Immigration and Emigration
General information on the subject of “living and working in Germany” and related questions such as the recognition of degrees, chances for employment and social insurance, etc. can be found at the internet platform of the foreign agency of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit www.ba-auslandsvermittlung.de/deutschland as well as the EURES (European Employment Services) portal http://ec.europa.eu/eures.
* Information for emigrants and those working in foreign countries is offered by the information services of the Bundesverwaltungsamtes (BVA) www.bva.bund.de
Residence and work permits in Germany
As a rule, citizens of EU countries and the European economic region (Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom and Cyprus) are granted unlimited freedom of movement for workers and thus do not require a work permit to begin employment. In contrast, due to agreed upon transition deadlines, a work permit is required for citizens of the EU member states Bulgaria and Rumania. For citizens of these EU member states, employment in Germany is only possible if the responsible Agentur für Arbeit issues a work permit.
More information on the currently applicable transition regulations can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/eures.
The following applies for citizens of non-EU states and the stateless:
Foreign citizens from non-EU states need a visum to enter the country, and for a longer residency in Germany, a residence permit. The visa to enter the Federal Republic of Germany must be applied for at the German embassy in the country of origin; it is valid for up to three months. The residence titles are granted as unlimited settlement permits (no time limit, independent of the “purpose” of residence) or limited residence permits (time limit, always issued based on the purpose of residency). A settlement or residence permit is issued on application at the responsible Bürgeramt (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany (standard forms can usually be found online). Applicants must submit various documents (copies and originals) with their applications.
Residence permit (see § 7 and § 8 of the Aufenthaltsgesetzes)
The residence permit is a title of residence that is always limited (to at least six months) and bound to certain purposes. The residence permit is not always combined with a work permit; a work permit must be expressly granted in the residence title. The prerequisites for this depend on the respective purpose of residency.
For example, the purpose of residency can be:
– residency for educational purposes (§§ 16 and 17)
– residency for employment purposes (§§ 18 – 21
– residency for humanitarian or political reasons (§§ 22 – 26)
– residency for reasons relating to the family (§§ 27 – 36)
– residency for ex-Germans and citizens with a long-term right to residency in the EU (§§ 37 – 38a)
Unlimited settlement permits (see § 9 of the Aufenthaltsgesetzes, among others)
A settlement permit is an unlimited residency title. It is an authorization to work as an employee or be self-employed.
Prerequisites for issuing a settlement permit are:
– five years with a residency permit (three years as a family member of a German citizen),
– earning a living independently,
– proof of payment of at least 60 months of required or voluntary premiums for obligatory pension insurance,
– no legal record,
– permit for work as an employee (issued by the Agentur für Arbeit),
– knowledge required to practice gainful employment,
– being in possession of sufficient living space,
– proof of knowledge of the German language and basic knowledge of the legal and social systems in Germany (or successful participation in an integration course).
A settlement or residence permit is issued on application at the responsible Bürgeramt (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany (standard forms can usually be found online). Applicants must submit various documents (copies and originals) with their applications.
See also: http://bundesrecht.juris.de/aufenthg_2004/index.html
Recognition of degrees
In Germany, each Bundesland has a “Zeugnisanerkennungsstelle” (office for the recognition of degrees) that is responsible for the evaluation of degrees as proof of a higher education entrance qualification, university of applied sciences entrance qualification, a mittlere Schule diploma or a Hauptschule diploma.
The duties of the Zeugnisanerkennungsstelle are the following:
– evaluation of German and foreign educational certificates for access to universities and applied-science universities.
– evaluation of German and foreign educational certificates as proof of graduation from the equivalent of a Hauptschule or a mittlere Schule.
– determination of equivalency for career education diplomas attained in the school context (vocational schools, professional schools)
– in addition, the evaluation of foreign educational certificates for access to universities and vocational schools can take place directly at the respective university in the context of an application, or it can be done by uni-assist (see below, “university eligibility in Germany for foreigners”)
* For a fee, the Zentral für ausländisches Bildungswesen (ZAB), located in the Secretary for the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK), also offer certificate evaluation for private individuals with a foreign university degree.
* Who can help with issues relating to the recognition of certificates?
The ZAV foreign service office advisers can give you information and advice in all questions relating to the recognition of your foreign qualifications and the German labor market.
ZAV info center: tel: +49 (0)228 713-1313
A summary description of the services and the contacts can also be found in the following flyer on degree recognition counseling.
*Information system for the recognition of foreign educational degrees (databank of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany: http://www.anabin.de/
Recognition of work periods applicable to compulsory insurance
There are many differences between the social insurance systems in the EU countries. So that European employees who exert their right to freedom of movement are not disadvantaged, the access to social benefits is coordinated through common EU regulations.
Excerpt from the Merkblatt 20 “Unemployment Benefits and Working Abroad”:
You would like to look for work abroad and still receive unemployment benefits?
If you become unemployed in Germany and want to look for work in another EU member state, you can retain the right to German unemployment benefits (Leistungsmitnahme, benefit retainment) for three months (Mitnahmezeitraum, period of retainment).
A retainment of benefits in states outside of the EU (e.g., the USA) is excluded in accordance with the VO (EG) Nr. 883/2004.
When do you have the right to retain benefits?
If you are unemployed, registered in Germany as unemployed, have a right to unemployment benefits, want to look for work in an EU member state, fulfill your duties according to foreign legal regulations, have waited the appropriate period and are a citizen of an EU member state, the European Economic Area or Switzerland. In addition, citizens from third countries have a right to retain benefits in an EU member state according to these regulations given certain prerequisites. (…)
You worked in a foreign country and want to receive unemployment benefits in Germany?
“Guideline: employment period in Germany: foreign insurance or employment periods can only be accepted for the right to unemployment benefits or to increase the relevant period of employment if insurance-compulsory employment occurred between foreign employment and the begin of unemployment and the application for unemployment benefits in Germany. The length of this employment is not stipulated. (…)”
You can receive additional information on the prerequisites for benefits and possible exceptions in the Merkblatt 20 “Unemployment Benefits and Working Abroad”.
Premium refunds from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Federal Pension Fund) when moving to a non-EU foreign country
If you move to a foreign country, the premiums you paid to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Federal Pension Fund) can be refunded if
- a compulsory insurance policy is not required,
- optional/voluntary insurance is not available and
- a waiting period of 24 calendar months has passed since the end of compulsory insurance.
These three prerequisites must be fulfilled at the point of applying for a premium refund.
For German nationals, a premium refund is usually not possible, since they are eligible to insure themselves on an optional/voluntary basis when in a foreign country.
For other nationals with a legal residency in a EU country, a premium refund is also not possible, since they are also eligible for an optional/voluntary insurance when staying in an EU country.
In the case of normal residency in other foreign countries (e.g., non-EU countries), policyholders can generally receive a premium refund after moving away from Germany and when the 24-calendar month waiting period has passed.
Premiums can be refunded at the level at which the policyholder paid them. In the case of compulsory premiums, only the employee’s share can be refunded, not the employer’s.
The refund only occurs when it is applied for. We recommend that our foreign policy holders already gather the application forms together before moving to a foreign country. Then, after the 24-calendar month waiting period, you can directly supply the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Federal Pension Fund) with all of the necessary information.
You can find the application form V901 at: http://www.deutsche-rentenversicherung.de/Allgemein/de/Inhalt/5_Services/04_formulare_und_antraege/_pdf/V0901.html