Aspects of daily life

Entry and residence title

As a general rule a foreigner requires a recognised passport or passport substitute and a residence title to enter and stay in the Federal Republic of Germany. You must always bring your passport or passport substitute when entering the country.

The following residence titles exist:

  • visa
  • residence permit
  • settlement permit
  • permit for permanent residence in the EC

To enter the Federal Republic of Germany a visa is generally required, unless you have a valid residence title. In the application you have to state for which subsequent residence purpose you require the visa.

Nationals of certain countries are exempt from the visa obligation for short stays (e.g. for tourist purposes) of up to three months per six-month period, providing that they do not intend to pursue an occupation.

Tip: The website of the Federal Foreign Office has a table of countries whose citizens require/do not require visas to enter the Federal Republic of Germany (Staatenliste zur Visumpflicht beziehungsweise Visumfreiheit bei Einreise in die Bundesrepublik Deutschland).

You can find detailed information on whether you require a visa to enter the Federal Republic of Germany and how if necessary you have to apply for one in Section "Visa" and also in the corresponding procedure description.

You can get a longer-term right of residence after entry by the issuance and if applicable renewal of a (temporary) Residence Permit, by the issuance of a (permanent) Settlement Permit or a Permit for Permanent Residence in the EC). More information on this can be found in the same named section with the corresponding procedure description.

As an EU citizen normally you do not need either a visa to enter or a residence title to stay in the Federal Republic of Germany, as the “EU Freedom of Movement Act” applies and you thus enjoy freedom of movement. You are able to move freely and earn a living in Germany. You need a valid passport or passport substitute and, like Germans, are required to register with the authorities. The registration authorities collect the data required from you under the Freedom of Movement Act and pass this information on to the authority for foreign nationals. Dependants of EU citizens are issued with a residence card as standard procedure.

N.B. Transitional provisions remain in force in the areas of freedom of movement of workers and freedom to provide services for nationals of Bulgaria and Rumania.

Note: As proof of your right of residence, if you are a Turkish national you can apply for a temporary residence permit upon request providing that you are entitled to a right of residence in accordance with the Association Agreement between Turkey and the EEA. Please note, that when entering the Federal Republic of Germany for the first time, you are also obliged to have a visa.

If you are a Swiss national and want to stay in Germany for more than three months, you have to notify your stay to the authority for foreign nationals. They will check whether you meet the requirements for the right to freedom of movement in accordance with the Freedom of Movement Agreement between the European Union and Switzerland. If the check is positive, you will then receive a residence permit which is subject to a fee. If you do not notify your stay, then it is an administrative offence.

Each residence title must specify whether or not the bearer may pursue an occupation, and if so to what extent. You are only allowed to carry out a job as a foreigner, if your residence title permits you to do so. If you would like to have your residence permit renewed, then you have to apply accordingly before the current residence title runs out. A renewal prevents you from having to leave the country and from losing your right to carry out your job.

Note: A foreigner may also be permitted to pursue an occupation without holding a residence title by virtue of an inter-governmental agreement, law or a statutory instrument.

Release note

The German original version of this text was drafted in close cooperation with the relevant departments. The Innenministerium released it on 05.11.2015. Only the German text is legally binding. The Federal State does not assume any liability for the translated texts.
In cases of doubt or if you have any questions or problems, please contact the relevant authorities directly.