If you want to move to Germany, you might need a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). A residence permit allows you to live, work and study in Germany.

Who needs a German residence permit?

  • If you are a citizen or permanent resident of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you don't need a residence permit. You can already live, work and study in Germany1.
  • If you are a citizen of Switzerland, you need a residence permit to live in Germany. This residence permit is very easy to get1, 2. More information here.
  • If you are a citizen of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States, you need a residence permit to work, study, or freelance in Germany. You can visit in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa1. If you want to stay longer, or if you want to work, study or freelance in Germany, you need a residence permit. You can apply for a residence permit in Germany, or in your home country.
  • If you are a citizen of any other country, you need a residence permit to work, study, or freelance in Germany. If you want to look for work in Germany, you need a job seeker visa1. If you want to visit Germany, you need a tourist visa. You can't convert a tourist visa to a residence permit1, 2, 3, 4.

Types of residence permits

Use this list to know if you need a visa to enter Germany. Use this tool to know which residence permit you need to stay in Germany. You can apply for a residence permit at the German embassy or consulate in your country, or at an Ausländerbehörde in Germany.

Residence permits to work in Germany ➞

Residence permits to start a business in Germany ➞

How to get a residence permit

You can apply for a residence permit in your home country, or in Germany.

  • At the Ausländerbehörde in Germany
    If you apply in Germany, you get a residence permit. Usually, it takes 2 to 3 months to get the residence permit1, 2, 3. During that time, you can't work or study, so you must have enough savings to survive. Only citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States can apply in Germany. Everyone else must apply in their home country.
  • At the German embassy or consulate in your country
    If you apply in your country, you get a National Visa. As soon as you get the visa, you can move to Germany and start working or studying. When you arrive in Germany, you have 3 months to convert your National Visa to a residence permit. You do this at the Ausländerbehörde.

It's better if you apply in your home country. You can start working as soon as you arrive in Germany. This will save you a lot of money.

How to apply for a work visa or Blue Card ➞

How to apply for a freelance visa ➞

Renewing your residence permit

Your residence permit expires in 6 months to 4 years. You must go to the Ausländerbehörde to renew it. They will check if you still meet all the conditions of your residence permit. Some residence permits (like the freelance visa) are really annoying to renew, because you need a lot of documents.

After a few years, you can apply for permanent residency. You don't need to renew your permanent residency. It lets you do anything you want: work, study, freelance, etc.

Need help?

    Where to get help ➞ Immigration questions