How to Become A Permanent Resident of Germany: 6 Tips for American Citizens with German Spouses

“Those colors. So strong, yet so intimidating…” — Photo by Trine Juel (

Are you an American citizen married to — or about to marry — a German citizen? Do you wish to move to Germany and live there as a permanent resident? Then congratulations! You have no sense of fear whatsoever! Man, woman or transgender — you have great big balls. Seriously, like 25% of your body weight is pure testicle. (And for that, I salute you.)

Because I have already made the leap myself, people email me all the time and ask for advice on moving to Germany. In response, I have sent fragmented tips, pointers and oblong nuggets of information on the subject all across the internet. My advice has been scatterbrained at best, so with this blog post, I am hoping to mash all my thoughts together like a fat kid sitting on a ham sandwich.

Before I begin, however, I want you to bear in mind the following 3 facts:

  1. My wife is German. If you haven’t figured this out by now, you probably wore a helmet to grade school.
  2. My wife and I got married in the United States and then moved to Germany. My only experience with German weddings has been as an inebriated guest.
  3. We moved from the United States to Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). Immigration protocols in Germany may vary from state to state.

That said, here we go! I hope you enjoy our tips for Americans on gaining permanent residency in Germany!

1.) Bring your American marriage certificate

Before you depart the United States on your way to Germany, make sure you bring a notarized copy — ideally 2 or 3 — of your official American marriage certificate. (Not the pretty one for framing on your wall. The real one.) It has to be notarized, meaning you take it to your state’s notary public office, where they stamp it with an apostille. I know that sounds like one of the 12 dudes who used to follow Jesus around and tell everyone how awesome he was, but it’s not; it’s an internationally recognized seal of certification, and Germans love it. They love it so much, they won’t accept your American marriage certificate without it.

Obviously you and your spouse will need to bring your passports too, but you’ll also need notarized copies of your birth certificates. It’s also a good idea to bring proof of employment, health insurance and rental or home ownership contracts for both of you. You probably won’t need or even have these last 3 items if you’re moving to Germany, but bring everything you do have just to be safe. And remember: Later on down the road, if you want to land a job in Germany, you’ll need notarized copies of your high school and college transcripts. (German bureaucracy demands certified proof of everything. You’ll even need a license to breathe. Just kidding.)

“That’s right. You sign that filthy little contract…” — Photo by Mike Goren (

2.) Get your American marriage certificate translated

Once you get to Germany, you have to have your American marriage certificate translated by a certified German translator. (And no, your spouse can’t translate it for you. That wouldn’t be painful enough.) You need to search for one in the state in which you plan on living, so you can get the translated version along with the state’s official stamp. So, for example, if you wanted to find a translator in Hannover, you would google: “zertifizierte Übersetzungsbüro Hannover.”

After you have an officially translated certificate, you’ll need to take it to your local marriage department or courthouse (German: “Standesamt“). Once there, you’ll sign some paperwork and receive your German marriage certificate. This document is the key to attaining your initial, 3-year residency permit from the immigration office and getting signed up for everything else you’ll need, like health insurance and German language classes. (The next section is all about this infuriating process.)

“Fatty pork products can help ease the suffering as you begin your descent into paperwork hell.” — Photo by Stacey Cavanagh (

SPECIAL NOTE: Figure out your legal name before you go to the marriage department, because the German government hates middle names. For example, my middle name became my “second first name,” and now appears on every legal document I receive. (Not a problem, really, but my middle name makes me sound like a dandy Englishman.) The marriage department is cool with hyphenated last names, but if you ever remove the hyphen, you can’t go back; it’s a one-way street. Also, they’re supposed to give you the option to keep your name exactly the way it appears in your home country, but they will make sure you understand doing so would really break their balls.

3.) Get your sweet ass to the immigration office

Do not wait to go to your local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde); go there as soon as you have your German marriage certificate in hand. I say this because the people who work at the immigration office are all functionally retarded. I had to make 3 different appointments and wait in unbelievably long lines because they lost my paperwork after my first appointment. If you know someone who works there, I want you to email me their home address so I can show up at their door and open-hand slap them as hard as humanly possible. I want the neighbors next door to hear it. I want their kids to start crying and their dog to start barking. God damn I hate the Ausländerbehörde.

“This place is exactly like ‘The Walking Dead,’ minus the sex scenes.” — Photo by Mark Hillary (

Anyway, bring every piece of identification you have, along with your marriage certificate, passport photos and about €150 euros in cash. The cash is to pay for your 3-year residence permit, which is actually just an ID card, like your driver’s license. And remember to bring your German spouse with you, because the immigration office employees probably won’t speak English. (They can barely manage to dress themselves in the morning.)

SPECIAL NOTE: Before they will give you the residency card, you will have to pass a little test. It’s a quick verbal exam to determine your ability to speak the German language at approximately A1 level. (A1 is for extreme beginners, but they want you to have some knowledge of the language so you can begin your German integration class. More on this later.)

My test was exactly 5 questions long:

  1. What is your name? (Nailed this one.)
  2. Can you spell your name? (Blew this one.)
  3. Where do you come from? (Scraped by this one.)
  4. How old are you? (Nailed this one.)
  5. How did you get here this morning, e.g. subway, on foot, etc.? (Stumbled through this one like a drunken sailor.)

In short, I barely passed. I honestly don’t know what happens if you fail, but don’t stress about it; you’re married to a German. They can’t kick you out of the country unless you break some laws and do something super bad. Like, James Bond movie villain bad. And although it’s unfair, you will receive preferential treatment because you come from America. That’s just the way it is. Be glad you don’t come from some evil country where warmongering, corruption and greed run rampant (oh wait…).

4.) Sign up for German health insurance as soon as possible.

When I came to Germany, I was so concerned with playing by the rules I accidentally broke them. I stayed on American travel insurance for almost a year after my arrival, and that pissed the German insurance people right the hell off. They wanted me on the books, in the system, and paying my dividends from the word go.

