Immigration For Members

How Berlin's immigration office wants to make it easier to get an appointment

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
How Berlin's immigration office wants to make it easier to get an appointment
For foreigners who move to Germany and settle in Berlin, a visit to the Berliner Landesamt für Einwanderung (LEA) is ultimately unavoidable. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

On top of the other stresses involved with applying for or renewing your visa is the fact that appointments are regularly not available for weeks or even months. But Berlin's immigration office says it's working to change that.


Nobody likes having to visit the German immigration office (Landesamt für Einwanderung - LEA). Foreign nationals, speaking to The Local, have called the experience ‘traumatising’ due to reportedly unfair treatment and long waiting times.

Generally, people visit the LEA when they need to obtain or renew their residence permit, which can be an inherently stressful situation. From there, the process unravels into a bureaucratic nightmare for many – one that starts with booking and appointment, or more often, realising that you cannot book an appointment.

But, according to Engelhard Mazanke, director of the LEA, at least the appointment booking system is about to change. Per reporting by Taggespiegel, on Monday he told the Interior Committee of the House of Representatives that the LEA is working to streamline the process, and that changes will be rolled out this summer.

How will visa appointments in Berlin be changing?

Mazanke suggests that the LEA is "in the process of switching to online appointments, with a completely new system."


While the LEA director suggests that a change to the system will go into effect by May 31st, people applying for visa appointments may not notice a difference in the process until a few months later.

The initial changes to be rolled out are part of "a prerequisite for making two-factor authentication, probably in August," Mazanke added.

So anyone who is due for a visa office appointment in Berlin this fall may find that the appointment making system has been updated. Hopefully the change proves successful in improving the availability of appointments as well.

What’s the problem with scheduling at Berlin’s Immigration Office?

The LEA in Berlin has been plagued by too many cases for too few workers for years. 

READ ALSO: Why German immigration offices are 'permanently in crisis mode'

Last summer, Mazanke had said that the office had a backlog of 20,000 emails. As of the beginning of this year that backlog had reportedly been cut down to "only" 14,000.


Additionally, the online booking process has a major design flaw that has allowed third parties to exploit the system. Appointments are released through an online booking portal intermittently, to be booked on a first-come first-served basis. But it lacks a mechanism to prevent people from booking more than one appointment, so several third-party ‘startups’ have made a business out of claiming and reselling freely booked LEA appointments.

According to Taz, a number of websites have been selling appointments with the LEA for €50 to desperate visa-seekers for years.

Resale websites suggest that they are experts at booking appointments, but it seems more likely that they are using bots (or people) to instantly book appointments as they come online – appointments which are made increasingly valuable as they become harder and harder to secure.

The problem has been well-known by immigration experts, politicians and even the LEA for years.


Green party politician Jian Omar told Taz that it’s, "a scandal”, and that it, “leaves the affected people hardly any choice but to pay money for the appointment brokerage".

Asked about the issue, the LEA has formerly released statements saying that it was aware of the problem, but that "according to the legal examination of the LEA, it is generally not punishable…"

READ ALSO: They treat us like trash' - Stuttgart's immigration office queues are gone but problems persist

Hopefully, the LEA’s introduction of two-factor authentication will stop third-parties from being able to collect many appointments, and therefore will make bookings more available for those who need them.

LEA director Mazanke, doesn’t deny the agency’s issues – he had recently said that the LEA was "in a multifunctional crisis". Looking forward to the coming booking system updates, he suggests that Berlin’s Immigration Office is “on the road to recovery".



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