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In Germany, it is possible for foreigners to register a civil union partnership. Whether this union is recognized in other countries depends on the jurisdiction of that country. This paper deals solely with entry and residency laws.

1. Family Member Migration

Binational same-sex marriage of third country (non – EC Countries) are now equal right to reunification to the married family members.

Entry of foreigners from 3rd countries in the Federal Republic for "the creation and upholdal of a civil unions" is called "family migration". The law differs to the law concerning German, foreigners and EC Members

Foreigners migrating to their German or foreign Partners, receive a residence permit. This allows the right to work (§ 27 par. 5 Residence Act = Aufenthaltsgesetz - AufenthG). 

Foreigners migrating to an EC Member receive a residence card. This serves as the residence permit and allows the right to work.

2. Civil Partnership and Same Sex Marriage

A civil partnership is only allowed in Germany. The responsible civil registry office, you can find here (link in German). The papers which are required, you can find here (link in German). 

In the meanwhile, lesbian and gays can enter same sex marriages in a growing number of countries. Due to the fact that obtaining all the necessary paperwork is tedious, some couples go to Denmark to perform a same sex marriage. There are agencies there, which solely organize all the necessary paperwork and find solutions with the responsible government agencies if there are any problems with the papers. These agencies may be found in internet. 

Same sex marriages, legally performed in other countries according to the local jurisdiction, are recognized as civil unions in Germany and can be registered as a civil union if one of the partners is a German citizen. More Information is available in this (link in German) and the following section there. With the certificate, the foreign partner is able to apply for a visa to migrate to uphold the civil union with the German partner.

Evasion of a same sex marriage has disadvantages.  The general and martial property rights as well as divorce are determined by the respective foreign judicial system.  The general and property rights of the civil union is meant man die legal consequences which the union has for the internal, between the partners, and external relationship to third parties and the state. That is, i.e. the property of the partner, custody of the partner’s children, grounds for divorce and its legal consequences. Same-sex partners, which married outside of Germany, must, if there is grounds of dispute, prove the results of the foreign jurisdiction.

The partner do have the possibility to register as a civil union in Germany afterwards. The marriage outside of Germany does not need to be dissolved. This is in accordance with Art. 17b Abs. 3 EGBGB: which states: If a civil union between the same two persons in multiple countries, then the last registered civil union at the time of the validity, is decisive for the described properties according to paragraph 1. (Orignal text:   "Bestehen zwischen denselben Personen eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaften in verschiedenen Staaten, so ist die zuletzt begründete Lebenspartnerschaft vom Zeitpunkt ihrer Begründung an für die in Absatz 1 umschriebenen Wirkungen und Folgen maßgebend." 

Couples, which register a union in Germany as well, as being married in another country are considered married according to the law of the country in which they married and as a civil union in Germany. 

Multiple registration may have numerous legal complications. You should obtain legal advice beforehand (through a notary or lawyer) which has appropriate knowledge.

3. General Prerequisite

Civil partners or spouses from third countries, who want to live with their German or foreign partners in Germany, receive a residence permit or a residence cards only if they have legally entered Germany (Visa if necessary) and have not been expelled nor deported. 

Furthermore, the civil union must be lived de facto or must be whole heartedly intended. As a general rule, there should be a common principal residence. A closely defined way of life is not stipulated, for example, sexual faithfulness is not required nor a sexual relationship in the first place. The "Foreigners' Office" (Ausländerbehörde) has no authority to ask. It is sufficient to have consent that the couple wants to live together. 

Which means that at separation, the residency permit is void. See the section "Separation". This is not valid for partners of EU citizens. According to a ruling of the European Court of Justice, residency is permitted after the spouse (or partner) leaves the common dwelling and has their own dwelling and separates for a longer period from the partner which has the right to move freely. Residency permits end at divorce.

4. German Language Knowledge

Foreigners, wo want to relocate to their german or foreign life partner or same sex spouse, must be able to comunicate in german language at simple level already at entry (§ 28 par. 1 sen. 5 and § 30 par. 1 sen. 1 No. 2) For foreigners, who want to relocate to Eu-citizens, this is not valid.

§ 2 par. 9 AufenthG defines simple level of german language knowledge as follows:

"Simple german language knowlege is equivalent the level A1 of the Common European Frame of Reference of Languages (Recomandation of the commitee of ministers of the european council towards the memberstates No. R (98) 6 of 17. march 1998 concerning the Common European Frame of Reference of Languages - GER).

Concerning this it is said in the "Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz" (General rules for the residence law):

"Rn. The level A1 GER (general scale) includes as the lowest language level the following knowlege: "can understand usual, everyday expressions and very simple sentences for simple needs and use it. Can introduce himself and others and can question others about the person, f.i. where they live, who they know, or what things they have, and can answer questions of this kind. Can communicate in simple way, as long as the communication partners or partner speak slowly and clear, and is or are willing to help. "The language level A1 includes all language knowledges (hearing, speaking, reading, writing). The written knowledge includes herewith as follows: "can write an easy postcard, f.i. Holiday greetings. Can fill forms, f.i. in hotels, name, adress, nationality etc.

Rn. According to the legal specification it should be considered, not to demand already further knowledge, f.i. equivalent to the higher level A2 GER (general scale), which demands following knowledge (see herewith also No. 104a.1.2.): "Can understand sentences and often used expressions, related with fields of very direct meaning (f.i. Information about person or family, shopping, work, close enviroment). Can communicate in easy, routine situations, concerning simple and direct exchange of information about used and  well known things. Can explain with easy  tools the own origin, the direkt surrounding and things related to direct needs."

For the proof in the visa process is valid:

"Rn. German knowledge at least language level A1 GER has to be proofed from the spouse through a useable and reliable language level certificate. The language level certificate has to base on a standard language test (see acc. No. If in certain contries of origin an language level certificate is not reachable, the foreign representation office has to convice themselves from the existence of the simple german language knowledge (see acc. No. f.) during an personal  interview in a useable way. 