I was penalized a little for this mistake, but in the end, it wasn’t a huge deal. The real hassle was trying to get my basic healthcare needs met. If your spouse is German and has a decent job, chances are you’re entitled to coverage already — you just have to sign up. You may qualify for the public health option, or you might need a private one, but either way, don’t wait; have your spouse inquire at work and figure out your benefits.

“Here comes your communist root canal!” — Photo by Conor Lawless (

On a side note, Germany is not exactly the utopia of free health insurance and abundant healthcare we’ve been led to believe; there is a public option for people with lower incomes, but they wait longer for appointments and their prescription medications are limited to the basics. Yes, everyone is ‘theoretically’ covered, but you’ll find a world of difference between public and private insurance no matter the country in which you reside. If you have money, you’ll get doctor appointments sooner, enjoy preferential treatment overall, and have enough pharmaceutical options to kill a rock star. I’m sorry, but when it comes to healthcare, having money is the tits.

5.) Enroll in an integration course as soon as possible

Germany is a popular country for immigrants, and most of them are coming from countries closer than America, so language classes required by the German government fill up quickly. It was the beginning of September when I first arrived, and I was told the next integration class would begin after the first of the year. I returned in the second week of January only to find the class completely full. I had to wait until spring for the next one to begin, so please, do yourself a favor and sign up for your class immediately.

Now, assuming you’ve already attained that 3-year residency permit I mentioned, but you still suck at German, you’ll need to take exactly 3 language classes: A1, A2 and B1 — which, combined, form your ‘integration course.’ After you’re done, you’ll then take the B1 exam. It has several portions, including reading, writing, speaking and listening comprehension. It can seem really hard at first, but don’t worry; you’ll be prepared for it after all those hellish hours spent in the classroom. Also, you can find all sorts of sample B1 tests on the Goethe-Institut website ( — so you know exactly what sorts of things you need to practice.

You can take these language classes at your local VHS (Volkshochschule), or anywhere else recognized by the immigration department. I believe your local VHS will be the cheapest option, but remember: Even in Germany, you get what you pay for. (This is a polite way of saying the VHS can lick my unholy scrotum. Consider looking for a ‘Bildungsverein,’ ‘Goethe-Institut’ or virtually any other language school, if you value your sanity.)

“There are 16 articles in the German language. Who’s up for some ritual suicide?” — Photo by Shane global (

After you pass your B1 exam, you’ll probably have to take a month-long ‘orientation’ class afterward. This is where they teach you all about German politics, geography and history… as if you miraculously overlooked every single World War II movie and History Channel documentary ever made. Anyway, you’ll need to take another little test for this orientation course, but then you’re done! Once you’ve lived for a full 3 years in Germany with your initial residence permit, you’ll get a letter from the immigration department telling you to come in and update your visa status. (Or, if you’re me, the Ausländerbehörde will forget to tell you about your appointment entirely, and you’ll have to call these idiots to confirm it.)

You’ll bring your passport, test certificates, 3-year residence permit card (which will have expired by now), 2 passport photos, around €150 euros in cash, proof of employment, rent / ownership contract and a heroic amount of patience — and they’ll submit your application for you. After 4 weeks, you’ll either receive your new permit in the mail, or have the delightful experience of returning to the Ausländerbehörde to pick it up in person.

Some states will simply extend your permit by 5 to 10 years, but they also might give you your permanent residence permit right there at the appointment. It depends how long you’ve been married to your German. (I think you need to have survived at least 5 years without killing each other.)

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some extra help, check it out — Additional Information for Extra Nervous, Soon-to-Be Expats:

6.) Don’t Panic.

I really hope this article helps you feel more prepared for your life in Germany. It can be a scary prospect for an American — I know — but one which will very likely turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Life in Germany rules; it is a beautiful country, safe, stable and full of wonderful people. However, if you’re still losing sleep over the big move, remember the following:

  1. You are married to a German citizen and you come from a so-called ‘respectable’ country. You’ll be allowed to stay no matter what anyone tells you.
  2. Most Germans speak some English. In a pinch, you can usually default to your native language. This is a huge advantage, and it’s totally unfair (but totally awesome).
  3. You are going to die someday. I know this is depressing, but it’s also liberating, because none of these little details really matter. Picture yourself on your deathbed, sucking in your last feeble breath before greeting the great void beyond; did it really matter if you filled out that one little immigration form in exactly the right way? Did the Germans throw you on a plane and deport your ass because you turned in that one document a day or two after the deadline? Were you separated from your beloved spouse for the rest of your life because you didn’t ace that stupid language test the first time? No. Lots of idiots have done this before you. You will be fine. Everything is going to work out beautifully.
“Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Photo by Johan Larsson (


167 thoughts

  1. Well done. You did cover all the bases beautifully, and with humor, which everyone will need because NO ONE will get your jokes but you! I never did have a problem though…I plied our Frau Caseworker with a gift of MERCI chocolates.


      1. I love the idea of a “merci” gift – also, for the writer of this site, HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF PEARL thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been trying to find the information I need, but it was unclear to me what steps needed to happen in what order, this is incredibly helpful. It’s still terrifying a little bit, but less so with little humor and perspective, and some semblance of an idea what I’ll need to do. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


    1. I wasn’t familiar with the German pronunciation of the alphabet yet. Like, how the English “i” sounds in German like “eee,” and the English “e” sounds in Germany like “ehh.” I just gave it my best shot and watched as the man scratched a big ‘ol “X” on that question. (The letter X, however, was perfectly clear to me.) :)


  2. That is frickin awesome. Too bad it was too late for me. Oh, and I have some advice for those of us a bit older, with previous marriages under their belt. AND getting married here in Germany… Actually could be a book in and of itself.

    How goes your Deutsch course or are you done now?


  3. This is very informative. I married my German husband here in Germany and it was too stressful to tell. However, I’d like to just add that for the intergration courses if you pass with a decent grade, you are eligible to get a 50% refund (at least I was able to do that). It made the courses very affordable.


