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Residency permits For Members

How to get fast-track permanent residency rights in Germany

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
How to get fast-track permanent residency rights in Germany
A German residence permit or 'Aufenthaltstitel'. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Most people have to wait at least five years to obtain permanent residence in Germany, but did you know that there are also a number of exceptions that could allow you to cut this waiting time by a year or more?

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What is permanent residency and who needs it?

Otherwise known as a settlement permit, permanent residence is pretty much what the name suggests: an unrestricted right of residence in Germany. Unlike a specific visa, there's no expiry date on a settlement permit, and no requirement for you to fulfil conditions such as being employed, studying or being in self-employment. Ultimately, it's hugely beneficial for people who want to stay in Germany long-term to get permanent residency.

Once you do, you can say goodbye to lengthy queues at the Foreigner's Office, fears about not meeting the requirements for your visa to be renewed, and general insecurity around your residence rights.

Permanent residency can be a good alternative for people who can't get German citizenship. In fact, there are a lot of parallels between the two, like the fact that you can claim benefits, live in Germany for an unlimited time, and aren't restricted to just doing one thing like you would be on a student, freelance or working visa. There are also some important differences, though. These include freedom of movement throughout the EU, the right to vote and the right to return to Germany to live even if you have lived abroad for many years. 

Citizens of another EU country don't need to get permanent residency as they have already got an unrestricted right to live and work in Germany. However, they may choose to get German citizenship in order to gain the right to vote. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

How long does it take to get permanent residency and what are the requirements?

In most cases, people can apply for permanent residency after living in Germany on a residence permit for five years. They will generally need to show a good level of German as well as five years of pension contributions and a stable income. 

What options are there to get permanent residency faster?

If you're not keen to wait half a decade for your permanent residency, the good news is that there are some key exceptions that will allow you to secure a settlement permit much more quickly. Here's a quick overview.

Complete a degree or vocational training

A lot of people aren't aware that studying at a German university or completing vocational training in Germany may entitle them to fast-tracked permanent residency. If you've just done a two-year MA course or trained as a plumber, for example, and then get a job that suits your level of qualification, you can apply for a settlement permit after just two years in this job.

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Assuming you start your course straight after arriving in Germany and manage to find skilled work as soon as you graduate, you could snap up your new permit within four years of moving to Germany rather than five. You will, however, need to have attained at least B1-level German. 

READ ALSO: Germany must remove hurdles for foreign skilled workers, says minister

Be a skilled worker

If you are well-qualified and hold a job as a skilled worker (i.e. in a profession that requires academic or vocational training), then you can apply for residence after just four years. You will, however, need to have paid pension and health insurance contributions for this entire time and have an intermediate (B1) level of German. 

Prove that you are a 'successful' business owner

Another popular route to fast-tracked residency is to earn above a certain threshold as a self-employed business owner.

The definition of 'successful' is not particularly well-defined, but essentially you will have to prove that the income from your business is sufficient to take care of you and your family. You will also have to have paid into a pension pot or show that you have around €200,000 in assets that will enable you to look after yourself in your old age. As always, health insurance is also a must, though language skills are not required. 

If you meet all these conditions, you may be entitled to a permanent residency permit after only three years. 

Woman working on laptop

A woman works on her laptop at home. Successful small business owners can take advantage of a quicker route to permanent residence. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Finn Winkler

Have a German family member

This one tends not to be a choice - unless, of course, you marry someone - but having a German family member is an easy way to fast-track your permanent residence. As usual, you'll need have what's known as 'sufficient' level of German (B1) and will need to live as a family unit in Germany for at least three years. 

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Get an EU Blue Card

If you're lucky enough to have some highly sought-after skills like engineering or tech, you can come to Europe on a Blue Card and receive a whole host of benefits. In fact, if you've got B1 German and are in employment, you can gain a settlement permit in just 21 months.

Not quite there yet? No problem. Blue-card holders with a basic level of German can attain their permanent residence title after just 33 months in the country, provided they've been employed and paid pension contributions the entire time. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The 2022 salary requirements for Germany’s EU Blue Card

Become a civil servant 

If you're a foreigner working on a life-long tenure for a public-service employer in Germany, you can apply for your settlement permit after just three years. The need to show 60 months of pension contributions is also waived. 

However, there is a slight issue with this, as many public service jobs are restricted to EU citizens only, making it harder for third-country nationals to enter these professions. 

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Doesn't the new traffic-light government plan to shake up immigration rights? 

Indeed it does. One of the key promises of the new government's coalition agreement is to allow foreigners to get hold of a settlement permit after just three years. Though details are a bit thin on the ground, presumably this would be conditional on 36 months of pension and health insurance contributions as well as legal residence in the country. Once again, B1 is likely to be the standard of German required.

German citizenship

An immigrant from India receives her German citizenship. The new government is removing barriers to attaining permanent residency and citizenship in Germany. Photo: picture alliance / Fabian Sommer/dpa | Fabian Sommer

What's unclear at the moment is when this new regulation will come in, and if there will still be ways to shorten the wait to less than three years in exceptional circumstances such as the ones mentioned above.

Another thing to consider is that the waiting time to apply for citizenship will (probably at the same time) be shorted to just five years - or three if a person can prove they are well integrated. 

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So if you've been here for three years and speak good German, you may be keen to skip permanent residence and opt for citizenship instead. Since the traffic light coalition also plans to make dual nationality possible, most people won't have anything to lose. 

READ ALSO: 

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Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2022/02/17 18:32
Contrary to what the article states,, there IS an expiry date on the Permanent Residence card - it is tied to the expiry date on your Passport. When your Passport expires, you have to get both a new Passport from your home government, and a new Residence card. This involves a trip to the Ausländerbehörde (after you have received your new Passport) and the typical 6-week wait to receive the new card. So - you need to keep track of the expiry date of your Passport, and proactively contact your ABH to get a new card.

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