"Rn. The foreigner offices may accept in germany written out language certifications, based on standard language tests. There are three institutions, who offer as german members of the ALTE association of language Testers in Europe such standard language tests: Goethe-Institut, TestDaF-Institut und telc GmbH (DW). The german test "Start Deutsch 1 " is the only standard german language test at level A1, that can be taken in germany, and is offered only from Goethe-Institut and the telc GmbH. From ALTE members offered examens of higher level can also be accepted. Not acceptable are in opposition to that informal learning controls from other course institutions, because  those do not have an comparable standard grade and no scientific test development."

"Rn Is it during the personal interview of the spouse  openly understandable, that means there is no rational doubt, that the spouse owns at least the necessary simple language knowledge acc. language level A1 GER, there is no need for an language level certificate."

Exempted of this language level needs are amongst other things  (§ 28 par. 1 sen. 5 conected with § 30 par. 1 sen. 3 Aufenthaltsgesetz):

  1. Life partners, who can immigrant and stay for their residence, which is not a short residence, without visa into the federal area, these are the nationals of  Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Republic Korea, New Zealand, United Staates of America (§ 40 par. 1 AufenthV) also nationals of Andorra, Brasil, El Salvator, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino (§ 40 par. 2 AufenthV).
  2. Life partners, who have an recognizable lower integrational need concerning the according § 43 par. 4 enacted regulation. According § 4 par. 2 integration course regulation this should be usually taken if

    • a foreigner has a university or university of applied science degree or an equivalent qualification, except, he cannot start within an apropriate time an the qualification matching allowed work because the missing language knowledge.
    • the foreigner works in the field, that usually requires a qualification like this,
    • and the assumption is justified, that the foreigner will integrate without staate help in the economic, social und cultural life in the federal republic of germany.
      About this it is said in the application regulation (Rn. In the individual case the work forecast can be positive despite general missing language knowlege , f.i. with good  in the work field usuable english language knowledge. The forecast of a good integration without state help includes the examination, wether the cost of living of the relocating spouse from him/her or the applicant himself can be carried without state help.

  3. Life partner, who owe

    • a settlement permit for high qualified (§ 19 AufenthG)
    • a Blue Card EU (§ 19 AufenthG)
    • a residence permit for purpose of reseach (§ 20 AufenthG) or possesion of this directly before the remittance of a settlement permit
    • a residence permit for carring out a self-reliant occupation (§ 21 AufenthG)
    • a residence permit for asylum, for refugee or entitled for subsidiar protection (§ 25 par. 1 and 2 AufenthG), if the marriage already did exist, when the relocation of the center of life to the federal area happened.

  4. Life partners, who are not capable for proof of simple german language knowledge because of physical, mental or intellectual illness or disability,
  5. Life partners, who cannot or it would not be reasonable to undertake efforts for the acquisition of simple knowledge of the german language based on particularly cirumstances of the individual case 
  6. If the partner in life of a foreigner is citizen of the European Union, the foreigner will not be obliged to prove, that he/she is able to communicate in German in a simple way (see below). This is also applicable to partners of German nationals, if the couple had initially stayed in an EU country "for a longer period of time". In this case, the foreign partner is not obliged to prove knowledge of the German language (ECJ, judgement of 12.03.2014, C-456/12). The minimum length of residence of the couple in an EU country has not yet been decided upon by a higher court of justice. Short stays of several days only will definitely not be sufficient (BVerwG, judgement of 22.06.2011 - 1 C 11.10).

Further information you can find at the website of "Federal Office for Migration and Refugees" (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge - BAMF). For the language test at the Goethe-Institut you can see: "Information about German language ability related to spouse immigration".

5. Secured Existence

Receipt of a residence permit is based on a secured existence (§ 5 par. 1 N0 1 AufenthG). This does not pertain to family member migration to EU citizens.

--- 5.1. Family Migration to German Citizens

The general administrative regulations for residency (Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz), Rn., is a reference to  § 28 Abs. 1 Satz 3 AufenthG, which states that due to the unrestricted residency permit of Germans in the Federal Republic a secure existence is not a prerequisite and not to be thoroughly examined for spouse/partner migration.  In case of special instances, there may, however, be a dependency on this for spouse/partner migration. For example,  for persons with multiple nationalities in regard to the citizenship they own besides the German or for Germans which have lived and worked for a longer period in the origin country of the partner and speak the language of this country.

This interpretations has been overruled by Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). The court has ruled that no German may be required to live in partnership in a foreign country even if the German has multiple nationalities. In fact, it allows him, other than a foreigner, the basic right of Art. 11 GG to live in Germany (BVerwG, Urt. v. 04.09.2012 - 10 C 12.12). This applies in the same manner for civil unions. Germans may refer to this, even if they have lived with their partner in the partner’s homeland for years. 

Therefore, for a family member migration to a German citizen there is no prerequisite of proof of a secure existence necessary. 

Some of the foreigners’ offices require proof for the period between entry and registration of the partnership. (Travel health insurance coverage of minimum 30.000 Euro and a letter of intent, see "Declaration of Commitment" below).

--- 5.2. Family Migration for non-German Citizens

In contrast, a secure existence for family member migration to non-German citizens must be proven.  What this means can be read in § 2 par. 3 AufenthG and further in Rn. 2.3 (cont.) of the general administration regulation for residency permits (Allgemeinen Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz). 

An existence for a non-German (and his family members) is secured when he can secure sufficient health insurance and requires no public funding. This can be secured by a third party, who must give up a declaration of commitment, see "Declaration of Commitment" below. Furthermore, the non-German must have an adaquate dwelling. 

Not recieving public funding includes: childrens allowance (Kindergeld), childrens‘ aid (Kinderzuschlag), child rearing allowance (Erziehungsgeld), parents allowance (Elterngeld), aid for apprentices or re-trainings (Ausbildungs- oder Umschulungsbeihilfen), from public funding which are based on contributions: unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld I) disability pension (Invaliditätsrente),  surviving dependants' pension (Hinterbliebenenrente), early retirements pension (Vorruhestand) or retirement pension (Altersrente), pensions for occupational injuries or vocational disability pension or employment disability pension (Renten wegen Arbeitsunfall Berufs- oder Erwerbsunfähigkeit) or which were granted in order to permit residence in Germany, (grants for studies).

