"I handed my passport to the immigration officer, and he looked at it and looked at me and said, »WHAT are you?«"

Mrs. Grace Hopper, US Rear Admiral, Computer Scientist and inventor of COBOL


German Immigration Law

German Immigration Law

The German immigration law governing the issuance of visas and residence permits in principle requires any Non-European (EEA) foreigner to hold a residence permit for the purpose of his or her stay. The law is in general a category-based system: Permits are only available for the purpose of tourism, employment, study or family re-unification. For most of the employment categories an internal approval from the labour authorities, a work permit, is required.

The consequences for breaking the rules in Germany can be severe, for the employer as well as for individual assignees or customers. Employers and their customers are legally responsible to ensure that all employees hold the appropriate visa/ residence permit.

Administrative fines apply to individuals or companies that employ a foreigner without the proper permit. Fines can be up to EUR 500.000 per case.

Professionally submitting misleading or wrongful information to authorities in order to obtain a residence/work permit or visa for a third party is a criminal offence and may result in fines or even imprisonment.

Practical tips:

  • Always take a copy of the residence/work permit to the file and offer the same to your customer. Read the contents thoroughly and observe limitations.
  • Short-term visitors that do not require a permit should be documented regarding length of stay (by passport stamps) and description of duties and responsibilities in Germany.
  • If in doubt, contact a local immigration practitioner. Please note that only Attorneys registered with the local bar can effectively assume the liability risk. Relocation specialists or immigration managers cannot legally absolve their customers from the liability.
  • Be careful with information provided orally from consulates, border officials or foreigner’s offices.
    Always ask for a written confirmation.