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1. Visit Visa for the purpose of getting acquainted

Binational couples have severe problems to fulfil their dream of a life together. Most of them want the partner from abroad to come to Germany as a visitor in order to get to know each other better and for the partner to find out if Germany is possible option for a future relocation. 

This is not problematic for visitors from positive states, who do not need a visa for visits up to 90 days per half-year. 

For visitors from negative states this is different, they need a visa, even for short visits. Many diplomatic representations of Germany automatically deny visitor’s visa to young people on the grounds that there is the risk that the young people could end up wishing to stay in Germany for good.

Young foreign nationals can remonstrate against this denial within one month and they can give a detailed explanation why they are deeply rooted within their home country (job, family,…) and that therefore a relocation to Germany is not an option for them. Often such remonstrance is not successful. The German diplomatic representations deny the remonstrance with a notification including a detailed description of reasons.

The foreign nationals can take action against this notification within one month. In this case the defendant will be the “Auswärtige Amt” (Department for Foreign Affairs).Opposition proceedings will not take place beforehand. The court having jurisdiction is the administrative court (Verwaltungsgericht) Berlin. These complaints are usually not successful as the German diplomatic representations enjoy a certain scope for judgment evaluation concerning visa applications. The courts may only evaluate such decision in terms of compliance with procedural rules and correct interpretation of the law, they may also evaluate if the diplomatic representations have fully and correctly examined the case and if they show compliance to universal standards of evaluation without breaching the ban on arbitrariness in particular (BVerwG, Urt. v. 17.09.2015, C 37.14). For a success of the complaint it is therefore not sufficient to point out that the case could be evaluated differently. You will have to argue that the decision of the German diplomatic representations is legally inaccurate as for example the most important circumstances were not taken into account in their evaluation. This does not usually succeed.

In such cases foreign nationals can only gain a visa enter into a same-sex marriage or into a civil union with a German or EU citizen.  

This is not very reasonable as thus the binational couples will be forced to enter into a civil union immediately without being able to try out if they are capable of living together in Germany permanently.

2. Subsequent entry of family

By now binational civil unions and binational same-sex marriages have gained equal rights as binational marriages of partners of opposite sex concerning the right to be followed by the respective partner from a third country (non-EU countries). 

The immigration of foreign nationals from third countries to Germany in order to “found or keep a civil partnership” with their partners is identified as “family following relatives”. The law differentiates between family following Germans, foreing nationals and EU citizens.

Foreign nationals who follow their German or foreign partners receive a residence permit, which entitles them to engage in work (§ 27 par. 5 AufenthG).

Foreign nationals who follow EU citizens receive a residence card. It serves as proof of their residence permit and the right to engage in work.

3. Life-Partnership/Civil Union

The Life-Partnership/Civil Union can only be established in Germany. It is not possible to enter into a Life-Partnership/Civil Union at a foreign German Diplomatic Mission (Embassy or Consulate). In addition marriages can no longer be performed at German foreign Diplomatic Missions.

--- 3.1. Administrative responsibility of the authority and application for registration

In Germany, the registrar’s office of marriages (Standesamt) of each Federal State of the Federal Republic of Germany is the competent authority for the application and for the establishment of a Civil Union. In Bavaria, a Civil Union can also be established at a Bavarian Public Notary’s office.

Partners, who plan to establish a Civil Union, have to apply for registration at the registrar’s office, in whose jurisdiction one of the partners holds his domicile or usual place of residence. If neither partner has domicile or usual place of residence in Germany, they may register at any registrar’s office in the Federal Republic of Germany (§ 12 par. 1 PStG).

The application must be made by both partners in person. In case, one of the partners is unable to attend, it is possible to authorize the other partner in writing to do so. If both partners are unable to appear, due to valid reasons, the application can be submitted in writing or presented by an authorized representative. In these cases, partners have to affirm in person their application’s statements upon establishment of the Civil Union. (§§ 28 par. 1, 29 par. 1, 30 PStG).