Basically it is considered that one has a secured existence when no support from the unemployment or social aid - according to SGB II (Arbeitslosengeld II) or SGB XII (Sozialhilfe) is needed. 

Generally a secure existence is considered sufficient when over 1.5 times the general social aid limit. The limit is 736 € for partners, which live together in 2017, which means the partner must be able to prove approximately 1.100,00 €. 

Sufficient Health Insurance is consider when the non-German has statuary or private health insurance. The basic tariff level is sufficient. 

Adequate dwelling (compare  § 2 par. 4 AufenthG), if each family member older than 6 years has twelve square meters and under 6 years ten square meters of living space and additional common space (kitchen, bath,, WC) in an adequate may also be used. Children, up to two years are not considered for the calculation of living space. Up to 10% deficiency in the living space is not detrimental. Quarters, used together with third parties are not considered; additional common space is considered.

6. Entry

According to § 5 par. 2 AufenthG, a residence permit can only be issued if the foreigner has entered the country with the required visa and if he has made the relevant information for the issue already in the visa application.

EU-citizens do not need a visa for entering Germany (see below family migration to EU citizens). All other foreigners in principle require visa to stay in Germany.

For visits of up to 90 days every six months, nationals of states do not require visas, for which the European Community has abolished the visa requirement (§ 39 No. 3 AufenthV). These persons are called "positive nationals" (“Positivstaater”). Foreigners requiring visa even for short visits to Germany are called "negative nationals" (“Negativstaater”).

Please check the Foreign Office’s List of States for Visa Requirements to find out which foreigners for short visits in Germany need a visa and which not.

--- 6.1. Visa for visits

lt is very difficult for bi-national couples to make their wish come true to live together. Most of them prefer their foreign partner to come to Germany for a visit first. lt enables them to get to know each other better, and it helps the foreign partner to find out if for him a relocation to Germany is concerned.

"Positive nationals" will have no problems with this because they do not need a visa for visits up to 90 days per half year.

Differently for negative nationals who need a visa even for short visits. Many German Embassies dismiss visa applications for visits of young people arguing formally that they might use it to stay in Germany for good. In response, applicants can submit a motion for reconsideration (remonstrance) to the Embassy within one month and elaborate in detail, that they are deeply rooted in their home country (job, family etc.) and do not intend at all to resettle in Germany. Usually such remonstrance is not successful. The German missions abroad reject the remonstrance from a communication, which they justify in detail.

Against that decision, the foreigner can sue to the Foreign Office.within one month. There is no opposition procedure preceding this. The court in charge is the Administration Court Berlin. Such lawsuits are also usually not successful because German Embassies have a certain margin of discretion when deciding on a visa application. Courts are supposed to examine such decisions only with regard to whether the authorities performed according to the procedural regulations, whether the law was interpreted correctly, whether the relevant information gathered was complete and applicable and whether the decision was made according to commonly accepted assessment standards (principles), in particular non-breaching the principle of prohibition of arbitrary action (Federal Administrative Court - BVerwG, judgement of 17.09.2015, C 37.14). Therefore, for a lawsuit to be successful it is not enough to argue that the facts could be interpreted differently.  Instead, it is important to prove that the embassy erred in law because, for instance, important circumstances were not taken into consideration. Usually this does not work.

In such cases, foreigners can obtain visa only by way of same-sex marriage or registered partnership with a German or EU citizen.

This is not really meaningful because bi-national couples are under pressure to enter into registered partnership immediately without having the chance to find out, whether they are able to live together permanently in Germany.

--- 6.2. "Positive Nationals"

Positive nationals who are allowed to visit Germany without a visa do not need to undergo a visa procedure stating the purpose of their visit.

Therefore, foreigners wishing to resettle to their German partner may enter Germany as visitors. In Germany, they can register their partnership within three months and apply for a residence permit to be able to live with their German registered partner. If they fulfill all other prerequisites as well, they are legally entitled to a residence permit. These other prerequisites include sufficient knowledge of German in case of subsequent migration to Germans, and additionally, in case of subsequent migration to foreigners, the proof of being able to earn one’s livelihood as well as all other prerequisites listed in § 30 par. 1 AufenthG, see "joining with foreigners" below.

After having registered their partnership, positive staters, thus, do not need to return to their home country to initiate the visa procedure there.

In order to ensure that all this can be accomplished within the three months visit, the partner living in Germany should get in touch with the Registry Office beforehand to clarify, which documents are required by both partners, whether their documents are complete and adequate and what would be a possible date for the official registration of partnership. This helps to ensure that the partner needs to enter the country only once.

If the couple does not manage to finalize the whole procedure within three months, they can apply for an extension of the stay permit for a period of maximum three months according to § 40 AufenthV (Ordinance on Residence). The application must be submitted to the Immigration Office in charge within the visa-free period of the first three months of the visit after entering the country. In doing so, the couple has to explain that they are in an exceptional situation – compared to normal cases of visits or tourist trips – because e.g. the documents have not yet arrived for unexpected reasons but will come soon. 

--- 6.3. "Negative Nationals" having visa for visits (Schengenvisa)

The legal situation for negative staters, who have entered Germany with a visa for visits to get married here, is less favourable. 

According to § 5 par. 2 AufenthG, foreigners, in order to obtain a residence visa, must have entered Germany with the required visa and must have given the relevant information for the residence visa already in her/his visa application. This means, they would have to inform the German Embassy about their intention to enter into a registered partnership in Germany and to apply accordingly for a visa to get the partnership registered. 