      1. Quote from link posted:

        If you pass the final test at the end of the integration course within two years of the confirmation of eligibility to attend the course being issued, you can, under certain circumstances, claim back half of your payments towards the cost. You must submit and send a signed application to the regional office responsible for you.


  4. My head is spinning. Thank God I am too old to consider such an adventure. I am however, kummerspeck (but become that way over almost everything). Perhaps I should go make avocado dip with my new tool and eat chips and dip…


      1. We are thinking the same; for what it cost it isn’t worth moving. Just my laptop and clothing will go and some personal artifacts I’ll drag along.


      2. Just finished selling nearly everything so I could make the leap from Arkansas to Bavaria. The first week of selling I cried about 5 times a day. Hey, giving up your things is hard! Now I’m practically begging people to take the few odds and ends that are left, and yes, it’s extremely freeing to not be loaded down by “stuff.” The German has enough stuff for the both of us though.


    1. One thing you might consider for items that you aren’t sure of yet and if you have family still in the US, is to put things in storage. Ideally, your family would be willing to put stuff in an attic or shed or whatever so it would be free. Sometimes cheap storage could be worth it if you are planning on visiting the US within the first year or so of moving. I left some stuff in the US. When I realized I missed the stuff enough, I had someone send it to me (as I didn’t make it back to visit. I you travel, you can save lots of shipping costs by making room in your suitcase on the return trip). As time went on, I had either had everything important enough to ship sent to me and my theory was if I didn’t remember what else was in storage, I didn’t need it anymore and I could let it go without the normal emotional tug some items give you. I then told family it was safe to get rid of the rest. Most of the items I had sent were books I couldn’t bear to part with but were not so vital I needed in Germany right away. Also left behind but later sent were framed pictures (I had a painting a friend did that was professionally framed). I had moved (I thought permanently) from and then returned to the states before. That time I had gotten rid of almost everything. When I returned, I realized I regretted ditching some things. This storage option prevented rash, enthusiastic tossing things out, but didn’t obligate me to pay for getting them to Germany if I later decided I really could do without them. That painting is now on my wall and looks lovely in my living room. It’s a great touch from home and I am so glad I put it in storage. Best of luck to you!


    2. There’s also “UPakWeShip”. It sounded super sketchy, but I found it by reading up on forums of Americans who have moved to Europe and needed to move in an affordable fashion. It looks legit so far, and am thinking of using them for just a small shipment of boxes, no furniture and nothing big…


  5. I feel exactly the same way as you about the immigration department, but in Mexico! Perhaps it’s a secret, international requisite of all immigration employees to make the process so excrutiating as to put anyone off having the will to get through it! Loved this post, very amusing!


  6. Huh, now I am kind of bummed that I am the German in our marriage and will never have to go through this beautifully outlined process. We don´t have the intention of living in Germany anytime soon but if the need arises we will make sure to come back to this post and prepare hubby for the necessary. Thanks a million!

    PS: I think it takes big balls to rant about the Ausländerbehörde in a public forum in light of the fact that you still want your permanent residency from them. But then, their English is probably not good enough to understand any of this here ;)


    1. :) Don’t worry. If you move back here you probably will have to register your marriage anyway for the Familienbuch and any other bureaucratic reasons. I’m sure your spouse will need lots of emotional, if not language support for that!


      1. Ah, actually we have registered the marriage already because I wanted to change my name and could only do this according to German law, simply because I am German. And by the way, there is no Familienbuch anymore. Just the plain old marriage certificates.


      2. Cool. That’s good to know. They terrorized me with the idea that if didn’t get everything right my future children might be written down as bastards or something in the Familienbuch. :) :)


  7. I lived in Germany for five years. I didn’t have to go through any integration procedures, get an ID card, forced to learn the language, take numerous tests to see if I was sane and show birth certificates etc.

    You guessed it, I was in the British Army of occupation after we won the war (with a little bit of help from our friends in the American Colonies!). Nevertheless I loved the Germans and the way of life there. I learned my German by going out and mixing with people in shops, bars, parks,bars, places of ill-repute and bars. I know all the swear words and a few I made up myself.

    As Brit soldiers we were forbidden to marry a German girl (Oh, woe!), because at that time there were hordes of young pretty girls wanting to marry us, just to get out of Germany.


    1. And the award for Most Interesting Comment of the Day goes to, Keith!

      Thank you for the great comment! I loved it, and found it highly informative. I’m also impressed you fell in love with the country in which you were fighting.

      By the way, I heard the Germans called us, “Amis.” Is this true? Because I’m pretty sure they still do it to this very day. (I’ve been told it isn’t insulting.) :)


    2. Wow. Very interesting. I know bilingual Germans who are children of British soldiers who married German women. Did they have to leave the Army first or do you think they were kicked out for it? I live down the street from where many British soldiers used to be housed.


  8. I’ve followed a similar path to you the last quarter of last year. Thank you for the salute with your 30% of testicle mass (more for you since you have proceeded me!). Likewise, my wife is German (Oh God! or Thank God!?), we got married in the States (two ceremonies, 3 years apart…I’ll leave it at that), and now living in Berlin.

    As for marriage certificate…here’s my story and sticking with it:
    Had my first appointment with Ausländerbehörde at the end of September, three days after departing New York and landing in Berlin. All was fine and dandy except needing an APOSTILLE. My wife and I were like, what’s that? So, after doing some research, we mailed our (short-form we discovered later) marriage certificate to my parents in New York to go get it taken care of before my next appointment at the end of November. This certificate was last traced to somewhere between Frankfurt (Main) and New York and never seen again. So after deciding that this will never arrive, we filled out a form to get a new marriage certificate (long-form), got this as well as a power of attorney notarized and sent it by Deutsche Post’s “Eil International” (aka “faster and tracked” *lol*). Waiting and waiting, wondering if this package will ever show up at my parents. Finally, 4 days before my follow up appointment at Ausländerbehörde, they get it. The next day, my dad goes and gets the marriage certificate at the New York City City Clerks office, with a detour to get the notarization letter translated (*rolling eyes*), then after the City Clerk, to the Manhattan County (aka New York County) Clerk to approve the signature of the City Clerk, then to the New York State Department of State to get the apostille. Then, he mailed it via UPS 2nd day to arrive at our apartment by 10:30 am the day of my appointment which was at 11 am. You think you can breathe now? Wrong!

