What do I have to consider as an international student in Germany?

The following tips are designed to ensure that you avoid mistakes as much as possible as a foreign student. This will allow you to fully concentrate on your studies and prevent any problems with German authorities.

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What are the most common mistakes related to migration laws (Residence Act)?

If you are not an EU citizen and are studying in Germany as a foreign student, you need to know the following mistakes in order to avoid getting into trouble with German immigration authorities in the medium and long term. Mistakes usually result in you having to spend a lot of time and money to live (permanently) legally in Germany. Losing your right of residence may even mean that you are not allowed to finish your studies and have to leave the country.

Mistake 1: Do not drop out of your studies hastily

Unfortunately, students repeatedly drop out of their studies without first ensuring that they continue to have a right of residence in Germany. If it turns out during your studies that you will not be able to complete your studies, you should check (or have checked) in advance whether you have a chance of obtaining another right of residence without your current studies. This depends on many criteria. Which right of residence is eligible depends on what you plan to do after dropping out of your studies. For this reason, we recommend that you discuss this issue in advance with the foreigners authority or an experienced lawyer. It is almost always possible to find a reasonable residence solution.

Mistake 2: You do not extend your right of residence in time

Temporary residence rights always have an expiration date. It happens again and again that students forget to extend the right of residence. If the right of residence is not extended in time, various problems may arise. In some cases, foreigners authorities refuse to renew a residence permit after it has expired. Even if this is not legal, you should prevent this problem from the beginning. Note the expiration date of your stay and apply for renewal at least 2-4 weeks before expiration.

Mistake 3: You do not change your right of residence after graduation

After you have completed your studies and have been exmatriculated, you should change your right of residence as soon as possible. The later you change your right of residence, the longer it will take for you to obtain permanent residence rights or German citizenship.

Mistake 4: You work in a non-study department after graduation

If you have finished your studies and want to live in Germany, you will usually get a job promptly. Under residence law, you will always get into trouble if you work in a job that does not correspond to your degree.

As a rule, this problem can be solved by adjusting the job title in the employment contract or by referring to the degree. In any case, when signing the employment contract, care should be taken to ensure that the job description is properly worded. Otherwise, you will not receive a residence permit and, in the worst case, you will have to leave the country.

Should you start a job that has nothing to do with your course of study, you will not receive a right of residence. For example, if you have a law degree and then work as a cab driver, you will not be granted the right of residence as a skilled worker.

Mistake 5: You have a criminal record

Previous convictions in Germany repeatedly lead to extensive problems under residence law. If you have a criminal record, this may result in the following disadvantages:

  • Your temporary right of residence will not be extended.
  • They do not receive a permanent right of residence.
  • You cannot become a naturalized citizen.
  • They will be deported.

Of course, the problems do not arise with every conviction. However, problems you get in case of conviction too:

  • more than 90 daily fines or
  • to a suspended sentence of more than 3 months or
  • to a prison sentence without parole

If you ever get in trouble with the prosecutor’s office, make sure you stay below the stated limit rates if convicted. Of course, this is not possible for every crime. But even minor offenses quickly lead to significant penalties. If you hire a lawyer, inform him or her of the residency limits. Even lawyers for criminal law are not familiar with German residence law in every case.

How can I live in Germany forever?

Many students initially come to Germany only for their studies and would like to leave Germany again after successful completion. The reality looks different after years in Germany. You have come to know Germany as an attractive country for your future. You may have found a partner or even started a family. The original plan to leave Germany again has changed. We recommend all foreign students to look into how to obtain permanent residency rights or even German citizenship in Germany as soon as they enter the country.

As a foreign student, how do I obtain a permanent right of residence as quickly as possible?

You should already plan how to obtain a permanent right of residence as quickly as possible when you enter the country. Many students do not have this topic in mind, because they want to leave Germany after their studies. As is so often the case in life, things turn out differently than you think. For permanent residence rights, you must meet many requirements.