Moreover, according to § 5 par. 1 No. 2, a residence permit will only be granted if no reason for deportation can be established. According to § 55 par. 2 No. 1 letter a AufenthG foreigners may be deported in case of false or incomplete information in their visa application, “if they were advised on the legal consequences of such misinformation beforehand”. In this context a general advice on other legal consequences (e.g. withdrawal of the Schengenvisa etc.) is not sufficient. Rather, it must be clearly pointed out to the foreigner that he/she might have to face deportation. The application forms of German Embassies, contrary to all other Schengen states, contain such “qualified” information. 

According to § 5 par. 2, sentence 2, half sentence 1, AufenthG, the Immigration Office may refrain from insisting on the implementation of the visa procedure, “if the prerequisites for an entitlement on obtaining a visa are fulfilled”. According to the jurisdiction of the Federal Administrative Court, however, this means only a “strict legal entitlement”.  A strict legal entitlement is only given, if all compulsory and regular preconditions are fulfilled, thus, leaving no more room for discretionary power by the Immigration Office. This does not apply to the cases mentioned because a residence permit will “usually” be issued, if no reason for deportation can be identified, which means that it is within the discretionary power of the Immigration Office to refuse a residence permit.

Moreover, according to § 5 par. 2 sen. 2, half sen. 1 AufenthG, the Immigration Office may refrain from insisting on the implementation of the visa procedure, if “it is unreasonable, due to particular circumstances of the specific case, to catch up on the visa procedure”. In most cases, however, Immigration Offices as well as Courts do not come to this conclusion. The Federal Administrative Court, e.g., opines that separating spouses does not justify unreasonableness of catching up on the visa procedure. According to the Court this holds true even if the couple would have to face a separation period of 15 months due to the husband’s duty to complete military service in his home country first.

All this means, that visa for visits will in principle never be turned into residence permits to enable couples to live together as registered partners. 

--- 6.4. "Negative Nationals" having visa for registering partnership

It is, therefore, recommendable for foreigners to apply with German Embassies for visa enabling them to register a partnership. To do this, the German Embassies need the consent of the German Immigration Office. The Immigration Office checks, whether the prerequisites for registration and implementation of a partnership are fulfilled. 

In relation to this the “General Administrative Regulation concerning the Residence Law” (Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz) says the following:

"No. 30.0.6: The national visa for getting married can only be issued, if no legal and factual reasons are opposed to marriage, and if marriage is imminent. Marriage is seen as imminent once the administrative procedure to examine the capacity to contract marriage – which was initiated by registering the respective application with the Registry Office in charge – has been completed and not more than six months have passed since then. The completion of the procedure can be confirmed by the Registry Office by issuing a certificate."

Therefore, both partners should see to it that they get the required documents (see here), and the partner living in Germany should clarify with the Registry Office the adequacy of the documents and the possible date of marriage. All this should be laid down in a certificate by the Registry Office.

The foreign partner can use this certificate to apply for a visa with the German Embassy. The partner living in Germany should approach the German Immigration Office to apply for their consent to the issuing of the visa for his partner. 

German Embassies usually issue visa for a maximum of three months in order to leave it to the Immigration Office to deal with the conditions of stay after entry. Such three months visa are not visa for visits but permanent visa limited in time. Therefore, foreign partners need to apply for permanent residence visa within three months after entry and registration of partnership to ensure that they are allowed to live together with their partners in Germany.

--- 6.5. Staying in Germany for Education Purposes

Residence visa for the purpose of studying at university, doing a language course or going to school entail the same problems as in the case of visa for visits. During a stay for the purpose of education, according to § 16, par. 2 AufenthG, usually no residence permit for a purpose other than education must be issued or prolonged unless there is a legal entitlement to it.

Foreigners may register a partnership with a German citizen or a foreigner living in Germany while they are here for studying or other educational purposes. However, if they wish to turn their education visa into a residence visa for living in registered partnership, they have to return to their home country and apply for a visa with the German Embassy there. 

--- 6.6. Former asylum seekers

Foreigners who withdrew their application for asylum or whose application for asylum was finally rejected, usually have to repeat the visa procedure if they want to register partnership. This means, they have to return to their home country to apply from there for a visa for registering partnership.

According to § 5 para 2 sent. 2 half sent. 2 AufenthG, the Immigration Office may refrain from insisting on the implementation of the visa procedure, if "it is unreasonable, due to particular circumstances of the specific case, to initiate the visa procedure at a later stage". In most cases Immigration Offices as well as Courts do not come to this conclusion. If, however, the foreigner would have to face serious disadvantages due to her/his homosexuality, this can be claimed to be “particular circumstances”. 

Furthermore, it is possible to apply with the Foreign Office to allow for carrying out the visa procedure not in one’s home country but in a neighbor country of Germany. Such requests will usually be granted if homosexuality is a criminal offense in the partner’s home country. 

7. Both partners are foreigners

With the family reunion for foreigners the granting of the residence permit stands at the discretion of the immigration authorities.

A claim for a residence permit is – among others – (see § 30 AufenthG) if the foreigners living in Germany

  • has a settlement permit or a permanent residence permit/EU,
  • has a residence permit since two years, unless the residence permit was issued only for a temporary stay or unless a certain legal norm prohibits the issuing of a settlement permit at a later stage,
  • has a residence permit and the registered partnership was already in the granting of residence permits and the stay will presumably be for more than one year,
  • has a residence permit as a person who has been granted asylum, as a recognized refugee or as a person entitled to subsidiary protection (§ 25 par. 1 and 2 AufenthG),
  • as a residence permit for the purpose of doing research (§ 20 AufenthG)
  • has a long-term residence permit for other EU member states (§ 38a AufenthG)
  • has an EU Blue Card (§ 19a AufenthG).

Furthermore, the other conditions need to be fulfilled: The partner migrating to Germany must be able to communicate in German at least at a modest level with the entry, see above, and it must be ensured that she/he is able to earn her/his livelihood, see above.

8. Family Migration to EU citizens

Immigration and residence of EU citizens’ partners from third countries are regulated in the “Law on the General Freedom of Movement of EU citizens”/FreizügG/EU. The law applies also to EEA states’ citizens and their families (§ 12 FreizügG/EU). The following explanations, therefore, also apply to EEA citizens’ partners from third countries. 

