Researching Longterm Settlement Visas in Germany

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The visa is one of the most important papers for an expat. It is our permit to stay and live where we are. Last fall I was rubbing up against my five years in Germany. This meant, as near as I could figure, my visa should “upgrade” to the next level. It sounds all video game fun. I was really hoping for a loud ding accompanied by a flash of light, but I didn’t expect it. It would mean a permanent resident visa for me that also allowed me to work more freely.

This is city hall. Not where I had to go for my visas, but a much prettier building.

This is not as simple as it sounds. This is Germany, the land of beer and forms. Given some recent stories of friends having issues, I made sure I had done my research. Thing is, a lot of the info is in Amtlich-Deutsch, bureaucratic German. So even normal Germans might have problems understanding it. Add to that that laws change every so often, meaning old sites in the Internet with potentially wrong information. Then add several different types of visas to complicate the matter. So figuring out my exact situation was troublesome.

Oh and the office workers may or may not know much about these difference choices either.

The Choices – I think

Niederlassungserlaubnis (German Wikipedia Description) – This is what I always expected to get after 5 years. As near as I can read it allows full freedom to work in Germany, including as a Freelancer, which my previous visa disallowed.

Daueraufenthalt-EG (German Wiki Description) however seems to be my preference. It appears to give as many rights as the Niederlassungserlaubnis, but gives me a leg up on getting a similar permit (including work) for periods of time in other EU countries. So I could go be in Spain or Italy for a while and then come back. As in it appears to offer some form of the “freedom to work” that an EU passport has. That could be fun actually.

And if you think relying on Wikipedia links for such an important thing is dumb, here is the link to the German authority’s page about the Daueraufenhalt. And the actual German law. It is nice to see the German law all online, but it is really hard to read with exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions all pointed to back and forth in spaghetti fashion.

More complexities

Potentially an answer, but not THE answer.

Here is where it gets more complicated. There is an EU Blue card for highly qualified people. Note that highly qualified seems to just mean “earns a lot of money” as opposed to any actual qualifications. Although the limit is lower for IT people, as we are so much lovely fun.

The card though seems to let you fast-track into a Niederlassungserlaubnis as well as giving some form of rights in the rest of the EU after 3 years. Though, what I couldn’t figure out, is whether I could have gotten that somehow retroactively because of my 5 years here.

It looks like a neat program and has some benefits, but since I had been here so long it didn’t seem to be anything for me.

Five years of what now?

Oh and I asked last time I was in the office about the Visa Upgrade time limit. I hear it often as just 5 years until upgrade. It isn’t just 5 years living and working in Germany, but explicitly 60 months of paying into the retirement system. They are not shy about the purpose of the limit. You fund them before they let you stay.

The Result

In the end, I did finally get upgraded to a Daueraufenthalt EG. 6 months after our first appointment, we got them last week. Ali has the saga of the visas on her site and I will do another post soon about what I ended up actually needing to bring. In the end, my research was helpful but the system is pretty chaotic in places so don’t expect an easy journey.

I still have no clue how I would go about using it to get a permit in another EU country. Mostly because each country names them differently, so searching for it usually just shows sites in Austria. I am happy to have it though. It means I can move onto freelancing as a software developer in Germany.