If you want to move to Germany to join a family member or spouse, a German family reunification visa will allow you to live and work in Germany.
If you are a citizen from the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA; EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you don’t need a residence permit to enter and work in Germany – but any family member who is not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland will need to apply for a German residence permit.
As a EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, you will need a valid passport or ID card, and you have to register with the residents’ registration office within three months of entering the country. For more information, see our guide for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Germany.
If you’re joining an EU/EEA or Swiss family member but you are not from one of those countries yourself, you will have to apply for a visa beforehand (depending on your own nationality). You will then receive a ‘residence card’ from the Alien’s Authority in the area where you will be living in Germany.
If you’re the spouse or registered partner, unmarried, minor child of a German citizen, or parent/legal guardian of an unmarried, minor German citizen – and not from the EU/EEA/Switzerland – you will be issued with a residence permit as long as the relation you’re joining is living in Germany.
Anyone else wishing to join a family member must apply for a residence permit for the purpose of family unification.
Conditions and requirements
The relative you are going to join must have:
- a residence permit;
- enough room for you (as judged by the German embassy/consulate processing the application);
- sufficient and secured finances (again, the German authorities will assess this).
If you’re joining your spouse (married or civil partner), you must both be over 18 years old and you must have basic German language skills – unless, that is, your spouse fits one or more of the following categories:
- has an EU Blue Card,
- is in Germany as a researcher,
- is a highly qualified person, or
- is self-employed.
If so, there’s no age requirement nor do you need to speak any German.
If your relative was granted their residence permit as a student, employee or a self-employed person while you were married (or civil partnered), then as long as you fulfil the other requirements and plan to stay in Germany for more than one year, you can get a residence permit. If you got married after your spouse was awarded a residence permit, you have to wait until your spouse has had the permit for two years before you can apply.
Children under 16 can join their parents without fulfilling any conditions but if the child is between 16 and 18 years old, and not married/divorced/widowed, he/she will need to be either fluent in German or be able to integrate easily into German society (as judged by the German embassy/consulate processing the application) in order to get a residence permit for family reunification.
If the parent holds a Blue Card, a settlement permit or a residence permit for humanitarian purposes, then the latter requirements do not apply.
How to apply
You have to apply to the German Embassy or consulate in your home country.
In principle, in order to be issued with a residence permit, spouses should be able to demonstrate basic language skills. This is being able to understand and use everyday expressions and simple sentences – such as, asking for directions, introducing yourself, answering simple questions – and writing a name and address on forms.
You may need to show that you have passed a language exam, such as:
- ‘Start Deutsch 1‘ run by the Goethe-Institut or telc GmbH,
- ‘Grundstufe Deutsch 1‘ forming part of the Austrian Language Diploma (Österreichisches Sprachdiplom (ÖSD), or
- ‘TestDaF’ run by the TestDaF-Institut e.V.
Look on the website of the German embassy in your home country for more information.
However, you don’t need to prove your language ability if:
- you or your spouse holds an EU Blue card.
- your spouse is a highly qualified worker, a researcher or self-employed and you were already married or registered with your partner when you moved to Germany.
- it’s obvious that you don’t need help with integration (e.g. you’re educated to graduate level).
- you’re a national of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand or the USA.
- you cannot learn German because of a physical, mental or psychological problem.
If you’re joining a German spouse in Germany, you are also exempt if your partner has previously lived in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland, or it’s deemed impossible to learn German while abroad or within a year of being in Germany (as judged by the German embassy/consulate processing your application).
When you arrive in Germany
You will need to register every family member with the residence registration office and the Aliens Authority. When you go, you’ll need to take along your passports and other documents relating to your own situation, for example, birth certificates, a marriage certificate or civil partnership documentation, salary slips, tax certificates and tenancy agreements.
Partners and relatives – who can work?
You can work in Germany if the relative you are joining holds a residence permit authorising employment themselves, an EU Blue Card, or is in Germany as a researcher or a highly skilled person.