    So, the day of my Ausländerbehörde appointment came with my appointment. We’re waiting for UPS to arrive with the envelope. At 9:30 I depart with my 2 year-old son in tow to get to my appointment and at least to be there, even if the documents are not. We get there, wait for my wife to tell me the good news that UPS came by 10:30. 10:30 comes and goes, so my wife who was waiting behind calls UPS to see what’s up. They say that the delivery person came and couldn’t find my name. Given that both of our last names are on the buzzer it can be a bit difficult to find one of the two names, but isn’t what that your job is? So, my wife got them to route the envelope back to our apartment and then hoofed her way by Straßenbahn and U-Bahn to Ausländerbehörde, arriving there around noon.

    Meanwhile, my son and I had been waiting for our number to be called and 11 am had come and gone. I did ask once at the info room/window about it and they told me to ask at my appointment room, but when I inquired at that room, they didn’t want to hear about my question (of where the heck my appointment went), perhaps I didn’t phrase it correctly. So my wife comes and all three of us wait…and wait…and wait. Around 1 pm, my wife decided to try the info room and gets to inquire about why my number hasn’t shown up yet. We found out the reason why. Since we weren’t sure if our documents were going to show up in time for my current appointment, we scheduled another appointment in December and left the November appointment open. It turns out their computer system cancelled the November appointment without informing Ausländerbehörde nor us, so that’s why my number never showed up. Thank goodness that somehow they had the heart to take us right then and there and go through the paperwork and I walked out with my temporary Aufenthaltstitel. Ok, you may breathe now.

    About a month later, I picked up my permanent Aufenthaltstitel. It’s a bit creepy to have your headshot as a hologram in the middle of the card, don’t you think?

    Now, shall I tell the story about my Integration Course that begins (finally!) on Thursday? Ok, attempt at a short version: JobCenter (aka Department of Labor) told me I needed to take it (sounds good to me), told me to contact BAMF – Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge. So, I submitted an application to BAMF, which needed 4 weeks to process. A few weeks in, my wife called them to see what the progress was; they said it would be another two weeks. Two or three weeks later, I got a letter in the mail saying that BAMF is only responsible for EU residents and I should have received some paperwork from Ausländerbehörde when I received my Aufenthaltstitel. Of course, it all makes sense, doesn’t it especially when Ausländerbehörde never gave me such paperwork. So, the day before my next JobCenter appointment, I went to Ausländerbehörde at the crack of dawn to get this approval. Glad that it went quicker than expected (although I did have to wait 45 minutes), I was expecting to make use of the small list of lunch places to check out.

    So, I’ve signed up for my Intergration Course, took the placement test and Thursday I see which class I’m in. I was a bit scared that I was the first one to finish the test. It wasn’t too hard considering I took three years of German, albeit ending three years ago. So, wish me luck, “press your thumbs” and I wish the same for you too!

    P.S. Breathe deeply now!


  9. ahhh, the good old apostille … the U.S consulate in Frankfurt is very fond of them too.
    When living in Germany and applying for a green card for my german wife, the consulate wanted me to provide a birth certificate no older than 6 months (because the data on a birth certificate obviously changes all the time) with an apostille.
    I cannot express how much fun it was organizing that (which involved two different state departments) from across the atlantic ocean.


  10. Excellent post! Love your sense of humor!

    Too bad that you didn’t have to get married here like we did. That was a load of fun. You think that paying the translator for the marriage certificate was bad… imagine what I had to pay the OTHER lady that stood by me as we got married (her whispering in my ear the whole time was slightly distracting, and in the end I was almost unsure who it was I had married).

    I must admit that I got to Germany right before the integration language requirement. Unfortunately that made me lazy and late to begin working on the language.


      1. Our translator was nice… nice and expensive. But she had that translator voice, like a drone or something. I guess they try to not put any emotion into the words.

        As for my location, ummm Berlin. All the best from the Hauptstadt.


    1. I loved it and want to go back for more. In the meantime, I am using Duolingo, since it’s free. I was glad that the time I spent before attending the course helped and I was able to test in halfway through the course and only needed 300 hours. So, if you are in the US and can start learning German, you may be able to bypass a lot of the course even if your German isn’t great when you get here.


      1. Dear Ramona,

        Thank you for introducing me to this great tool. I have already done my A1 and am aiming to do B1 in couple of months and this site is great for practicing. Thanks once again.



      2. No problem. I am using it daily to reinforce what I have learned to use and to save money as I can’t afford the course right now. It’s making a huge difference for me. I really need to be able to write in German much better if I ever hope to get a job again.


      3. I have been using Duolingo since July and still felt overwhelmed in the module two course they put me in. After three days, I had a panic attack and had to leave the course. I need to find another course, but I am stressed about the whole process now. I am glad that you were successful.


  11. Excellent post! Your sense of humor is so wonderful!
    Too bad that you didn’t have to get married here like we did. That was a load of fun. You think that paying the translator for the marriage certificate was bad… imagine what I had to pay the OTHER lady that stood by me as we got married (her whispering in my ear the whole time was slightly distracting, and in the end I was almost unsure who it was I had married).
    I must say that I got to Germany right before the integration language requirement. Unfortunately that made me lazy and late to begin working on the language.


  12. Man, that immigration office looks worse than in Korea. Are the officers there polite? Here they mostly are, but I’ve known some bad ones. Rude immigration officers make everything a million times worse.


