A Step by Step Guide to pave your way to Immigration

This page will give you a – step by step – overview what happens in which order and what is to be done when applying.

  1. Do you need a visa to enter Germany for residential purposes or can you apply from home? In other words, do you enjoy visa waiver privilege and can you apply after entering? Click here for the answer: List of Countries (not) Requiring a Visa to Enter Germany
  2. On what grounds do you want to enter Germany?  
  3. Collect relevant documents for your application and have a second copy ready.
  4. Either make an appointment at the next German consulate (visa section) or enter Germany on your 90 day visa waiver. When arranging the appointment at the consulate do make sure you mention that you want / need a national visa for residential purposes, otherwise you might have come in vain.
  5. After entering Germany, move into your apartment / house,
  6. register your address at the Meldestelle of your city,
  7. make an appointment at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) of your municipality. Depending on the grounds of your application, you might get the permit on the spot or you will receive a Fiktionsbescheinigung when your visa waiver period or entry visa is about to expire

This is about how it all works. Sounds simple? We admit; the process so abstractly described is really easy. The problems lie in how show persuadingly that you meet the requirements. Case deciders in immigration tend more to deny then grant.


EU-Accession States

The accession member states of the European Union are those, who joined on April 16, 2003. These are

Czech Republic
Slovak Republic
These citizens are now full members of the Union and are not subject to any entry or work permit restrictions anymore.

However, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Romanians and Serbs are not yet fully integrated into Europe. They still need to apply for a work permit from home. This remains true even if they do not need a visa to enter Schengen Area for touristic reasons.

Could you give me some general advice about applying for asylum?

Sure. Your story must be persuading, easily understandable and re-enactable in the officer’s mind. The officer will decide regarding the consistency, conclusiveness, freedom of contradictions, and especially comparing the generally known facts of your home country. In other words, decision-making is very subjective. Decision-making will concentrate on the grounds that lead to your flight.

What qualifies a person as an asylum seeker?

The German federal constitution (art. 16a GG) grants political persecutees asylum. This means that those, who are persecuted due to their political conviction shall be granted asylum. This is the one and only one constitutional right in Germany granted to foreigners.


I heard somebody talking about a “little asylum”. What is that?

Sometimes, people deserve to receive refuge, but do not qualify as asylum seekers in accordance to art. 16a GG but instead “only” following the Geneva Convention on Refugees. These persons are commonly called “convention refugees”. Germany has to grant such persons asylum, as long as their human rights are being violated. §60 AufenthG is the German legal incorporation of Geneva Convention on Refugees. This law grants protection for those who fear for their life, or freedom due to their

  1. affiliation to a certain social group,
  2. citizenship,
  3. due to their political conviction, or
  4. gender,
  5. race,
  6. religion.
Who is politically persecuted?

You will be considered politically persecuted if upon your return to your home country you will be subject to measures of persecution which endanger your life, health, or personal freedom. Politically motivated persecution can also be punishment in accordance to unusually stricter than comparable delinquents. Another typical example within penal law would be that your country defends its fundamental political and territorial integrity.

How about refusing to become drafted? Will that qualify for political asylum?

Never will refusing to perform military service give grounds for political persecution. German law has no generic rule on this question but an argument is found in the superseding law of art. 9 European Convention of Human Rights. This regulation does not grant asylum for not wanting to become drafted.

What qualifies as religious persecution?

Religious persecution can be shown if the public authorities substantially interfere with the indispensable core of a religious practice in private spheres (BVerfGE 76, 143 (159). So if your country forbids you to pray to Shiwa in a temple, which as such cannot be recognized from the outside, you will be persecuted due to your beliefs. This would be an interference in the core of your religious life. But if you are a religiously unmotivated person, forget about being religiously persecuted. Examples of religious persecution in accordance with the permanent ruling of the Federal Constitution Court are

  1. the compulsory circumcision of Christian draftees in a Muslim army because the draftee is not treated as a person but more like a willess object (BVerwGE 89, 162 (166),
  2. sanctions relating to change of denomination.
What do you understand as gender specific persecution?

Typical examples for this are the genital mutilation of women in Africa and sexual orientation (homo vs. hetero).

Who qualifies as a persecutor?

Persecution can come from

  1. a country,
  2. parties or organizations, ruling the country or considerable parts of the country, or
  3. non-governmental actors, in so far as the country or its parties, including international organizations evidentially are not able or willing to give protection against persecution; for this case it is irrelevant if there is a governing regime or not, unless a domestic refuge exists. 
What is to be understood under non-governmental persecution?