Civil partners from third countries of EU citizens have been granted full equal status to spouses since the beginning of 2013. This means, they have the right on entry and stay if they accompany EU citizen or follow to them. They do not need to prove anymore that they are able to communicate in simple German.


EU citizens neither need an entry visa nor a residence permit. The List of States for Visa  Requirements of the Foreign Office helps to clarify, whether or not family members from third countries need entry visa. The visa can be replaced by a valid German residence card or a valid residence card of another EU member state. A visa can be a visa for visits or for registering a partnership with an EU citizen. The visa will be issued free of cost.

EU citizens coming to Germany in search of jobs are allowed to stay up to six months, and after that as long as they can prove that they are still looking for a job and have good prospects of getting employed. During this period of time they are not entitled to unemployment benefit II. 

Registration and substantiation:

EU citizens and their family members have to register with the registration office in charge within three months after entering the country. There the registration authority can accept the essential informations and proofs with which the EU citizens and her members of the family make her stay right plausible. The registration office forwards the information and documents to the Immigration Office in charge.

Evidence of the right of residence:

The certificate on the freedom of movement for EU-citizens is abolished. For them a passport or an travel permit in lieu of passport is sufficient.

Family members from third countries is ex officio within six months after they have given the required information, a residence card for family members of Union citizens issued, which shall be valid for five years. A certificate stating that the necessary information has been made, the family member is replaced immediately.

Family members from third countries in possession of the residence card and a valid travel document are allowed to enter other EU states and stay there up to three months (Art. 21 Schengen Convention/SDÜ). They do not need a visa for visits.

Sufficient resources to secure one’s livelihood:

Employed EU citizens and their family members do not need to prove that they are able to earn their livelihood.

Unemployed EU citizens and their family members accompanying them or subsequently migrating to them are only entitled to immigration and residence, if they prove to have a health insurance and sufficient resources to secure their livelihoods. If the EU citizen stays in Germany as a student, only his/her spouse, her/his registered partner and his/her dependent children are entitled to immigration and residence.

For the definition of secure livelihood of an EU citizen and her/his family members the same principles apply as in the case of subsequent family migration to foreigners from third countries.

New EU-member states:

The limitation of the freedom of movement has expired for employees of the new member states Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary. For Croatia, who has become member of the EU on 01.05.2013, the limitation of the freedom of movement of employees will continue to exist till 31.12.2019. For more information see website EURES.

See also:

9. Separation

--- 9.1. Civil partnerships of foreigners with Germans or foreigners

Following a separation, the residence permit issued to allow a relationship to be conducted will be withdrawn (§ 31 combined with § 27 Abs. 2 AufenthG). Exception: If the "civil partnership" before the separation has been in existence for at least three years or if one partner dies. Furthermore, the foreign life partner must have been in possession of a residence permit during this period. Claiming social benefits does not conflict with an extension of the residence permit.

Since 01.01.2005, a residence permit can be extended in exceptional circumstances even if there is an early separation if it is required to prevent special hardship. Special hardship exists in the following instances:

  • if the life partner faces considerable damage to their interests that require protection because of the obligation to return (to their country of origin) as a result of the end of their relationship.
    Primarily relates to cases in which the foreign partner could face considerable disadvantages because of the social or legal situation in their homeland.
  • if it is unacceptable to the life partner to continue with the life-partner union because of damage to his interests that require protection.
    This primarily relates to cases of violence within the relationship. Interests requiring protection include the well-being of a child living with the life-partner in a union.
    The use of this second alternative only comes into consideration however if the foreign life partner separates from his German partner. In the case of the German partner separating from his foreign partner this alternative.

To avoid abuse a residence permit extension can be refused if the life partner is reliant on social welfare for reasons beyond his control (§ 31 par. 2 sen. 4 AufenthG in conjunction with § 27 par. 2 AufenthG).

--- 9.2. Civil partnerships of foreigners with EU citizens

Pursuant to § 3 par. 5 no. 1 FreizügG/EU (Freedom of Movement Law/EU), foreign spouses of EU citizens will loose their right of residence not through the separation as such but only after the legal dissolution of the civil partnership. This is not applicable, however, if the partnership has existed up to the initiation of the annulment proceedings for three years, out of which at least one year in the Federal Republic of Germany.

If the court proceedings for dissolution will be initiated already before the expiration of three years, the foreign spouses will retain their right of residence, if this will be required to prevent undue hardship, in particular if it had been unreasonable for the spouses to  maintain the civil partnership due to the impairment of their interests worthy of protection (§ 3 par. 5 no. 3 FreizügG/EU). Insofar, the same is applicable as for the separation of foreigners from their German spouses (see above section).

The same applies, if the parental care for the children of the Union citizen will be transferred to the foreigners through agreement or through a court decision, or if the right of personal contact had only been granted for the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany (§ 3 par. 5 nos. 2 and 4 FreizügigG/EU).

10. Passport entries

In the first few years after the life partnership law came into effect, when entering a residence permit into a passport, immigration authorities merely added a note to say the residence permit was in order to conduct a life partnership. At times the details of the German life partner were also entered in the passport. This violated data protection regulations. Those affected defended themselves successfully against it (Formal complaint to the [lord] mayor or chief administrative officer and to the Interior Ministry, petition to state parliament).

This situation does not arise today.

11. Permanent residence permit

The permanent residence permit is a residence permit not limited in time. It entitles to enter work, it is not restricted geographically and can only be extended with an incidental provision in cases expressly allowed by the AufenthG.