    1. I think that picture I used in the post is actually an airport. I just wanted to convey the sense of lost, crowded helplessness I felt. *Shudder*

      I think every immigration office blows, man. All around the world.

      Perhaps we should start our own? We’ll call it, The Totally Awesome Office of Overly Friendly Citizenship Givers. :)


    1. We have private insurance only because my wife is a Gymnasium teacher and therefore considered a government employee. She was on public insurance for her entire life prior to this though, and she had only great things to say about it… namely that she never had to actually deal with the bills or submitting them for reimbursement to the different companies. You know what I mean?


  13. This was so much fun to read. I lived in Duesseldorf from 2000-05 and both of my kids were born there. It’s amazing how much the Germans love bureaucracy and making you jump through hoops. I didn’t have to deal with as much BS as you, since we were temporary residents and lived on an Aufenthaltstitel. I’m sure after losing your paperwork, the friendly folks at the Ausländerbehörde were completely self-righteous about it and somehow shamed you into believing it was your fault… :D You’re right, though. Once you get used to the Germans’ humorless inflexibility and their peculiar affinity for rules, it’s a wonderful place to live. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything.


      1. We’re back in Sweet Home Chicago since 2005. To my surprise, we did go through some reverse culture shock, which was something I’d only read about before moving back. I’d gotten used to the more formal German way of life, so the laid-back American nature and the overt friendliness of strangers was overwhelming. Not to mention grocery shopping – I couldn’t believe I’d ever been faced with so many cereal choices. I also realized my kids were much more German than American. My oldest in particular, who was almost 5 when we moved back. She’d attended 2 years of German Kindergarten in Duesseldorf. For the first month or so, she’d run up to kids at the playground and ask “Möchtest du gerne spielen?” Although we tried to keep up speaking at German at home with her, it eventually fizzled until she was speaking English all the time. Culture and surroundings really have a powerful influence. I enjoy reading your blog, because it often takes me right back to our days in D’dorf.


      2. Unfortunately they lost the language years ago, but that’s what happens I suppose. It goes to show how much one’s culture has on a person. German just isn’t a practical language in our area.


  14. And I thought I had it fun just working here, trying to learn German and having 3 appointments with the Auslander just to extend my visa. It’s also so very true about the VHS instructors, my luck has been piss poor on getting a good one….my next attempt, bribing my company to pay for a Goethe Institute private tutor.


  15. While I managed to improve my German substantially in my integration course (because of some luck of the draw with good teachers) the company that ran it, BFZ, was horrible and scammy, at least in Munich.

    The orientation part was a two week circus of boredom and madness. Since the test is just multiple choice, and they tell you all the possible questions, I made it into a game for myself and memorized all the questions using an app I made for myself. Day of the test, I finished it in less than a minute without a single mistake. The teacher was a little stunned, so for that small victory, it was worth it.

    And for the last laugh, I polished up the app, and made it available for all us suffering ex-pats to benefit from. We need to stick together, right?

    (If you’re interested, it’s called “Leben in DE” and sadly, only for iOS: )


  16. Funny as hell like always, thank you!
    Don’t know if it was mentioned somewhere else (here it wasn’t, did read all comments):
    Please don’t forget to change your driver’s license into a national german license within 6 months.
    For 6 months you can use your american driver’s license without any problems, after this time you can get serious trouble!

    And yes, we still call an US-American “Ami” and british people “Tommy”.
    That’s not as bad anymore like it had been in former times, more funny meant nowadays.
    And german women who took care of their dignity wouldn’t have mingled with Amis or Tommies till round about the 80ies, leastwise not in the very north of germany.
    Hey, you were our enemies!
    Girls and women who did we called chewing-gum-bitches (Kaugummi-Schlampen).
    Yep…Times change, people change…luckily they do! ☺


    1. Sorry, have to offer a bit of tip to swearing here. Bitch is not the same as Schlampe. Bitch is not about being sexual, it is about having an aggressive attitude. I’ve seen so many Germans misuse or misunderstand Bitch because they think it means Schlampe. So, when I say my MIL can be a bitch, I don’t mean she is sexual. I mean she is outright rude and mean.

      Schlampe is more slut or tramp. Sorry to go off topic…


      1. No problem :) Yep, I think it should be changed, based on my experience. Then again, if any native speaker has a different experience, I have no problem being proven wrong, but until then I feel pretty sure. Sometimes dictionaries still include definitions that have fallen out of use. Maybe that is what is going on here?


  17. Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m currently in Germany with my finace but go back to the States next Friday. Our wedding is May 24th in the States and we come back here June 3rd. I’ve been panicking. In fact, I’ve avoided looking into it because I was afraid it would overwhelm me and make me panic even more. This makes it seem much easier. I mean, it sounds like a pain in the ass, but not nearly as hard as I thought. I really appreciate the time you put into this!


    1. Right on, Sheri! That’s so cool! Thank you for letting us know.

      Your wedding will be wonderful and we wish you all the very best. Don’t sweat the process here in Germany. It’s just like having one long, minor headache. :)


  18. This was quite interesting, humorous – and still very informative. I’m impressed, what you’re going through to make your wife happy. ;-)
    Good Luck for your further German life experience. *chuckle*


      1. Try a bite! Really – You’ll learn to love it – it’s not worse than hamburger with peanut butter. LOL


  19. SO glad I found this blog. I am moving to Bavaria in December and getting married there to my German bride-to-be. I have a very important question though: I am under the understanding that I have to take and pass an A1 exam, and present the certificate to the Standesamt in order to be allowed to stay after the marriage. Are you saying that you didn’t have to do that, and that you just had to answer 5 questions at the immigration office? Please email me back or comment back :)


    1. My wife and I were married in the States, then we moved to Germany. We had to get an official German wedding certificate, and that’s what we took to the registry office. The 5 questions at the registry office simply gave me a 3-year residence permit. I don’t know how they do things in Bavaria, because that particular state has very different rules for everything. Just give the registry office a call. It’s worth it to get the straight answer for your specific situation.


