Anyone who is not a national of a member state of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Lichtenstein needs a permanent residence permit to stay in Germany for more than 90 days.
There are two types of permanent residence permits for Germany to obtain. These are the settlement permit and the EC long-term residence permit. Both permits allow you to study, work and live in Germany. The main difference between the two is that the EC permanent residency permit makes it easier to live and work elsewhere in the European Union, while a settlement permit is limited to living and working in Germany only. On the other hand, a settlement permit can be obtained sooner than an EC permanent residency permit in some cases.
The settlement permit allows the holder to live, work and study in Germany indefinitely, but does not allow the holder to reside in another country of the European Union. You can apply for this permit if you have had a work, study or self-employment permit for five years. However, you don’t have to wait for five years if any of the below apply to you:
You are a graduate of a German higher education institute and have a suitable job in your field. You are allowed to apply after two years after your graduation instead of five, if you have been in possession of an EU Blue Card, work permit or self-employment permit for the last two years and you are able to prove that you have paid pension insurance for 24 months.
You are a highly qualified person with a firm job offer. Examples of occupations that would be deemed as highly qualified are: scientists with specialized knowledge or senior research assistants. If the conditions apply to you and you are able to show that your livelihood in Germany is guaranteed without public assistance, you can immediately receive a settlement permit.
You hold an EU Blue Card and have been in highly qualified employment for 33 months. If you are in possession of an EU Blue Card and have been paying towards the statutory pension and social security insurance, you are eligible for a settlement permit after 33 months of highly qualified employment in Germany. If you can show B1 level German skills, you can apply for the settlement permit after only 21 months of highly qualified employment.
You are a self-employed person with a successfully established business. If your livelihood as a self-employed person has been secured by successfully implementing your business idea, you can obtain a settlement permit after three years.
You are a family member of a German citizen. If you are a family member of a German citizen and have been legally staying in Germany for three tears, you will be issued a settlement permit. No grounds for deportation should exist, you have to be able to communicate in German at a basic level and family unity with the German citizen must continue.
EC permanent residency
With an EC permanent residency permit, you are also entitled to live and work in Germany indefinitely. If you have obtained this permit, from Germany or another member state of the European Union, you will be allowed to work and live elsewhere in the European Union, too. To apply for this type of permanent residence in Germany, you must have been living in Germany for five, uninterrupted, years. During this time you should have secured livelihood and have an adequate living space. To be eligible for the permit, you should also have been contributing to health insurance and provision for retirement. You also have to be able to show you possess adequate German language skills and knowledge of German life, legal and social systems (you will learn about these subjects by taking an integration course). If you have a criminal record, you will not be eligible for the EC permanent residency permit.
If you hold a permanent EC resident permit from another member state of the European Union and would like to stay in Germany longer than three months, you’ll also need to have a valid passport or ID and provide information on your planned employment or study in Germany.
Applying for a German permanent residence permit
You can apply for a permanent residence permit at the immigration office (BAMF). If you fulfill the requirements of the settlement permit or the EC permanent residency permit, you have to take some steps in order to be fully eligible for either of these permits:
Register your German address
You will be applying for permanent residency either from Germany (within the first 90 days you are there), from your home country or another country you have been residing at before moving to Germany. The first thing you should do in order to be eligible for a residence permit is to register your new German address with the local municipal office (“Bürgeramt”) within 14 days of moving. You will receive your certificate of registration, which you’ll need to get health insurance, get a residence permit and anything else that requires you to prove your residence is registered. If you don’t register your address, you could get fined and your residence permit may be denied.
Before you apply for the residence permit, you should also have adequate health insurance in Germany. Foreign insurance policies will rarely be accepted, so get coverage from a German insurance company to be sure.
To most straightforward way to prove financial stability is to open an account with a German bank and transfer your funds to that account. You then will receive statements, which will help you prove that you can support yourself while living in Germany.
Fill out an application form and set an appointment with the immigration office.
For the actual application, you will have to go to your local immigration office. Here you can get an application form and set up an appointment. Be sure to get an appointment as soon as possible to avoid surpassing the 90 days you have to apply for permanent residence. You can find your local immigration office here. Applying for German permanent residence costs around €260.
Attend your appointment
Make sure you have your complete document file with you when you attend your appointment. Try to be at the immigration office as early as possible on the day of your appointment. Your interview will take about 10 minutes. The immigration officer will check your document file. If you are missing any required documents, you will have to make another appointment to bring the additional files.
If everything is fine, you will be sent home to wait for the processing of your residence permit. Your application will be processed within two or three weeks. You’ll receive notice once the application is processed. If you receive your permit, you are allowed to work, study and live in Germany. If your application has been denied, you should find the reason for rejection and figure out if this can be sorted on a new application.