Regardless of how long you have been in Germany one day you are going to contemplate applying for permanent residency, even if it is just so you can stop having to re-apply for your work visa every year. So, how does one apply for permanent residency in Germany?
Just before we get started, please note that this is just a general guide to applying for Permanent Residency. Not everything written here is going to apply to everybody seeking Permanent Residency. Please ask your local Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) for what you need to do to apply for permanent residency based on the visa you currently hold.
Ok, now that’s out of the way, what does one need in order to successfully apply for Permanent Residency otherwise known as an Niederlassungserlaubnis? Well in true German style it requires a lot of documentation and the documentation you need depends on what kind of visa you currently hold.
All of the information below was gotten from the Hamburg Welcome Centre who have guided me through getting my very first work visa, my EU Blue Card and now my Permanent Residency (when it comes through *crosses fingers*).
* Note about language requirements: What you need to provide to prove your German language skills seems to change depending on which visa you have. I needed to prove that I had a B1 level of German. At the very least you will need to prove that you speak around an A2 level of German whether that is via a certificate or a short interview conducted in German.
The further documents you need to provide depend on whether you have a salaried position or are self-employed/freelancer. You may be asked to provide some or all of the documents below depending on the type of work visa you currently hold.
The above checklist can be downloaded from here.
Once you have obtained all the documentation required by your local Ausländerbehörde depending on the visa you currently hold, you will need to make an appointment to submit the documentation and possibly undergo a short language test/interview, if required. Whilst I do have a B1 Zertifikat Deutsch, my application interview was held entirely German. I have no idea if this was to test my level of German or just done by default. However, I was never asked if I preferred to speak German or English which is normally the case when I go to the Hamburg Welcome Centre to talk visas. So, please consider this a warning that you will be expected to demonstrate some German language skills.
After all of your documents are scanned and fingerprints taken, you will then need to pay the application fee which was €135 as of August 2014.
You will then need to wait a ‘few’ nail-biting weeks for a letter which will tell you whether or not your Permanent Residency has been approved. Unlike other countries, you do not have to submit your passport at time of application, therefore, you will be allowed to travel out of the country during this waiting period.
Once you received your letter from Berlin stating that your Permanent Residency has been approved, you can pick up your credit card-like electronic visa from your local Ausländerbehörde office and go and celebrate your new status as a Permanent Resident of Germany.
For those of you who have already gone through the Permanent Residency application process, please let me know in the comments below how the above article compares to your experiences, especially when it comes to the German language requirements. Also, if you had another visa type, other than a work visa, please let me know what kind of documentation you needed to supply in order to apply.