This is if your country is unable to protect you from persecution from non-governmental organizations for the reasons mentioned above, which entitle you to asylum. The reasons, which lack in protection are various. It can be that the governmental structures do no longer exist or that the still existing country cannot operate correctly to guarantee you effective protection from other private organizations. In general, a country can usually guarantee sufficient protection. You will have to therefore show that in your special case the government cannot protect you sufficiently.

That sounds great. So, when my British government wants to imprison me as their British subject because I shouted out loud in public “F… the Queen!”, I just slip over to Germany and I’m safe. Right?

Har. Har. Har. Boy, did I get a lot of laughs! You are absolutely wrong for two reasons. Protection of asylum will not be granted for citizens of the EU or of third countries, wherein the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are considered as guaranteed. These “safe” third countries are determined by the law (§26a AsylVfG). Furthermore, criminals are not asylum seekers!

How do I apply for asylum?

You can apply either orally, in writing, or otherwise say that you want refuge in Germany because you wish protection against persecution following the above mentioned grounds, from a persecutor. If you do not have valid papers, then you must apply at the border. Otherwise, you can either apply at a foreigners office, or at a police station. Apply ASAP otherwise you will be considered as an illegal resident and expelled. The most important part of applying is your personal interview! Prepare yourself well! You must be able to convince the authorities with your story and best be able to somehow authenticate it. Understand “authenticate” as having documents or other incidents supporting your story and especially your persecution. Just a picture of you in mass of persons showing “victory” with your fingers means nothing. Come up with something better.

When I tell the authorities, “I want asylum!” What am I legally applying for?

Good catch! Your application will be tested for two different grounds. First your case will be tested to determine whether you are a political asylum seeker or not. The second test will be if you can be granted a “little asylum” (§60 I AufenthG). The office may either deny any status – fully or partially.

As I was trying to enter Germany, the border police refused my entry. All I could grasp was “secure country”. What does that mean? What’s going on?

What is happening is that you cannot enter and therefore not apply for asylum §18 AsylVfG which obligates the border authorities to forbid entrance of possible asylum seekers from secure states. Germany has adopted a strict handling of permitting possible refugees to enter. You could have also found asylum in the first country.

After entering the country and finding the next police station, I informed the policeman that I wanted asylum. He just told me to sit down and wait. Shortly afterward they took me somewhere else, and if I am not totally wrong, this seems to be another office. What’s going on?

Don’t worry, you are not legally incarcerated or imprisoned but only being taken into custody. After identification (fingerprints, name, copy of your passport, etc.) is taken, you will be taken to the branch-office of the foreigner’s office which has jurisdiction so you may apply for asylum.

So, after telling the authorities my story, can I relax while they test it?

No. You are obligated to support the authorities to clarify the facts – even if you are represented by an attorney. You are especially obligated to

  1. present orally or in writing the required statements to the authorities handling your application,
  2. inform the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (the office deciding on asylum) unhesitatingly when you receive a residence permit,
  3. appear at or report to the authorities upon order,
  4. present, hand over, surrender your passport or its replacement to those authorities handling your application,
  5. present, hand over, surrender all and any necessary documents or other records you have to those authorities handling your application,
  6. support the authorities so that you can obtain a passport, its replacement, or an ID,
  7. tolerate orders to secure your identity (taking fingerprints, copying your passport, etc.).

N.B. this list only shows the most common examples which can be expected from a person in your situation.

What are these “necessary documents or other records”?
  1. Necessary documents are typically the following:
  2. all and any documents, next to your passport or its replacement, which might be relevant on determining your identity,
  3. visas, resident permits, and other border permissions from other countries,
  4. airplane and other tickets,
  5. documents showing the route of travel from your country of destination to Germany, list of used means of transportation, on residence in other countries after departing from your home country and before entering Germany, as well as
  6. all and any other documents to which you refer and might be important to support grounds of you remaining or your expulsion to another country.

All my attempts to receive asylum in Germany were in vain. I heard that there is somebody like the High Commissioner for Refugees. Can he help? What does he cost?

The High Commissioner for Refugees is an office of the United Nations and was founded by Resolution 428 (V) in January 1951. The task of this office is to help the millions of refugees worldwide during or after World War II, who had to leave their home country. The Commissioner is the last one in a chain of international organizations having the goal to improve the situation of refugees. In Germany, the High Commissioner is represented in Berlin and has a branch in Nuremberg with the German Federal Office for the Acknowledgment of Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge). Following its by-laws The High Commissioner is an apolitical, humanitarian organization having two main tasks:

  1. grant refugees “international legal protection” and
  2. search for “permanent solutions” for their problems.
Aha. This means that if Germany does not grant me political asylum I can file a complaint to The High Commissioner for Refugees and he will force Germany to grant me refuge. Right?

