Residence permit in Germany: guide for UK citizens

Gert Svaiko

Thinking of moving to Germany from the UK? Moving overseas is a big step, whether you are doing so for a particular job or to embrace the freedom of a digital nomad.

Before you go anywhere, you’ll need to ensure you have all the paperwork you need to legally move. This includes a visa.

Whilst your visa ensures you can stay for more than 90 days, you’ll usually need a residence permit to stay for an indefinite length of time as a foreign national.¹

This guide will cover everything you need to know about the D visa, the long-stay German Visa which acts as the residence permit in Germany.

We’ll look at how to apply, the eligibility requirements and how much it costs to apply.

Plus, we’ll touch on some tips and tricks on how to easily manage your money between your current and new homes with a financial services provider Wise. Open a Wise account online and you can send money between countries for low fees and mid-market exchange rates.

Learn more about the Wise account

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Types of residence permits in Germany

The German immigration system has a wide range of residence permits and visas. There are different ones for types of professionals and particular contexts.

The Aufenthaltsdokument-GB (Residence Document) is the main type of residency documentation for UK workers living in Germany prior to 2021. It’s also for new applicants for a visa permit to remain in Germany.

Unlike many other countries, UK residents do not need to apply for residence documentation before they travel to Germany. For 90 days they are covered under rules similar to the EU Schengen agreement

Under German Immigration Law, there are two official types of residence documents. These are:

  • The Aufenthaltsrlaubnis (limited residence permit) is linked to a specific work contract and lasts as long as the contract does, or for up to three years for freelancers initially (although it can be extended).
  • The Niederlassungserlaubnis (settlement permit) is a permanent residence document typically received after five years of secure work and livelihood.

Alongside these two, there is also a limited residence permit for jobseekers. This lasts for six months or until the person in question finds a job and applies for a standard residence permit.

What are the requirements for a residence permit in Germany?

The requirements for each residence permit vary by type. For the jobseekers’ residence permit, you need:³

  • Proof of academic qualifications or vocational training, to prove you can find appropriate work for your skills.
  • Qualifications that are recognised⁴ in Germany or can be compared to those from a German institution.
  • Proof of at least B1 level German language skills.
  • Proof that you can cover living costs before you find work.

The standard residence permit with the right to work (as opposed to the right to reside for education, humanitarian/political or family reasons) has similar requirements:⁵

  • A firm job offer or valid contract of employment in Germany.
  • Recognised qualifications, including a professional practice permit for employment in regulated professions such as healthcare, finance and the law.
  • If you are over the age of 45, you need an annual pre-tax salary of at least €48,180, or proof that you have enough saved for retirement.

For freelancers, entrepreneurs and the self-employed, the requirements are slightly different:⁶

  • Any professional licences and qualifications needed to carry out the job in question.
  • Proof that you can support yourself and your business financially.
  • If you are over 45, you need to prove you have enough saved for retirement.

Finally, for a settlement permit, which provides the permanent right for a foreign national to live and work in Germany, they require:⁷

  • To have held a standard residence permit for at least five years.
  • To have a secure livelihood, either via long-term employment in a particular field or sustained self-employed success.
  • To have permission to work, although this is almost always assured if you have held a residence permit for that long.
  • To have enough living space for your entire household, including other family members.

There is a clear progression path when it comes to residence permits in Germany, from initial jobseekers’ documents through to permanent settlement.

What is the difference between a visa and a residence permit in Germany?

For many people going through the German residency process, the D visa and the residence permit are two stages in largely the same process. However, they are not the same.

The D-visa is a visa that allows citizens of countries outside of the EU (as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) to work for the lifespan of the visa. This depends on the purpose of entry.

For British citizens and citizens with UK residency documents, you do not necessarily need a D visa to get a residency permit.

However, you cannot work in Germany until you do. You will also have to organise long-term residency documents within 90 days of arrival and register at your local registration office within 14 days of arriving.⁸

Can I travel to Germany with a UK residence permit?

Yes you can, as long as your UK residence permit is valid for at least a month beyond the date you plan to leave the Schengen area or Germany itself.

The rules are the same as for a UK citizen, so you need to apply for a D visa if you plan to work in Germany during that time. You’ll be allowed to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

How much does it cost to get a German residence permit?