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In order to take the right steps at the earliest possible stage, you should be aware of the following aspects:

Retirement provision

As a rule, you must have paid into the German pension insurance scheme for approx. 21 – 60 months in order to receive an unlimited right of residence. A great many students have a mini-job alongside their studies. In this case, inform your employer that you are still liable for pension insurance in the case of a mini-job. Your deductions for this are very small (about 15 euros / month). However, you have the great advantage that you have already paid sufficient months into the pension insurance during your studies. This circumstance is particularly important because pension insurance contributions cannot be paid in arrears without permanent residency rights.

Residence times

Make sure you don’t have any interruptions in terms of where you stay. In particular, if your right of residence has not been extended in time, your periods of residence may be interrupted. In some cases, the immigration authorities even assume that your residence times start at 0 in case of an interruption.

Should you, like most students, initially have a visa according to §§ 16 ff. Residence Act, please note the following: In that case, as a rule, only 50% of your residence time will be credited. Although you may have studied legally in Germany for 5 years, your periods of residence will only be recognized in relation to 2.5 years. This is why making the switch immediately after graduation is so important.

Integration test

An integration test is easy and inexpensive to obtain. Take this test as early as possible to avoid a time problem when applying for permanent residency rights. You can find a lot of information about this in this blog post.

Unlimited right of residence during studies

Especially long-term students and students who do not have a residence title according to § 16 ff. AufenthG, can obtain a permanent right of residence under simpler conditions. In this case, you do not have to provide proof of old-age provision during your studies (cf. Section 9 (3) Sentence 2 AufenthG). In addition, you do not need an income. Even as a BAföG recipient, you can obtain an unlimited right of residence if you are still studying. Just be aware that application procedures sometimes take 6-18 months without a lawyer. The exceptions only apply if you are still studying. After exmatriculation, these special regulations unfortunately no longer apply to you.

Valid national passport

Make sure that your national passport has not expired. If you do not have a national passport, apply for a new one as soon as possible, otherwise the permanent right of residence will not be granted. If you are from a country where it is difficult to obtain national passports (Iraq; Afghanistan; Syria; Eritrea; among others), you should at least have sufficient evidence that you have attempted to obtain a national passport.

As a foreign student, how do I obtain German citizenship as quickly as possible?

For German citizenship, essentially the same applies as for the granting of permanent residence rights. However, there is an important problem: You cannot apply for German citizenship with every temporary right of residence. If you have one of the following residence rights, you cannot naturalize:

  • §§ 16a, 16b, 16d, 16e, 16f, 17, 18d, 18f, 19, 19b, 19e, 20, 22, 23 paragraph 1, §§ 23a, 24, 25 paragraph 3 to 5 of the Residence Act

In that case, you should try to change your right of residence as soon as possible. This is possible at the latest when you graduate. In some cases, however, you can also change your right of residence during your studies. This is especially true if the following applies to you:

  • Married with German partner
  • Parent of a German child
  • Self-employment
  • positive asylum decision
  • Other

In addition, it should be noted that the application for German citizenship can now take more than 2 years. Apply for German citizenship at least one year before all requirements are met. Even if the relevant authorities do not want this, it is possible due to the long application times.

When do I get German citizenship?

We check for you according to which legal regulation you can be naturalized most quickly. Let us advise you!

What mistakes should you avoid when it comes to immigration authorities?

Even though the foreigners authorities in Germany are obliged to act in your best interests, in practice we repeatedly find that this is not the case. You should always keep the following 10 points in mind:

  1. The Foreigners’ Registration Office does not usually check which right of residence is best for you.
  2. Immigration authorities regularly make serious mistakes on legal issues.
  3. Case workers in foreigners authorities are regularly not experts or lawyers in foreigners law, but simple case workers without experience in foreigners law.
  4. Any statements made by employees of the Foreigners’ Registration Office that you do not have in writing are worthless in case of doubt.
  5. If you are asked to withdraw a claim, make sure it is in your best interest to withdraw the claim.
  6. If you do not have at least a B2 level of proficiency in German, never go to appointments without a German-speaking companion.
  7. You may never hand over documents at the Foreigners’ Registration Office without receiving written confirmation that they have been handed over. It often happens that documents get lost or that the Foreigners’ Registration Office repeatedly asks you to hand over documents that have already been handed in again.
  8. If you miss a deadline, for example to extend your stay, it won’t help if there are no appointments available on short notice. Take care of your concerns in a timely manner.
  9. Apply for residency rights 6-12 months before all requirements are met, rather than when all requirements are met. The vast majority of immigration authorities have processing times of 6 to 24 months.
  10. Do not forget that in immigration offices also work only people who are sometimes stressed, forgetful, disorganized and unfriendly due to the overload of the administration. Therefore, always be friendly, prepared, and work to the best of your ability with the immigration office. The easier you make it for the employee at the immigration office, the better you will be treated.

