Migrating from Germany to the US

In this article

People worldwide seek to travel, move, or migrate to Germany for several reasons. It has excellent employment opportunities - both full-time and freelance, a solid educational system with lower tuition fees, and great employment opportunities. Many individuals, especially those from America, seek to migrate to Germany, and it is no news since Germany has been tagged as the fifth most favorable country to move to. A report prepared in 2020 revealed that Germany has about 11 million immigrants, of which over 110,000 of them are US citizens.
As Americans seeking to migrate to Germany, you have to put several things in place to ensure your migration process is smooth, successful, and stress-free. Chief of the preparations to make when migrating from the US to Germany is applying for a residence permit. There are several ways to earn a German residence permit as a US citizen, and they revolve around the reasons for moving to Germany. Common reasons for migrating include education, employment, family reunion, and entrepreneurship.

Americans Moving to Germany

Usually, citizens from eligible countries can visit Germany for a maximum of 90 days when they use the Schengen visa. Citizens of the United States are not required to present a Schengen visa before entering Germany; however, they are still faced with the 90-day restriction that applies to Schengen visa holders. These 90 days play an important role in getting your resident permit.
You can apply for a German residence permit from Germany or the United States as a US citizen. Applying from the US means that you do not take advantage of the initial 90 days the Schengen visa affords you. You will need to visit a German embassy or consulate in the US to apply for your residence permit. The processing time for applicants in the US takes a minimum of 90 days, primarily because of its international nature.
Alternatively, US citizens can travel to Germany, take advantage of the 90-day visa-free period, and apply for residency. It is generally faster to apply for residency from Germany. US citizens must provide an Electronic Residence Title or elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel (eAT) to stay in Germany past the 90 days offered initially.

Types of German Residence Permits Available to US Citizens

After the expiration of the 90 days, US citizens who want to continue staying in Germany can only do so if they have a residence permit. There are two types of residence permits available to citizens of the US in Germany, which are:
  • Standard Residence Permit
  • Permanent Residence or Settlement Permit

Standard Residence Permit

US citizens moving to Germany can obtain a standard residence permit. The residence permit is usually granted to individuals attending course training and family reunions in Germany. It also works for former Germans returning to Germany and those working in Germany. The standard residence permit is only active for a limited period. This period usually lasts between one and four years. Still, it can be extended or converted to a permanent permit if the holder attends an integration course and passes the exam attached to it. The state residence permit has different restrictions based on the type the holder obtains.
A resident permit for studying allows US citizens to study and work part-time for the course duration. A residence permit for employment allows its holder to work for a German employer for the work contract period. If the permit expires before the work contract, then you can renew it by simply re-applying. The permit for employment is usually given to professionals with a university degree and taking up positions in limited supply. A residence permit for family reunions allows US immigrants to live with their partners who could be German citizens or residents. It also allows its holders to work in Germany during their stay. Freelancers and self-employed professionals can also get a residence permit dedicated to their peculiarity. However, they have to prove the demand for their services in the region of Germany where they plan to stay.

Permanent Residence or Settlement Permit

In simple times, permanent residence in Germany is equivalent to the Green Card in America. It is highly sought after, as it has no validity period but does not translate to having German citizenship. To own a permanent residence permit, you must have had a standard resident permit for a minimum of five years; you must be financially secure and able to meet expenses; you must pass an integration exam and prove to be proficient in the German language.

Steps Involved in Getting a German Residency Permit

Before obtaining your residence permit in Germany as an American, you should get some documents ready. All these are expected to be carried out within the 90 days of visa-free travel enjoyed by US citizens. It is essential to start the process of obtaining your residence permit as soon as you get to Germany to ensure you obtain your residence permit before the expiration of your 90-day grace period. Here are the processes involved in obtaining a residence permit in Germany.

State your address

In Germany, the state authorities are always in the know of the address of its occupants. Whenever Germans change their address, no matter how insignificant it may seem, they must make the authorities aware. When moving from the US to Germany, you must inform the German authorities in a process called the Anmeldung. After completing this process, the German authorities will reply with a confirmation letter or certificate because you just fulfilled that requirement.

Get a bank account

To qualify for a residence permit in Germany, you have to prove you are financially buoyant. To prove that, you have to open a German bank account and transfer money to it from your American account. German authorities will not permit you to stay if you do not have enough money, hence the need to transfer enough money into your German account. If in doubt about how much is enough, ask the embassy closest to you or find out the cost of living in your locale.

Prove Language proficiency

Although Germany speaks English, to obtain a residency permit, you will be expected to have a basic understanding of the German language. You can start taking elementary language classes to aid this process before leaving the US. Three levels of language proficiency exist according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, and they are A1/A2 (basic), B1/B2 (proficient), and C1/C2 (advanced). To obtain a standard residence permit, you need to have a minimum of B1. On the larger scale, C1 or C2 is required to obtain a permanent residence permit.

Health insurance

Obtaining a German residence permit requires you to have health insurance. Health insurance should be gotten from a German company or the insurance provided by your employers if you have a job already. Most hospitals and doctors in Germany will not accept American health insurance, and health insurance is needed to gain residency.

Pay your fees

The registration for a residence permit requires you to pay fees to be considered. When applying for the first time, you must pay 110 Euros in registration fees and 80 Euros for an extension of your residency. The receipt of payment will be required of you as part of your registration documents.

Documents Required for Applying for The German Residence Permit

After fulfilling the required steps, it all culminates in the actual application for a residency permit. The application can take place in any German embassy or consulate in the US when applying from there or the Aliens Authority Office when applying in Germany. Required documents include:
  • Standard Residence Permit
  • Permanent Residence or Settlement Permit
  • A filled-out application form that you can obtain at the German Embassy. Two of these forms are required if you apply in the US.
  • A valid passport. The passport should be valid for a minimum of four months after your planned departure from Germany.
  • Two passport photographs.
  • A certificate or letter from the Anmeldung process where you declared your address.
  • Confirmation of financial stability. Tax documents or bank statements can be used.
  • When applying for a residence permit on a work basis, a letter from your employer to confirm your employment.
  • Proof of health insurance.
  • Receipt of fees payment.

After the registration process is completed, you will get a mail from the Aliens Authority Office or embassy regarding the status of your application. If your application is approved, you will be permitted to stay in Germany after the expiration of the visa-free visit period. However, if your application is rejected for some reason, you will need to try again or return to the US after the expiration of the 90-day window. The application process takes about three months when applying from the US but can be cut down to only three weeks if you apply in Germany.
Permanent residence allows you to enjoy benefits attached to German citizens without losing your American citizenship. You can change jobs and live in Germany indefinitely without having to apply for a renewal after a few years. After about five years of obtaining your standard residency permit, if you meet the requirements of a settlement residency, it is advised to go for it.
Written by: Fikayomi Abisola
Abisola is an ETIAS Travel and Immigration writer with several years of writing experience in the industry. Abisola has a unique enthusiasm for travels, tours, and tourism and loves to educate travellers about the criteria involved in international travelling.

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