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Residency permits For Members

Do you always need to carry your residence card in Germany?

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
Do you always need to carry your residence card in Germany?
A German residence permit or 'Aufenthaltstitel'. You'll need to show at least five years in residence under the new law before you can apply for German citizenship. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

Obtaining a valid residence permit is a must for foreigners who wish to live in Germany. But do you need to carry your residence permit with you at all times?

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All non-EU residents will need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) if they wish to stay in Germany for a longer period of time.

READ ALSO: 'Lack of transparency' - What it's like to apply for permanent residence in Germany 

There are a number of different residence permits depending on the purpose of your stay in Germany.

A few of the most common ones include: permit to study, permit for vocational training, permit for the purpose of taking employment (i.e. a sponsored work visa), permit for skilled workers seeking employment, permit for self-employment, permit for research, permit for family reunification, and the EU Blue Card.

Do you always need to keep your residence permit on you?

Interestingly, this seemingly simple question is surprisingly difficult to find a definitive answer for.

Many people tend to think that residence permits, much like official IDs, need to be carried at all times. However, as The Local has previously confirmed, owning an ID is obligatory in Germany, but constantly carrying it on you is not.

When it comes to residence permits, you may get a different answer to the question depending who you ask.

For example, some have reported being told by officers at the Bürgeramt (citizens' office) that they must carry their passport with their attached residence permit at all times in Germany, whereas others have reported being told that it’s okay to leave their permit at home in some cases.

In the end, the short answer is no, residents are not legally required to carry resident permits with them at all times. But you do need to carry it at border crossings, and also to have a valid residence permit that you can show within a reasonable time if it’s requested by the authorities. 

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This requirement is recorded in Section Four of Germany’s Residence Act where it states, “In order to enter and stay in the federal territory, foreigners require a residence title [permit]...”

It does not explicitly say residents are required to keep their resident permits on them at all times.

READ ALSO: What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Keep in mind, however, that police or public authorities can ask for your residency permit if you're in a situation where it's needed.

"If you were walking on the street with zero forms of ID and found yourself in an interaction with the police or another public authority, they can either accompany you to wherever your residence permit or ID card (or both) is or ask you to present it to them within a certain deadline," Kathleen Parker, Managing Director of Red Tape Translation, told The Local.

Additionally, according to the Interior Ministry (BMI), you are “obliged to have a passport or passport substitute for entry and stay in Germany. But that doesn't mean you have to have it with you all the time."

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While the term 'passport substitute' (Ersatzpass) instead of Aufenthaltstitel is used here, many residence permits are printed in passports, so it makes sense to focus on that requirement in the case of border crossings.

So ultimately, how often you want to carry your passport and/or residence permit with you is a personal choice. Just make sure to have it whenever you go to the airport or cross a border, and probably for all of your Bürgeramt appointments as well.

More information about residence permits in Germany can be found on the Interior Ministry's website.

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