How to achieve Permanent Residence in Germany [2021 Expat Guide]

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The permanent residence in Germany, often referred to as PR by expats, is a crucial bureaucratic document on your way to fully settle in Germany. In this article, we will discuss its benefits, requirements, and application process.

What is a German permanent residence permit?

A permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) in Germany allows you to live, work, and study in Germany for an unlimited time. It is also known as a settlement permit. The permanent residence permit is the step after a temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and a step before acquiring German citizenship (Einbürgerung). 

Example of a German permanent residence permit
Source: Wikipedia

What are the benefits of a permanent residence permit in Germany?

The main benefit of achieving permanent residence in Germany is more freedom. Freedom of movement, freedom of employment, freedom of worry. If you wish to change jobs or become self-employed, you can do so without worrying about your visa status. Unlike the temporary residence permit, which you get through any visa (except a tourist visa), you are no longer bound to a company or a specific job. 

Can German permanent residence expire?

Yes, it can. If you leave Germany for longer than six months (without prior permission), your German permanent residence permit will expire. 

How to maintain German permanent residence

Once you receive your permanent residence permit for Germany, it is valid for an unlimited period. However, the residency ID card is only valid for 5 – 10 years, similar to a national ID card or passport. Since it is tied to your passport, you need to keep both documents valid. To renew your permanent residence permit or in case you lose your residency ID card (Aufenthaltstitel), you need to make an appointment with your local Ausländerbehörde and request a new physical permit. 

How long does it take to get permanent residency in Germany?

Usually, you will receive permanent residence in Germany after you have lived and worked for five years in Germany. We will look at the exact requirements below. When you start your stay in Germany with a temporary work permit, it is usually valid for two years. If you still have a valid work contract after those two years, you will get another temporary residence permit for again two years. 

After yet another year, you can schedule an appointment with your Ausländerbehörde to apply for permanent residency. Once you have handed in all necessary documents, it usually takes four to eight weeks until you can pick up your permanent residence title. We list the application process in detail below

Related Guide: How To Move To Germany: A 19 Step Guide

Who can get a permanent residence permit in Germany with reduced waiting time?

There are a few circumstances that can allow you to apply for permanent residence in Germany after two or three years. Let’s take a look at the categories entitled to special provisions:

EU Blue Card holders

Blue Card holders are wanted in Germany, as they are well-educated and well-paid employees who help lower the skills shortage in the German workforce. As a Blue Card holder, you can already apply for permanent residence after only 33 months. If you worked on your German and passed a B1 German language test, you can even apply after 21 months! Be aware, though, that only those months are counted in which you lived in German, were employed, and contributed to the statutory pension insurance. 

Related Guide: Work In Germany Without Speaking German

Graduates of German universities or vocational training

In case you have acquired a German degree or vocational training certificate, you can apply for permanent residency after being employed in your field and contributed to the statutory pension insurance for 2 years, and show a B1 German level.

Highly-qualified professionals

If you are a skilled worker with an academic degree or vocational training, you are currently employed, and have contributed to the statutory pension insurance for at least 4 years; you can apply for German permanent residence.

Self-employed people

When you come to Germany with a freelance visa or acquire it while in Germany, you can already apply for permanent residence in Germany after 3 years, provided that your business idea is striving and providing enough financial resources.

Family members of a German citizen

Suppose you have rejoined with a family member in Germany, who is a German national. In that case, you can change your temporary residence permit for a permanent residence permit after 3 years if the family unit is still in place and you have a B1 level of the German language. 

Requirements for a permanent residence permit in Germany

To be eligible for a permanent residence in Germany, you must fulfill the following requirements and provide the following documents:

  • Minimum of 5 years residence in Germany with at least 60 months of contributions to the German pension insurance, unless you qualify for a fast-track as described above (Rentenversicherungsverlauf)
  • No criminal record (Führungszeugnis)
  • B1 German level (integration course, language course, or test certificate)
  • Proof of being financially secure (work contract, last payslips or bank records; for self-employed the latest tax return)
  • Proof of registration and accommodation (rental contract and Meldebescheinigung)
  • Proof of health insurance from your health insurance fund
  • For any fast-track applicant, the proof that allows you to fast-track (degree, business permit, Blue Card, marriage certificate, etc.) 
  • Valid passport
  • 1 biometric photo

Some cities may require additional documents, so be sure to familiarize yourself regarding your individual case. 

The application process for a permanent residence permit in Germany

The application process for permanent residence in Germany (Antrag auf Erteilung einer Niederlassungserlaubnis) varies from city to city. In some cities (Berlin), you have to send a written application with all documents, and then you are given an appointment. In other cities (Dusseldorf), you need to make an appointment first and provide all documents in person. Below you can find the links to the requirement pages of the biggest expats cities in Germany. They are in German, but you can use Chrome as a browser and translate the page with a right-click. 

Berlin – written application and extra application form
Dusseldorf – personal appointment first with online appointment
Munich – online application
Hamburg – personal appointment first with appointment via email and extra application form
Frankfurt – personal appointment first with appointment via email and extra application form
Stuttgart – personal appointment with online appointment and extra application form 

During the personal appointment, you might briefly get tested for your German knowledge and your understanding of German society and politics. For Jen, my wife from Guatemala, it was enough to do some small talk, but you want to be prepared either way. 

Costs of a permanent residence permit in Germany

The cost for a permanent residence permit depends on the job category you are in:

  • General: 113 euros 
  • Self-employed: 124 euros 
  • Highly qualified professional: 147 euros
  • Re-issuing: 67 euros

Conclusion

Acquiring a permanent residence in Germany for the freedom of movement and employment is pretty straightforward and, in most cases, dependent on the number of years you have already lived and worked in this beautiful country. Depending on your degree and job, you may be able to fast-track the usually necessary five years. Your local Ausländerbehörde handles the application process. 

Good luck with this essential step to settle in Germany for good!

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Yvonne
About the author: Yvonne was born and raised in Germany and has lived in the United States, France, and Spain. She understands the struggle of settling in a new home and is happy to share simple services and tips on how things are done in her home country, to help expats get their German experience started.