Business immigration in Germany: overview

A Q&A guide to business immigration in Germany.

This Q&A gives an overview of the key factors affecting business immigration, including information on the jurisdiction's sources of immigration law; relevant government entities; requirements for unsponsored and sponsored immigration; requirements for sponsors; civil and criminal penalties for sponsors; common issues and concerns; dependants; settlement and citizenship; recent trends and proposals for reform.

To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions, visit the Business Immigration Country Q&A tool.

The Q&A is part of the global guide to business immigration. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit

Gunther Mävers, michels.pmks Rechtsanwälte Partnerschaft mbB

Relevant governmental entities

1. What are the relevant government entities (agencies, departments, branches, bodies, and so on) relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?


The main immigration authorities concerned with applications for visas are the:

  • German embassies or consulates abroad.

  • Local foreign individual's offices (Ausländerbehörde).

  • Local labour offices ( Agenturen für Arbeit).

  • Centre for the Recruitment of Foreign and Expert Staff (Zentralstelle Auslands- und Fachvermittlung - ZAV) in Germany.

Except for nationals of privileged states, a residence permit must be obtained by means of a visa prior to entering Germany. The German embassies or consulates abroad are solely responsible for the visa applicants. Before granting a visa, the embassies and consulates must seek consent from the local foreign individuals' offices, except in the case of residence permits for the purpose of (dependant) employment, where the file will be directly transferred to the local labour authorities via the Federal Administration Office (Bundesverwaltungsamt).


Depending on the matter in question there are different authorities in charge of enforcement of the German immigration laws, such as the foreigner's office, the public prosecutor or the customs authorities.


See Question 2.


Not applicable.


Sources and conflicts of law

Sources of law

2. What are the principal sources of law relating to immigration in your jurisdiction?

Domestic statutes, rules and regulations

The key sources of law relating to immigration in Germany are:

  • The German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz), which regulates the granting of residence titles to foreign individuals.

  • The German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz).

In addition, other sources of immigration law are:

  • The Employment Regulation (Beschäftigungsverordnung), which sets out the conditions for the grant of residence permits for the purpose of employment and deals with procedural questions.

  • Guidance issued by the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs ( Bundesministerium des Inneren) and the Federal Labour Office ( Bundesagentur für Arbeit) on how to apply these laws and regulations.

To a certain extent, the EU also has authority to create immigration law applicable in all member states. However, member states retain rights to create other types of legislation, for example, the can set restrictions for the grant of work permits. Any EU national can enter any member state and stay there at will (Article 21, Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). In addition, citizens of any EU member state can benefit from the free movement of workers and do not need to apply for a permit prior to engaging in employment (Article 45, TFEU).

Case law

In addition to the laws and regulations, the case law decided by the administrative courts with jurisdiction over immigration matters should be considered. For example, the ''Vander Elst – Visa'' is based on the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision regarding Article 49 of the EU Treaty (now Article 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) – freedom to provide services).

Section 15 of the Employment Regulation relates to service delivery and states that no approval is required for the grant of a residence permit to employees who are orderly employed in the residence country and are relocated to Germany from the residence country of a company that is domiciled in either:

  • A member state of the EU.

  • A contracting state of the treaty on the European Economic Area.

This provision reflects the ECJ's decision and stipulates that the temporary relocation of employees who are non-EU nationals that are employed in a home country (through an employment contract or work permit) for the purpose of cross-border services is generally protected.

The amendment to this provision, which became effective on 11 July 2007, was required as a consequence of the judgement given by the ECJ (Commission vs. Germany, legal matter C-244/04, 19 January 2006.) The agencies abroad check whether the preconditions stipulated in the case-law guidelines of the ECJ are fulfilled for each specific visa application. Unlike in the previous regulation (which was not compliant with the EU laws and regulations confirmed by the ECJ), there is no requirement for the employee to have been employed previous for a certain period in the country where he worked before the assignment. However, the visa scheme is only applicable if all the following applies:

  • There is an employment between the non-EU national and the service provider (being domiciled in another EU country).

  • The service provider in that EU country (and not the parent company abroad) has a contract with the client in Germany.

  • The assignment will be for a temporary period of time.

International law and international treaties

Germany is party to either bilateral or multilateral treaties or agreements, such as EU law and bilateral treaties with other countries (such as the US).

Other sources

Not applicable.