--- 11.1. Standard case

Pursuant to § 9 par. 2 AufenthG, a permanent residence permit must be granted to a foreigner, if:

  1. he/she holds the residence permit for five years,
  2. if the payment of his/her living expenses is assured,
  3. if he/she has made compulsory or voluntary contributions for the statutory old-age pension scheme for a at least 60 months or if he/she can provide evidence for the expenditure for the claim for comparable benefits of an insurance- or pension institution or of an insurance company; time off due to childcare or home care will be taken into account respectively,
  4. no reasons of public order or security are in contradiction thereto, taking into account the seriousness or the type of violation of the public security or order or of the danger posed by the foreigner considering the duration of the residence so far and the existence of the ties in the Federal Republic of Germany,
  5. the employment is allowed to him/her if he/she is employee,
  6. he/she holds the other permits required for a permanent performance of his/her employment,
  7. he/she has sufficient knowledge of the German language,
  8. he/she has a basic knowledge of the legal system, the social order and circumstances of life in Germany,
  9. he/she has sufficient living space for himself/herself and the family members living in a joint household.

In case of partners living in a life-long partnership, it is sufficient if the conditions according to No. 3, 5 and 6 are met by one partner.

Ad 1: The time of a legal stay for the purpose of studies or vocational training in the Territory of the Federal Republic of Germany will be credited as half of the time. See § 9 par. 4 AufenthG for the crediting of other periods of time.

Ad 2: With respect to the question when the payment of living expenses is assured, see above. The condition is not fulfilled, if the foreigner is able to secure the living expenses for himself/herself but not for his/her family members in Germany, for which he/she is obliged to maintenance.

Ad 3: This will be abstained from, if the foreigner is undergoing education or training, which leads to a recognised academic or vocational qualification or university degree.

Ad 7: Sufficient knowledge of the German language corresponds to the definition of the language level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, see in detail point no. of the "General Administrative Regulation on the Law on Residence". According to this Regulation, the knowledge required is, inter alia, proven if the foreigner has successfully passed the test "German Test for Immigrants (Competence Level B1)" in an Integration Course. This is evidenced through the "Certificate Integration Course". Possible exceptions are stated § 9 par. 2 sent. 3 to 5 AufenthG.

Ad 8: Basic knowledge of the legal system and the social order cover the basic principles of the constitutional state, see in detail point no. of the "General Administrative Regulation on the Law on Residence". According to this Regulation, the knowledge required is proven, inter alia, if the foreigner has successfully passed the test "Living in Germany" in an Integration Course. This is evidenced through the "Certificate Integration Course".

Ad 9: lso see above at the end of the section.

The permanent residence permit for graduates of German universities is governed by § 18b AufenthG and the permanent residence permit for highly qualified foreigners by § 19 AufenthG.

See § 4a FreizügG/EU (Act on the General Freedom of Movement for EU Citizens) with respect to the "Permanent Residence Permit" for EU citizen and their family members, who are not EU citizen.

--- 11.2 Foreign life partner

Pursuant to § 28 par. 2 AufenthG, a permanent residence permit will be granted to a foreign life partner of a German citizen

  • if he/she holds a residence permit for three years,
  • if the family life partnership with the German citizen continues in the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany,
  • if no interest for a deportation exists and
  • if he/she has a sufficient knowledge of the German language.

The three-year time limit for the foreign life partner of a German starts with the first granting of a residence permit for the generation of the family life partnership. Any periods of time of holding a residence period for other purposes will not be considered.

With respect to sufficient language command, see above para under "Ad 7".

The foreigners' authorities generally grant the permanent residence permit not limited in time only in case of a sufficient income of both partners.

§ 9 AufenthG applies to the foreign life partner of foreigners without restrictions, see above para. They will thus only be able to gain the permanent residence permit at the earliest after five years

--- 11.3 Asylum seekers

§ 26 par. 3 and 4 AufenthG makes the following differentiation regarding asylum seekers:

  • the foreigner, who had been recognized as a person entitled to asylum (§ 2 AsylG) or those, to whom the status as refugees had been granted (§ 3 AsylG) and
  • the foreigners with the status of a subsidiary protection (§ 4 AsylG) or for whom a prohibition for deportation pursuant to § 60 par. 5 and 7 AufenthG had been established.

Persons entitled to asylum and recognized refugees may obtain the permanent residence permit after three years as before, if they have a proficient command of the German language and if their maintenance of living expenses is secured "to a high extent".

If you, however, only have a sufficient knowledge of the German language and if your living expenses are only "mostly" secured, you will get this permanent residence permit after five years only.

The expression "proficient command of the German language" means the definition C 1 " Effective Operational Proficiency" of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the term "Sufficient Knowledge" means the definition A 2 "Waystage".

The period of time of the preceding asylum proceedings will be taken into account for the time limits of three or five years.

The requirements for the securing of the living expenses are lower than that for the standard case. It is not necessary that the living expenses are fully secured, but only "mostly" or "to a high extent".

Furthermore, a permanent residence permit will only be granted to a foreigner if:

  1. the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has failed to inform pursuant to § 73 par. 2a AsylG that the qualifications for the revocation or cancellation exist,
  2. no reasons of public order or security are in contradiction thereto, taking into account the seriousness or the type of violation of the public security or order or of the danger posed by the foreigner considering the duration of the residence so far and the existence of the ties in the Federal Republic of Germany,
  3. the employment is allowed to him/her if he/she is employee;
  4. he/she holds the other permits required for a permanent performance of his/her employment,
  5. he/she has a basic knowledge of the legal system, the social order and circumstances of life in Germany and
  6. he/she has sufficient living space for himself/herself and the family members living in a joint household.

Also see the explanations to the same points in section 11.1 with respect to these points.

§ 9 AufenthG applies without restrictions for foreigners with the status of a subsidiary protection or for whom a prohibition for deportation pursuant to § 60 par. 5 and 7 AufenthG had been established, see section 11.1. These persons may obtain the permanent residence permit at the earliest after five years.

12. When does the foreign partner obtain German citizenship?

The foreign partner of a German obtains German citizenship at the earliest after three years of legal residence in Germany.  A further provision is as a rule that the registered partnership has existed for at least two years. Periods of time spent living together before the partnership was registered under the law LpartG  are not taken into consideration. In addition, the foreigner must be capable of supporting themselves and their family dependents and must speak German. To ascertain this the foreigner must fulfill the requirements of the language test in oral and written form for the certificate in German  (B1 of the Common European Frame of Reference). 

