If you want to move to Germany to join a family member or spouse, a German family reunification visa will allow you to live and work in Germany.
Certain relatives and partners will qualify for a family reunion visa in Germany if they meet certain requirements. For the purpose of family reunification in Germany, your visa conditions will depend on the status of your relative, spouse or partner in Germany.
If you are a citizen of the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA; EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you don’t need a residence permit to enter and work in Germany. However, any family member who is not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland will need to apply for a German residence permit.
EU/EEA/Swiss family members
As a citizen of the EU/EEA or Switzerland, you will only need a valid passport or ID card to enter Germany, and you must register with the residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) within three months of entering the country. For more information, see our guide for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Germany.
Family reunion visa for non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals
If you’re joining an EU/EEA or Swiss family member but you are not from one of those countries yourself, you will have to apply for a visa beforehand (depending on your own nationality). You will then receive a ‘residence card’ from the Alien’s Authority in the area where you will be living in Germany.
If you’re the spouse or registered partner, unmarried, minor child of a German citizen, or parent/legal guardian of an unmarried, minor German citizen – and not from the EU/EEA/Switzerland – you will be issued with a residence permit as long as the relation you’re joining is living in Germany.
Anyone else wishing to join a family member must apply for a residence permit for the purpose of family reunification in Germany.
Requirements for family reunification in Germany
The relative you are going to join must have:
- a residence permit;
- enough room for you (as judged by the German embassy/consulate processing the application);
- sufficient and secured finances (again, the German authorities will assess this).
German spouse visa requirements and civil partners
If you’re joining your spouse (married or civil partner) and applying for a German marriage visa, you must both be over 18 years old and you must have basic German language skills – unless, that is, your spouse fits one or more of the following categories:
- has an EU Blue Card
- is in Germany as a researcher
- is a highly qualified person
- is self-employed.
If so, there’s no age requirement nor do you need to speak any German to apply for a spouse visa in Germany.
If your relative was granted their residence permit as a student, employee or a self-employed person while you were married (or civil partnered), you can get a residence permit as long as you fulfil all the other spouse visa requirements and plan to stay in Germany for more than one year.
If you got married after your spouse was awarded a residence permit, you may be required to wait until your spouse has had the permit for two years before you can apply. Your local German embassy or consulate can inform you what applies in your situation.
Note: A marriage visa in Germany on the basis of family reunification is not permitted for forced marriages or civil partnerships, or marriage/civil partnerships of convenience.
German dependent visa requirements for children
Children younger than 16 years can join their parents without fulfilling any conditions but if the child is between 16 and 18 years old, and not married/divorced/widowed, they will need to be either fluent in German or be able to integrate easily into German society (as judged by the German embassy/consulate processing the application) in order to get a residence permit for family reunification in Germany.
However, the latter requirements do not apply if the parent holds a Blue Card, a settlement permit or a residence permit for humanitarian purposes.
German family reunion visa processing time
If you are only planning to stay short-term, up to three months in a six month period, the visa processing time is from two to 10 days.
If you are planning family reunification in Germany for longer than three months, however, the processing time for a long-term visa can take several months. In most cases, you will need to make an appointment first, which may also take several days or weeks depending on the number ofapplications at your local embassy. You should contact your local German embassy to get advice on their current family reunion visa processing time.
How to apply for a German family reunion visa
You will need to submit your family reunion application form to the German Embassy or consulate in your home country.
In principle, in order to be issued with a residence permit, spouses should be able to demonstrate basic language skills. This is being able to understand and use everyday expressions and simple sentences – such as asking for directions, introducing yourself, answering simple questions – and writing a name and address on forms.
To prove this, you may need to show that you have passed a language exam, such as:
- ‘Start Deutsch 1‘ run by the Goethe-Institut or telc GmbH;
- ‘Grundstufe Deutsch 1‘ forming part of the Austrian Language Diploma (Österreichisches Sprachdiplom (ÖSD); or
- ‘TestDaF’ run by the TestDaF-Institut eV.
You can check the website of the German embassy in your home country for more information.
However, you don’t need to prove your language ability if you meet any of the following requirements:
- you or your spouse holds an EU Blue card.
- your spouse is a highly qualified worker, a researcher or self-employed and you were already married or registered with your partner when you moved to Germany.
- it’s obvious that you don’t need help with integration (e.g. you’re educated to graduate level).
- you’re a national of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand or the USA.
- you cannot learn German because of a physical, mental or psychological problem.
If you’re joining a German spouse in Germany, you are also exempt if your partner has previously lived in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland, or it’s deemed impossible to learn German while abroad or within a year of being in Germany (as judged by the German embassy/consulate processing your application).
Requirements after you arrive in Germany
You will need to register every family member with the residence registration office and the Aliens Authority. When you go, you’ll need to take your passports and other documents relating to your own situation, for example, birth certificates, a marriage certificate or civil partnership documentation, salary slips, tax certificates and tenancy agreements.
Partners and relatives – who can work?
You can work in Germany if the relative you are joining meets one the following requirements:
- a residence permit authorising employment for themselves
- an EU Blue Card
- is in Germany as a researcher or a highly skilled person.
A comprehensive overview of the requirements for family reunification in Germany can be found here.
Family reunification for refugees and asylum seekers
In recent years, the number of people seeking family reunification with a German citizen or third-party national has drastically increased, from an average of 55,000 permits granted for family reunification from 2010–2013 to some 82,440 permits granted in 2015. This is largely due to the influx of refugees in Germany. Despite attempts to accelerate the family visa processing time for this influx of asylum seekers, waiting periods have reached to more than a year and a half at some German embassies.
Many conditions for family reunification, such as the requirement of secure subsistence, are waived for resettlement refugees, recognised asylum seekers, recognised refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. However, there are new restrictions in place for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection: family members of anyone who was granted a residence permit for subsidiary protection purposes after 17 March 2016 are suspended from German family reunification permits until 16 March 2018; until this date family reunification is only accepted in situations of special hardship under international law provisions or for urgent humanitarian reasons.
More information about Germany’s refugee policy and family reunification for asylum seekers for Syrians can be found here.
You can contact the BAMF Information service for more information:
- Monday to Friday – 9am to 3pm
- T: +49 911 943-0 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Moving to Germany: Guide to German visas and permits
- Working in Germany: Getting a German work visa
- A guide for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Germany
- A guide to German citizenship and permanent visas
- German student visas and permits
Note: The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the German embassy or consulate in your home country.