Do I need a work permit in Germany after completing my studies?

Financial tips for foreign students in Germany
After completing your studies, you will most likely start your first job in a timely manner. Thus, you should always file a tax return in order to be able to deduct the costs for your first or second education. The following costs are deductible, thereby reducing your taxes:

  • Tuition
  • Audit fees
  • Trade literature
  • Work equipment (e.g. computer, software)
  • Costs for travel to seminars and working groups
  • Accommodation costs (for seminar participation)
  • Catering expenses (for seminar participation)
  • Costs for a study room if the study is completed as a distance learning program
  • Language courses, if they are part of the qualification required for the job

While you are still a student, make sure that you keep all of your supporting documents. You will need a copy of your tuition or course registration and bank statements showing tuition paid as proof for the tax office. In addition, you should keep all payment receipts. This can save you several thousand euros in taxes and be reimbursed by the tax office.

Can I drive permanently in Germany with my foreign driver’s license?

If you have a driver’s license from a country outside the EU, there may be problems with your driver’s license. In this case, your driver’s license is often only valid for 6 months in Germany. After that, the driver’s license is no longer effective. If you continue to drive and are checked, criminal proceedings will be initiated against you for “driving without a license”. This leads to costs, hassle, and possibly even residency issues. We recommend that you deal with the driver licensing authority in good time. If you stay in Germany for a maximum of 12 months, the period is usually extended from 6 to 12 months.

What mistakes should I avoid when renting an apartment in Germany?

Once you live in Germany, you will most likely move into a rented apartment. The following should be considered when entering into the lease agreement and during the term of the lease:

Document rental defects

When handing over the rented apartment, you should take photos of all existing rental defects and write down all defects in the protocol to the rental agreement. This will prevent you from incurring costs for rental defects that you did not cause when you later move out of the rental apartment.

Sublease allowed

If you sublet your rented apartment for a short or longer period of time, this is regularly unproblematic in Germany. Every lease agreement states that subletting must be permitted by the landlord. This is only partially correct: If you have a legitimate interest in subletting, the apartment can be sublet even without the landlord’s consent. Extraordinary termination for lack of consent to subletting is regularly unlawful.

In any case, in the case of subletting, make sure that your subtenant has liability insurance. In the event of damage caused by the subtenant, this will exclude the possibility of you being held liable for payment. Ask for proof of insurance and copy the subtenant’s ID card or passport.

Caution: Rent deposit trap

We experience it again and again that the rent deposit is retained by the landlord in case of moving out. The landlord regularly justifies this by saying that damage to the apartment was caused by you. Since it is usually only about 500 – 2,000 euros deposit, it is factually difficult to sue for your rent deposit. For lawyers, these procedures are regularly uneconomical.

Even if the following tip is actually not legally permissible, you should know the trick: Should you already expect that there will be unfounded trouble with the landlord regarding the deposit in case of termination of the rental apartment, do not pay the last 3 rents and simply add up with your deposit in case of moving out. Even though this is legally illegal, it is the most sensible way, especially for students, to avoid being “cheated” by the landlord.

Alternatively, there is the possibility not to pay a deposit in “cash” to the landlord, but to deposit a so-called deposit guarantee from a bank. This can eliminate the rent deposit trap.

You still have questions?

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New law for tolerance permit (Duldung) !

Livestream with lawyer Fabian Graske

On Wednesday, 19.10.2022 at 18:00 o’clock the German Bundestag decides on a law so that tolerated foreigners in Germany get a right of residence faster. Attorney Fabian Graske comments in this livestream for Migrando if and when the law comes into force.

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