Like many things German-bureaucracy related, experiences vary depending on your caseworker, the wind, and the position of the moon divided by your appointment date. Just kidding. Sort of… I’m sharing my timeline and experience to give you a ballpark idea of what to expect.
Permanent settlement permits, also known as permanent residency or the Niederlassungserlaubnis, come in a few different forms. My lovely boss at Red Tape Translation helped me select the right type of permit and gather materials for my application. In Red Tape terms, this is a coaching with a relocation expert – fancy!
In July 2022, I put my paper stack in a big envelope and sent it off to the Landesamt für Einwanderung (the foreigner’s office). Fast forward to January 2023, I came home from visiting family for Christmas and there in my postbox was the best present of all. My documents were received and I had an appointment with a caseworker on April 19th, 2023! They also sent a more specific checklist of the exact documents I need to bring.
Kathleen tells me that if you send the application by email, they will generally respond by email, and if you send it by post, they’ll respond by post. Sending your application by fax is actually the most secure way to do it, but then you’d want to be able to receive a fax in response, even months later, wouldn’t you? And quite honestly, who even has a fax number anymore?
Getting organized… again
For the most part, the letter told me I needed to bring the same things that I had already sent, just more recent versions. I rushed around to get my taxes done for my very complicated year of work in 2022. There was a new request that sent me into a panic: they asked me specifically to bring a “B 1 Sprachzertifikat”. On the website, it had said very generally “a knowledge of German” was required, but now they wanted an official B1 language certificate. GREAT. Fine.
I signed up online to take a test at Kapitel Zwei in Berlin (pro tip, if you studied German there or take a prep course, they give you a discount on the exam fee). Otherwise, taking the exam can cost up to 200 euros depending on where and how you take it.
After another 3 months of gathering up-to-date documents and waiting for (language) test results, I was ready! Here’s how my appointment went.
[Morning, daylight. The office is brightly lit but full of preoccupied people, concerned with their own immigration cases. A small child totters past holding a teddy.] I walk into the interview room, all smiling and confident, documents in hand, ready to rock it. However, I know within the first few seconds that I’ve been dealt an unlucky hand. Despite my positive attitude, my caseworker is skeptical and not even impressed by my accent-free German. To top it off, I’ve made a mistake. I was overly confident and hadn’t asked Kathleen to review my financial docs. Had I done that, I would have learned that I was missing some vital papers to prove my income.
Stomach drops, panic ensues…
My caseworker tries to end the session since I’m “unprepared”. I beg to send the missing documents with my phone via Email. We only have 30 minutes, they say, but they reluctantly give me their email address anyway. For the next 10 minutes, I’m sending email after email, while they click and “mhmm” and glare at me for the next one. Finally, they tell me with a less than hopeful tone that I can go back to the waiting room.
Cue the tears
At this point, I’m kicking myself for not going over my application with Kathleen. Cursing the universe, I tearfully write Kathleen over Slack, “I think I blew it.” My number is called and I walk back into the room, flushed and red-eyed, only to hear in German, “Ok I’ve decided to give it to you.” They even smiled a little. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked! But elated. If fact, it still hasn’t quite sunken in that I don’t have to renew my permit or visit LEA anymore.
And now, we wait…
I left my appointment with an official, stamped letter stating that I’d been granted permanent residence. It also had some important info until my permit arrives:
- This letter alone will not grant my re-entry into Germany if my previous permit expires while I’m waiting for the electronic (eAT) card.
- First, I’ll receive a letter with a PIN and PUK for my eAT card – but I need to be patient. With my April 19th appointment, I definitely won’t get my permit before the end of May. So chill. (Don’t come bother us at the LEA. Don’t call us, we’ll call you).
- A second letter will arrive from the LEA with the actual permit.
- This letter is valid until 12th of July 2023.
My PUK and PIN arrived on May 6th. It is now June (7 weeks since my appointment) and my card just arrived! Kathleen tells me that 8-10 weeks is the norm at the moment for card arrival by post – so I got lucky! Considering the expiration date of the letter, I can only presume that permits must arrive before then (12 weeks from the appointment). All in all, that would make it about a 1-year process from the time I started preparing my documents to when the permit arrived. Depending on how long your need to prepare and gather documents, I suggest planning a 13-14 month process.
Hopefully, this helps you with the timeline for your own application. I also hope it serves as a reminder to have an expert set of eyes help you throughout the process. I almost wasted months of time, work, and money, because I thought doing social media for Red Tape Translation made me an expert. HA! Trust me, it was not worth the sinking feeling in my stomach or the tears shed in the waiting room.
Check out this blog for more permit information or book a coaching.