Otherwise foreigners only obtain German citizenship at the earliest after a period of legal residence in Germany of eight years. The registered partner and under-age children of the foreigner can also obtain citizenship at the same time even if they have not yet been legally resident in the country for eight years. Further provisions for obtaining citizenship can be found under § 10 StAG and the websites of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamts für Migration und Flüchtlinge - BAMF) and the Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration (Beauftragte für Migration, Flüchtlinge und Integration).

13. Visitor‘s and Tourist Visa

Foreigners who want to enter German federal territory need a visa. In Europe, especially within the Schengen area, visa are mainly viewed as a previously issued permission for entry and residence.

--- 13.1. The Tourist and Visitor‘s Visa

The so-called tourist or visitor‘s visa is a permission for short-term residence of three months within a span of six months measured from the first day of entry. It does not entitle its holder to work.  

A visa for the purpose of entering into a civil partnership is limited to a time span of three months, but does not equal a visitor‘s visa. Therefore, it does entitle its holder to work. After the civil partnership is established, the foreigner needs to obtain a separate permit for the purpose of living with their civil partner. This is usually issued for one or two years. 

Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, of New Zealand and the United States of America can enter federal territory even if their planned visit is not a short-term one. The same applies to citizens of Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino who do not intend to work. They need to apply for a residence permit within three months of entry (§ 41 AufenthV).

Family members of EU citizens from third countries may travel to other EU countries with their Aufenthaltskarte/residence card (see above) and a valid travel document, and may stay within these countries for up to three months (Art. 21 SDÜ). They do not need a visitor‘s visa. 

The Schengen states apply a uniform visa system. It is detailed in

  • The Schengen acquis (SDÜ, "Schengen II")
  • The Schengen Borders Code (SGK)
  • The Visa Code (VK)
  • The EU visa regulations and further EU regulations and bylaws, see section 14 under „European Union“

Citizens of states listed in appendix II of the visa regulations – so-called positive statesdo not need a visa for short-term visits of up to three months, as long as they are not employed on federal territory.

Citizens of states listed in appendix I of the visa regulations – so-called negative states – need a visa for short-term visits of up to three months.

Appendices I and II are updated constantly. An up-to-date version of the list of states whose citizens need a visa is accessible on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

The visa for short-term visits can be issued for multiple stays within a span of up to five years, provided that the duration of each stay does not exceed three months within a span of six months, measured from the first day of entry (§ 6 Abs. 2 AufenthG, Art. 24 Abs. 1 VK). Two stays of three months each may be taken at the end of one six-month-period and the beginning of the next, so that the overall period of stay is six months.

Citizens of positive states may travel without restrictions within the Schengen area (Art. 20 SDÜ). 

Visitor’s visa for citizens of negative states are issued as Schengen visa (§ 6 par. 2 AufenthG, Art. 2 No 2a, 24ff VK). The Schengen visa is valid for all Schengen states, with the exception of some cases (Art. 25 par. 1 or Abs. 3 VK) in which it may be restricted to specific states (Art 21 SDÜ).

Citizens of states on both the positive and the negative list can apply for a permit for another period of stay of up to three months after entry, beginning with the end of the first short-term visit, if an exceptional case according to article 20 par. 2 SDÜ applies and the foreigner is not employed on federal territory (§ 40 AufenthV, § 6 par. 2 AufenthG).

There are no specific rules on how often short-term visits may be repeated. As a rule of thumb, the foreigner should have been residing abroad for the same time they previously spent in Germany in order to re-enter.

--- 13.2. The practice of German diplomatic missions

Upon receiving an application for a visitor’s visa, German diplomatic missions verify

  • the plausibility and transparency of the stated reason for travelling to Germany
  • the applicants’ willingness to leave the Schengen area before their visa runs out
  • their ability to finance their cost of living and travel from their own assets or income. In addition to this, the applicant needs to have travel health insurance with a minimum coverage of 30.000 Euros for the complete Schengen area and period of stay

--- 13.3. Declaration of Commitment

In case the applicant cannot supply proof that they are able to finance their stay independently, they may prove the financial security of their visit by handing in a formal declaration of commitment given by a third party according to §§ 66, 68 AufenthG. Usually, such declarations are processed by the foreigners’ registration office at the place of residence of the committing person.

Scope of Liability

Anybody stating a Declaration of Commitment will be obliged to reimburse any and all public funds incurred for the subsistence of the foreigner (§ 68 AufenthG) and also for the deportation costs in case of a deportation (§§ 66 and 67 AufenthG) (see the national Formsheet for Declarations of Commitment). The term subsistence also includes expenditure for the supply of living space to the foreigner as well as his/her maintenance in case of sickness and need for care, if the costs will not be borne by the health insurance of the foreigner or if such costs will exceed the minimum coverage of the health insurance, namely also in case the expenditures are based on a statutory right of the foreigner. The only expenditures not to be reimbursed are expenditures based on a contribution (unemployment benefits I, invalidity-, survivor's-, early retirement - or old-age pensions, pensions due to an accident at work, professional or inability to work).

The liability commences upon the entry of the foreigner enabled through the Declaration of Commitment and will be terminated upon the end of the stay or until the granting of a residence permit for another purpose of residence. A Declaration of Commitment for a visa to enter a partnership of life will thus become void, if a visa will be granted to maintain the partnership of life after the marriage. In such cases, it should be insisted, that the Declaration of Commitment should include a respective clarification.

This does not apply, however, if a residence permit will be granted to the foreigner under international law or for humanitarian or political reasons (§§ 22 to 26 AufenthG), thus e.g. a residence permit as person entitled to asylum, as refugee, as person entitled to subsidiary protection or due to a prohibition of deportation pursuant to § 67 para 6 and 7 AufenthG. In those cases, the person committed will continue to be liable for altogether 5 years for the costs of living of the foreigner. This may happen, if the foreigner had entered the Federal Republic as a visitor and has successfully applies for asylum afterwards.