Conflicts of law

3. What potential conflicts (if any) arise between the various sources of law?

All acts and regulations on German corporate immigration law are federal law and apply throughout Germany. Therefore, there is no conflict of law on a national level. However, there may be conflicts regarding the interpretation of EU regulations or directives that apply directly in all member states and the interpretation of national law.


Business immigration

Unsponsored business-related immigration

4. What are the primary options available for unsponsored work and investment in your jurisdiction?


Given the lack of any investor visa category, investors and freelancers from third-countries must comply with the immigration laws related to self-employment. Any third-country national must file an application for a residence permit to take up an economic activity (including employment and self-employment) in Germany, which are only granted if all of the following applies (section 21, Residence Act):

  • There is an economic interest or a local requirement.

  • The activity is expected to have a positive effect on the economy.

  • There is personal capital on the part of the foreign individual or a loan undertaking is available to realise the business idea.

Before 1 August 2012, the first two preconditions were satisfied if the applicant's economic activity led to the investment of at least EU250,000 and created five jobs. However, these thresholds were removed on that date to encourage more entrepreneurs to invest in Germany. In addition, the thresholds for an economic interest (from a higher economic interest to an economic interest) and a local requirement (from a particular local requirement to a local requirement) were lowered.

In assessing each applicant's case the foreign individual's office looks at the following criteria:

  • How viable the business idea is.

  • The entrepreneurial experience of the applicant.

  • The amount of the capital investment.

The foreign individual's office ordinarily also asks for an experts' statement from a competent authority (such as, the local Chamber of Industry and Commerce). Foreign individuals over 45 years of age should only be issued with a residence permit if they possess adequate provision for their old age.

A residence permit for self-employment can also be granted if any of the following applies:

  • Special privileges apply in accordance with reciprocity agreements under international law (section 21, paragraph 2, Residence Act).

  • If a foreign individual has a degree from a German university or a comparable German educational institution (section 21, paragraph 2a, Residence Act).

  • If a foreign individual holds a residence permit for research or scientific purposes (sections 18 and 20, Residence Act) and the envisaged activity is connected to his educational background.

In principle, the period of validity of the residence permit is limited to a maximum of three years (section 21, paragraph 4, Residence Act). However, after three years, a settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) may be issued if the following applies:

  • The foreign individual has successfully performed the planned activity.

  • The foreign individual is in a position to support himself and his dependents.


See above, Self-employment.


There is no investment category in Germany as the investment of money alone does not qualify an applicant for the grant of a residence permit, settlement permit or citizenship. Therefore , any investor must meet the above-mentioned conditions for the grant of the self-employed visa category like any other self-employment person or entrepreneur in Germany.

See above, Self-employment for the criteria that investors must meet.

Sponsored business-related immigration

5. What are the options available for sponsor-based employment in your jurisdiction?

Types of sponsor-based employment visas

If third-country nationals (for example, EU/EEA citizens or citizens of equal status) are granted a residence permit for the purpose of employment, the prior written consent of the Federal Employment Office (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) is required, which is obtained internally by the foreign individuals office. However, the legislator has abandoned this requirement in certain cases and in these cases, consent is not required.

There are several possibilities to apply for a residence permit for the purpose of employment (work permit) including the:

  • Highly-skilled visa category.

  • EU Blue Card visa category.

  • Academic person visa category.

  • Director and executive visa category.

  • Executive staff and specialists visa category.

  • Intra-company transfer category.

  • Short-or long-term assignments visa category.

  • Service delivery visa category.

Each of the above options has different conditions.

The following options for sponsor-based employment are available in Germany:

  • Highly-skilled people, such as scientists with special theoretical knowledge, highly-qualified teachers or professors or highly-qualified scientific assistants (section 2 paragraph 1, number 1 Employment Regulation; section 19 German Residence Act).

  • EU Blue Card is available for applicants who earn a salary of at least two-thirds of the social security contribution ceiling for the statutory pension scheme (EUR49,600 since 1 January 2016) or 52% of the ceiling for certain job categories, such as natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors, or IT consultants (EUR38,6881 since 1 January 2016) and hold one of the following (section 2, paragraph 1, number 2, Employment Regulation):

    • a German university degree;

    • a foreign university degree that is recognised or comparable to a German university degree; or

    • a comparable qualification that is proven by professional experience of at least five years.

