Stories from my life and travels as an American expat in Germany. Awkwardness guaranteed!

Immigrating to Germany: Getting Your Temporary Residency

Immigrating to Germany: Getting Your Temporary Residency

Are you considering a long-term move to Germany? If your spouse is German, and you are from an English-speaking country, this guide is for you. Here, I will detail the steps needed for Aufenthaltserlaubnis (temporary residency), which will allow you to live and work for three years in Germany. At first, getting all of the paperwork in order may seem a little overwhelming. Hopefully, this guide will make the process a little easier for you and your family.

Please keep in mind that this guide details my personal experience here in Niedersachsen. It is intended to give you a basic walk-through of the process. You should still look up the official guidelines for temporary residency in the specific state in Germany where you intend to move. While the process will be similar throughout Germany, there are little differences between each state.

So, let’s get right to it!

Before You Move: Getting the Paperwork in Order

Required Documents:

  • A certified (Apostilled) copy of your birth certificate
  • A certified (Apostilled) copy of your marriage

You could, in theory, get the above documents together after your move to Germany. However, I strongly advise against procrastination. My apostilled birth certificate arrived in about two or three weeks, but the apostilled marriage certificate took nearly two months. I can only imagine how long (and expensive) it would have been to have these documents sent all the way to Germany.

Furthermore, I had the option to order them online. If your state has a less streamlined process, things may become complicated if you’re already in Germany. Save yourself the hassle and get these documents in order before you leave.

I would also advise getting two copies of each, just in case.

“Optional” Documents:

  • Official copies of all of your degrees/diplomas (including High School)
  • At least one SEALED copy of your official university transcripts
  • High School transcripts (if you do not have a university degree)
  • Your current driver’s license
  • Medical transcripts from the past few years (especially if you have a medical condition)

These are “optional” in the sense that you don’t necessarily need them to move here, but you should bring them if you have them; if you want to make your life easier, anyway.

For example, if you graduated from an accredited university, you might be able to skip the integration courses. Their assumption is that your degree is proof that you are intelligent enough to learn the language on your own. You can still take the integration courses if you want; but (as the office worker pointed out to us), it may not be worth your time.

You may also wish to have your degree officially certified for your job search, which means you will need copies of your degrees and your sealed transcripts.

Your driver’s license will not effect your temporary residency in Germany, but you do need it if you want to avoid taking additional classes. For more information on driving in Germany as a visitor or resident, please go here.

After You’ve Arrived: The First Steps

Once you’ve arrived, you will need to get your marriage officially recognized. This may require getting your marriage license translated. In our case, this was not necessary, as the women working at our local Standesamt said that they didn’t need a translation. I would advise calling ahead to find out if you need to pay for a translation.

Getting the marriage recognized was simply a matter of bringing my apostilled birth certificate, our apostilled marriage certificate, and (of course) my passport to the Standesamt. We were able to go during open office hours for this, and the next step, which is getting your taxes set up. You may need to make an appointment, depending on where you live. You should call ahead to find out.

My husband did 90% of the talking for me during all of our appointments, and although I could understand some of it, the office ladies were nice enough to speak to me in English once they realized I wasn’t fluent. If at all possible, bring your German spouse if you do not speak German at least conversationally. It’s likely that the office workers speak English, but having someone fluent in the language is still helpful.

After You’ve Arrived: Applying for Temporary Residency

You will likely need an appointment for this final step, as the process is a little more involved. In our case, the next available appointment was about a month after we registered our marriage.

We brought our marriage certificate and my birth certificate with us just in case, but did not need either document.

What we did need:

  • The completed residency application
  • My passport
  • A biometric photo for my ID
  • Proof that I was insured
  • My University degree

I think we got lucky in that every office lady who worked with us was friendly and helpful. My husband believes our application process went smoothly because we came prepared, and none of our documents had mistakes. It’s important to fill out your residency application as clearly and accurately as possible. They gave us a paper copy, but we downloaded the PDF and filled it out that way because my handwriting is pretty terrible. Check your application for mistakes, and then check it again. The stereotype of Germans demanding nothing less than perfection is rooted in at least some truth.

I’ve read that some people had to do a very basic language test for their residency, even in Niedersachsen. This was not my experience, but my absolute favorite American blogger in Germany had to pass a language test. At the risk of diverting traffic away from my blog, I’m going to link to his post, as it helped me mentally prepare for my move to Germany.

It’s Done! Picking Up Your Temporary Residency

Our application appointment was on September 4th and my card was available for pickup on the 4th of October. My card allows me to live and work in Germany for three years. After three years, I will have to apply for permanent residency if I want to stay. For permanent residency, I would just need to pass a B1 level language test. I’m roughly about halfway through A2, so I’m hoping to be well past B1 in three years.

And…that’s it! If you are lucky enough to be married to a German (and I highly recommend it; it’s great), then you’ve got it really easy when it comes to moving to Germany. Getting the paperwork together is bit of a pain, and you may have to sit through multiple appointments, but it’s a lot easier than if you came here as a Strong, Independent Whatever Who Don’t Need No German.

I wish I could offer a guide for those of you who aren’t married to a German and still want to move here, but I do know it’s substantially easier to move here than it is to move to the USA.


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