    2. I’m an American married to a German woman, and my German skills were pitiful when I moved here 3 years ago. At that time, I was told I had to the integration course, and I did. My German speaking is improved to just embarrassing, but that was a huge step.

      At the time, it was clear to us that legally, as a spouse of an EU national, Germany had to let me live here. They couldn’t do anything other than nag me by post and make me renew my residency yearly. People who move here outside of the EU without ties to someone from the EU are required, in order to maintain residency.

      Just the other day I was informed that someone in my circumstances challenged the “requirement” that people like us (folks married to Germans) take the Intergration course, and won. This is anecdotal, but I suspect it is true. There’s a good chance you won’t have to take it. I would love to have that time back… However, it did help a lot with the language…


  20. Sounds all to familiar, but i have a extra hiccup if you will. Nut shelled, German wife we married in Las Vegas moved to Germany, did my a1 course received my 3 year visa all is well and good. Work full time pay my taxes semi respectful guy. Here is the kicker a year after arriving get a kick in the nuts from my xwife saying OOPs never finished the divorce even if i was shown what i assume are fake papers now so she could keep her green card back in the states. Now we are in the process to make my current marriage fully legal. Most likely with a annulment in Vegas, and then get remarried here. or in Denmark i hear. We of course worrying about the internal German laws and what we expect some ur in trouble pay us fees. So now we are chcickens without heads trying to figure out really what to do.


  21. Very interesting read. I am curious about what to do about being previously married. And what to do if I only live in Germany part of the year?
    My fiance is a German language teacher and I am still scared to death of those courses!
    Thank you for all the info!


    1. Hi, I can offer some advice on the previously married part of this. I live in Potsdam currently with my German wife. (She is an English teacher BTW) and both of us had previously been married.

      In Land Brandenburg I, as an American had to provide an original birth certificate, my marriage dissolution paperwork (original with court certificate) as well as an original copy of my first marriage certificate and a paper from the US embassy that stated I was free to marry anyone I wanted and of course my passport and German proof of residency. Oh, and a pile of Euros…

      The really sticky pain in the … was that each foreign document had to have a supporting document known as a “Apostille” that was included by the authority that created the original document. And all these items have a ‘shelf life’ – in Brandenburgs case it was six months from the oldest document date – after that each document would need to be recreated.

      (I think “Apostille” is French for ‘you’re going to take it in the shorts’)

      Since we did a bit of research up front I had gathered all the supporting documents before I came to Germany. Then my wife and I went to the Standesamt in our city and applied for the license – and they provided us with a list of all the documents that they needed to have. One main requirement was that we had to have each page of each of my documents translated into German from English.

      Note: This can’t be done by a friend who’s literate in both languages [such as my native German English teacher wife], but must be performed by a state – certified (if that is the right word for it ) translator. At some 20 Euros per page.

      Though we had already found out most of the requirements for my paperwork, my wife had no real idea before our Standesamt what she needed. Fortunately we could manage all her paperwork needs with just five or ten visits and appointments in the various German departments in the Rathaus.

      Now, my wifes ex recently remarried too; he married a gal from Slovakia or some such… They went to the Netherlands and got married. Was probably no more expensive than our total expenditures, but was much less paperwork intensive and was later recognized by German authorities.

      My wife and I had also discussed getting married in the states – and then bringing back the paperwork to prove it. I understand that it would have been much easier (depending upon where you’re from it could be advantageous to investigate marrying in your homeland). Ultimately I think it would have been easier, and just a bit more costly (since we would have had to fly back stateside to do so and do the appropriate paperwork there).

      Now then, the German classes are not terminally hard. I was 52 when I moved here and had only taken Spanish in school very many years ago. The key is to find a good school. The local Volkshochschule is probably a good place to start, though my immigration advisor provided us with a list of approved schools and I ended up at a local (walking distance) school that offered a intensive six month course five days a week and five hours a day.

      I managed to get the “B1” certificate even though I still (almost two years later) feel completely incompetent in speaking German. At least I can understand much of what is being said now. When they don’t speak at light speed… Or in a dialect I am unfamiliar with…. Or don’t have speech impediments…

      Of course I am a programmer and pretty much only use German to speak to my mother in law and my wife’s grown daughter. I work on the ‘internet and have little interaction with any Germans outside the home. My wife pretty much only speaks to me in English as she’s known me far longer than our last two plus years here together and she is in the habit of speaking English.


      1. Thank you so very much for all of this information!
        We ultimately have not decided a location for a ceremony as of yet, so this is most helpful.


      2. You are quite welcome. I am convinced that our easiest solution would have been to fly to Las Vegas and been married there… But getting married in Germany worked out, and the total process took less than than the six months the Standesamt told us to expect from start to approval.


  22. Hello,
    I am an American getting ready to make that move over the pond to Deutschland and I have read your blog and gotta say Thank You for the wonderful advice. You made me laugh and almost made me cry at the end and if at all possible it would be great to have a beer with you and learn more about all that you have gone through. … LOL. … I learned alot from what you said and gotta say i don’t feel so scared anymore but know what I have in store ahead of me. I am married to a German lady and she is really trying to make it easier for me making it over there but gotta say just reading your blog made it a hell of a lot more bright for what I have to look forward to with being there… We are moving to Hamburg area of that is anywhere’s close to you. .. If not best of luck to you and again thank you for the advice and a really good laugh. …. Tcheuss…..


  23. I am from Germany, (german citizen), I want to get married to an American and we both want to live in Germany. The last American I married we both moved to the states. Now this one we both want to move back to Germany. He has never been to Germany, but lived in Italy as a navy guy. He is retired, so won’t need a job, since we get retirement pay, also can go on post/base to do anything he needs to do. Now my question do we have to go through the language class and integration class for him? We only want to stay there 1 year, since we own a house here in the states. Basically we want to live in Germany for a bit and in the states for a bit. Thank for the info.