    • Academics and applicants with a degree from a higher educational institution aiming to take up employment that suits the professional qualification or for specialists with a recognised foreign graduate degree or a foreign graduate degree that is comparable to a German one (section 2, paragraph 3, Employment Regulation);

  • Director and executives, for example executive staff with general power of attorney or power of procuration, members of an institution of a legal entity who are authorised to legally represent it and so on (section 3, Employment Regulation).

  • Executive staff and other persons employed by a company based in Germany and who have particular and specific corporate knowledge for that company or executives of a German-foreign joint venture that was founded on the basis of international agreements, without the need for checking prioritisation of the local labour market (section 4, Employment Regulation).

  • Recognised occupations requiring formal training for applicants that have no degree from a higher educational institution, but have either (section 5, Employment Regulation):

    • at least two years of qualified professional experience in Germany; or

    • similar experience abroad that has been recognised in Germany.

  • International labour exchange for qualified specialists with a university or college degree or comparable qualification within the framework of labour exchange in an international company or company group for a period of up to three years without the need for checking prioritisation (section 10, Employment Regulation).

  • Short-term deployments, for example the deployment of IT specialists for the implementation of sold software for up to ninety days during an overall period of 12 months (section 19, paragraph 1, Employment Regulation).

  • Long-term deployments, for example, deployment of staff for a period of up to three years to set up an industrial plant (section 19, paragraph 2, Employment Regulation).

  • Service delivery, deployment of an employee who is employed in an EU or EEA member state to temporarily render services in another member state (section 21, Employment Regulation).

  • Employment of nationals of certain countries (such as, Andorra, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino and the US) will be granted a resident permit for any employment (section 26, Employment Regulation).

Most of the above categories require a local employment contract subject to German laws; however some do not (for example, an assignment where the employee stays on the home country contract and payroll). In addition, some foreign individual's offices will only grants visas for some of the above categories where the company has a presence in Germany and provides the individual with a local employment contract (local employment visa categories).

General requirements

The general requirement mentioned below must be met.

In particular, the approval of foreign labour depends on the requirements of the German economic location (section 18, paragraph, Residence Act) (for example, the situation of the labour market and the need to efficiently fight unemployment). International contracts remain unaffected by this requirement. Therefore, a foreign individual can be granted a residence permit for the purpose of employment, if one of the following applies:

  • The Federal Employment Office has approved it.

  • It is permitted under a legal regulation.

  • An international agreement provides that the practising of employment without the approval of the Federal Employment Office is acceptable.

In addition, another general condition is the presentation of a definite offer for work (section 18, paragraph 5, Residence Act).

In general a residence permit for the purpose of taking up employment is only granted if all of the following apply:

  • The consent of the Federal Employment Office is given or such consent is not required due to regulations or bilateral agreements.

  • If a job market test is required, the examination of the labour market indicates that this job cannot be filled from the German or EU/EEA labour market.

  • A concrete job offer with the usual working conditions is presented.

Consent (if required) can be given for the duration of the employment up to a period of three years (section 35, paragraph 2, Employment Regulation). However, it is common practice to grant this consent initially for a period of one year only, regardless of the intended duration of the employment relationship. However, it is possible to file an extension (see below, Extensions for each route).

The approval to engage in employment may be limited with regard to the:

  • Job-related occupation.

  • Employer.

  • District of the labour office.

  • Situation and the allocation of the working hours.

The whole process (including the job market test, if required) usually lasts eight to 12 weeks, after all documents have been submitted. However, this is an estimate only and the process can vary in length (longer or though rare, shorter) depending on the circumstances of the case and the persons in charge at the authorities involved.

If the labour authorities do not get back to the query within two weeks by requesting additional information or by complaining that the employer has not sufficiently or not timely given the information requested by the authorities, then consent shall be deemed to be given (section 36, Employment Regulation). In addition, the labour authorities shall check up-front if the conditions for the consent are given, if the employer has provided the information requested and if the proceedings can be expedited.

Lengths of leave

A residence title expires if the foreign individual leaves the federal territory and fails to re-enter the federal territory within six months or within a longer period set by the foreign individual's office.

Extensions for each route

It is possible to apply for an extension under each visa category. Every applicant will be given a fictional permit (Fiktionsbescheinigung) that allows its holder to stay on until the decision with regard to the extension is made.

Requirements for sponsors

6. What are the requirements for becoming a sponsor of employment-based migrants and what are the role and reporting duties of sponsors?

