What is the foreigners' registration office?
The Foreigners’ Registration Office is the local federal immigration authority in Berlin. This is the place where foreign citizens apply for their residence permits and (in case the application is approved) get them issued.
Who needs to go to the foreigners' registration office?
In principle, the Foreigners’ Registration Office is designated for foreign citizens. Meaning: people who do not hold a European passport and need a visa/ Residence Permit in order to stay long term in Germany.
Who doesn't need to go to the foreigners' registration office?
European and German citizens. Please note, that relatives of European citizens who are not Europeans themselves would have to apply for a visa in the Foreigners' Registration Office.
So how does it work?
First of all, one needs to make an appointment for the Berlin Foreigners' Registration Office. The Foreigners' Registration Office is divided to departments, and so, you should book an appointment for a certain department according to the type of visa you are applying for. The waiting times for an appointment at the Foreigners' Registration Office vary between the different departments and tend to be long, and so it is better if you make the appointment even before arriving to Germany. All documents should be prepared before the appointment and one should attend it as organized and prepared as possible. In some cases, decisions regarding visa applications are made on the spot.
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What are my chances of obtaining a visa?
Due to the complexity of German immigration laws, each case must be reviewed individually. This means that the case workers at the Foreigners' Registration Office have a certain freedom of action, which affects their decision regarding your application. Even if you come from a "preferred" country, have a shortage profession or speak German, you cannot ensure that you will get your visa on the spot. It is highly recommended to arrive in the Foreigners' Registration Office as well prepared as you can be and comply with all the requirements. If you do not meet all the needed requirements, or if you are not sure what the most compatible visa for you is, you should consider consulting a professional in order to make the best and most informed decision on the matter.
How would I know what visa suits my interests most?
The German immigration system can be complex to understand. The new system combines residence and work permits, so that you get both in one document. However, each visa has its own conditions and requirements. As a result, visa applicants may be able to apply for several visas and the choice might change their course of life in Berlin.
Many times we came across cases in which people applied for the wrong type of visa because of lack of understanding of the immigration system in Germany, which either made their settlement in Berlin harder, or decreased their chances of settling in Berlin for the long term, and being able to apply for a second visa.
In order to avoid making the wrong choice, we highly recommend you consult a professional, in order to know your options and make the best decision for you.
How much time do I have in order to get my residence matters in order?
If you come from a preferred country or have the permission for 90 days within 180 days visa-free stay. You will need to apply for a visa within those 90 days. If you hold a national visa (which you got at the German consulate in your home country or country of previous residence), you will need to apply for a residence permit before it expires.
Could I go there by myself?
Like other governmental offices in Germany, the case workers at the Foreigners' Registration Office may refuse to communicate in English. Furthermore, due to the complexity of the German immigration laws there could be some negotiation involved in the appointment. Due to the importance if this appointment to your long term staying in Berlin, we highly recommended to be accompanied by a professional.
I was not able to book an appointment, what do I do?
If you need to urgently get your residence matters in order, you will need to go to the Foreigners' Registration Office without an appointment. For most departments the only way of doing it is to que early in the morning before the office opens. In this case, you should go to the Foreigners' Registration Office as early as possible to get a spot on the que. It is likely that the appointments for that day will run out at some point, and that people who showed up too late will go back home without being able to talk to anyone. For that reason, you should try and avoid this situation and look for online appointments using the Foreigners' Registration Office's appointment booking system.
And how much is the visa fee?
Visa fees vary. Generally, they vary between 49-130 Euros per person, depending on the type of visa you get and its format. Application fees for a family reunification with European citizens visa will usually be only 8-24 Euros. According to the German law, the payment is for the application and not for the visa itself, so you will have to pay even if your visa application got rejected.
Which visas could I apply for?
In order to answer this question, one needs to understand that expats are tied to their purposes of stay. Meaning, a foreigner cannot stay in Germany long term just because they want to, they must have a reason. The German immigration law defines three main purposes of stay: family, studies and work. We have compiled short articles on each of those purposes of stay for you.
I got a visa, but I would like to change it. Is it possible?
The answer to this question depends on the change you wish to do. If you wish to change your purpose of stay, it also might depend on your nationality. Given the possible complexity of this matter, we recommended to consult a professional about these matters.