  24. I am a german citizen and live her in the states, however, my boyfriend and I want to get married and live in Germany. He is American. We both only want to be there for 1 year or so…since we still got family here in the states and also our house. He is military retired, would not need a job. We both have military health insurance, even though I can get german insurance. Now my question, does he have to do the german course, and intergration process, even though he will never work in Germany. ?


    1. Hi Petra,
      I’m not sure. If you’re married when you get to Germany, you may be allowed to skip the integration course. It depends on the state you’ll be living in. I would call the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) and ask.
      Good luck, and thank you for the message!
      — OGM


  25. Thanks for this awesome piece of information.

    For me (being) German it is always fantastic to read about this coming from a different perspective.

    I just made the change to the US, coming from Germany being German and wanted to tell you, that the American bureaucrats and their German colleagues have apparently visited the same training camps……we were glad we spoke English well enough, but friendliness and courtesy has to be left at home when working in this places.

    Keep up the great work!


  26. So, not sure if this blog is still open to responses, but I’m at least going to try. I went to college at the university in Giessen back in the 80’s-90’s and during the time that I was there, I married a German girl. After i had gotten my permanent resident visa, I was forced to go back to the States because of some family issues on my side of the family and my wife did not want to move with me. We never got a divorce and I have been in the States ever since taking care of an elderly parent. I am still interested in returning to Germany and working and maybe retiring there, but I have no clue what my current status is going to be. I am in the process of obtaining a copy of my German Eheurkunde (marriage certificate), but do not know how to proceed after that? Anyone have any advice for a 50 year old interested in returning to Germany? Luckily enough for me, I have a degree in German and have kept up with friends from over there, so at least as far as the language barrier is concerned, I feel fairly confident.


  27. Do you know if, when a VHS is offering language courses split up and described like this: A1.1 (for people with no prior knowledge), A1.2 (for people with basic knowledge), A1.3 (for people with prior knowledge), A1.4 (also for people with prior knowledge) – are these classes which should all be taken in succession of one another, or are they just to determine where to start? My fiancé is beginning his A1.1 course soon, but I am confused whether he should move to A1.2 or straight to A2 after he’s done. The A1.1 course isn’t that long so I have a feeling it’s the former. But I thought maybe you’d know. Perhaps this is specific to the VHS where we live though, and I may need to ask them directly (even though I’m technically German, my German isn’t too good, which is why I thought I’d ask you before I stumble through attempting to ask them!). Thanks!


    1. Hi Francesca,

      The levels go A1/1, A1/2, A2/1, A2/2, B1/1, B1/2, B2/1, B2/2, C1/1, C1/2, and so on. In my opinion, A1/1 through A2/2 should all be considered “beginner.” B1/1 through B2/2 is intermediate, and anything beyond C1/1 is “advanced” (and also required for university studies).

      I had to go all the way up through B1/2 and take a 1-month orientation course (German politics, history, etc) in order to attain my integration course certificate. Everything else beyond that has been just for me to learn German. Period.

      But by all means, please speak with your local VHS about all this. Your fiancé may very well be allowed to skip the beginner classes and save some time and money. Personally, I wanted to take every single class so my certificate would never be questioned, even though I was a little bored at the beginning, like in A1/1. It’s really quite easy in the beginning if you’re eager to learn and have studied a little on your own beforehand.

      Anyone else have any tips for our friend and her fiancé here?

      – OGM


      1. Thank you! This helps a lot. I will definitely check with our VHS as well since they have it split into four sub-levels instead of just two. How long were each of your courses? Apparently my fiancé also has to take an A1 level language test. I was hoping he’d be able to do it in person at the Ausländerbehörde like you did. But I guess different states have different rules, or maybe the situations are different. Not sure. :/


  28. Hallo. I was told that if my wife to be was on the hertz 4 program I would have to be on it too until I was able to get a good enough job to support us both? I’m not a tech guy. Doesn’t that effect my residency permit status after 3 years? I want to come work my ass off to learn Deutsch and provide for my wife. Please no rude hertz comments. She can’t work. Some law or paper shouldn’t keep true love separated. I just want to become integrated to society and pay my share. Please someone help, thank you.


  29. My name is Paul, i have permanet resident in spain and i want to join my German girlfriend as a partner in Germany, it´s allow for me to be legar with her in Germany


  30. What an awesome article…with great insight…. and OHH MY GOD MY WIFE IS GERMAN TOO…. but i am panicking cause i do not come from so called respectable country….. i come from Pakistan… buuuuhahahahahaha… now imagine that how difficult it will be for me…. i am doing my A1 course here in Pakistan and then ill apply for the family reunion visa… the good thing is that our marriage is already legalized in Germany( I dont know if it gona be of any help) but fingers crossed…. So what do u reckon…..


  31. Outstanding article- humorous, accurate, and very well done! After finishing a degree at a German university some years ago, I lived and worked in Hannover on my own before returning to the U.S., and now, 10 years later, I’m returning to Germany AGAIN, this time with a German wife whom I met here in the U.S. We are moving to the South, where my wife is from, and I honestly don’t know what to expect from the Auslaenderbehoerde given my situation- that is, having lived there on my own before as a foreigner from the U.S., leaving for some years, and now returning with a German spouse. I know that they (officials at the Auslaenderbehoerde, not German wives :-)) can be a real pain in the neck to deal with, even when you think you’ve crossed all your t’s and dotted your i’s. Do you know if my having lived there before will complicate our situation when we move back early next month? I’m not worried about language issues or having to take an integration course- I’m just not sure how they’re going to react when they see that I’ve lived there before for so long, with unlimited residency, left the country, and am now back again with a German wife, pretty much starting all over.


