Language requirements for permanent residency in Germany
Published on June 10, 2020 / Updated on November 8, 2022
There is more than one way to become a permanent resident in Germany as a foreigner. While bureaucracy is certainly involved, the immigration law gives you options. If you’ve lived in Germany for at least five years as a non-EU citizen on a temporary residence permit, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. But just how much German do you have to know for this Settlement Permit? Don’t worry, we’ll explain the application process, the required language skills as well as the special case of so-called Blue Card owners.
Non-EU nationals basically have two options for entry and residence in Germany, which are represented by two titles in the German Immigration Act.
The residence permit (“Aufenthaltserlaubnis”) is temporary and granted for specific reasons, such as employment, training, family reunification or legal and political reasons.
The settlement permit (“Niederlassungserlaubnis”) is permanently valid and allows for gainful employment as well as free movement within the EU, after a certain time. You can apply for a settlement permit if you meet the requirements.
You can enter Germany for the first time from outside the European Union with a visa, which is then converted into a permit after arrival. After five years on a temporary permit, you’re eligible for a permanent one. Additional requirements are a secure income, no criminal record and adequate language skills and living situation. Here’s a detailed overview for you to check off:
Now you’ll wonder: what precisely qualifies as sufficient German language skills for the application? In short, the level of German needed for permanent residency in Germany is B1, which is equivalent with being an intermediate learner. The Common European Framework of References for Languages (CEFR) is a guideline describing the achievements by learners of foreign languages in European countries. You can prove B1 level language skills with a certificate after passing an exam.
The immigration office is your point of contact. You can book an appointment in person, on the phone or online. The application form you need is called “Antrag auf Erteilung der Niederlassungserlaubnis”, which you can print and fill out before. Check our list below to have the additional paperwork ready as well. In a short interview during your appointment, you’ll answer questions regarding your situation. A standard fee applies. Processing your application can take up to several weeks.
While many people have heard of the US green card lottery, the EU Blue Card is less known. Member states of the European Union such as Germany issue this title to third-country nationals. As a Blue Card holder, you can take up residence in Germany and get a job. It is a way to expedite the settlement permit process.
With the Blue Card, the EU states want to attract highly qualified applicants for jobs with a shortage. In Germany, you can apply for a Blue Card from abroad at the foreigners offices. You need a university degree and gross annual earnings of at least €55,200. You’ll enter Germany on a visa, which converts into a Blue Card.
When you apply for a settlement permit with a Blue Card, you still need to pass the “Life in Germany” test. But the good news is that you only need 33 months of employment with statutory pension insurance fund contributions instead of 48 months!
With a Blue Card, you only need A1 level of German for the settlement permit, which is the beginner’s level. However, a higher level is also beneficial: if you do have B1 level German language skills, the required time of 33 months of employment is reduced to only 21 months.
In summary, let’s quickly recap all the options and necessary language skills for permanent residency in Germany:
Do you still have doubts about the language skills? We’ll teach you vocabulary useful for any visit to the German foreigner’s office!