Wrong! The Commissioner has no legal power in Germany. It is only an international governmental organization working politically on your behalf. If you wish to find out more about this organization, please follow this link: www.UNHCR.ch. §

You mentioned that this office is to grant international legal protection. What does this mean?

To protect refugees means to protect their lives, security and freedom. It also means to prevent refugees from being returned to a country where they will have to face persecution. Beyond that, the UNHCR has to promote the rights of refugees in the spheres of accommodation, education, work, and freedom of movement.

List of non EU-Countries Considered Secure Countries of Origin
  1. Ghana,
  2. Romania,
  3. Senegal
Who rules the case?

Your application will be ruled by the Office for Migrants and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migranten und Flüchtlinge), which is located in Nuremberg. As soon as this office rules in writing in your favor that you are acknowledged as a refugee or asylum seeker, you will have that status.

My application seems to need longer than expected. What happens to me after I have my hearing? Where will I live in the mean time? Underneath bridges?

Until the authorities decide on your case, you are to live in a special facility for asylum seekers. The authorities, wanting to evenly distribute applicants over their country, will determine to which facility you will be assigned.

So now I’m in one of those facilities. How do I now finance my existence while not being allowed to work?

You will be receiving a special welfare for refugees. According to this law, you will receive foodstuffs, accommodation, heating, health care, personal hygiene, clothing, etc. You will also receive payment in money for your daily personal needs or less formally worded an “allowance”. Payment in kind, i.e. not in money, is the preferred method of supplying you with what you need. There is no bargaining possible.

I have heard of such facilities, but they do not promise to be very comfortable. How long will I be in there?

Are you looking for comfort?? This is not the place to look for it. You may be kept there for up to six weeks in such a facility but at most up three months in such a facility. You will be ordered to live there until your case is decided. Upon positively deciding your case or after the first six weeks, you will put into a special dormitory for applicants. However, if at this point you can show the authorities that you have another domicile, which is less expensive, you should be able to move. Also know that, the special needs of families will be considered first in such facilities (§53 AsylVfG).

Finally after years of waiting, the office for refugees has ruled my case. I have been acknowledged. Yipeeeh! Um, but what does that mean for me? What is my status now? What about working?

Now you are here under normal conditions, meaning you are eligible for a settlement permit. You are allowed to work following the general rules.

Me, too. I also just got my case ruled in my assumption. What about my family back home? Can I have them join me here?

If you were granted a residence permit

  1. because you were admitted to Germany due to international law or for urgent humanitarian reasons, or

  2. because your residence was granted by a decision of the Hardship Commission, or
  3. because you enjoy protection in the event of a definite prohibition of deportation.

The foreigners office can grant a residence permit to your family members only if there are reasons, which follow international law for humanitarian reasons, or if the political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany are thereby served.

Which relatives are excluded from following a refugee?

Relatives of temporarily protected refugees may not follow if:

  1. the permit was granted only for a temporary stay for urgent humanitarian or personal reasons or because of considerable public interest, or
  2. the permit was only granted because it is impossible for the refugee to leave the country.
What is the status as an adult and/or unmarried children of a Convention refugee?

The unmarried and adult children of Convention refugees, who have not yet required a residence permit, do not have to apply for political asylum. They will be granted a residence permit with the status of a Convention refugee on the basis of transitional arrangements, if

  1. the father or the mother was acknowledged as a Convention refugee prior to January 1, 2005,

  2. the child was a resident in Germany from the moment in which recognition of its parent(s) had become incontestable,
  3. it is expected that the child will be integrated, and
  4. the child has not been convicted of an offense in the last three years.
What happens if they deny my case?

You will receive a written order not only stating that your case has been denied and that you are to leave the country within a set period. This is called "Abschiebungsandrohung”. If you do not leave voluntarily, then you are subject to expulsion and protection against expulsion. You also have the right to appeal this decision within one month after service.

After fighting with the authorities, the court did not give me the wished permission to reside. I fruitlessly used all legal possibilities to remain legally. Is there any last chance that I might stay anyhow?

