How to get a German permanent residence permit

For many of us expats, it has been a long and complicated road to build a stable situation in Germany. You should be proud of yourself for achieving all this. However, in the back of the mind, there is always the feeling that our lives are hanging onto a visa tied to a company, a job or a type of career.

To push this uneasiness away, it’s time to make it official and long-term: let’s get a our German permanent residence permit sorted! Only then are we able to think about the future, without any sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.

German Permanent residence permit

This guide aims at giving you an overview on the topic. Brew yourself some coffee: it’s a long read!

Visa, residence permit, settlement permit… what’re the differences?

Here the problem is that many of these words are used interchangeably. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge / BAMF) differentiates between several residence titles – documents that state the terms under which you can visit, live in and work in the country. It’s more commonly known as a visa or limited residence permit. In Europe, you differentiate between the EU-level visas, such as the Schengen visa that you’ve likely heard of, and the national visas which are given by an individual country’s government. A settlement permit, on the other hand, is a long-term residence title which has fewer restrictions than temporary ones.

The Aufenthaltserlaubnis (limited residence permit) is your standard Germany visa, which is issued for a specific time period and has restrictions on the type of work the holder can have. In other articles on Settle in Berlin, we’ve covered visas for:

We’re going to focus on the two long-term settlement permits, namely the German permanent residence permit (unbefristete Niederlassungserlaubnis) and EU permit for permanent residence (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EU). If you want to live indefinitely in Germany and the EU, these are the two permits to research. And of course, there is the option of acquiring German citizenship. But that’s a story for another day.

The main difference between the permanent residence Germany provides and the one from the EU is the length of time you need to live in Germany before you qualify. Also, while the latter lets you move around the EU without restrictions, with the former you’ll need to keep your main address in Germany. Let’s look at both each of these options, starting with the EU-level permit.

What are the requirements for the EU permit for permanent residency?

According to Section 9a of the German Residence Act, as a non-EU national, you may apply for unlimited residency to live and work anywhere in the EU once you have lived at least five years in Germany. During this time, you need to have been paying into the health and pension systems (60 months in total) How these 60 months/5 years are calculated depends on your situation. For the permit for permanent residence Germany usually requires you to already have a visa that allows you to work, such as the permits for general employment, self-employment, and the EU Blue Card. If you’re currently a student, completing an internship, or just here to visit a language course, you don’t qualify.

When you apply, you’ll need to prove that you have enough money or a job that pays enough for you to support yourself and your family unit without the need for government assistance. Also, your living space must be big enough. This seems to mean a minimum of 13sqm per person. In addition to these requirements, you should enroll in an integration course or show proof that you speak German at a B1 or better level and that you have the necessary knowledge about German law and culture.

What are the requirements for the German permanent residence permit?

If you are a non-EU national and have lived in Germany for at least 5 years (60+ months of health and pension system contributions), then you meet the first requirement for the German permanent residence permit. The other requirements are the same as above for the EU permanent residence permit: enough money, visa that allows work, enough living space, enough German language and societal knowledge, and no criminal record.

But different from the EU permit, you might be able to get the Germany-issued permit sooner as long as you don’t have a criminal record and you fall under one of these categories as explained by the BAMF:

