There are two ways to go to the Berlin Ausländerbehörde:
- With an appointment
Book an appointment online, then go to your appointment. It’s almost impossible to find an appointment online.
- Without an appointment
If you can’t get an appointment, you must apply by email. You can’t go in person without an appointment.21
Is it hard to get an appointment?
If this is your first residence permit, you can’t work, freelance or study while you wait for your residence permit. You need enough savings to survive during that time.
If you are moving to Berlin, start looking before you arrive. You can also apply for a visa in your home country, and only move to Germany when you have permission to work.
How to get an appointment
Book an appointment online on the Ausländerbehörde website.
Most of the time, there are no appointments available. This is not a bug. Check again every few minutes. Sometimes, the website crashes. Try again later.
New appointments appear at random times, mostly during working hours. Short-term appointments appear on Wednesdays and Fridays.2
If you find an appointment, it can be months later. After your appointment, you must wait until your residence permit is approved. This can also take a few months.
If you can’t find an appointment online, you can:3
- Ask for an Ausländerbehörde by email
- or apply for a residence permit by email
To do this, you must…
- Find the correct department to contact. You must use their official contact form.
- Write a message. Write in German if you can. Your message must include:
- Attach all required documents for your residence permit application. Complete applications are processed faster.20
- Send the message and wait. It can take a few months.
- They will review your documents and give you an appointment. You must go there in person to finish your application.22
If you send all your documents, it counts as a residence permit application. This usually means that you can stay in Germany until they make a decision, even if your residence permit expires.
The Ausländerbehörde does not accept fax messages. This trick does not work. You must use the online contact form.
By registered mail
During your appointment
Going to your appointment
Bring your appointment confirmation. You must have it to enter the Ausländerbehörde.21
Find the right office, floor and room. This information is in the email you get after you book your appointment.
Sit in the waiting room, and wait until your number is called on the television. When your number is called, go to the office number you see on the television.
The residence permit interview
You will sit in front of an Ausländerbehörde employee, and show your documents. They will ask for specific documents one by one.
This appointment takes around 10 minutes.5 They will tell you to go in the waiting room again. They will call your number again in 5 to 45 minutes.
Some employees speak English, but many only speak German. If you don’t speak German, bring a translator with you. Red Tape Translation and Booka Local can go to the Ausländerbehörde with you. You can also bring an immigration lawyer or a relocation consultant.
If your current residence permit expires soon, ask for a Fiktionsbescheinigung. It lets you stay in Germany for a little longer. Some versions of the Fiktionsbescheinigung let you travel outside of Germany.7
Some residence permits are approved on the same day, during your interview. You get a paper residence permit, pay the fee (if they ask you), and leave. Around 8 weeks later, you get your plastic residence permit by post.
Most residence permits are approved 1 to 6 months later.6
After your appointment
If your application is approved
1 to 6 months after your application,6 you will get a letter with the PIN and PUK for your plastic residence permit (elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel or eAT). You don’t need to do anything yet. A few weeks later, you will get your residence permit by post.
Your residence permit is valid between 6 months and 4 years. It depends on what residence permit you get, and how good your application is. Freelancers can get a shorter freelance visa if their income is low or if their health insurance is not good enough. When your residence permit is about to expire, you can renew it. The process is very similar.
If you had a German residence permit for over 3 years, you might get an unrestricted residence permit. It lets you do any type of work you want. For example, you could get a full time job, study or even open a restaurant.
Your residence permit is a plastic card, not a sticker in your passport. Your address is written on the card. If you move to another address, they will update your residence permit during the Anmeldung. They just put a sticker with your new address on your residence permit.
After you receive your plastic residence permit, activate your eAT.
If your application is rejected
If some documents are missing, they will give you a new appointment in a few days. This gives you time to get the missing documents and apply again.
If your current visa expires soon, you might get a temporary visa (Fiktionsbescheinigung). It lets you stay in Germany a little longer. It gives you time to apply again.
