I thought it was going to be a nightmare to get my residence visa after joining my husband in Germany. I actually found quite the opposite. If you follow the right steps and provide the correct documents – it can actually be quite easy. This is just my experience and by sharing it, I hope I can help answer some questions that others may have.
Before beginning – this is definitely not legal advice nor should it be construed as such.
Facts: I am Canadian – my husband is German. We were living in Vancouver, Canada and wanted to move to Germany.
The first question was where to get married. British Columbia or Germany? When I looked into the requirements to get married in Germany, there was a lot of paperwork – it can sometimes take a few months of prep work to get the paperwork in order. There is also a requirement for a birth certificate, which is something I don’t have. I was born in Afghanistan and no birth certificate was issues (to date, babies born in Afghanistan rarely are issued a birth certificate). On the other hand, British Columbia’s marriage process is very easy – first, we went to get a marriage license which cost $100 and required some sort of ID (passport or driver’s license). Then we called a marriage commissioner and arranged for the ceremony. You don’t need any additional paperwork. After the ceremony, the marriage commissioner mailed away the signed documents to Vital Statistics who then issued us the marriage certificate by mail. It usually takes about 2 weeks. The German authorities require a few additional steps after receiving the marriage certificate. They need it to be “authenticated”. To do this, we sent the original marriage certificate to the Ministry of Justice – to the attention of the Authentication Clerk (this will vary in each province – just google “authentication” and your province) with a cheque for $30. Although there is little actual processing time, the mailing time can take a few days. We received the “authenticated” marriage certificate and then continued to the next step. We took this to the German consular in our city (hope there is one – otherwise you have to send it to the closest one) to get it “legalized”. Don’t ask me what the difference is – I still don’t know. This took about 10 mins, while I waited and for a cost of $25 or so. That was it for the marriage document requirements.
Before flying over, I would suggest getting some health insurance. I’m still not sure if it is a technical requirement or not, but I bought some for 6 months or so just to be safe. You never know what the immigration officers will want.
Once I arrived in Germany, we went to the local city hall in Stuttgart with the form, our passports and proof of accommodation (we used my husband’s parents’ address) and registered to receive the Anmeldung. This is just actually a paper that says you are registered in they system at a German address – it’s not a visa or any entitlement – just a registration of location. Everyone in Germany has to do this – whether you are a foreigner or not. After we received this, we were able to call the Ausländerbehörde or the Foreigners’ Office to make an appointment for obtaining the residence permit.
When we went in for the appointment, I thought it was going to be an interview or something much more formal than it actually was. We had the required forms filled out, copies of our passports, our authenticated and legalized marriage certificate, our Anmeldung, a passport photo, bank statements (some evidence of financial support) – I also brought proof of my health insurance but the officer didn’t ask for it. It ended up just a short meeting at a counter where the officer took our documents to enter into the system.
I was surprised at how nice and polite the woman at the office was. I am used to dealing with American or Canadian immigration officers who, for the most part, are all like robots and are intimidating. This woman was pleasant, friendly and helpful. She asked the right questions but was not intimidating or interrogating.
About 20 minutes later, I had my application approved – three years residence permit with the right to work right away. I also received the entitlement to learn German through German integration courses – this isn’t a requirement as I am a Canadian citizen but if you are interested in learning German, it provides the courses at a discounted rate (1 Euro per hour of instruction).