How to Get Your German Settlement Permit

Newsflash! On April 10, I became an official permanent resident of Germany! If you’re the holder of an EU Blue Card, you know that one of this visa’s top benefits is the early eligibility to switch from employment-dependent residence permit to permanent residency. So, here’s how to get your German settlement permit.

Blue Card holders in Germany who can prove B1-level competency in German can apply for their settlement permits after 21 months; everyone else can apply at their 33-month mark. Compared to the 5-6 years it takes other visa holders to hit the same milestone, and it’s obvious why this is such a perk. But, as with many steps in the visa and residence permit application, there’s not a lot of information about what to expect when getting your German Settlement Permit.

I’ve just finished going through the cycle, and here’s everything I learned (and wanted to know) about applying for my German settlement permit. (Or Niederlassungserlaubnis, as the Germans so elegantly call it).

I’ve written another post about preparing the application for your settlement permitread it here!

How to Get Your German Settlement Permit

Getting your German settlement permit

How long does getting your (actual) German settlement permit take?

When you fill out your application form, the form itself states that it might take some time to process. I submitted my application around December 11th, a week after I hit 33 months in Germany. I figured that with the Christmas holidays, it would be February-March before I heard anything back. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a letter from the Ausländerbehörde in my mailbox as of the first week of January. Overall, my timeline looked roughly like this…

How to Get Your German Settlement Permit: A Timeline

When I was going through this process, what I wanted to know most was: How long does it take? To answer the question for you, my application timeline looked like this:

December 11: Submitted Settlement Permit application and accompanying documents via email through my HR department contact

January 5: Received request for follow-up information via post

January 7: Submitted follow-up information via email

January 7: (SAME DAY!) Received appointment for end of February interview via email

February 25: Attended in-person interview at my local Ausländerbehörde

March 23: Received final decision via post.

April 10: Returned to Ausländerbehörde to pick up my new permit

How to prepare for your German settlement permit interview

To be honest, the interview portion of the German settlement permit application was what I found most daunting. And that’s mostly because I couldn’t find any information about it anywhere. I practiced my German, preparing for a worst-case scenario of navigating complex bureaucratic conversation. Luckily, the “interview” wasn’t really an interview, but rather just an appointment where the woman at the Ausländerbehörde looked over my paperwork, verified a few details, and processed my documents. You will need to speak German for this part, though—so if your German is shaky, bring a friend.

What documents you need to bring for your settlement permit interview

For my settlement permit interview appointment, I had to bring my:

  • Passport
  • Current German Blue Card AND Zusatzblatt (the accompanying green paper)
  • A recent (as of 6 months) biometric photo
  • Fee of 113 euros – cash and Girocard accepted
  • Lohnbogen / Paystub summary for any months in between submitting my application and the appointment date (I brought January and February)

Note: These are additional documents to the application paperwork I submitted in December. Find the checklist of all the documents you need to bring to process your German settlement permit here.

At the interview, you’ll get fingerprinted, and the processor takes your photo and additional documents for your application file. Then I was told that I should hear back by April 25 (two months from my appointment date).

Getting notified

Nearly a month later, on March 23 I got a letter stating that my new residence permit was processed. It contained a special pin code that needed to be used with a downloadable app, which I can now use to verify my identity. I’m unclear still what precisely this is used for, but sure! Looks legit. A week later, another letter came, this time stating an appointment date and time window for me to reappear at the Ausländerbehörde.

Finalizing the process

On April 10, I appeared at the Ausländerbehörde to finalize my settlement permit and pick up my new Aufenthaltstitel. I came into the waiting room, took a number, and waited my turn. When it came, I handed over my passport, Blue Card, and Zasuatzblatt (the green paper) to the official. He then sent me back to the Warteraum to wait. Fifteen minutes later, my number came up again and I picked up my documents. You don’t get anything added to your passport—they simply replaced my Blue Card with a settlement permit card (though they look virtually the same). And now if I need to do any bureaucratic process, I should go to the Bürgeramt, rather than Ausländerbehörde.

The significance comes in the names of these ministries: Bürger = citizen. Ausländer = foreigner.