If you get a rejection letter later, it will ask for more information, or tell you why your application was rejected. You still have a month to respond or appeal. If this happens, you should probably hire an immigration lawyer to help you.
If you don’t get a residence permit, you pay nothing.
If you don’t get an answer
If you apply for a residence permit, and you don’t get an answer after 3 months, you can sue the Ausländerbehörde for inaction.8 This is called an Untätigkeitsklage nach § 75 VwGO. Usually, it makes them move faster. In most cases, the state pays for your legal expenses. In other cases, it costs around 400€. Immigration lawyers can help you do this.
If the Ausländerbehörde can’t reach you, they will post the information here.
How to pay the residence permit fee
When your residence permit is approved, you must pay a fee. Some people have to pay now, and others have to pay later. You only pay the fee if your residence permit is approved. If it’s rejected, you pay nothing.
If you have to pay now, they will give you a plastic payment card (Kassenkarte). Bring that card to a payment machine (Kassenautomat). Follow the signs to find the payment machines. These machines accept cash, EC cards, Visa and Mastercard.9 If your card is not accepted, you can also get cash from this nearby ATM, even at night.
If you have to pay later, you will get an invoice by post. You will have 30 days to pay.24
After you pay, you can go home. Keep your receipt; residence permit fees are tax-deductible.
If your visa expires soon
In some cases, you can stay in Germany after your visa or residence permit expires.
If you have a residence permit
You can stay in Germany until the Ausländerbehörde makes a decision if…
- You have an Ausländerbehörde appointment and you booked your appointment while your residence permit was valid19
- or you applied by email while your residence permit was valid11
- or you have a Fiktionsbescheinigung
In those cases, you can stay in Germany even if your residence permit expires.18 You can continue working, freelancing or studying until your appointment date.10 You must book the appointment while your residence permit is valid.
If your residence permit expires soon, ask for a Fiktionsbescheinigung. It lets you travel outside of Germany after your residence permit expires.
If you don’t have a residence permit
If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States,13 you can stay in Germany for 90 days without a visa. If you have an Ausländerbehörde appointment or if you applied by email, you can stay in Germany until your appointment.18 You can’t work, study or freelance while you wait for your residence permit.
You can rarely convert a Schengen visa to a residence permit.14 You can’t come to Germany on a tourist visa, then apply for a work visa, Blue Card or freelance visa.15 If you want a German residence permit, you must apply in your own country.
You can rarely extend a Schengen visa.16 An Ausländerbehörde appointment does not extend your Schengen visa.17 You must leave Germany before your Schengen visa expires. You won’t get a Fiktionsbescheinigung if you are on a Schengen visa.
During your Ausländerbehörde appointment, the interviewer can give you a Fiktionsbescheinigung. This temporary residence permit lets you stay in Germany while you wait for your new residence permit. If you forgot some documents, the Fiktionsbescheinigung also gives you time to reapply.
Questions and answers
How to contact the Ausländerbehörde
To contact the Ausländerbehörde…
- Find your department
Use this page to find which department (Referat) is responsible for you.
- Contact your department
Use the contact form to contact your department. Do not email or fax the Ausländerbehörde. You must use the contact form.
The Ausländerbehörde can take weeks or months to answer.4 It depends on how urgent your situation is, and how complete your application is.
If you apply for a residence permit, and you don’t get an answer after 3 months, you can sue the Ausländerbehörde.
Do they speak English at the Ausländerbehörde?
Sometimes, but not always. You should bring an interpreter with you. Red Tape Translation and Booka Local can go to the Ausländerbehörde with you. You can also bring an immigration lawyer or a relocation consultant.
Which Ausländerbehörde should I go to?
Where to get help
If you need someone to go with you, I recommend Red Tape Translation. Kathleen often helps me with Ausländerbehörde questions. They also offer help sessions for visa applications. Booka Local can also go to the Ausländerbehörde with you.
This Facebook group answers questions about the Ausländerbehörde.
Sources and footnotes
Multiple relocation consultants (October 2023) ⤴