Requirements to become a sponsor

There are no requirements in Germany for companies who wish to sponsor applications. For example, it is not necessary for the company to be listed, employ a certain number of employees and so on.

Role of sponsors

Although any application for a residence title must filed on behalf of the individual applicant, the company sponsoring the application can separately file a pre-approval application with the labour authorities in case their consent is required.

Reporting duties of sponsors

The sponsoring company must:

  • Provide all of the information as requested by the authorities in a due and diligent manner using the specific job description form that must be signed and stamped.

  • Inform the authorities of any change of the facts that may have an impact on the decision of the authorities (such as the change of employer, change of job title, change of job location, decrease of salary, termination of employment and so on).

Civil and criminal penalties for sponsors

7. What are the types of civil and criminal penalties that sponsors may face for non-compliance with the rules?

Civil penalties

The employer may be subject to civil sanctions. An employer must pay the agreed remuneration to a foreign individual whom he has employed and who lacks a residence title for the purpose of gainful employment required under section 4, paragraph 3 of the German Residence Act (section 98a, German Residence Act). For the purpose of remuneration, it is assumed that the foreign individual has been employed by the employer for three months and that the agreed remuneration is considered to be the usual remuneration (unless the employer agreed a lower or higher remuneration with the foreign individual on a permissible basis). The foreign individual may institute legal proceedings for fulfilment of payment obligations before a German court for labour matters.Criminal penalties

Sanctions against commencement of work without a residence permit for the purpose of employment have been tightened over the last few years. If an employer does not comply with the rules, it can face a fine of up to the following amounts (section 404, Social Security Code III):

  • EUR500.000, to employers that let other companies assign a significant amount of staff to let them work on their premises whilst knowing or whilst they could have known that these companies do employ foreign individuals without having a legal residence permit for the purpose of employment (section 404, paragraph 1, number 1 and paragraph 3, Social Security Code III).

  • EUR30,000, to employers that employ foreign individuals that do not have a legal residence permit for the purpose of employment (section 404, paragraph 2, number 3 and paragraph 3, Social Security Code III).

  • EUR5,000, to foreign individuals engaging into employment without having a legal residence permit for the purpose of employment (section 404, paragraph 2, number 3 and paragraph 3, Social Security Code III).

In addition, under certain conditions, the authorities can:

  • Deny the grant or the extension of a residence permit if they are made aware that the company has not complied with the requisite conditions (section 18, paragraph 6, Employment Regulations).

  • Exclude the company from subsidies (section 98b, Residence Act).

  • Exclude the company from the award of public contracts (section 98b, Residence Act)

In individual cases the person concerned can also be expelled from the country and a ban on re-entry can be imposed.

Common issues or concerns for business immigration

8. What common issues or concerns may arise under business immigration in your jurisdiction?

In Germany (as in many other European countries) there is an ongoing discussion as to whether or not there is a shortage of skilled labour. To resolve this issue, there has been a gradual lowering of thresholds for applications from skilled migrants over the last couple of years (such as, a lowering of salary thresholds and exclusion from the need for a job market test). In addition, the conditions for the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment have recently been amended to allow applicants with no academic background but profound professional experience. In addition, the government is constantly trying to set incentives for both companies and individuals to invest in Germany.

However, there are still too many obstacles from both a legal and an administrative perspective. In particular, many of the visa categories (see Question 5, Types of sponsor-based employment visas) are only available for companies with a branch or subsidiary in Germany or for applicants with a localised employment contract, making it a lot more difficult for new companies to invest in Germany and employ third-country nationals. In addition, other obstacles include:

  • The processing time for applications (usually between eight and 12 weeks).

  • The unpredictable nature of authorities in their consideration of the conditions.

From a practitioner's standpoint, the system could benefit from a more uniform interpretation of the laws and regulations with a focus on results, instead of the strict interpretation currently adopted by most authorities. In addition, there is a lack of communication throughout the whole process and applicants (and their lawyers) are sometimes unable to obtain a response from the authorities regarding the progress of a pending matter.



9. What persons qualify as dependants (for example, family members)? What are the general requirements and restrictions for bringing dependants into your jurisdiction for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?

Persons qualifying as dependants

Dependants under the German Residence Act are the spouses and children (regardless of whether the parents are married spouses or living in a same-sex registered civil union partnership). Although the partners of an extra-marital cohabitation and their children do not qualify as dependants they are considered a de facto family as a matter of case law.