The establishment of the Civil Union does not necessarily have to take place in the registrar’s office, where the application was made. Partners can choose a different registrar’s office to complete/conclude this procedure. After determination that all the requirement of a Civil Union have been met, the registrar’s office, where the application was filed, issues a written confirmation that a Civil Union may be established. This confirmation is valid for six months at the registrar’s office, where the Civil Union is intended to be concluded (§ 13 par. 4 PStG).

Bavarian Public Notary’s may establish a Civil Union, independent of both partners’ residences. However, a registration of the application has to be made at the registrar’s office having jurisdiction over one partner’s residence. If neither partner has a domicile or usual residence in Germany, the application has to be filed at the registrar’s office, where the Public Notary’s office, chosen by the partners, is located.

--- 3.2. Which documents do we need?

With application for the registered Life Partnership – like application for marriage – the identity, (constant) use of name, marital status, and residence have to be proven to determine the competent authority.

Therefore, Partners have to present the following:

  • Valid Passport, ID or any other official proof of identity, including photograph of the holder. Citizens of countries other than Germany whose nationality is not specified in the official Proof of Identity must establish their nationality through a certificate from the responsible authority in their home country.
  • If partners are registered in Germany, a certificate of the main residence, issued by the registrar’s office (Meldebehörde), which certifies first and family-name, martial status, residence and nationality.
  • If partners want to establish Life-Partnership not at the registrar’s office (Standesamt) of the permanent residence, but at a second residence, a certificate of that second residence is also needed.
  • Certificate of birth, or, if born in Germany, an authenticated printout of the registry of birth or an authenticated copy of the book of birth.
  • Proof of last marriage and its dissolution.
  • Proof of establishment of last Life-Partnership/Civil Union and its dissolution
  • If the last marriage or Life-Partnership/Civil Union was not established at a German registrar’s office (Standesamt), dissolution of other pre-marriage or other pre-Life-Partnerships has to be proven, if the respective examination was not yet carried out by a German registrar’s office on the occasion of a former marriage or establishment of former Life-Partnership. 

Certificates may not be older than six monthes, certificates of residence of the registrar’s office (Meldebehörde) may not be older than 14 days.

The following special regulations apply, according to a foreign national’s country of birth. These are listed in:

It is recommended to study both lists. Special terms in the respective lists have the following meaning:

  • Affidavit: (same meaning as in English); written declaration in place of oath, to verify/authenticate a claim of facts.
  • Legalization: legalization is carried out by consular officials at German Embassies or Consulates. Legal basis of their function is § 13 Consular law, which states: "Consular officials are authorized to legalize public documents, issued in their jurisdictional area. The legalization confirms the signature, the capacity, in which the undersigning official has acted, and, if applicable, the authenticity of the seal, with which the document is sealed. The legalization is affected by entry-note on the document." Precondition of the legalization by the German foreign representation is the authentication of the competent authority in the home country.
  • Apostille: Apostille is a simplified form of legalization, which confirms the authenticity of a public document, which has, for this reason, presented in the original version. Apostille is given by an authority of the country, which has issued the document. A participation of a German foreign representation is not required, different from legalization.
    Which authority granted the Apostille in the country concerned, can be found here.
  • Special examination rules: In several countries, German foreign representations have stopped the legalization of documents. They charge local attorneys with the examination, if the statements of facts of the case in that respective document are correct. The partners cannot apply for the respective examination themselves, but the examination is initiated through the registrar’s office (Standesamt) by request of administrative aid, after the Partners have furnished all necessary documents to the registrar’s office. Countries, in which these examinations are implemented, are listed here, section: “Urkundenverkehr: Merkblätter”. 
    Under this link you can download recommendations of the respective German foreign representations (Merkblätter) concerning the examination procedures and documents which have to be presented.

Several states issue documents of single-status/marital status only in case the person to be married is mentioned by name. Other countries demand an additional document of the Engagement, authenticated by a Notary Public. In these and other cases § 9 par. 2 PStG provides (summary of the paragraph’s wording):

If necessary documents can only be procured with difficulty or with high costs, then other documents may be used.
If substitute documents are also unavailable, then the official at the registrar’s office can ask for and take affidavits of partners and other persons as certification of facts.”

