How to get a residence permit (part 1)

29th July 2003, Comments 0 comments

Making sure that you have the right paperwork to stay in Germany often results in an expat’s first real contact with the nation’s bureaucracy. In the first of a two part series, Andrew McCathie sets out a guide to take you through what can be a somewhat daunting process.

A friend once related to me how soon after arriving in Germany he dreamt that he’d had the good fortune of meeting someone in a bar.

But before the rest of the evening could proceed his new love interest first demanded to see his “polizeiliche Anmeldebestätigung”.

Indeed, after moving to Germany, it seems that everyone wants to see your “polizeiliche Anmeldebestätigung”. This is the piece of paper which shows that you are registered with the police.

You will find that almost everyone from libraries, through to accountants, bureaucrats arranging residence permits (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and banks will want to see it before dealing with you.

If you do get caught up in trouble (even for something minor such as neighbours complaining to the police about late night music) you may find that “polizeiliche Anmeldebestätigung” is one of the first thing that the local constabulary will also want to see.

How to obtain a “polizeiliche Anmeldebestätigung”

Registering with the police is one of the first things you have to do following your arrival in Germany.

Obtaining a “polizeiliche Anmeldebestätigung” means going to the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt/Meldestelle) which is normally part of the local police station or Town Hall (Rathaus).

Coming from countries with somewhat dubious police records, registering with the police is often something that many people prefer not to get involved with.

But according to German law, you have to register with the police if you intend to live in the nation for more than three months. This should happen within seven days of your arrival in Germany or at least as soon as you have arranged or rented accommodation.

It applies to all residents, both Germans and non-Germans. Failure to register means that you could incur a fine of up to EUR 38.

You can normally track down your local Meldestelle via the internet, combining the local area you live in with the word “Landeseinwohneramt”.

For many newcomers to Germany, registering with the police is often their first contact with the nation’s bureaucracy.

Those lucky enough to have a relocation firm arranging their move or are shifting with a company may find that someone else might take over the task.

The waiting game

Depending on where you apply, it can be a long wait sitting in a less than cheerful office watching numbers ticking away until you’re number comes up and you are called forth to present your papers.

The Meldestelle handles a range of issue, including renewing passports for Germans, so don’t think you can dash in and out. Be prepared to sit it out.

For those living in heavily populated city areas a little planning can help. Work out when you can go, drop by the office beforehand and see what time it opens. It’s best to try to get there early.

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