after one year.

    Safe third-party states

    EU member states and other countries such as Norway and Switzerland are classified as »Safe third-party countries« in Germany, as it is believed they reliably uphold the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Human Rights Convention.

    If you enter Germany from a safe third-party country without a visa, you cannot seek asylum in Germany. You will be refused entry at the border.

    The Asylum Procedure Act governs which countries are safe third-party states.

    Foreigners with exceptional leave to remain

    According to the German residency act, exceptional leave to remain means that deportation of a foreigner obliged to depart the country is officially suspended. The obligation to depart is not lifted. The person with exceptional leave to remain is not deported while this leave is in effect.

    The exceptional leave to remain is not a residence permit. If you are given exceptional leave to remain, this purely serves to clarify your legal status. It does not legalise your stay in Germany.

    Exceptional leave to remain is issued if your deportation is not possible due to legal or actual reasons. If deportation is deferred for more than 18 months, a residence permit is issued. In order for this to occur, it must be impossible for you to leave the country (through no fault of your own), and there must be no foreseeable prospect of deportation being permitted.

    PLEASE NOTE: Exceptional leave to remain does not mean you are given a work permit for Germany. Gainful employment for the time the leave is valid is granted after a minimum of one year.

    Exceptional leave to remain may be associated with different requirements, e.g. geographic restrictions. It expires when the foreigner leaves the country.