The costs of a residence permit in Germany can vary depending on the local area the permit is applied within. Another factor is the nature of the permit itself (education, self-employed, work etc.).

Typically, it costs up to €110 for the first application, with extensions costing up to €100. This will again depend on the nature of the permit and how long it is set to last for.⁹

Bear in mind as well that this fee is not a deposit. If your application fails for whatever reason, you will not get that money back.

The German government recommends that you should open a bank account in the country as soon as you can. You could go with the large, high street banks in Germany, but, a much easier and more affordable way to send money across to cover those initial costs could be with a Wise account.

With no hidden costs and low, transparent fees, Wise is an ideal way to manage your money as you navigate the residency system and take care of your finances across international waters.


Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

How can you apply for a German residence permit as a UK citizen?

Applying for a German residence permit has changed for UK citizens since 2021 as the EU withdrawal agreement has taken effect.

The UK is now considered a third-party country. However, you can apply for residence permits in Germany itself without securing a visa beforehand.

If you are going to do this, make sure to get in touch with the local immigration office as soon as possible when you arrive in Germany. This is because you need to register your new residence within 14 days, and have a residency permit within 90 days.

Here is the step-by-step guide to applying:

  1. Head to your local citizens’ office (Bürgeramt) for a registration appointment (Anmeldung). It can be a long wait if you drop in so book in advance if you can.
  2. Take out a German health insurance policy, as foreign insurance policies are not typically accepted.
  3. Fill out the residence permit application for your local foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde). Try to book an appointment as soon as possible, especially if you are running against the 90-day limit.
  4. Collate your supporting documentation:¹⁰
    • A valid passport.
    • A current biometric photo.
    • The completed temporary residence permit application form.
    • Certificate of registration (from the Bürgeramt).
    • Proof of health insurance.
    • Proof of secure livelihood, such as bank statements.
    • Proof of accommodation.
    • Proof of purpose. This is typically an employment contract or certificate of enrolment at university, but it can also be proof of a pension plan depending on your particular circumstances.
    • Any additional supporting documentation, such as relevant licences to practise your profession, proof of pension provision, proof of earnings for freelancers etc.
  5. Head to the appointment. You will be asked questions related to your reason for residing in Germany and they will also check that your documents are in order.
  6. Pay the application fee. Keep in mind that some foreigners’ offices only accept cash.
  7. If accepted, you will need to go to the foreigners’ office to pick it up in person. Some jurisdictions also send a pin code which is needed to collect it.

How long does it take to get a residence permit in Germany?

It typically takes between two weeks and several months from paying the fee to receiving a decision and being able to pick it up.¹¹

It can take much longer than this if the office is dealing with a lot of other applications. But you will be covered by a certificate that says you are applying for a permit.

How long does a German residence permit last?

The length of a permit depends on the reason it was applied for. However, the typical length is a year, with room to be extended.

How to get German residence permits for your spouse, children, and family?

The German immigration system is complex. But it does have some provisions for allowing family members of someone residing in Germany to join them, although the rules vary depending on the circumstances of the person currently in Germany.¹²

Children under the age of 16 can come to Germany as a matter of principle. Over 16s are also permitted if they come within three months or can speak German to a reasonable level.

Spouses can join you in Germany as long as there is enough room for them, they can or are willing to learn German and the person living in Germany already can support them.

Germany is a wonderful country to move to, whether for work, business or personal reasons. And the process for moving to Germany is not as complex nor as daunting as it can often appear.

Hopefully after reading this guide, you’ll have a better idea of what’s involved and be able to get started.

Sources used:

  1. Federal Foreign Office - Visa Information
  2. Federal Foreign Office - Travel after Brexit/ Information for UK nationals and their families
  3. Make it in Germany - Visa for jobseekers
  4. Make it in Germany- Recognition
  5. Make it in Germany - Work visa for qualified professionals
  6. Make it in Germany - Visa for self-employment
  7. Make it in Germany - Settlement permit
  8. GOV.UK - Living in Germany
  9. Study in Germany - Municipal registration and residence permit
  10. - Residence permit for qualified skilled workers with an academic education
  11. Federal Foreign Office - Frequently Asked Questions
  12. BAMF - Subsequent immigration to join foreign family members

Sources last checked on date: 13-May-2023

*Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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