If it is impossible to exclude for a visitor, that he/she will use the stay for an application for asylum, a Declaration for Commitment is a serious financial risk.

In case of Declarations for Commitment submitted before the Integration Act had come into force on 06.08.2016, the liability will not be for five but only for three years. If the three-year limit had already expired on 06.08.2016, it will continue until 31.08.2016 (§ 68a AufenthG).

Review of the credit standing of the person signing the Declaration of Commitment

The Declaration of Commitment may be stated by a natural or legal person. In both cases, the foreigners' authorities or diplomatic mission will review the enforceability of the Declaration, thus mainly the credit standing of the person making the Declaration (also see National Leaflet for the Use of the National Formsheet of the Declaration of Commitment, as of 15.12.2009).

Usually, the submission of three income statements will suffice in order to prove that the declarant possesses a regular income which may be seized if necessary. Some foreigners’ registration offices also demand proof about other payment commitments, especially regarding rent and alimony obligations of the declarant. This, too, is to ascertain whether the declaration of commitment can be enforced or whether the income lies under the minimum amount for seizure. 

A declaration of commitment is possible if the available income is above the minimum amount for seizure according to § § 850c ZPO. See also the declaration about minimum amounts for seizure 2017 by the Federal Ministry of Justice (link is in German). 

If the available income lies under the minimum amount for seizure according to the ZPO, but above the applicable amount of social security, the declaration of commitment is possible if a security deposit is paid. 

If the income lies under the applicable amount of social security, a declaration of commitment is not possible. 

The payment of a security deposit is possible for retired people and recipients of income replacements (such as sickness benefits). In these cases, the available income needs to exceed the social security requirements of the host including their guest.

14. Laws, EU-Directives, Regulations, Administrative Guidelines, Link collections

  • German Laws, regulations and application instructions

  • European Union
  • Applicable to the Schengen zone are especially

    • CISA - "Schengen II" - the Schengen acquis - Schengen Convention - The Schengen as referred to in Article 1(2) of Council Decision 1999/435/EC of 20 May 1999, OJ L 239 v. 22.09.2000, p. 19
    • Schengen Borders Code - SBK - Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 of the European parliament and of the council of 15 March 2006 establishing a Community Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders - OJ L 105, 13/4/2006, p. 1
    • Visa Code - VC - Regulation (EC) No 810/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 July 2009 establishing a Community Code on Visas (Visa Code) - OJ L 243, 15.9.2009, p. 1
      SBK and VC replace the original articles 2-17 CISA (Art. 39 par. 1 SBK, Art. 56 par. 1 VC), The rest of CISA remains in effect.
    • Visa regulation - Regulation (EU) No 265/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 March 2010 amending the Convention Implementing the Schengen Agreement and Regulation (EC) No 562/2006 as regards movement of persons with a long-stay visa - OJ L 85, 31.3.2010, p. 1

  • Further EU regulations

    • EU-VISA-VO – Council regulation (EC) No 539/2001 of 15 March 2001 listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement - OJ L 81, 21/3/2001, p. 1
    • Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the coordination of social security systems (Text with relevance for the EEA and for Switzerland) (OJ L 166, 30/4/2004, p. 1

  • The Residency Act serves the purpose of implementing the following EU directives:

    • Council Directive 2001/40/EC of 28 May 2001 on the mutual recognition of decisions on the expulsion of third country nationals - OJ L 149, 02/06/2001 P. 0034 - 0036
    • Council Directive 2001/51/EC of 28 June 2001 supplementing the provisions of Article 26 of the Convention implementing the Schengen Agreement of 14 June 1985 - OJ L 187, 10/07/2001 P. 0045 - 0046
    • Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof - OJ L 212, 07/08/2001 P. 0012 – 0023
    • Council Directive 2002/90/EG of 28 November 2002 defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence – OJ L 328, 05/12/2002 P. 0017 – 0018
    • Council Directive 2003/86/EG of 22 September 2003 on the right to family reunification – OJ L 251, 03/10/2003 P. 0012 – 0018
    • Council Directive 2003/110/EG of 25 November 2003 on assistance in cases of transit for the purposes of removal by air – Official Journal L 321 , 06/12/2003 P. 0026 – 0031
    • Council Directive 2003/109/EG of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents – OJ L 16, 23/01/2004 P. 0044 – 0053,
      changed by:
      Directive 2011/51/EU of the European Parliament and oft he Council of 11 May 2011 amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC to extend its scope to beneficiaries of international protection – OJ L 132 , 19/05/2011 P. 0001– 0004
    • Council Directive 2004/81/EG of 29 April 2004 on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who cooperate with the competent authorities – OJ L 261, 06/08/2004 P. 0019– 0023
    • Directive 2004/38/EG of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States amending Regulation (EEC) No 1612/68 and repealing Directives 64/221/EEC, 68/360/EEC, 72/194/EEC, 73/148/EEC, 75/34/EEC, 75/35/EEC, 90/364/EEC, 90/365/EEC and 93/96/EEC (Text with EEA relevance) - OJ L 158, 30/4/2004, p. 77
    • Council Directive 2004/83/EG of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted – OJ L 304, 30/09/2004 P. 0012– 0023,
      changed by:
      Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted (recast) – OJ L 337, 20/12/2011 P. 0009– 0026
    • Council Directive 2004/114/EG of 13 December 2004 on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service – OJ L 375, 23/12/2004 P. 0012– 0018
    • Council Directive 2005/71/EG of 12 October 2005 on a specific procedure for admitting third-country nationals for the purposes of scientific research – OJ L 289, 03/11/2005 P. 0015– 002

  • See also

    • Directive 2011/98/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council 13 December 2011 on a single application procedure for a single permit for third-country nationals to reside and work in the territory of a Member State and on a common set of rights for third-country workers legally residing in a Member State – OJ L 343, 23/12/2011 P. 0001– 0009

  • Collection of Links by the Refugee Council Berlin about relevant laws, directives, administative directions and explanations (link is in German)