Vocabulary to Survive a Visit to the Foreigner’s Office in Germany
Published on April 7, 2020 / Updated on January 8, 2024
For anyone moving to Germany from outside the EU, visa-related appointments are a typical part of the process to prepare all the necessary legal documents. Adriana shares her experience and gives you some top tips.
I can most certainly confirm that the more German you know for these appointments, the better. Learning German is also useful to help with researching any visa and insurance-related topics in Germany, as well as understanding German culture in general. So, if you plan to jump into the highly worthwhile process of moving to Germany and getting a visa, here is some useful vocabulary to help you get started.
Generally speaking, you do need to know a decent level of German for a visa appointment, potentially for visa application requirements, but also for communication during the appointment. The majority of the time the foreigner’s office employees don’t speak other languages with visa applicants and all the related application paperwork is in German. As a result, it’s highly recommended to start learning German even before you plan to move to Germany. To help direct your German language studies to prepare for a visa appointment, the following sections cover useful vocabulary you’ll need to learn.
The Ausländerbehörde (foreigner’s office) is the name of the office where you’ll have visa-related appointments. For all foreigner’s office appointments, you’ll need to bring your Reisepass (passport), and possibly an additional local Ausweis (ID card) from your home country to prove your Staatsangehörigkeit (nationality). To set up your visa appointment, you can go directly to the Ausländerbehörde and wait, or you can ein Termin vereinbaren (schedule an appointment) online. Being an expat myself, I highly recommend scheduling an appointment, because you can end up waiting the entire day without one.
The visa application process is known as a Visumbeantragung. The required Unterlagen (documents) depend on your type of visa. This can include:
If you’re newly coming to Germany, you’ll be applying for an Aufenthaltstitel (residence permit) that serves as your new identification document. If you’ve been in Germany for a longer period of time, you may either be applying for a Verängerung des Visums (visa renewal), Niederlassungserlaubnis (permanent residence), or Staatsbürgerschaft (German citizenship). If your application is successful, you’ll receive a Fiktionsbescheinigung (temporary visa) until the official card is sent to you by post.
If you’re coming to Germany for work at a company, the company is known as the Arbeitgeber (employer) and you are the Arbeitnehmer (employee). To apply for a Arbeitsvisum (work visa), you’ll likely need to present your Arbeitsvertrag (work contract) as well as your Gehalt (salary). For further visa appointments, you may need to show related Steuerunterlagen (tax documents) certified by a Steuerberater (tax advisor). Furthermore, if you work full time for a company then you are considered a Angestellter (full time employee), and if you are a freelancer, then you are referred to as a Freiberufler that is selbständig (self-employed).
There are also many different types of schools and school-related visas in Germany. Here is a brief description of types of schools to understand the difference:
If you are applying to be a university student in Germany, this is the only time you are referred to as a Student. For other schools the word for student is Schüler. For a Studentenvisum (student visa for university students), you’ll need to go through Zulassung (the admissions process) and possibly also show proof of a Sperrkonto (blocked bank account).
During your foreigner’s office appointment it’s important to abide by the German language and cultural rules for formality. In German, this is expressed by addressing people with the “Sie” form instead of “du” (like Mr. or Mrs. instead of first name). Respect goes a long way towards having a positive outcome in the foreigner’s office, so be sure to address everyone you speak to there with “Sie”.