German residence permits can expire. This can result in the residence holder being forced to leave Germany. For this reason, it is vital to know how this can happen. When a residence permit expires, it can cause disruption and difficulties for returning to Germany. Therefore, if you hold a residence permit and plan to leave Germany for a few months, it is necessary to know these details. Depending on a person’s situation, the visa they hold and the reason why they may have to leave Germany, there will be different requirements for them.

This article will outline the necessities that one should be aware of when it comes to the expiration of German residence permits. However, if you face this situation and are unsure how to proceed, it is vital to consider legal assistance. The impact of an expiration of a residence permit can be severe. Therefore, having support from immigration law experts may be the difference between staying in Germany and not.


What is the Legal Basis for the Expiration of a German Residence Permit?

The legal basis for the expiration of a German residence permit can be found under § 51 German Residence Act and it provides a number of grounds for expiration. Some of the grounds are as follows:

  • with the expiry of its period of validity,
  • upon withdrawal of the residence title,
  • upon revocation of the residence title,
  • if the permit holder is expelled from Germany,
  • upon the announcement of a deportation order (§ 58a German Residence Act),
  • should the permit holder leaves Germany for a reason which is not of a temporary nature,
  • if the permit holder leaves Germany and fails to re-enter it within six months or within a longer period set by the immigration authority,
  • if a foreigner files an application for asylum after being granted a residence title (§§ 22-25 German Residence Act)

As can be seen there are a number of reasons why a German residence permit will be deemed to have expired. In this article, we will focus primarily on the deadlines involved (usually six months) and the idea of leaving Germany for a reason of “non-temporary” nature.

If you have a particular issue or legal question concerning German Immigration Law, you can contact our law office anytime. Our lawyers for German Immigration Law can be reached by phone, email and also provide video conferencing options. For more legal information, please visit our Immigration Information Germany Center.

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Update – October 2020

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, in March and April of 2020, travel to and from Europe was heavily restricted. During this time, many people with short-term Schengen Visas were required to extend their stays in Germany as they could not return to their home countries. However, since the start of October 2020, the German government has lifted the blanket allowance to extend short-term visas and residence permits following their expiration. Those with expired short-term visas have been encouraged to return to their home countries. There are currently no travel restrictions in place preventing those in Germany from returning to their home countries. Therefore, once the visa has expired, and the deadline has been reached unless there are specific grounds such as humanitarian reasons or force majeure, the expiration is treated as it would normally be.

Following this decision, you may be faced with difficulties whereby you require thorough legal support. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte provide comprehensive legal service in the field of immigration law and can take charge of your case. Allow us to use our years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the area to resolve any legal dispute which may arise.


The Deadlines: Expiration of German Residence Permit

Generally, a German residence permit expires once the holder has left Germany for a period of six months. There are some exceptions to this, mainly where the person has left Germany with Germany’s interests playing a departure role. Examples of such cases include people who go as aid workers, as a student from a German university taking a semester or two abroad (Erasmus+ / Exchange programmes) or if while working with a company based in Germany you are sent abroad.

For holders of the EU Blue Card, the deadline is extended to 12 months. This helps to cover those who may be sent abroad while working with a Germany-based company. However, the Blue Cardholder should consult with the immigration authority before making a move abroad.

For permanent residence holders who have settled fully in Germany, the limits are different. Proof of such settlement can take the form of marriage to a German citizen or those who have resided in Germany for 15 years or more and can show that they can support themselves (without reliance on the state). For such individuals, they do not have these deadlines.

There is a deadline of 12 months (so extended from the abovementioned 6 months) in cases where the permanent residence holder is 60 years of age or older and in cases where the person has lived in Germany for 15 years. In this scenario, the person can spend up to 12 months out of Germany before it is deemed that they have spent too long away from the territory.

Another way that one can move away from Germany for an extended period of time without having their residence permit expire is to consider German citizenship. Our firm provides thorough guidance on ways to avail of dual citizenship in Germany and German citizenship through naturalization for those considering those routes.


Leaving Germany for a Reason which is Not of a Temporary Nature

Should you leave Germany for the reason that is seen as “not of a temporary nature” then it can be seen as a reason for your residence permit expires. Essentially, the idea of “not of a temporary nature” means that Germany will no longer be the primary residence point. This can be determined when the resident permit holder has left Germany to take up long-term work in another state, and thus, their primary place of residence has moved from Germany. Indicators of this change can include moving their family to the other country, selling/leaving their German property, or facing expulsion from Germany.

Education also plays a role in this determination. If a residence holder leaves to study abroad for an extended period of time through study in school or university, the residence permit for Germany can be deemed to have expired. As mentioned earlier, a semester abroad (Erasmus+) would not be enough for this event to occur.

Returning on short visits to Germany during the time period away may not be enough to determine that Germany is no longer the person’s primary residence. This was outlined in a case at the Oberverwaltungsgericht in Rhineland-Palatinate (OVG Rhineland-Palatinate, 30.06.2003 – 10 B 10830/03 OVG). There has to be some indication that Germany remains the person’s primary residence.


Other Reasons for the Expiration of a German Residence Permit

One of the other reasons mentioned is with the expiry of the residence permit. Not all residence permits are of permanent duration. For example, the EU Blue Card is valid for a period of 4 years. Holding such a residence permit makes it easier to apply for permanent residency as a holder can use after 33 months (21 months should their German level be sufficient). Still, if you do not take any action, the EU Blue Card validity can expire. In the case of the ICT-Card, there is a limit of three years. It is vital to keep these deadlines in mind to avoid issues such as residence permit expiration.

Expulsion from Germany and issuing a deportation order are other grounds for having a residence permit deemed to be expired. Expulsion or deportation can arise when the foreign person in question has committed crimes in Germany and is considered a risk to German society. Violent crimes, sexual offences and terrorist charges are among the grounds through which one can face expulsion/deportation.

Ibrahim Miri’s case provides an example of a situation where a non-German national with a history of violent crimes was eventually deported from Germany. Deportation can also arise where it is found that the person entered Germany under false papers or their permission to reside in Germany has expired.


What Actions can you Take?

The best advice for general situations that we can provide is to keep a close watch on deadlines and make sure that you act in good time. With an expiration date approaching, one has to consider whether they want to apply for an extension (if applicable) or look for permanent residency. The procedure for applying for German permanent residence will depend based on their German residency. For example, with EU Blue Card holders and highly qualified professionals, the way towards a permanent residence permit may be more straightforward than for others.

For many people who apply for permanent residence, they have to show that they are employed in a profession that matches their skill set, they can support their family without reliance on the state, they have sufficient ability in the German language, and they have contributed to the German statutory pension scheme.

If you have to leave Germany for an extended period of time, it is advisable to outline the immigration authorities’ situation before doing so. One should apply to the Bürgeramt or the Ausländerbehörde in this case. Should you provide the circumstances to them concerning departure and how Germany will remain your primary residence, they may issue you with a Bescheinigung providing permission to be outside of Germany for that length of time.

Should you have any issues around contacting the immigration authorities, it is advisable to contact a German immigration specialist. With the right help in your corner, it will be more straightforward to get the correct result when dealing with German bureaucracy.


Getting a German Residence Permit

One requires a residence permit when moving to Germany from outside the European Union and the European Economic Area. They allow the holder to live, work and study in Germany (depending on the residence permit type). One can avail several options when it comes to residence permits such as the EU Blue Card, the ICT-Card, and the German resident permit for entrepreneurs and investors. For all of them, it can be important to have a German immigration specialist in your corner.

Which German residence permit you need and how you avail of it will depend on many factors. Such factors include whether you are a worker or a student, the line of work you are in, your qualifications, family situation, and nationality. For example, citizens from Australia, the USA and Canada (among others) do not need a visa to visit Germany for a short-term visit. They can apply for residency in Germany, whereas citizens from other parts of the world may require a Schengen Visa to visit.

Applying for German residence permits can be a time-consuming process, and the relevant documentation must be submitted with the application. Such documentation usually includes a valid passport, proof of health insurance, recent biometric photographs and certificates demonstrating (necessary) German language skills. The documentation to submit will be based on the residence permit sought after.


German Immigration Law Specialists: Assistance When Facing the Expiration of a German Residence Permit

At Schlun & Elseven, our immigration team provides advice and counsel daily to our clients in immigration to Germany. We advise on a range of issues and provide representation and counsel both inside and outside the courtroom. When it comes to the expiration of a German residence permit, having a reliable and experienced advisor can make a huge difference. From our offices in Cologne, Aachen and Düsseldorf we can assist you with your queries. If you require a face-to-face meeting, we also have conference room facilities in Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. We can be contacted using the details below this article.

At Schlun & Elseven, our legal team is aware of the need for clear and concise communication lines. For this reason, we provide our services in German and English. If you require excellence in the field of German residence permits, or thorough counsel when it comes to the expiration of a German residence permit, make sure to contact us today. Our immigration law specialists are looking forward to working with you.

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