Skip to content

German Residence Permits | Temporary and Permanent

Expatrio 2024-02-15
People filling out a german visa form


Germany is a popular destination for immigrants due to its strong economy and high standard of living. If you are looking to move to Germany, in many cases, you will need to obtain a residence permit. Getting a residence permit can be challenging, so it is essential to start planning well in advance.


All about permanent residency in Germany 

There are many different temporary residency permit types, as well as the German permanent residency permit available in Germany. Each of these have their own requirements. 

A German permanent residence permit, sometimes called a settlement permit, can be issued to non-EU citizens who have lived in Germany for five years or more. One of the major benefits of having such a residence title is that it allows free movement within the Eurozone and does not require any renewal, i.e. it is an open-ended residency permit.
But don't get confused, this is not the same as becoming a German Citizen (naturalization). 

Read on for an overview of the different types of permits available in Germany, the application process, and the requirements. We will also provide a timeline for when you can expect to receive your permit.

Types of residence permits in Germany

Several types of residence permits (Aufenthaltstitel) are available in Germany, each with its own set of requirements.

The most common types of residence permits are:

  1. Student residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zum Studium): This type of temporary residence permit is for foreigners enrolled in a school or university in Germany. To be eligible for this permit, you must provide proof of your university enrollment and financial resources during your stay in Germany. The student residence permit allows you to stay in Germany during your studies and comes with a few regulations on working hours if you wish to pursue a student job. 
  2. Job seeker's permit: If you are looking for a job in Germany, you may be eligible for a job seeker's permit. This permit allows you to stay in Germany for 18 months until you land a job in your field. To qualify for this permit, you must provide proof of your job search and financial resources. This type of permit is also the one you will get if you decide to stay in Germany after your studies but haven’t found a job by the time you graduate.
  3. Employment residence permit (Arbeitserlaubnis): This residence permit is for foreigners who have a job offer to work in Germany. This permit allows you to stay in Germany and work for the sponsoring company depending on the contract term. To be eligible for this permit, you must have a valid work visa and show proof of your job contract.
  4. Residence permit for family reunification (Familiennachzug): This type of residence permit is for foreigners who have family members already living in Germany. The family members must be able to provide proof of their relationship with you and guarantee that they can support you financially.
  5. Permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis)This type of residence permit is for foreigners who have lived in Germany for a specific time and meet certain requirements. To be eligible for this permit, you must have lived in Germany for at least five years (or three years if you are married to a German citizen). You must also be able to provide proof of your employment, financial resources, and German language skills. If you have this permit, you can stay in Germany indefinitely. International students who have graduated from a German university can also secure permanent residency after two years of holding a work-related permit.
  6. EU Blue card: The EU Blue Card is a residence permit valid for up to four years. It is for foreigners who have a job offer in Germany and meet specific requirements. To be eligible for this permit, you must have a valid work visa, prove that you have the financial resources to support yourself, and meet specific language requirements.

Expatrio Value Package

Simplify your move to Germany with Expatrio's Value Package! Get your mandatory Health Insurance, Blocked Account, free German Bank Account, plus other free benefits!

Get Value Package

What is a permanent residence permit?

A permanent residence permit allows individuals to stay in Germany for an unspecified period.

Although it's not the same as getting German citizenship and having a German passport, permanent residency does offer much more security than having a temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis).

In some instances, it is possible to gain German permanent residency in just two years. This applies to those who have graduated from a German university and then lived and worked in Germany for two years.Individuals married to German citizens may be able to apply for permanent residence permits for themselves and their family members after three years. The other way to be fast-tracked for a permanent residence permit is if you are a highly qualified professional in a specific technical/research area.

Additionally, if you have lived in an EU country for 5 or more years, there is also the option to apply for the EC long-term residence permit, also known as an EU Residence Permit.

Permit Exclusions

If you are from the EU or EEA, you do not need to apply for a residence permit because you already have the right to live and work in Germany. Due to Brexit, UK individuals may need a residence permit. This will depend on when you first moved to Germany.


How can I stay in Germany permanently?

Those with a permanent (settlement) residence permit can stay in Germany permanently! 
The next step, should you choose, is to apply for naturalization, which means becoming a German Citizen. As of 2023, you must be a permanent resident for 8 years before you are eligible. 

However, new legislation is due to come into force in 2024, which will see changes to the natrualisation process. These changes include a timeline reduction from 8 years as permanent residence, to 5, and the option to keep multiple citizenships.

How do I become a resident of Germany?

You are technically already a resident of Germany if you have any long-stay visa or temporary/current residence permit. But, if you want to become a permanent resident of Germany, then you need to apply for a permanent residence permit.

