*****Information updated on 22.04.2021*****
The new German law on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the future of UK citizens’ residence in Germany came into force in November 2020. For all UK citizens who were living in Germany at the end of transition on 31st December 2020, this law is really important. It describes how German law puts into effect the Withdrawal Agreement to cover your future rights to live, work, study and retire in Germany, and defines how you will be able to evidence those rights in future.
Germany has adopted an approach (which British in Germany e.V. supports) known as “declaratory”. This means you are not applying for your rights but simply asking for rights that you have to be officially documented. This is different from the system adopted in some other countries, such as Austria, France and the UK.
In general, you acquired residence rights in Germany by law (von Amts wegen) under the Withdrawal Agreement, if you were resident in Germany and exercising your free movement rights at the end of transition.
You should request that you are issued with an individual residence document (Aufenthaltsdokument-GB) so you have evidence of your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Local Ausländerbehörde around the country are responsible for the process to get a residence document. As always, with the German Federal system, there are differences in the ways that Ausländerbehörde run the process. But while the process is local, it’s important to remember that the legal framework is based in EU law and the Federal government has published guidance to help local authorities correctly apply the law across the whole of Germany.
What are the steps you need to take?
If you have not already done so, contact your local Foreigners’ Office (Ausländerbehörde) as soon as possible.
Your Ausländerbehörde may have contacted you directly and have given you instructions steps to follow. Or there may be a form available on your local website. Some Ausländerbehörde have simply provided information on how to start the process via their local web page. Check it out, but if you haven’t heard anything or are unsure, take the initiative yourself.
Write to your local Ausländerbehörde, preferably via a registered letter (Einschreiben mit Rückschein) so that you have proof of your action, telling them that, in accordance with § 16 FreizügG/EU and Article 18 (4) of the Withdrawal Agreement, you wish to:
- Notify them of your residence in Germany, having exercised your free movement rights under EU law
- Request that they issue you with a residence document (Aufenthaltstitel-GB)
There is a suggested template that you can use here
The German authorities are asking everyone to notify their Ausländerbehörde of their residence by 30th June, 2021.
You can check which office is responsible for you here: Auslaenderbehoerden.
In many publications/online and in the minds of some Ausländerbehörde, 30th June, 2021 seems to be considered a hard “deadline”. It is not. However, you will probably save yourself some discussion, if you make sure that you have contacted your local Ausländerbehörde before that date.
Once you have notified your local Ausländerbehörde, you have completed the actions that the German authorities are asking you to take. Your Ausländerbehörde is then responsible for initiating the next steps.
30th June is not a deadline by which documents must be issued and some offices already expect to take much longer. If you need to travel or if, for example, you need to present evidence of status to your employer, you may request a “Fiktionsbescheinigung” from your local Ausländerbehörde. Expected additional cost for a Fiktionsbescheinigung is EUR 13. (Note, however, that some areas including Berlin have stated that they will not issue Fiktionsbescheinigungen to UK citizens.)
What will the Ausländerbehörde do?
The Ausländerbehörde are supposed to acknowledge receipt of your communication, but we know that some places have been slow at doing this. If you are not sure whether or not your notification has been received, contact them to request that they provide confirmation.
In most cases, the Ausländerbehörde will ask you to provide various types of documentation. You may be asked to post or email copies or you may be asked to bring these to an appointment, or both. What exactly is requested varies by office. However, typically, you can expect to need to show evidence that you were resident in Germany before 31 December, 2020 (for example by showing an Anmeldung and/or Meldebescheinigung), as well as the obvious passport information confirming that you are a British citizen or a qualifying family member of a British citizen.
If you are employed or self-employed, you may be asked for some evidence of that status and income. If you are not, you will probably be asked for some evidence of funds (savings, pension, grants, benefits etc) that indicate you are able to support yourself. Some offices seem to be asking for evidence of rental contracts. Students may be asked to show evidence of registration at their place of study.
If you are asked for evidence of German language competency, or if it is suggested that you or your employer may need some kind of authorisation in order for you to work, then it is worth checking that they are not using the criteria for a different type of residence status and that they have understood that you are in scope of the Withdrawal Agreement.
At some point, you will be given an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. How long it takes to get an appointment depends very much on the local office. Many offices simply ask you to wait until they contact you, some have an online booking system and a few allow you to call to make an appointment. You may be able to find information on the local website. Some offices seem to be progressing very quickly, but others have not yet started. Some appear to be completely closed down at the moment due to Covid.
When you go to your appointment, you will generally be required to show your passport, provide a photo, give your fingerprints and to pay a fee. (Some offices are requesting the fee at a later date.) In many cases, this will be all, but some offices are doing a thorough check of documents, both those submitted in advance and others, so you may wish to go prepared.
If you believe you should have “Daueraufenthalt” (permanent residence), for example, you have lived in Germany for at least five years, then you should request that this is mentioned on your card. You may be asked for more proofs that you have really been exercising free movement rights for a continuous five-year period. This may include evidence of health insurance, pension contributions and employment. Receiving Arbeitslosengeld I should not be an obstacle (as that is a benefit for which you have paid contributions) but receiving Arbeitslosengeld II may be. It may be that you have to build up a new continuous five-year period of meeting the conditions before you gain permanent residence.
For more information about Daueraufenthalt, see section 4 of this British in Europe guide.
If you believe you are entitled to “Daueraufenthalt” and wish to claim it, ALWAYS say so at your interview and preferably put the request in writing. The Ausländerbehörde may take an initiative to check whether you have Daueraufenthalt status, but are under no obligation to do so. It seems that many are not making such a check. Daueraufenthalt gives you some additional rights and securities under the WA so it is generally in your interest to request it. If you are not yet eligible, don’t worry: you can accumulate time from before 31st December, 2020 and after to complete the five continuous years and qualify for Daueraufenthalt at a later date.
