Hallo again! In this blog, I want to talk about something that is pretty important for American students studying in Germany: The Aufenthaltserlaubnis. Yes, that’s a big word, in typical German style they combine a few words into one long one. In this case, the Aufenthaltserlaubnis is a Foreign Residence Permit that is required since the semester abroad lasts more than 3 months (90 days), the legal amount of time you can stay in Germany before needing to have your temporary residence extended.
When you first enter the country, the immigration officers always ask how long you will be staying, and when as a student you say that you are staying until December, they will probably remind you about this residence permit since August to December (the length of the fall semester) is more than the 90 days. I had an immigration office who maybe wasn’t too happy it was 7:30 in the morning on a Monday morning, and was a bit rude in telling me about the permit, and mistranslated it to calling it a “Visa”, which it isn’t. As an American you don’t need a visa to enter or study abroad for a term in Germany.
Instead, after your arrival you must make an appointment with the foreign registration, which is located in the government building in the K7 block of Mannheim (same building, different floor as the city registration office where you will go in your first week to register with the city of Mannheim- see my earlier blog posts about that). You are supposed to make the appointment by calling them, however, I tried calling their main phone number plus individual employee’s extensions and never got an answer. If this happens, the International Office in L1 (where you enroll at the University) can help you set up the appointment.
For the appointment, make sure you have everything you need to bring with you, including your passport, Proof of your enrollment at the University (Studienbescheinigung), a bank statement showing you have more than 670 Euros (I just took an American bank statement so while it was in U.S. Dollars not Euros the conversion would have been more than 670 Euro and they never said anything about this), Proof of Health Insurance (Whether you purchased German insurance or got a waiver saying your American insurance is enough to cover you), A Biometric Passport photo (I had an extra from when I renewed my passport before my departure, if you don’t have an extra there is a machine there that can take them), The Welcome Letter from the University, and your rental contract with your Apartment or Student Residence. There is also a form that you need to fill out, this form is available there; ask for it when you first arrive, as I didn’t, and filled it out after already waiting for a half hour, then once it was filled out I had to wait again while they processed it, so you might save time by asking for it upfront.
The people that work there will definitely not go out of their way to be nice to you, so I would make sure you have everything in order, otherwise they will be even less happy. Also, be prepared to wait quite a while, just like dealing with government entities in the States, the famous German efficiency doesn’t quite exist at the foreign registration office. Once you are all done, they will give back your passport with the residence permit added to your Stamp/Visa pages. Make sure they do not try to charge you- as a student with the Welcome Letter the permit does not cost you anything. The one lady in the office tried to send me to the cashier downstairs to pay, so make sure you don’t. They barely speak English but just make sure they know you are a student- it should be obvious from the paperwork from the University, but to her it must not have been. This appointment isn’t fun, but it is necessary so just be prepared.
Until next time then, auf wiedersehen!
(Picture is from Düsseldorf about three weeks ago).