Bringing Your Family to Germany
The Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion is a family-friendly place to live -- it's a big part of our high standard of living, after all! In particular, the ability to balance one's career, family, and health is gaining more and more importance in the eyes of many workers. This is why our region is thoroughly committed to helping its citizens do exactly that. We can offer your children outstanding schools and care services, along with countless child-friendly recreational opportunities and intriguing career perspectives for parents like you. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to bring the rest of your family to the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion. This section explains how this process works for citizens of the EU and of other countries.
Legal requirements for bringing your family to Germany
The children and spouses of foreign citizens living in Germany can obtain residence permits based on their familial relationships. With these permits, they can:
- Join their family members in Germany
- Acquire an occupation on the same scale as the family member already living in Germany
The same applies to the following same-sex civil unions:
- "Registered civil unions" within the meaning of the related German legislation (Lebenspartnerschaftsgesetz)
- Civil unions that are recognized by the laws of other countries and correspond in essence to Germany's registered civil unions
These residence permits are temporary, but you can apply to have them extended. The duration of your permit will be based on that of the family member already living here.
To obtain a residence permit, you must fulfill the following requirements:
- You meet the applicable passport and visa obligations.
- You can support yourself without having to rely on public welfare services.
- There is no outstanding reason for which you could be deported.
- Your stay presents no hindrance or danger to the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany.
- The member of your family who is already living in Germany has:
- a settlement permit,
- an EC permanent residency permit, or
- residence permit
- sufficient living space available
- Spouses must also:
- be at least 18 years old (both spouses)
- have a basic understanding of German
- Children between 16 and 18 years of age must also:
- enter Germany along with their parents as a family unit
- have a solid command of German or attributes that may aid their integration (growing up in a German-speaking home or attending a German-language school, for example), or;
- be facing especially difficult circumstances
You may also need to meet additional requirements, which you can find out about by contacting the authorities responsible.
An overview of all of the necessary documents and the costs involved in the process is available here.
German language skills
Getting your feet on the ground in a new country is always easier when you speak the local language. For this reason, people who want to join their spouses in Germany first need to provide proof of their basic understanding of German. This represents part of the country's effort to ensure that these individuals will be able to adjust to German society and be active members of it. The language requirement does apply if the spouse in Germany is a citizen of an EU member-state, Switzerland, or one of the EEA states (Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Norway). The requirement is also waived in cases in which an individual is seeking to join his or her German spouse in Germany and said spouse has already made use of his or her right to move freely within the EU, or if an attempt to acquire basic German skills is impossible, unreasonable, or unsuccessful over the course of one year with respect to the spouse abroad.
Having a basic understanding of German means that you can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very simple sentences -- to ask for directions, introduce yourself and others, and answer questions about yourself, for instance. This corresponds to level A1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
There are a number of exceptions, however.
Your spouse does not need any German skills to obtain a residence permit if:
- You have an EU Blue Card.
- You work in Germany as a researcher or a highly-qualified employee.
- Your spouse has a university degree.
- You are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, or the United States of America.
Still, your family will probably feel the most at home in Germany if you all speak some German. If you apply for a visa in order to join your spouse in Germany (as described above), you can submit proof of the required German skills during your appointment at the embassy or consulate-general. Generally speaking, your application documents will need to include a certificate of your successful participation in one of the following language exams: "Start Deutsch 1" from the Goethe-Institut or telc GmbH, "Grundstufe Deutsch 1" from ÖSD, or "TestDaF" from TestDaF-Institut e.V.
For more information on how you can provide proof of your basic understanding of German, please visit the websites of the visa sections of Germany's embassies and consulates-general. These sections can guide you through the visa application process and will determine the validity of your language certification.
You can also bring your children to Germany, of course! If you and your spouse have residence permits in Germany or you have sole custody of your children, they will also receive residence permits (provided they are 16 years old or younger). Children over 16 are subject to special regulations, which you can ask about at your home country's German embassy or a foreign citizens' office in Germany.
At a glance
Step 1 -- In your home country:
Your spouse and children apply for a German residence permit based on your relationship to them at the German embassy or consulate in your home country.
Step 2 -- In Germany:
After your family arrives in Germany, you register them at the registry office and the foreign citizens' office responsible for your place of residence.
The necessary documentation includes passports, birth and marriage certificates, statements on your earnings or taxes, and proof that you are renting or have purchased a home. Your particular family situation may involve varying requirements, so please ask the foreign citizens' office whether you will need to submit further documents.
Depending on the current circumstances, your case may take some time to process. We thus recommend familiarizing yourself with the necessary documents in good time and submitting your application as soon as you can.
The website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees can provide plenty of additional information and tips on bringing your family to Germany.