How to Gain Permanent Residence in Germany
Germany remains as popular as ever, with immigrants from around the world seeking a new place to live and work. Indeed since 1990, Germany has been ranked in the top five most popular countries for immigrants in the world, the majority of whom originate from Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. The reasons for Germany’s popularity are clear; it is a safe, diverse, culturally rich destination with a thriving economy in the centre of Europe. In this article, we will discuss the various options available to enable non-EU/EEA nationals to gain permanent residency in Germany.
What Are The Benefits Of Permanent Residence In Germany?
One of the main reasons to acquire permanent residence/settlement in Germany is to avoid the need to submit further visa/permit applications. Settled persons are also free to work in Germany for any employer at any level, bring family members to join them (under the reunification system), apply for citizenship after eight years, and have greater access to public funds if needed.
How Can Non-EU Nationals Acquire Permanent Residence In Germany?
Non-EU nationals who have been living lawfully in Germany for five continuous years can apply for a permanent residence permit. There are two ways to do this, depending on your circumstances and future plans; 1) A German permanent residence permit and 2) an EU long-term residence permit.
The requirements for the German permanent residence permit (unbefristete Niederlassungserlaubnis) and the EU long-term residence permit are broadly the same and are typically available to non-EU nationals who have been living in Germany without interruption for a period of five years. Permanent settlement applicants must have:
- An existing valid work permit
- Held a residence permit for at least five years
- Have paid health and pension insurance contributions for at least 60 months in Germany, and;
- Be able to secure a living and be integrate well into German society.
- Sufficient funds to support you and your family
- Sufficient accommodation for you and your family members
- Sufficient German language skills
- Sufficient knowledge of German culture and society
- No criminal background
The rules also state that for married couples, only one partner needs to have made pension insurance contributions.
Can I Acquire Permanent Residence If I Have Lived In Germany For Less Than Five Years?
Yes, there are several exceptions that allow non-EU nationals to gain permanent residence in Germany in less than five years, as follows:
- Asylum seekers and refuges – the German department for immigration (bundesamt für migration und flüchtlinge – BAMF) states, “If you also master the German language and can largely secure your livelihood yourself, you will receive your settlement permit after three years”.
- Highly qualified professionals – Some highly qualified professionals may be able to secure a permanent settlement permit immediately after arriving in Germany. This applies to specialist scientists, senior researchers, and teachers. To apply for settlement under this route, applicants first need a job offer in Germany.
- Graduates of studies or vocational training in Germany – According to BAMF, “You will receive a settlement permit if you have successfully completed domestic vocational training or a domestic degree, have had a residence permit for employment as a specialist (with vocational training or academic training) or as a researcher for two years, have a job, 24 months of compulsory pension insurance contributions and have sufficient knowledge of the German language”.
- Self-employed individuals – Applicants who are self-employed and can prove a track history of success in business, have sufficient income for themselves and their family members, may be able to apply for permanent settlement after just three years. This accelerated route is only available to business owners (Gewerbetreibende) rather than freelancers.
- EU Blue Card holders: Applicants who already hold an EU Blue Card (typically granted to highly qualified workers from outside of the EU) may be able to apply for German permanent residence after a period of 33 months, as long as they have a basic knowledge of the German language and have remained employed and paid pension insurance contributions during the period. For applicants with ‘sufficient’ German language skills (this means passing the CEFR level B1 German language exam, you may be able to secure permanent residency after only 21 months. It is important to note that to qualify for accelerated settlement through the EU Blue Card route, only the time spent living in Germany will be counted.
- Non-EU immediate family members of German citizen – Under this route, non-EU family members of German citizens (spouses, partners, children, and parents) will be able to apply for and acquire permanent settlement after only three years. Applicants need to have a basic knowledge of German and be living with a German citizen.
Applying For Permanent Residence In Germany
You first need to complete the application form for permanent settlement in Germany (Antrag auf Erteilung der Niederlassungserlaubnis). In addition, you will need to supply your current valid passport, a digital photo, proof of income (e.g. contract of employment and payslips for six months), proof of health insurance, proof of payment to the German pension system, proof of address/registration, details of your accommodation, proof of your German language proficiency, and proof of payment of the application fee. Depending on your chosen route, you may also need to provide other documents such as a German degree certificate, birth/marriage certificates, and your professional licence.
The process of acquiring permanent residency in Germany is very straightforward and fast if you qualify under one of the accelerated routes. Before applying, it is advisable to check with an immigration lawyer or with BAMF that you are on the correct track. In many cases, prospective applicants can apply through a faster route. Once you are on the most suitable pathway to permanent residence in Germany, ensure that you understand the application requirements and provide all of the information and documents requested (in the correct format and translated where necessary) to maximise your chances of securing a positive decision in the fastest possible time.