Yes, there is. You can apply for residence as a case of mercy due to your personal hardship. At the request of the Härtefallauschuß (= Hardship Commission), the highest state authority may order the foreigners office to grant the applicant a residence permit, or extend its validity. This is to be understood literally. This office can and may order the foreigners office to grant residence even though you did not fulfill the legal prerequisites for the granting or extension of a permit. This special and extraordinary permission will be accepted only in a case of hardship. You must show urgent humanitarian reasons related to your person to be eligible. If you have committed a crime, forget this idea and get your things packed.

While I’m not eligible for a hardship case, I still get nightmares during the day thinking that they will shove me back into my home. I believe they will persecute me in home country! That’s the reason I fled. Is there really no last trick to prevent that.

You can – at least theoretically – leave to a non-Schengen country. But do not misunderstand me. You are a foreigner there as you are in Germany. You will have to apply for a visa at that country’s embassy here in Germany. If they grant you a visa: Congratulations! You will not have to return to your home country. Supposing this visa solution worked out, then best would be to leave voluntarily – ASAP. Germany, should it has no other option, can always shove you away to your home country because it is the only country that must let you in! You are their citizen. The Law on Nations determines this.

Appealing the Denial of an Application for Visa or Residence Permit

What can I do if the Ausländeramt considers to deny me a permit?

If they contact you in advance, use this chance to communicate with them! [PPD_PAYTOREADMORE]They are not obliged to discuss all questions with you – when you are applying from abroad. They will seriously listen to your arguments – but only once.
If they deny, you have the right to appeal. It must be done within one month after having received the denial, in writing, and the appeal must be in German. You have to quickly consult an attorney because you will have to file a case in court to have the denial tested there. There is no other way to appeal! N.B. Do not dream that you will get a quick solution when arguing with the case decider after a denial – be it in Germany or the German consulate abroad. This person made her or his decision and that is it. You have to go to court.

I trust that my lawyer will get the decision at the speed of lightning. But how long does it take until the court decides?

In normal immigration matters, it will honestly take up to around a few months plus. Do not reckon when you win that immigration will bow down and instantly grant – just because the court said so. This can take some time, too. If the office needs another six months or more, you can bring it back to court...

Goodie. I had to to go to court. What is my status in the mean time while the court is taking its time to decide?

Your status remains that you have to leave Germany! Appealing the denial does not stop your obligation to leave. You seriously have to expect that the office will process your deportation if you do not leave on time or have filed for a temporary injunction.

Can I try to find a job or become self-employed while waiting? What happens when I do find a new job? May I apply for it?

Sure, you can try but it will not really help because no permit may be granted while you have the duty to leave! In other words, after having left Schengen Territory, you can reapply under normal conditions. The more you only use your rights and keep given deadlines, the less problems can come up in the future.

Blue Card EU

Basis of the EU Blue Card is a directive of the European Union, Directive 2009/50/EC on the Blue Card. The EU Blue Card is granted for the benefit of highly qualified third-country nationals staying in the EU. This permit is to counteract a skills shortage existing in Europe.

Hey, this blue card is out. What’s it all about? Could you give me a general idea?

Similar to the Green card in the United States, the Blue Card EU is a residence and work permit for highly skilled workers from non-EU states. Having this permit really opens the door towards the European Union. These regulations came into effect on August 1, 2012 and is now incorporated into the Residence Act in §19a AufenthG.

What do I get from this new permit? Surely, I will have to deal with a lot more red tape than already. I hate red tape!

[PPD_PAYTOREADMORE]More red tape? Not really; it is just about as much as normal. It remains to be seen how picky immigration officers will treat such candidates. You get a four year residence (including work) permit upfront – and not only maybe one or two years! That is really something big! Normally, not highly skilled employees will get a permit at first of at most two years – in the discretion of the authority. Not so here. You are entitled to four years.


When am I eligible for such Blue Card? It all sounds so awesome. Ah, Germany, here I come! Blue sounds so sad, I hope that I do not have to be sad to get the permit.

When you have the blues, you will be sad but I guess you will cry for joy when you pick up your permit. You can successfully apply when you meet the following criteria. You have

      • 1.
        • a) either a German university degree or an equivalent and acknowledged foreign degree
        • b) a qualification, comparable to a university degree with at least a five year experience,
      • 2.) passed the preference test or are exempt from it,
      • 3.) a gross annual salary of at least € 44,800 (€ 3,733 per month),
      • 4.) a concrete job offer must be shown.
In how far are we preferred? Will a priority check be performed and do we still rank after Germans, Europeans and long-term refugees?