General requirements and restrictions

Traditionally, the right to spousal employment was linked to the right of employment of the applicant. Therefore, a spouse is able to engage in employment to the same extent of the applicant or permit holder so for example, if the permit holder requires the consent of the labour authorities or is restricted to working in a certain region, the same will be applied to the spouse. However, where marital cohabitation had lawfully existed in Germany for at least two years and the applicant's residence permit has not been subject to a subsidiary provision or extension of his or her residence is not excluded by law or ordinance, the spouse can also engage in employment.

Over the last few years, the following exceptions to the above principle have been introduced to make it more attractive for researchers and highly-skilled migrants to migrate to Germany:

  • The spouses of holders of a highly-skilled permit for researchers and scientists can engage in employment without any limitation whatsoever (since 1 January 2009).

  • The right to spousal employment has been extended to spouses of residence permit holders for highly-skilled migrants or EU Blue Card holders (since 1 August 2013).

  • The right to spousal employment is fully granted to all family members of a permit holder without any limitation whatsoever (section 27, German Residence Act) (since 6 September 2013).

This allows all family members to secure their own livelihood in Germany and provides another incentive to foreign individuals and their spouses to migrate to Germany. However, the grant of the unlimited right to the spouse might result in the spouse - traditionally referred to as the dependant in that context also - having more rights than the holder of the main permit in a case where the latter has been granted the permit under a visa categories that comes with limitations as to the employer, activity or region in Germany.


Settlement and citizenship

10. What is the general time frame and processes for obtaining permanent residence and citizenship in your jurisdiction for sponsored and unsponsored business-related immigration?

General process and time frame for obtaining permanent residence

The settlement permit is a permanent residence permit that must be granted to foreign individuals to enable them to stay in Germany and to keep their centre of life in Germany both for commercial and family related reasons.

The settlement permit allows the holder to take up employment (without the need for the foreign individual's office to receive from the labour office prior to the grant) and may only be supplemented with a subsidiary clause in those cases that are expressly permitted by law. A foreign individual must be granted the settlement permit if he meets the following conditions (section 9, German Residence Act):

  • He has held a residence permit for five years.

  • His livelihood is secure.

  • He has paid compulsory or voluntary contributions into the statutory pension scheme for at least 60 months or furnishes evidence of an entitlement to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension scheme or from an insurance company (time off for the purposes of child care or nursing at home must be taken into account).

  • The granting of the settlement permit is not precluded by reason of public safety or order, giving full consideration to the severity or the nature of the breach of public safety or order or the danger emanating from the foreign individual, with due regard to the duration of the foreign individual's stay to date and the existence of ties in the federal territory.

  • He is permitted to be in employment, insofar as he is in employment.

  • He possesses other permits that are required for the purpose of the permanent pursuit of his or her economic activity.

  • He has an adequate knowledge of the German language.

  • He possesses a basic knowledge of the legal and social system and the way of life in the federal territory.

  • He possesses sufficient living space for himself and the members of his family forming part of his household.

The grant of a settlement permit is permitted by law in the following cases:

  • For highly qualified foreign individuals, where there are justifiable grounds to assume that their integration into the way of life in Germany and their subsistence without state assistance are assured. In particular, researchers with special technical knowledge, teaching personnel in prominent positions or scientific personnel in prominent positions (section 19, German Residence Act).

  • Holders of a EU Blue Card if they have held a position of employment with a EU Blue Card for at least 33 months and have made mandatory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme for that period. This period can be reduced to 21 months if the foreign individual has a sufficient command of the German language (section 19a, paragraph 6, German Residence Act).

  • Certain foreign family members of a German national if all of the following applies (section 28, paragraph 2, German Residence Act):

    • They have been in possession of a residence permit for at least three years.

    • The family unit continues to exist in the federal territory.

    • There are no grounds for expulsion.

    • The family members have a sufficient command of the German language.

In addition, a settlement permit shall also be granted to a foreign individual with a German university degree or a German degree from a comparable institution if the applicant satisfies the following conditions (section 18b, Residence Act):

  • He is in possession of a residence permit for the purpose of employment.

  • He is adequately employed given his academic background.

  • He has contributed to the German pension scheme for at least 24 months.

  • The general conditions for the grant of a settlement permit are met.

If an employee meets the conditions for the grant of a settlement permit, he can remain in the country indefinitely and apply for permanent status. The settlement permit can be granted by the foreign individual's office without requiring consent from the labour office and without requiring actions of the employer. Although this is advantageous for the permit holder, it may be disadvantageous for the employer as it allows the permit holder to move easily into a new job.

