In my previous posts Berlin My New Home, I mentioned the essential tasks I did when I first arrived to Berlin. Opening a bank account, what paperwork is required for renting an apartment, getting your tax number, health insurance and social insurance number. Now its time to write about one of the most complicated and important process for Non EU citizens to get a visa/permit to stay in the country.
Being a Canadian citizen has many perks. I’ve traveled various countries and seen many places around the world and by just showing my passport has opened many doors without questions raised. Although German bureacracy is strict, excessive and paperwork is overwhelming, I still consider myself lucky and fortunate to get my work and residence permit without a hassle.
Booking your appointment with Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office)
This is the first step you must do. Regardless if your getting a student visa, work visa or freelance visa this should be the first thing you do. Otherwise you’ll most likely have to get up at 5am and go to the Ausländerbehörde to queue up for the very limited amount of waiting numbers. To book an appointment, the link is here. Keep in mind that you must book your appointment 4-5 weeks in advanced. The employees at the immigration office are only available 3 days a week, so you better plan well ahead.
Getting all the necessary documents ready
After getting a confirmation for your appointment, you’ll receive an email with the waiting number and details of what documents you should bring to the interview. This is VERY important. Make sure to bring everything that is required and bring both originals and copies. In addition from what was mentioned in the email I received, I also included a letter from my employer indicating that I was the only person in the Schengen Zone that can do my job ( yes a bit of exaggeration but trust me it makes the process a lot more easier and faster).
Going to your appointment
Before I went to the Ausländerbehörde, I spoke to various people and read many forums online to see there stories and be well prepared. Many people mentioned that nobody at the Ausländerbehörde spoke english or preferred not to speak english. Due to this I took a friend of mine to company me and make things easier. During the interview the lady started asking some questions to me in english and I was actually surprised she knocked off the conversation. I gave all the necessary documents that was needed and paid the initial fee to start the application.
Picking up your Visa
After your visit with the Ausländerbehörde, your documents get sent to the main job center in Duisburg for verification that there is nobody else that can do your job in the Schengen Zone. This is where the letter from your employee comes in handy ;). Within 2-3 weeks time, you’ll get either a call or email from the Ausländerbehörde to pick up your visa. Again the ladies were speaking to me in english and I was responding back in my bad german. After paying the visa fee I got my brand new visa sticker on my passport.
Side Note: If you decide to stay in Berlin or Germany, do plenty of research online to figure out which visa you are going to apply for and whether you qualify for it. Otherwise you’ll end up wasting time and will not manage to get your visa. I’m very lucky to have a well paid job that made things a lot easier for myself. At the end of the day the German authorities dont need more immigrants that will not contribute to the country and abuse the social system. So its always beneficial to provide all the information you can.