Yes and no. Normally, the German labor force is to be recruited from Germans and Europeans. However, when you as Blue Card applicant want to pursue a profession where there is a shortage and your annual salary is € 34,944 (€ 2,912 per month) or more, then you will get the permit for that job – without such a priority check. If there is no shortage for your profession, it will be checked if no privileged person can get the job.

Hey you are bragging of all the privileges and advantages I get with a Blue Card but my application was denied. I’m a physician and have a grand employment contract with best working conditions allowing me to work overtime without extra compensation, a minimum of three weeks of night shifts a month and a salary of 35 k€. I guess they lie to me at the office because they have something against me.

Well, you sure fell in for that bogus employer. We do not know what standard working conditions you have in your home country but here in Germany that would be practically illegal. The working conditions must meet German standards! This typically means that stipulations in wage tariff agreements (negotiated by employee and employer unions) must be met or exceeded. This is the only real test the immigration office will employ when processing your case.
§ - §§§

Oh! Germany has a shortage in certain job fields? Interesting! Is there anything in for me? Which professions are needed most?

This will typically be for scientists, mathematicians, engineers, physicians, and IT professionals.

When and where can I apply for such card?

You apply as normal. This depends on your citizenship. If you are not eligible for a visa waiver, then you have to apply for an Entry Visa and then afterwards for a residence permit.

How long is an EU Blue Card valid?

The EU Blue Card is initially issued for a maximum of four years. But if the employment contract says less than four years of employment you will get a permit for the duration of your employment plus three months on top to have time to either renegotiate with your momentary employer or find a new job. Germany is so eager to have you already in, they want to pamper you to remain.

When would I get a permanent residence in Germany?

Generally, you will be entitled after 33 months for a permanent residence permit. However, if you can speak German at level B1 then you will already be eligible after 21 months (§19a VI AufenthG). The difference to the normal route via §9 AufenthG is that have the right to remain permanently here and just the eligibility.

Having the problem that I sometimes have to stay away from my German home for an extended period, how long can this be?

Gee, you guys are surely being pampered! Normally, you can remain outside of Germany for up to six months in a row (§51 X AufenthG) but as a blue card holder, you have up to 12 months.

Gee, I love Germany so much, I would love to retire here, if it should happen that against all odds I become “of age”; um, a senior citizen. The only thing that annoys me is the itsy bitsy teeny weeny tiny detail of not yet having a job. Can’t I just come over and hunt for a job?

Well, go to the attic, pack your things, and dig out your diplomas and bank statements and apply via the normal path but on grounds for job hunt as an academic (§18c AufenthG).

Wow! I can come over to find a job. Neat! Wait a minute, this sounds so supercalifragilisticixpealdicous that there must some catch for job hunting! I doubt that the German government will just let me in, not just like that.

True. You will not get a permit just like that. You have to meet a few requirements but they are all not so complicated:

  • either a German university degree or an equivalent and acknowledged foreign degree,
  • show enough funds to secure your livelihood, this has been discussed in detail here,
  • apply for the permit as normal,

Please take these requirements serious if you do not to be banned from Germany, when you apply without a university degree or equivalent!

How long can I search for a job? I do hope that I get all the time needed.

You have six months’ time to find an occupation that fits your CV. If this semester unsuccessfully expires then you have to leave for a half year. After this half year, you can apply again for another “job hunter permit”.

Hey, a potential corporation just invited me to a job interview in 2 weeks. I am so happy about it. Hey wait my job hunting visa is about to expire in one week. Is there anything I can do against it?

There is nothing you can about the expiration but that will not mean that you will automatically have to leave by then. The main thing is that you go to your immigration office with the invitation of your potential boss and apply for an “extension”. You will get a green card in the format of a triple check card called “Fiktionsbescheinigung”. This will practically and absolutely extend your stay – though you legally do not have a residence permit anymore. It is in the discretion of the immigration officer how long this Bescheinigung will be. Do not reckon on any grace when this permission expires! Of course, should it be that you have another interview… By the way, when hitting the office, be sure to bring a good book to read and a lot of time with you.

What about my spouse? May she also work in Germany, while I am here on my Blue Card? Gee, she would go crazy if she were only permitted to manage the household or best play with her thumbs all day long.

Sure, your spouse will be able to work in Germany without any further restriction.

Does my spouse have to speak German language before entering?

No, she may enter Germany without being able to speak the language (§30 I 3 no. 5 AufenthG) and he or she will not be typically required to visit an integration course.

Front Side


Back Side

Additional information