The Ausländerbehörde in Berlin is a special place. Among other special nicknames, it has been described as “the most miserable place in Berlin”, “the place of shattered dreams” and “inefficient government bureaucracy at its finest”. Above all, though, getting acquainted with its tightly-closed-up windows, flashing neon boards and slightly-off key announcement bells is inevitable. So embrace it and do it right. Here’s how to save time, avoid stress and leave with a shiny new visa or permit.
Book an appointment. (Just kidding).
I know. I promised you an article for people without appointments. Don’t worry, I will deliver. But I just want to make sure you’ve exhausted all your options for getting one. Yes, it is easier said than done. But booking an appointment will ensure
- You’re in the right building in front of the right room
- The office is open
- You’ll be seen
- You’ll be in and out relatively quickly
If you’re having trouble booking an appointment online, take a deep breath. Close your browser. Come back and reload and try again. Rinse and repeat at different times of day and night. Be relentless.
Go to the right office.
OK, so you couldn’t get an appointment and time is running out.
In 2016, the Ausländerbehörde Berlin opened a second building on Keplerstraße in Charlottenburg. Whereas you previously had to visit the office on Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24 to get everything done, there is now a clear division of services.
If you are applying for a study preparation permit, a student visa (permit), a German uni graduate job seeking permit, a language learning permit, a blue card, a visiting academic permit, an au pair permit or a Working Holiday Visa or you’re a family member of someone who is, go to Keplerstraße in Charlottenburg.
If you’re a freelancer, an employee or a job seeker with a foreign academic qualification, go to Friedrich-Krause-Ufer in Wedding.
Go to the right area.
The time at which the security guards open access to the Ausländerbehörde Berlin used to be like the Black Friday sales in the UK or the Boxing Day specials in Australia. The doors opened and people pushed, scratched, grunted and trampled. It was such a problem, security guards now let people in in small groups in Wedding. But the key is that everyone goes to a different area. Here’s (roughly) where you’ll need to go.
Ausländerbehörde Berlin-Wedding (Friedrich-Krause Ufer)
This office is sorted out into nationalities and service types. Here are the ones Red Tape Translation sees the most (updated July 2018):
- Permits for family reunification when the sponsoring family member is an EU citizen: Haus A, E5 on the 3rd floor
- American and Canadian freelancers, qualified job seekers, employees: Haus C, E2 on the 2nd floor
- Australian and New Zealand freelancers, qualified job seekers, employees: this has recently changed and it might be necessary to visit the white tent to get your waiting number. Once you have it, Haus B, E1 on the 3rd floor.
- Citizens of Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan: Haus B, E4 on 2nd floor
Ausländerbehörde Berlin-Charlottenburg (Keplerstraße)
Things are a bit more chaotic here, and there is almost no signage. But at least now, you can pay with cash (yay!).
- If you’re a student, a scientist, a language course student, an au-pair or a Working Holiday Visa applicant, you’ll be seen on either the second or the third floor. The team or worker assigned to your case will depend on your surname and permit type. Go to the second floor to get a waiting number from the machine on the wall.
- If you’re applying for a blue card or need to prolong your Schengen Visa for a very good reason (see this article to find out more about the Schengen Visa), you’ll be seen on the fourth floor. Go to the 4th floor to get your waiting number.
Please note: applying for a Blue Card without an appointment is almost impossible, but you can get advice on the process while you’re there. There is a consultancy service, and there are mixed reviews on its friendliness factor.
Thursdays are the days when public offices across the country have late opening hours. This means the office opens at 10am. This means that everyone who can’t be bothered getting there at 7am waits until a Thursday so they can sleep in, get their coffee and still manage to get there before the doors open. Thursdays are miserable, particularly bang on 10am. If you can, take one for the team and go for an early shift on a Monday or a Tuesday. Don’t go on a Wednesday or a Friday, either, by the way – Wednesdays are appointment-only and the office is closed on Fridays.
Go As Early As Humanly Possible
My heart bleeds for the students and academics who tell me they needed to get to Charlottenburg at 2:30am on a Monday to get one of the limited waiting numbers for the day at 5:30am. I can’t possibly recommend reloading and refreshing the website for an online appointment more. Even when you get to the office, continue refreshing and reloading to see if a same-day appointment comes up.
Friedrich-Krause Ufer is a bit calmer now that all the students have been sent elsewhere. Even if you come here without an appointment, you can generally assume you’ll at least be seen same-day if you get there, say, 2 hours before the doors open.
Make it a once-off trip by coming prepared.
This is where my online marketing manager tells me I am supposed to include a sales pitch.
Red Tape Translation can prepare you for your appointment very, very thoroughly. After a one-hour coaching, you’ll have all your documents ready and you’ll know exactly what hurdles to expect and how to deal with them. Then you can get on with the fun stuff like getting to know Berlin!
Find out more: