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Residency for Border-Crossing Commuters in Germany

German residency law defines cross-border commuters as citizens of third countries who work in Germany but reside in a neighbouring state and return there at least once a week. Living and working in different countries often confronts those affected by various issues such as social security, tax liability and vehicle registration. The border-crossing certificate provided for by § 12 Aufenthaltsverordnung (the Residence Ordinance) is intended to make it easier for border crossing commuters to obtain a residence title and an employment permit in Germany. Our German visa lawyers provide comprehensive support on all matters concerning cross-border commuters.

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What is a Border-Crossing Certificate?

The border-crossing certificate is a residence permit and allows its holder the following rights:

  • To enter the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany,
  • To stay in Germany,
  • To work / to study within the specified limits

The certificate enables holders to legally reside and work in Germany without having to give up their residence or residence permit in the neighbouring state.

Requirements for the Cross-Border Certificate

§12 AufenthV/Residence Ordinance serves as the legal basis for the issuance of a border-crossing certificate. It formulates different requirements depending on the group of applicants concerned.

The groups of applicants include:

  • Third country nationals living together with their German spouse or life partner,
  • Third country nationals living together with their spouse or life partner who is an EU citizen and who, as a cross-border commuter, pursues gainful employment in Germany
  • Third country nationals living with their EU citizen spouse or life partner who, without being a cross-border commuter, has transferred their residence from Germany to another neighbouring state,
  • Third country nationals who fulfil all other requirements for obtaining a residence permit in Germany for the exercise of employment,

Exceptions can be made for self-employed persons. In their case, the authority has the option of issuing the border-crossing certificate irrespective of the usual requirements of §21 AufenthG.

Special Case: Facilitated Requirements for Swiss nationals

Nationals of Switzerland are subject to different conditions than other third-country nationals. For them, border-crossing certificates can be issued and renewed per the conditions laid down in Annex I to the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons between the EU and Switzerland. Accordingly, Swiss cross-border commuters generally do not require a residence permit. Swiss citizens can obtain a special certificate with a validity period of at least five years from the competent authority to exercise gainful employment or self-employment.

Application Process and Period of Validity

The application for a border-crossing certificate must be addressed to the applicant’s authority in whose jurisdiction the place of the intended gainful employment falls. If, for example, the employment is to be carried out in Cologne because the business in question is located there, the application must be submitted to the Immigration Authority in Cologne.

Generally, an application for a border-crossing certificate must include the following documents:

  • Application form
  • Passport with valid right of residence in the state bordering the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • two current biometric passport photographs
  • further documents, where applicable

It is also necessary to submit one of the following:

  • proof of the respective family relationship,
  • proof of gainful employment,
  • proof of studies (certificate of registration)

When the border-crossing certificate is first issued, it shall be valid for two years. Subsequent extensions are possible as long as the initial requirements for the issuance of the certificate remain fulfilled.

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