4. Same-sex Marriage

By now gays in more and more countries have been able to enter into a same-sex marriage. As the acquisition of the papers needed for a civil union is often difficult and lengthy, some couples go to Denmark where they enter into a same-sex marriage instead. In Denmark there are agencies which organise both the wedding and the acquisition of all the necessary papers including negotiations with responsible offices if there are problem with the papers. You can find the agencies online.

Same-sex marriages which were entered abroad and were validated by local laws are accepted as civil unions in Germany and can be registered in Germany in civil partnership register if one of the spouses is a German national. Read more here and in the attached paragraphs. With a marriage certificate the foreign spouse can apply for a visa to live in a civil union with his German spouse.

But sidestepping into a same-sex marriage shows the disadvantage that common and matrimonial property laws as well as the dissolution of the marriage counting as a civil union are subject to the respective foreign law. Common and matrimonial property effects are the legal effects that the civil partnership has on the inside among the spouses and on the outside in their relationship with third parties and the state. Among these are the matrimonial property regime of the spouses, child custody of the spouse’s child or the preconditions for a divorce and its legal effects. In case of a legal dispute same-sex partners who got married abroad must therefore give proof of what the foreign law says on this issue.

The spouses do have the possibility to enter into a civil union in Germany subsequently. Their marriage from abroad does not need to be dissolved. This follows from Art. 17b para. 3 BGB. It states that: "Where there are several partnerships from different countries and between the same two people, it is the partnership that was entered last, which govern the effects and impacts referred to in paragraph 1."

The spouses who enter into a civil union in Germany will be seen as legally married in the country where they got married and they will be seen as spouses in a civil union in Germany.

Such a multiple registration can lead to several legal complications. You should seek advice from notaries or lawyers accustomed to these issues beforehand.

5. Subsequent immigration to live with german partners

You can read the conditions for issuing a resident permit to life partners of Germans in our guide "Immigration and nationality law".

As you can read in these embodiments will only receive a visa if he can prove that he can communicate in simple German, which can be done with the help of an A1 certificate of a Goethe Institute. Usually the exception to this rule is made for foreign nationals with a university degree or a similar qualification.  

But the issuing of a visa may not depend on the financial security of the foreign national in Germany as it cannot be expected of the German spouse to live the civil partnership in the home country of the foreign national.

Some departments demand such a proof for the time between the immigration and the beginning of the civil union (health insurance with a minimum coverage of 30,000 Euros and a formal obligation, read more in our guide "Immigration and nationality law" un there “3. Declaration of Commitment”).

6. Subsequent immigration to live with foreign partners

You can read if the foreign spouse of a foreign national can receive a resident permit in our guide "Immigration and nationality law".

7. Subsequent Entry to live with EU citizens

Subsequent entry to live with EU citizens who engage in a profession is not problematic. Subsequent entry to live with EU citizens who do not work will only be granted if they have proof of sufficient health care coverage and sufficient means to live. Read more in our guide "Immigration and nationality law".

8. Getting to know your spouse abroad

If the foreign national can enter Germany for a three-month visit without visa – see Overview of the visa requirement or waiver of the Foreign Ministry -, the spouses can enter into a civil union during such a visit and they can apply for the residence permit if the other necessary conditions are fulfilled (knowledge of German).

Therefore the spouses should acquire the necessary papers (see above) before immigration and they should make sure with the registry office if the papers are sufficient and when the wedding can take place.

If the foreign national needs a visitor’s visa even for a short visit to Germany the foreign nationals department will deny a conversion from the visitor’s visa to a residence permit and they will insist on the foreign national to travel back to his home country in order to apply for the residence permit from there. Read more in the paragraph "Negative Nationals" having visa for visits” in our guide "Immigration and nationality law".

Therefore it is recommended that the foreign national applies for a visa to enter into a civil union with his spouse at the German diplomatic representations.

Both partner should acquire all necessary papers. The spouse living in Germany can find out with the registry office if the papers are sufficient and when the wedding can take place. He should have this certified by the registry office. With this document the foreign national should apply for a visa to enter into a civil union with his spouse at the German diplomatic representations. The partner living in Germany should use the document to apply at the foreign nationals office (Ausländeramt) that the visa will be granted. If the date for the civil union is fixed a visa must be granted if the other necessary conditions are fulfilled (knowledge of German)