  • Specialist: In some cases, you might immediately qualify for a permanent residence permit if you are a well-educated specialist in your field. Generally, this translates to scientists, senior researchers, and instructors. You first need to get a job offer in Germany with a high enough salary to secure your livelihood.
  • Graduate of a German university: You now have the “right” degree to be successful here. When it comes to permanent residence Germany wants to keep the best and the brightest, so this will make it easier to get a temporary visa and only need to live 2 years in Germany to qualify for the long-term permit. More specifically, you need to have a job in your field that pays you enough money that you don’t need to rely on government assistance. In addition to working for 2 years in Germany (24 months contribution to the pension system), you’ll need to show B1 German language skills.
  • EU Blue Card holder: There’s a reason this is called the “golden ticket” visa. As long as you meet the standard requirements set for the German permanent residence permit, you can apply for it after only 33 months instead of 5 years. Even better, if you pass the B1 German language exam, you can already apply for the permit after just 21 months! Only those months will be counted when you had the EU Blue Card, lived in Germany and contributed to the social security system. Basically, the government wants to keep you in Germany because Blue Card holders get good salaries, are well-educated, and usually bring much-needed skills.
  • Self-employed: The official requirements are vague, but basically if you meet all of the standard requirements and your business is successful, then you can apply for the permanent permit after just 3 years This only applies to business owners (Gewerbetreibende). Freelancers (Freiberufliche) have to wait the usual 5 years.
  • Family member of a German citizen: In this case, the rules are less strict. If you have learned basic German, have held a temporary residence permit for at least 3 years, and still live together with the German citizen (spouse, partner, child, or parent) then you should qualify for the permit for the permanent residence Germany offers.
  • Asylum seekers and refugees: If you are a recognized asylum seeker or refugee in Germany, you qualify for a permanent residence title like everyone else after 5 years. This can be shortened to 3 years if you can show that you are well integrated and have learned German (C1 level).

More details on the requirements can be found here in English or by deciphering the German legalese.

Life of an expat in Germany: a romantic representation 😉

Permanent Residence Germany Application Process

For the application process for either permit, you’ll need to submit the following documents to your local Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde), here using the specific requirements for Berlin residents:

  • Application Form for a permit allowing Permanent Residence Germany or EU (Antrag auf Erteilung einer Niederlassungserlaubnis/Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EU) – this mostly confirms that you’ve read the requirements.
  • Valid passport
  • Biometric photo
  • Proof of sufficient income: here they’ll want to see that you and/or your partner are earning enough money to avoid welfare assistance. Employees should bring their contract, a recent statement from the employer confirming they work there, pay slips of the last 6 months, and an overview of social security payments. Self-employed people and freelancers need the most recent tax return (Steuerbescheid) and an audit report (Prüfungsbericht) from a licensed tax consultant. If you’re no longer working due to retirement, you just need your pension statement (Rentenbescheid), but if you’re unable to work you need to bring a doctor’s statement (fachärztliches Attest), assessment from the employment office, or disability statement (Rente wegen Erwerbsunfähigkeit oder Erwerbsminderung).
  • Documentation for any additional funds that you receive, like child money (Kindergeld) or parental leave assistance (Elterngeld).
  • Proof you have health insurance, either through confirmation from the insurance (public) or showing the policy agreement and proof of payment (private).
  • Proof that you (or your partner) are paying into the pension system.
  • Registration confirming that this is your main address (Meldebescheinigung).
  • Rental agreement or purchase contract that shows the monthly costs and total square meters.
  • Integration course or German language certificate with the final exam’s grade listed. There may be alternative ways to prove these conditions are met – ask at your local Foreigners Office.
  • The fee varies depending on the situation, usually between €113 and €124. Note that you still have to pay half as a processing fee if you are denied the permit.

In some cases, you’ll need additional documentation, so check the requirements for your employment category. Here are the links to the Berlin service pages for:

If you’re missing documents or don’t meet the requirements, be ready to get denied the permit. This shouldn’t have an effect on your existing visa unless you no longer meet those requirements either. I highly recommend you find an immigration lawyer or talk to your local migration advisory center (Migrationsberatung).

If you’re missing documents or don’t meet the requirements, be ready to get denied the permit.

Once you get your little plastic card, celebrate! The permit for permanent residence Germany has finally awarded you with lets you live and work in Germany for as long as you like. Your permit is unlimited and won’t expire or need changing when you switch jobs. If you took the longer route and applied for the EU permit, you can now move to any other EU state. But if you live outside the EU for more than a year you may lose the permit. And you’ll want to stay on good terms with the local Foreigner’s Office, especially if you’re working towards citizenship.

I hope this overview helped you to wrap your head around the different topics. Let me know in the comments if you have any remarks or questions.


