Settlement permit

Settlement permit

The settlement permit enables you to stay in Germany for an unlimited period of time. It basically serves to consolidate your residence. A settlement permit allows you to live and work in Germany without restrictions: You can pursue employment as an employee as well as self-employment. Under certain conditions, there is also the possibility of obtaining a permanent right of residence-EU, with the consequence that access to the entire European labor market is facilitated.

Requirements for a settlement permit

The requirements for obtaining a settlement permit depend on your previous residence title. As a rule, you must fulfill the following requirements in accordance with § 9 AufenthG:

  1. Five-year legal residence in Germany
  2. Secured livelihood
  3. Retirement provision
  4. No conflicting reasons of public safety or order
  5. Language skills and knowledge of the legal and social order
  6. Sufficient living space

Five-year legal residence

To obtain a settlement permit, you must have lived legally in Germany for five years, i.e. have a (temporary) residence title. Short trips abroad are harmless.

However, there are special regulations in the Residence Act that allow you to be granted a settlement permit even if you have not been in Germany for five years.

Special regulations

  • Skilled workers (without EU Blue Card): 4 years
  • EU Blue Card: 27 months with basic knowledge of German (level A1) or 21 months with sufficient language skills (level B1)
  • Self-employed: 3 years
  • Persons entitled to asylum: crediting of residence periods of the asylum procedure
  • Family members German: 3 years
  • Foreign spouse: 3 years

Secured livelihood

You must be able to support yourself and your family members. Pursuant to Section 2 (3) AufenthG, your means of subsistence are secured if you are able to provide for them, including adequate health insurance cover, without recourse to public funds. 

NOT considered a use of public funds is the receipt of:

  • Child benefit
  • Child supplement
  • Parenting Benefit
  • Parenting Benefit
  • Unemployment benefit I
  • BAföG
  • Child benefit
  • Child supplement
  • Parenting Benefit
  • Parenting Benefit
  • Unemployment benefit I
  • BAföG

Special regulations apply to:

  • Students
  • Researchers
  • Dependent
  • Persons, who are listed in § 28 Abs. 1 AufenthG
  • Physically, mentally or emotionally ill people

Retirement provision

In order to obtain a settlement permit, your old-age provision must be secured. You must therefore not only be able to prove that your livelihood is secure at the present moment, but also that it will be secure after you leave your profession.

This is generally proven if you have paid at least 60 months of compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance or you can prove expenses for an entitlement to comparable benefits such as a private pension insurance.

If you do not know exactly how many monthly contributions you have already submitted to the pension insurance fund, you can request an insurance history from the German pension insurance fund. This is also regularly sent to legally insured persons in accordance with Section 149 (3) of the German Social Security Code (SGB IV). This insurance history is also sufficient as proof for the authorities.

Proof of sufficient pension provision can also be provided by the spouse or civil partner.

Language skills and knowledge of the legal and social order

In order to obtain a settlement permit for Germany, you must prove a certain language level. Language skills are essential for the integration into the German society and for the assertion on the German labor market.

Against this background, a language level of B1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages is required to obtain a settlement permit.

Level B1 falls under the so-called "independent use of language". A person with B1 level can understand the main points of a conversation on familiar topics, as long as spoken clearly and understandably, and is able to express himself/herself about them in a simple and coherent way.

Proof of this language level can be obtained in various ways. One way to obtain a B1 language certificate is to take the Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer (DTZ). The DTZ is a language test that was developed specifically for immigrants and serves as the final language section in integration courses. You can find more information about the DTZ here on the BAMF site.

A language certificate is not required in some exceptional cases. This is the case, among others, if you...

  • have obtained a German university degree
  • have successfully attended a German school for four years
  • have a German school leaving certificate
  • have been successfully transferred to a secondary school after the 10th grade

Exceptions also exist if a B1 language level cannot be achieved due to mental or physical disabilities.

No conflicting reasons of public safety or order

The settlement permit should only be granted to those persons who want to and are able to be part of the free democratic social order. However, this is not the case for persons who pose a threat to public safety and order. If there are contrary reasons for public security and order, no settlement permit will be issued.

This very vague requirement from Section 9 (2) No. 4 AufenthG is difficult to grasp. When exactly do reasons of public security and order prevent the granting of a settlement permit?

It goes without saying that mere petty violations of the law, such as a parking ticket, do not constitute an opposing reason of public safety or order. In contrast, the granting of a settlement permit in the case of a capital crime such as murder would unquestionably be ruled out.

However, ambiguities exist more in the area between these two extremes. Basically, the fact whether you are considered to have a "criminal record" in Germany can be used as an orientation.

Thus, out of consideration remain:

  • Educational measures or disciplinary measures under the Juvenile Court Act
  • Sentences of imprisonment of up to three months suspended and remitted after expiry of the probationary period
  • Sentences to fines up to 90 daily rates

It is important to note that a conviction abroad is just as considerable as a conviction in Germany. A conviction abroad can only be disregarded in exceptional cases. For example, if the act is not punishable in the FRG, or if the conviction can be attributed to non-legal reasons.

Caution. When applying for a settlement permit, truthful information must be provided in this regard. Lying in the application constitutes a criminal offense. In particular, it should be noted here that in Germany a previous conviction can exist even for a "mere" fine, namely from 91 daily rates.  

If investigations are underway against you or you have already been charged, then information must also be provided in this regard in the application procedure. This will usually lead to the suspension of the issuance of your settlement permit until the outcome of these proceedings.

Sufficient living space

Two factors play a role in determining whether your living space is sufficient: the condition and the occupancy, i.e. the size of the apartment in terms of the number of occupants. Sufficient living space is always available if there are 12 square meters of living space for each family member over the age of six and 10 square meters for each family member under the age of six, and if ancillary rooms (kitchen, bathroom, WC) can be shared to a reasonable extent. Infants under two years of age are not counted in the calculation of living space. A shortfall of this apartment size by about 10 % is harmless.


Pursuant to Section 81 (1) AufenthG, the settlement permit is only issued upon application. The application must be submitted to the relevant immigration authority. The jurisdiction of the foreigners authority depends on your place of residence.

The processing time for the issuance of the settlement permit may not exceed three months in principle. However, the foreigners authorities are often overloaded, so that processing can take much longer in practice. In such cases, applicants have the option of bringing an action for failure to act pursuant to Section 75 VwGO.

Regional differences in the application for a settlement permit

The formal requirements for applying for a settlement permit may vary depending on the location in Germany.

While the legal requirements are uniform, the required forms, documentation, and application procedures may vary.

Here you will find general information and instructions on how to apply for a settlement permit for the cities of Berlin, Hamburg and Munich.