Germany: Residence Permits
If your employees are in the habit of using visitor’s visas for business trips in Germany, you should be aware that administrative fines of up to €500 can be imposed on the company should violations of permitted business activities be uncovered. Participation in meetings and negotiations is allowed, but involvement in daily work requires a visa which permits employment.
US citizens in possession of a valid US passport may enter Germany for tourist or business trips without a visa for stays up to 90 days during any six month period. However, they are required to obtain a residence permit in the form of a visa for stays of longer duration. Known as Aufenthaltstitel, this permit is affixed to a US passport. It indicates the length of time the bearer is permitted to stay in Germany, and the conditions or restrictions of the holder’s stay (whether he or she has permission to work*). It also contains a color photo of the bearer and the seal and stamp of the Ausländeramt (Aliens Registration Authority office of issue).
US citizens may apply for such a residence permit after entering Germany without a visa, or obtain such a visa prior to entry at the German Embassy in Washington, or the German Consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York or San Francisco.
If applying in the US, you must do so in person. The processing time for short-stay visa applications takes up to 15 days. Long-term residence permits or visas for employment in Germany require processing time of up to several months, because the application must be sent to the Ausländeramt with jurisdiction over your intended place of residence. It can be easier to apply after arrival in Germany, though you must obtain it before the 90 day no-visa limit.
- Completed application form and application fee
- Two proper-format passport photos (Germany has very specific requirements)
- A valid US passport (additional copy required if applying in the US)
Confirmation from the local authorities that you have registered your German address (This is required within one week of moving. Deregistration is also required when moving out.)
- Proof of employment: Contract or letter of intent from your future employer, and a completed work permit application (if applying for a work permit)
- Proof of sufficient funds to live in Germany (bank statements, tax returns etc.)
- Proof of health insurance coverage in Germany
- A certificate of Health for Residence Permit
- A certificate of good conduct
EU citizens, those belonging to the EEA (European Economic Area) member states, and Swiss nationals have freedom of movement within the EU. They are not required to obtain visas before entering Germany.
*A residence permit gives permission to work (as an employee or self-employed worker) only if the residence permit expressly states so. The process involves the immigration authorities (Ausländerbehörde) who check whether the general legal prerequisites for foreigners are fulfilled for issuing a permit. If yes, the immigration authorities then request approval from the Federal Employment Agency for taking up employment, an approval only granted if the job cannot be filled by a German, EU citizen or other employees given preferential treatment (e.g. third-country nationals who have been living in Germany for a longer period of time).
**Requirements change frequently and it’s best to over-prepare. It’s also prudent to seek clarification of approved business activities BEFORE travelling and to detail in full what an individual will be doing in country and with whom. It is important to identify any elements of the individual’s duties while in Germany that may be considered borderline, so that appropriate redress or back-up documentation can be provided to satisfy immigration checks should the need arise.