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.
Permanent residency in Germany
What is the German settlement permit?
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.
What does the settlement permit require?
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:
- You have held a temporary German residence permit for at least five years.
- You are able to provide for yourself without public funds or government help.
- You have made contributions to the statutory pension insurance fund (“Rentenversicherung”) for at least 48 months.
- You are a qualified employee.
- The living situation or yourself and your family members is adequate.
- You have passed a “Life in Germany” test to prove knowledge of the legal and social order and the way of life in the country.
- You possess sufficient knowledge of the German language.
German language requirements for permanent residency
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.
B1 language level skills show that you can:
- Understand German texts and conversations when they’re in clear and standard language. You’re able to grasp the main points of information regarding work, education, family, leisure time and similar matters.
- Handle everyday situations in German-speaking countries.
- Talk about familiar topics or personal interests in simple and coherent language.
- Give statements, explanations, relate experiences and events and talk about yourself and your personal life.
Permanent residency application process
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.
Make sure to supply these documents when applying for a settlement permit:
- Completed application form (“Antrag auf Erteilung der Niederlassungserlaubnis”)
- Proof of current health insurance with at least 60 months of social security contributions – you’ll get this from your insurance company
- A valid passport
- A certificate proving knowledge of the German language of at least B1 level
- A biometric photo
- Proof of being financially secure in the form of bank statements or tax returns
- A letter from your employer or university
- Proof of accommodation and registration (“Anmeldungsbestätigung”)
What is a Blue Card?
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!
Language requirements with a Blue Card
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:
- After five years on a temporary permit, the permanent settlement permit becomes available to you, for which you need B1 level German language skills.
- As a highly qualified employee with a Blue Card, you can expedite the process and apply for a settlement peppermint after 33 months of employment with at least A1 level of German or just 21 months of employment with B1 level of German.
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