These are only issued after living in Germany for a period of more than five years, and you must have had a temporary residence permit or visa for that length of time. You will need to have sufficient knowledge of the German language, as well as an understanding of local legal and social order and German society as a whole.

Can you travel with a German Residence Permit?

Yes, with a permanent residence permit you can travel freely in the EU.

What happens if you overstay your visa in Germany?

Visa are granted for a range of time periods, often dependant on the length of a study period or a job contract. It’s really important not to overstay the time granted on your visa. Overstaying on a visa is a legal offence, renders you an illegal immigrant, and could result in deportation.


Requirements for a permanent residence permit

Is it easy to get permanent residence in Germany?

If you meet all the necessary criteria, have all the required documents, and successfully sit the interview, then yes: it can be easy to gain a permanent residence permit and permanent residency status.

Documents needed to apply for permanent residence permit

This is a list of all required documents needed to apply for a permanent settlement permit and the local Foreigners' Office:

  • Completed application form (Antrag auf Erteilung der Niederlassungserlaubnis)
  • Proof of current and paid health insurance (at least 60 months of social security contributions)
  • Valid passport
  • Recognized certificate of knowledge of the German language; at least B1 level German
  • 1 x biometric photo
  • Certificate of German university degree (if applying for a fast-tracked permanent residence permit as a graduate of a German university)
  • Marriage certificate (if applying for a fast-tracked permanent residence permit as a result of being married to a German citizen)
  • Proof of being financially secure (bank statements for employed individuals and tax returns for self-employed)
  • A letter from your employer/or university
  • Proof of accommodation and registration (Anmeldungsbestätigung)
  • Professional license (if applying for a fast-tracked permanent residence permit as a result of being highly skilled in a field)

German bureaucratic system

It’s important to remember that the German bureaucratic system is fairly strict and any holes or gaps in your application will result in you either not being granted the residence permit in Germany or cause a long delay to your application.


Application process

There are various steps to take to navigate the application process successfully.

The first job is to pick up the correct form (Antrag auf Erteilung der Niederlassungserlaubnisfrom the immigration office and make an appointment. Then, ensure that all your paperwork (listed above) is in order.

Return for your appointment with the completed form and all the aforementioned documents. During your interview, your documents will be checked, and you may be asked questions about why you are making the application.


German law

You may be briefly tested as to your knowledge of German law, politics and society in this appointment, so make sure to prepare as if this will happen to avoid disappointment.


How long does it take to get a residence permit in Germany?

From the time of your interview, provided your documents are completely in order, it will usually take around 2-3 weeks for your permanent residence Permit to be processed.

How much is a German Residence Permit?

Fees depend on factors like your location and the type of permit but usually cost between €135 and €200.


Dual citizenship

Some individuals choose to progress from being a permanent residence permit holder and apply to be a German Citizen with a German passport. As of 2023, this may mean giving up your original citizenship or having dual citizenship. However, new laws due in 2024 will allow for multiple citizenship!

Unlike nations that prohibit dual citizenship, it has long been possible to have dual citizenship in Germany, provided the other country also allows dual citizenship.

While it is allowed, individuals aren’t actively encouraged to have two passports. However, for EU nationals naturalized in Germany, dual citizenship is common. It is also permitted for refugees from countries where it is not possible to renounce citizenship.

Countries that do not allow dual citizenship include China, Japan, and India. Individuals from those countries wishing to become naturalized Germans will need to give up their citizenship’s rights or their home country.

In order to apply for dual citizenship, you need to follow the process for how to become a German citizen. This usually requires having a permanent residence permit for at least 8 years.

The EU Blue Card

The spouses of EU Blue Card holders can work in Germany and do not need their own visa. As well as this, spouses in this case are not required to have any specified level of German language proficiency or speak German well.


EU Blue Card for Germany

The EU Blue Card is a relatively new type of residency permit, which permits non-EU workers to gain residency without a visa.

It is aimed at highly skilled workers. The Requirements for an EU Blue card are significant and it’s certainly not a quick or easy solution to residency. For a start, individuals who would like to become an EU Blue Card holder must have a university degree. Their German employment contract must come with a salary of at least €58,400*, or at least €45,552* for jobs in areas where there is a skills shortage (this includes medical and engineering fields). 

The initial terms of the Blue Card will normally permit you as a Blue Card holder to stay for up to four years, unless the work contract is shorter than this. There is, then, the option to apply for permanent residence status after that time.

Once someone has been granted an EU Blue Card, they can move to another EU country after a period of 18 months of living in Germany. In this case, you must then apply for a new EU Blue Card in the country you are moving to.

*2023 figures.

