Germany’s Settlement Permit
A settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) is a pathway for non-German nationals to obtain permanent residency in Germany. Skilled professionals who meet certain requirements can apply for a settlement permit, allowing them to live and work in Germany without any restrictions for an indefinite period of time.
A settlement permit offers more stability and security than a temporary residence permit and allows the holder to travel freely within the EU. Anyone who has to check in every year to renew their residence permit or visa can attest to how stressful the process is. Obtaining a settlement permit is the next best thing to naturalization and a great permit to have for those who wish to proceed with naturalization.
The settlement permit should not be confused with naturalization (Einbürgerung). Naturalization is the process of becoming a German citizen. This requires fulfilling certain eligibility criteria, such as having lived in Germany for at least 8 years (this time is expected to be shortened with the immigration reform, but we won’t know when or how the criteria will change yet as the reform is still making its way through German legislation), passing a language test, and passing a citizenship test on German culture and history. Once naturalized, a foreign resident receives a German passport and has the right to vote, work in any EU country, and enjoy other benefits of German citizenship.
Can I apply for a Settlement Permit?
There are different categories of people who can apply for a settlement permit. These include individuals who have completed academic education or vocational training, are an EU Blue card holder, or are international researchers. You cannot apply for a settlement permit if you have a criminal conviction.
In some cases, the settlement permit can be granted under easier conditions. This applies if you belong to one of these groups of people:
- EU Blue Card holders
- Graduates of a degree or vocational training in Germany
- Highly qualified professionals
Qualified Professionals: Qualified professionals who have been holders of a residence permit for at least 4 years, paid into the statutory pension insurance fund for 48 months, covered their living costs without using public funds, have a job that suits their qualifications and possess sufficient knowledge of the German language (B1 level) can apply for a settlement permit.
EU Blue Card Holders: EU Blue Card holders can obtain a settlement permit if they have been employed in a qualified job for at least 33 months and possess a basic command of the German language (A1 level). This time can be shortened to 21 months with proof of sufficient knowledge of the German language (B2 level). They must also have knowledge of the legal and social order in Germany and provide proof of adequate living space.
Univeristy or Vocational Training in Germany: Individuals who have completed academic education or vocational training in Germany can apply for a settlement permit if they have held a residence permit for at least 2 years as a “qualified professional,” paid into the statutory pension insurance fund for 24 months, have a job that suits their qualifications, possess sufficient knowledge of the German language (B1 level), and provide proof of adequate living space.
Highly Qualified Professionals: Highly qualified professionals, such as scientists and teachers in high-level positions, can obtain a settlement permit immediately upon entering Germany if they can provide proof of academic training and their ability to integrate into the German way of life. It is wise to start applying before entry to Germany.
Self-Employed Professionals: Self-employed people who have held a residence permit for self-employed work for at least 3 years and can provide proof of successful self-employment, the ability to permanently cover their living costs can apply for a settlement permit, and they have compulsory or voluntary contributions to statutory pension insurance for at least 48 months.
Why is everything so complicated with visas and residence in Germany?
As an expat hoping to stay in Germany indefinitely, it can be very challenging to know which path is the best path to choose. Here are a few of the main reasons why it can be complicated due to several factors:
Strict immigration laws: Germany has strict immigration laws that require foreigners to meet certain eligibility criteria, such as having a valid job offer, sufficient financial means, and knowledge of the German language. These laws are designed to control the influx of immigrants and ensure that those who are granted visas and residence permits are able to integrate into German society. Germany is currently working on loosening these regulations to help make the process easier for professionals who want to immigrate to Germany in order to fill the workforce gap from the baby boomers who are retiring.
Bureaucratic processes: The application process for visas and residence permits in Germany can be lengthy and bureaucratic, involving multiple documents, forms, and appointments. This can be frustrating and stressful for applicants, who may have to wait for weeks or even months to receive a decision.
High demand: Germany is a popular destination for immigrants due to its strong economy, high standard of living, and diverse culture. As a result, there is high demand for visas and residence permits, which can lead to longer wait times and stricter eligibility requirements.
Exceptions: There are many exceptions, such as being mentally or physically disabled persons, that can be taken into consideration. However, it is not always easy for immigrants to understand their rights or the best approach.
Different types of permits: There are different types of visas and residence permits in Germany, each with its own set of requirements and restrictions. For example, a student visa has different requirements than a work visa or a family reunion visa. Understanding which type of permit is required and meeting the specific eligibility criteria can be confusing.
While the process of obtaining visas and residence permits in Germany can be complex, it is important to follow the rules and regulations to avoid legal issues or deportation. Seeking assistance from a qualified immigration lawyer or relocation advisor can really help to simplify the process to ensure that all requirements are met while reducing the stress and uncertainty around the process.
Here at Relocation.Consulting, we know first-hand what it is like to wait 6 months to hear back about permits and visas as an expat, while wondering if you submitted everything correctly. Our primary goal is to help guide you through this process to make it less stressful and give you confidence that you are choosing the correct path as an immigrant to Germany. The best way to start is to book a consultation call with us to discuss your circumstances, goals, and needs as an immigrant so we can do our best to get your paperwork started as soon as possible.