  • Reply William Cook 24/01/2020 at 11:57

    Typically, how long does it take to receive your residency card after your application? I don’t live in Berlin (I live in Bonn), but I was hoping there’s a general rule of thumb (e.g. 3-6 weeks after your application).

  • Reply Alejandra 20/01/2020 at 14:01

    Hello, I have a question about the German language test. Do you know which is a “valid” certificate? I know TestDaf and the Goethe Institut exams are good choices (but also expensive). Do you know if a Unicert certificate will do? Or something more informal like the certificate of completion of a course in a language school?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/01/2020 at 09:56

      Hey Alejandra. I would stick to a recognized 3rd party certificate, in doubt, you may also ask Unicert directly.

  • Reply LAKSHMI 16/01/2020 at 12:12

    Thanks for the artical. I have a question regarding Germany permanent residence Permit. I have EU Blue Card. But when I am applying for EU Blue Card, the visa Officer told me that my salary must rise every year according to the EU Blue Card Standards. Then only they will accept my application when I apply for Permanent Resident Permit. That means for example if a Person got EU Blue Card in Sep, 2018 with Minimum salary for example 40000 EUR, then in the next year i.e., from January, 2019 the Minimum salary increased to for example 42000 EUR, then that Person salary also should increase to 42000 EUR from january. So, is this true?. Because I cound not find any Website about it saying this.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2020 at 09:23

      Hey Lakshmi, this is interesting. I have also never seen that anywhere before. I guess the logic holds; if your salary is right at the strict minimum set for the blue card this year, it should also meet that standard next year too for all conditions to be fulfilled then as well. I don’t have a source to support this though. Let me know if you find something.

  • Reply Ana 14/01/2020 at 00:59

    I have a question. I know that during the period of having a job visa, ones job is always linked to the university degree. My question now is. If I get a settlement permit, am I allowed to stay in Germany if I want to study or change the job background? Example. Having a degree in economics and wanting to change to a job that has nothing to do with it. Or to start over and study something new after those 5 years working.
    Would really appreciate the info, haven’t been able to find anything.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 09:31

      Hey Ana. In my opinion, there is nothing speaking against that. As a permanent residence permit holder, you are free to change job and specialties as you wish.

  • Reply Andie 09/01/2020 at 16:34

    Hello, thanks for the article. I am a graduate of a German university and have already worked in Germany for 1 year (have a work permit). Now, I am planning to leave Germany to a different EU country (Sweden) to do a 1-year long Master’s program. In one year, I am thinking to come back and start working at a different company in Germany. I will then have worked for 2 years by that time. Will I then qualify for a permanent residency in Germany or I must work in Germany after graduation and pay pension contributions for 24 consecutive months (without leaving/changing residencies)?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 10:00

      Hey Andie. You may want to check with a specialist but i can’t read anywhere that it should 24 consecutive months.

  • Reply Sal 09/01/2020 at 15:37

    Great article, thank you!
    I have a small question:
    I currently have the Blue Card, have Graduated from a german university and earn a good salary. I have been living in Germany for 5 years so basically i fill all the requirements except the language certificate. I do speak German at an acceptable level, but I didn’t get the B1 certificate. Is there still a chance I might get the permanent residency or I should pass the test first?
    thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 09:55

      Hey Sal. You need a B1 certificate as proof so yes, pass the test first.

  • Reply Cal 06/01/2020 at 17:00

    Thanks for the article. I have a question regarding EU permanent residence permit. Once one attains the German permanent residency permit using the shorter route with Blue Card, can he/she convert that to a EU permanent residence permit later on? What is the procedure?


    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/01/2020 at 09:53

      Hey Cal. You can apply for for EU residence if you have legally lived in Germany for at least five years. can support yourself and your family members to make a living. have a sufficient command of German and basic knowledge of the legal and social system and way of life in Germany. have sufficient living space for yourself and your family. have paid the compulsory or voluntary contributions to statutory pension insurance for at least 60 months. Source. and more info here.