The standard cost for issuing an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB is EUR 37.00 for those over 24 and EUR 22.80 for those who are younger. This is the same as the cost of an identity card for a German citizen.
If you previously had a certificate of permanent residence issued to you as an EU citizen (Bescheinigung über das Daueraufenthaltsrecht für Unionsbürger), then you should be able to exchange this for the new card free of charge.
If you require a Fiktionsbescheinigung, there will usually be an additional cost of EUR 13.
After your appointment, once your rights under the WA have been registered, the local office will order an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB residence card for you. The cards are produced centrally and then sent out to the local Ausländerbehörde, either for collection or for distribution by post. Which method seems to depend on the local office. You will also receive a letter with a PIN and PUK for the card. If you pick up the card in person, these electronic features should automatically already be activated. If you receive your card by post, you will have to visit a local office to have them activated.
What do I end up with?
The residence document which you should receive (Aufenthaltsdokument-GB) will look something like this:
On the front, under “Art des Titels” it should have the words: ARTIKEL 50 EUV, and below that under “Anmerkungen” ARTIKEL 18 (4) AUSTRITTSABKOMMEN
The right to work will be noted on the back under “Anmerkungen” with the words “Erwerbstätigkeit erlaubt”. This is also where a note may be included to state that you have permanent residency (after five years) “Daueraufenthalt”.
Check that your name, passport details etc are all correct.
The card should be valid for a minimum of 5 years even if your British passport expires sooner than this. Initially, some cards were mistakenly issued for a shorter period. If that applies to you, you can have the card switched without charge to one with a 5 year validity.
The validity of the card isn’t the same as the validity of the status. Your card expiring in five years doesn’t mean your right to stay in Germany runs out then, just that you need to renew to get a new card (similar to a passport or a driving licence).
If your Ausländerbehörde tells you that you are not entitled to status under the Withdrawal Agreement and you believe that may be incorrect, you should take action as soon as possible. You can contact IOM or SSAFA directly to let them know your position. They are funded by the UK government to support UK citizens in dealing with the residency process. You can also write to the Ausländerbehörde to tell them that you disagree with their decision and that you wish to appeal it (Einspruch anlegen).
Other residence rights in Germany
You have a Daueraufenthaltsbescheinigung-EU?
This continues to be valid until end of December 2021. You will be able to swap the Bescheinigung über das Daueraufenthaltsrecht für Unionsbürger for the new document without charge.
You are a dual UK-German citizen?
If you have dual UK-German citizenship, you have residence rights in Germany as a citizen and do not need to request an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB.
You have another EU nationality as well as UK?
Your rights to live in Germany as an EU citizen have not changed. If you wish, you may request an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB as evidence that you also have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
In some cases, you may have greater rights under the Withdrawal Agreement than as an EU citizen, for example, if you have Daueraufenthalt, you may leave for up to five years and then reclaim that status on return to Germany. On the other hand, as an EU citizen you retain your right to move freely to other EU countries.
Your spouse/partner is a German or EU citizen?
You may request an Aufenthaltsdokument-GB as evidence that you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
In addition, or alternatively, you probably have a right of residence in Germany as a result of your relationship. You would need an additional document, for which there will be a charge, to evidence that right.
As the partner of an EU citizen, your rights to move elsewhere in the EU together with your partner are greater than those you would have under the Withdrawal Agreement. On the other hand, your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement are your own and are not dependent on your relationship.
You are a non-EU spouse/partner of a UK citizen?
If you have had a residence title as a partner/spouse of a UK citizen, rather than in your own right, you will need a new document. Your old one as the spouse/partner of an EU citizen will cease to be valid at the end of 2021. You will need to apply for that document for which there will be a charge.
Withdrawal Agreement and residency
You are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement if you are legally resident in Germany at the end of the transition period and if you continue to live here after this date. “Legally resident” means that you meet the conditions that apply to an EU citizen exercising free movement rights.
For more on the definitions of “legally resident” and “exercising free movement rights” see Explainer 1 on the British in Europe website here, and information in the FAQs from the BMI here.
As part of establishing that you are legally resident, it is very helpful if you have an Anmeldung (local registration) dated before 31st December, 2020. However, an Anmeldung alone is neither necessary nor sufficient for you to gain a status under the Withdrawal Agreement.
German and UK government information
Press release from the German Ministry of the Interior (BMI)
FAQs relating to the German national law which may be a useful reference when talking to your local Ausländerbehörde.
The Bundesministerium des Inneren has published guidance “Anwendungshinweise” for the Foreigners’ Offices which gives quite detailed information in German. There is a courtesy version of this in English on the IOM and SSAFA websites (see below).
The UK Government and the British Embassy in Germany publish information for UK citizens in Germany. You can request regular update emails via the website.
In case you have questions or need support with your residency, the UK Government is funding two organisations who can help you:
– IOM covers Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Berlin, Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia.
– SSAFA covers Bremen, Hamburg, Niedersachsen and Nordrhein-Westfalen, as well as Services Veterans anywhere in Germany.
British in Germany’s Facebook Group
If you would like to exchange experiences with others going through the residency process in Germany, you may want to connect with the British in Germany e.V. Facebook group. Just answer our questions, and join the conversation!
Information on Withdrawal Agreement rights
Summaries and detailed guides from British in Europe https://www.britishineurope.org/page/1016540-explanatory-guides
Already part way through? Been in touch with the Ausländerbehörde? Been to an appointment? Let us know how it is going by completing one of our surveys.
British in Germany e.V. is run by volunteers all giving their time and their expertise for free. We therefore value your membership for 15 Euros a year, which goes towards expenses incurred in running the organisation. You can join here.
Main image by Pete Linforth at pixabay