The application for a settlement permit must be lodged with the foreign individual's office with jurisdictions over the applicant's place or residence and the following fees apply (section 44, Ordinance Governing Residence (Aufenthaltsverordnung)):

  • EUR250, For the grant of a settlement permit to highly-skilled persons (section 19, paragraph 1, German Residence Act).

  • EUR200, for the grant of a settlement permit to self-employed persons (section 21,paragraph 4, German Residence Act).

  • EUR135 for the grant of a settlement permit in all other cases.

General process and time frame for obtaining citizenship

The process and time frame for obtaining citizenship is dependent on whether applications are filed on behalf of an individual already residing in Germany and applications that are filed from abroad.

In principle, a foreign individual who is a legally ordinarily resident in Germany may be naturalised on application (discretionary naturalisation) provided that he satisfies all of the following (section 8, German Citizenship Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz)):

  • Possesses legal capacity or has a legal representative.

  • Has not been sentenced for an unlawful act and is not subject to any court order imposing a measure of reform and prevention.

  • Has found a dwelling for his or her own or accommodation.

  • Is able to support himself and his dependents.

However, the requirements stipulated in the second and fourth points above may waived on grounds of public interest or in order to avoid special hardship.

A foreign individual who has been legally ordinarily resident in Germany for eight years and either possesses legal capacity under section 80 of the Residence Act or has a legal representative shall be naturalised if he (section 10, German Citizenship Act):

  • Confirms his commitment to the free democratic constitutional system enshrined in the basic law of the Federal Republic of Germany and declares that he does not pursue or support, has never pursued or supported or credibly asserts that he has distanced himself from the former pursuit of any of the following activities:

    • activities aimed at subverting the free democratic constitutional system, the existence or security of the federation or land;

    • activities aimed at illegally impeding the constitutional bodies of the federation or land or the members of the bodies in discharging their duties; or

    • any activities which jeopardise foreign interests of the Federal Republic of Germany through the use of violence or preparatory actions for the use of violence.

  • Has been granted a permanent right of residence, possesses residence permit as a national or family member of a national of Switzerland (under Agreement of 21 June 1999 on the free movement of persons between the European Community and its member states and the Swiss Confederation) or possesses a residence permit for purposes other than those specified in sections 16, 17, 20, 22, 23(1), 23a, 24 and 25.3 to 25.5 of the Residence Act.

  • Can ensure his own subsistence and the subsistence of his dependents without either:

    • recourse to benefits under book two or book 12 of the Social Code; or

    • recourse to the benefits due to conditions beyond his control.

  • Gives up or loses his previous citizenship.

  • Has not been sentenced for an unlawful act and is not subject to any court order imposing a measure of reform and prevention.

  • Possesses an adequate knowledge of German which can be fulfilled if the applicant passes the oral and written language examinations (Zertifikat Deutsch) that are equivalent of level B 1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

  • Possesses knowledge of the legal system, the society and living conditions in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Although most of the conditions are not usually any issue, applicants are usually unwilling to give up or lose their previous citizenship(s). The authorities can permit the applicant to keep his citizenship if he giving it up would lead to substantial disadvantages beyond the loss of his civil rights, in particular those of an economic or property-related nature. However, it is difficult to meet this standard.

If an applicant can evidence successful attendance on an integration course by presenting a certificate issued by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the qualifying period (that is, a foreign individual must be a legally ordinarily resident in Germany for eight years) is reduced to seven years. In addition, the qualifying period may be reduced to six years if the foreign individual has made outstanding efforts at integration (in particular if he can demonstrate his or her command of the German language).

Naturalisation is not permitted if either of the following applies (section 11, German Citizenship Act):

  • There are concrete, justifiable grounds to assume that the applicant is pursuing or supporting or has pursued or supported activities aimed at subverting the free democratic constitutional system.

  • If facts justifiably lead to the conclusion that he:

    • Belongs to, supports or has belonged to or supported an organisation that supports terrorism or supports

    • endangers the free democratic basic order or the security of the Federal Republic of Germany; or

    • participates in acts of violence or publicly incites to violence in pursuit of political objectives or threatens the use of violence.