Expatrio Value Package

Simplify your move to Germany with Expatrio's Value Package! Get your mandatory Health Insurance, Blocked Account, free German Bank Account, plus other free benefits!

Get Value Package


Naturalization is the process by which a foreign national is granted German Citizenship. The method of applying for naturalization can be complicated. You will need to provide a range of documents, including evidence of your German language ability and knowledge of the legal system. You will also need to pass a naturalization test and have not committed any crime or criminal offense.

To be eligible for naturalization, you must have: 

  • Lived in Germany for eight years with a residence permit. (
  • You can live independently and support yourself and your family without relying on social security benefits or employment insurance.
  • You have the right to reside in Germany as long as you want.
  • Meet specific other requirements, such as German language ability (B1) and knowledge of the legal system.

You can find more information about naturalization on the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) website.


Application process for naturalisation

The application for naturalization is a two-stage process. The first stage is submitting the application form and required documents to the responsible naturalization authorities. If you are under 16 years of age, a parent or guardian must apply on your behalf.

The fee for applying for naturalization is €255.00. The fee for naturalizing children with their parents is €51 per child. In the case of low-income or a large number of children to be naturalized simultaneously, these fees may be reduced or waived by authorities.

After submitting your application, the authorities will review your documents and decide whether to grant you an interview. The interview is the second stage of the application process. During the interview, you will be asked questions about your motivation for applying for German Citizenship and your knowledge of the German language, culture, and society. You will also be asked to take a German language test (if you have not already done so) and a naturalization test.

After completing both stages, you will be granted German Citizenship. You will then receive a certificate of naturalization(Einbürgerungszusicherung), and you can apply for a German passport or ID card.


Benefits of a permanent residence in Germany

Learn more about the benefits of having a German settlement permit

A German permanent residency offers several advantages:

Work in Germany without restrictions

Any legal employment is permitted. It is also unlimited in time and place. This means that with a valid permanent residence permit, you can freely choose your occupation, such as self-employment. A big advantage is that this permit is not tied to a specific job! This means you can change your job without having to notify the Federal Office or the Federal Employment Agency. In addition, you do not have to apply for an extension of your residence permit every few years.

And anything to reduce the amount of bureaucracy for your life in Germany is always a plus! 

Better credit rating

Another advantage of the unrestricted residence permit in Germany that should not be neglected becomes apparent when taking out a loan. If you only have a temporary right of residence in Germany, it is very hard to find a bank that will grant you a loan. It can be too uncertain if you can really repay the loan. An unlimited settlement permit entitles you to permanent residency in Germany and significantly increases your chances of obtaining a loan from the bank.

Travel permit

Permanent residency in Germany gives you complete freedom of movement. This means that you can not only travel within Germany without restrictions but also leave and return without any problems. The only important thing is that you are not allowed to leave the country for longer than 6 months or with the intention to emigrate. Upon application, you may even leave Germany for longer than 6 months. This has the particular advantage that you can travel to your country of origin at any time without losing your Residence Permit in Germany.

EU permanent residence permit

This unlimited residency permit goes beyond a temporary settlement permit. In addition to permanent living and working in Germany, a longer stay in other EU countries is also possible. Depending on the country, there is also a work permit. If this residence title was acquired in Germany, it expires for Germany, for example, only after one has resided in another EU country for 6 years.

Guaranteed social security

German permanent residents are entitled to social security and health insurance: this means that you have access to social benefits, such as childcare benefits, health benefits, and social assistance if you lose your job or are made redundant.

Apply for financial aid to study at German universities

As a permanent resident, you can apply for financial aid to study at a German university of your choice.

Become a German national

You can apply for German citizenship after you have lived in Germany as a permanent resident for eight years.

Expatrio Value Package

Simplify your move to Germany with Expatrio's Value Package! Get your mandatory Health Insurance, Blocked Account, free German Bank Account, plus other free benefits!

Get Value Package

This might also be of interest to you

People filling out a german visa form

German Residence Permits | Temporary and Permanent

Germany is a popular destination for immigrants due to its strong economy and high standard of living. If you are looking to move to Germany, in many...

A person reading a book

German Language Course Visa

Many students undertaking a German language course in Germany will need a specific Student Language Course Visa. This visa is necessary for non-EU...

German Visa Application Process for International Students

German Visa Application Process for International Students

International students from all over the world choose Germany as a place to further their education. The country has some of the best universities in...

A table with students and books

German Job Seeker Visa

Germany has a strong economy and a buoyant employment market. As a result, it welcomes qualified workers to join the workforce. Those looking for...

A german student looking concentrated

German Student Visa

A German Student Visa is necessary for many international students that are coming from non-EU or non-EEA countries.