      • Reply Azam 13/01/2020 at 12:24

        Hi I have A2 I can talking like B1 can somebody with A2 apply to this Titel

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/01/2020 at 09:18

          Hey Azam. You need a B1 certificate, A2 is not sufficient.

  • Reply Nigar Zahan 04/12/2019 at 22:16

    Hi! It was a very clear article, thanks for that. I have 2 questions
    1. Does part time job with social contribution counts in 60 months ? I started working during masters study but I was paying all contributions
    2. Can I apply for a PR if I have a limited contract job with EU blue card? The time I’ll be eligible for PR apply I’ll have 6 months left of my job contract. In this case should I wait until I find another job then apply?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/12/2019 at 00:34

      Hey Nigar. 1. Yes. 2. Not sure. You may want to call this official hotline for confirmation.

  • Reply Bobby 03/11/2019 at 13:14


    Great article and really informative! I have a question about what happens AFTER you get your permanent settlement permit in Germany. It says that the holder cannot leave Germany for more than 6 months without forfeiting their permanent residency, but what is leave defined as, and is it 6 months of total annual leave or six months of consecutive leave? If someone traveled from Germany to Italy for 3 months and then went home to Germany for a week, and then to Spain for 3 months, and then back to Germany and over to France for 3 months, does that invalidate the German permanent residency?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 09:45

      Hey Bobby. That is a great question. Thanks for asking it. If i trust this page, i would say we are talking about 6 months after doing an Abmeldung and leaving the country right?

  • Reply James Loke 21/10/2019 at 20:50

    I have a few questions regarding the German PR application with applicaiton made in Berlin. After reading this page and the requirements from Ausländerbehörde (, can you clarify the following.
    1. Do I just send a photocopy of the documents (e.g. passports, Blue Card) etc, and not the physical passport etc to Ausländerbehörde? I believe this is the case, just incase it gets lost through transit.
    2. How can I prove my retirement provision? Would the contributions which are shown on my past 6months payslip be sufficient?
    3. Do I send all the required documents to Ausländerbehörde by normal Post? It is not clear which address should I post it to.
    4. Lastly, do you recommend an immigration consultant to help with preparing all this for me so I don’t make any mistakes. If so, which one would you recommend.

    Thank you,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 22:07

      Hey James. 1- You enclose copies of the docs, as mentioned on the page. 2- As mentioned on the page, the Bescheinigung you get from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung is a good start. 3- by post yes, the location for PR is the one on Kaplerstr. 4. Can’t make any recommendation here. sorry. Good luck.

      • Reply Akash Choudhary 20/01/2020 at 12:14

        Hi there,

        This article incl comments made everything easier. However I ahem question.
        I don’t see the option for ‘Niederlassungserlaubnis’ on the online appointment form ‘’

        Do I have to take my documents there personally?

        Thank you,

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/01/2020 at 09:45

          Hey Akash. Application for permanent residence have to be done in writing. You can then be notified of an appointment.

  • Reply Moha Ye 19/09/2019 at 16:53

    hi, Like always very informative, thank you, If you remember before coming Berlin , I wrote you an email, happy to see that you are still very active, I studied in Germany, I have B1 Deutsch, now I worked with BLUE CARD, On April 2020, I will be exactly 5 years in Germany and 1 yeas with Blue card, can I apply for permanent resident permit since I will 5 years in Germany (it is actually sooner than my Blue card time ) ,the next question, what would you imagine for someone who studied sociology in FU Berlin, a friend of mine is studied looking for the job ,any hint would be appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/09/2019 at 16:27

      Hey Moha. I’m not sure what is the sense of your question here? Could you elaborate?

  • Reply Mohamed Abozeid 12/09/2019 at 11:32

    HI, I do thank you for those valuable formation and the great work and efforts behind it
    I have question regarding the citizenship
    if someone on Blue card residency, and he got the permanent residency after 21 months, can he apply for the Citizenship at the 60th month? or he had to wait tell total 6 years to pass?

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