Applicants living abroad can be granted German citizenship at the discretion of the authorities if either:

  • A former German and his or her minor children who are ordinarily resident abroad may be naturalized on application if they meet the requirements of the first and second points of section 8 of the German Citizenship Act (section 13, German Citizenship Act).

  • If the applicant has ties to Germany to justify naturalisation (in particular if there is a public interest in granting German citizenship). This is subject to the conditions in sections 8 and 9 of the German Citizenship Act.


Present climate and future legislation

Present climate and trends

11. What are the recent trends, both political and social, that have impacted your jurisdiction with regard to immigration policy and law?

There have been no recent trends or changes in immigration policy or law in Germany.

Future legislation

12. Are there any anticipated changes in the immigration laws of your jurisdiction?

Domestic legislation

There are currently no anticipated changes to domestic legislation on immigration.

International issues

The EU adopted Directive 2014/6hu6/EU on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer (Intra-corporate Transferees Directive). The Intra-corporate Transferees Directive sets out the terms and conditions that apply to non-EU citizens and their families when they are transferred by their company to work in one or more of its centres inside the EU for more than 90 days. However, the Directive does not apply to the self-employed, students or people assigned by employment agencies. The key points of the Directive are as follows:

  • The directive provides a mechanism by which the transferee can carry out his assignment in multiple EU countries without interruption and without the need to re-apply for admission each time he moves country.

  • Family members can join the transferee and work on either a self-employed or employed basis.

  • Transferees must:

    • have worked for a certain time with their company before being transferred.;

    • have a work contract and provide evidence that they will be able to transfer back out of the EU once their EU assignment ends;

    • provide evidence of a university degree and may have to present a training agreement.

  • Payment to a transferee should not be lower than that given to an EU national doing a comparable job.

  • The maximum duration for a transfer should not be more than three years for managers and specialists and one year for trainees.

  • National authorities can insist that the person being transferred has sufficient finances for themselves and their family so as not to have to rely on the local social assistance system.

  • Anyone considered a threat to public policy, public security or public health can be refused entry to the EU.

  • An application can be refused if the employer or the host company has failed to respect its various legal and fiscal obligations or is being wound up.

The Intra-corporate Transferees Directive must be implemented by each member state by 29November 2016.


Online resources

Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt)


Description. The Federal Foreign Office represents Germany's interests in the world and is serves citizens throughout the world by providing detailed information on entry, residency, visa regulations, working in Germany and also some basic information about Germany.

Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt)


Description. Since 1960, the Fed-er-al Of-fice of Ad-min-is-tra-tion has evolved from an au-thor-i-ty main-ly han-dling ad-min-is-tra-tive tasks in-to a re-li-able ser-vices agen-cy for the Fed-er-al Min-istry of the In-te-ri-or and the en-tire fed-er-al ad-min-is-tra-tion, providing detailed information on citizenship law.

Make it in Germany


Description. This portal is part of the qualified professionals initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie), the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales) and the (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) and provides detailed information on living and working in Germany.

Contributor profiles

Dr. Gunther Mävers, Partner

michels.pmks Rechtsanwälte Partnerschaft mbB

T +49-221-50003-606
F +49-221-50003-636

Professional qualifications. Germany, Lawyer; German law degree and licence; French law degree, Maître en droit (Aix-en-Provence); Registered employment law specialist

Areas of practice. International employment and corporate immigration law.

Languages. German, English, French

Professional associations/memberships.

  • German Bar Association (DAV).

  • Cologne Bar Association (KAV).

  • Working group on Labour Law of the German Bar Association.

  • German-French Lawyers Association (DFJ).

  • International Bar Association (IBA) (Chair Immigration and Nationality Law Committee).

  • Visalaw International (VLI), (board member).

  • Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL) (international board member).

  • American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) (international associate).

  • American Bar Association (ABA) (international associate).


  • The Corporate Immigration Law Review, Germany, Law Business Research, 5th Edition, London (2015).

  • Global Business Immigration Guide-German chapter, LexisNexis, 5th Edition, New York (2015).

  • LawQuest, Global Mobility Book - German Chapter, 3rd, Edition, Mumbai (2015).

  • Hümmerich/Spriolke, Labour Law Cases, Data Privacy; Due Diligence, 6th Edition, DeutscherAnwaltVerlag, Bonn (2011).

  • Global Business Immigration Handbook, German /European Union, Carswell, Toronto (ongoing since 2011).

  • Inside the Minds, Immigration Law Client Strategies in the EU, Aspatore, Vancouver (2010).

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