      1. 6. Sept. 2016- Well, I am back in the country, with my wife- thus far we’ve registered at the Einwohnermeldeamt, and my appointment for the residency permit is on Monday. We thought we had everything for the registration, but we were missing a form they did not mention when we had called weeks beforehand to inquire about EVERY single thing we’d need to register. The lady at the Einwohnermeldeamt gave us that form, we had it filled out and signed by our landlord, and returned to the office in the same day- everything was okay. Still a bit skeptical and bracing for the event that I’ll have to produce that one single item I’ve never heard of or know nothing about, but I’m assuming that it will be no problem to obtain the residency permit.

        I’d like to add to your advice: compared with my previous experiences in places like Hannover and Frankfurt, it seems to be extremely helpful and easy if you can take care of these things (registration, residency permit, e.t.c) in a small town or village. There was no waiting, the young lady was quite friendly with us, and the whole atmosphere was pretty laid back and casual. Whatever the case though, do call (several times just to be sure) ahead of your appointments and find out exactly what it is they’ll want to have so that you won’t be missing any documents you’ll need to get signed up and registered.

        Thanks for the informative blog and encouragement, and good luck to all of you headed for a life in Germany.


  32. Great article! I was wondering, why do you need the integration course? It seems you got your residence permit before you had this course. Do you need this before you can extend the 3 year permit? Also, is the initial residence permit enough to get a job on the market like any other German could? Thanks in advance.


  33. Hello! Very helpful article. My husband is German and I am American and we would like to live in Spain for 1 tp 2 years. Do you know if going through the process outlined above would also let me live in Spain(and work)? I would love to hear back from you :)


    1. Hi there

      Im german if you got got a perminent resident for Germany it’s not going to be a problem for you living in Spain.
      You need to get registered at the immigration office in Spain and have an apartment there or registered address.


  34. I also took my maiden name as my new middle name. To make sure everyone understood that it is now my middle and no longer my maiden name, the clerk entered my name as Susie Smith (Mittel) Jones. I now get mail addressed to Susie Smith Mittel Jones. Love Germany :-§


  35. great article! So in my case my wife is Germany and i’m American. She is super organized and so we’ve been married in the US for 2 years and we already have our German marriage certificate, she’s already changed her name on her german passport and ID. I assume this will help expedite at least the first few steps.

    Is what you wrote about having notarized copies of my college transcripts still relevant? I currently work for a German company in the US and we have tons of offices throughout Germany so i’m hoping I could apply for a job in Germany from the US without relying on the company to need to provide any type of VISA… since i’m married to a Germany citizen. How do you see this working with your profound knowledge :)


  36. Question…you said after the 3 years you need proof of employment correct? Do you have to work or can you just be a stay at home parent?


  37. Oh well! I didn’t read all of the comments but it seems like my husband maybe gonna be the first American that gets kicked out of Germany!
    We got married in dec 17 in the states and came to live here since I’m german. The (idiotic and pathetic) Ausländerbehörde told us in march that he has to take the A1 Goethe Test (not 5 questions anymore, a whole 2 hours thing – writing, reading, speaking, listening) within 12 weeks. As you mentioned, all classes were always booked out. He finally started class in may. He’s now half way through the course (they say I needs at least a year since they made the test super hard in 2015 to even have a chance to pass it) they told us that he has to present a test result by the end of October. Long story short, leaving out all the stories about lawyers appointments and nights full of tears: If he fails it – he got 10 days to leave the country. Fun fact: all Ausländerbehörden around us (small towns) wouldn’t even want him to do a A1 test. Best advice I can give to Americans wanting to move here as a spouse: always email the Ausländerbehörde in the area you wanna move to and ask what they want, before you even apply for the visa. Maybe the one 10 km away isn’t as retarded and you may wanna move to that area!


      1. No sir, I’m talking about the A1 so he can get a 3 year residence card. It’s called “Ehegattennachzug” and since 2015 they ask for the A1 certificate as a Part of the Applications for non eu spouses. Funny thing is: only if he passes and gets a 3 year visa he’s allowed to join the Integration course you did – that starts with the A1 again. 🙄 We’re in Stuttgart but I talked to the BAMF people in Nürnberg a lot and yes, since 2015, things have changed a lot…


      2. No sir, I’m talking about the A1 so he can get a 3 year residence card. It’s called “Ehegattennachzug” and since 2015 they ask for the A1 certificate as a Part of the Applications for non eu spouses. Funny thing is: only if he passes and gets a 3 year visa he’s allowed to join the Integration course you did – that starts with the A1 again. 🙄 We’re in Stuttgart but I talked to the BAMF people in Nürnberg a lot and yes, since 2015, things have changed a lot…


    1. I hope all went well. I am an American married to a German. We recently moved from the US to Goslar so that he could take a job. I signed up for classes and was put in a module 2 course. Everyone but me spoke some German. I was stressed and frustrated, had a panic attack on day three, and was asked to sign up for the first course, which is offered in May. I haven’t done so yet because my husband is looking into other options. I am now concerned. My husband is under the impression that I can’t be deported because I am married to a German citizen. I guess that is wrong. I am currently looking for a new school. The issue with these courses is that the instruction is in German from the get go, and I can’t understand what the teacher is saying when she gives directions. What a cluster fuck!


  38. Hi,

    So in my case my wife and I have married in the US, we’ve already applied for and received our Germany marriage certificate through the US Consulate ( we seemed to have essentially provided all the same materials including apostile of our US certificate). She has updated her Germany passport to reflect her new family name as well.

    What else do you suppose is left apart from simply obtaining a job offer in Germany and getting the permanent residence to work?

    Thanks for the great info, not many sites spell it out as well!


    1. Hi there,

      You need to get registered at Auslanderamt( Immigration )you need to take with you your proof of German registration your marriage license and your wife should come you need to apply there work a. Work permit.


  39. Thank you for the information. I am married to a German (for many years), and we moved to Goslar in July 2018 so he could accept his dream teaching job with the German Red Cross Rescue school. I know very very little German. I never expected to be living here. I signed up for an integration course and was placed in the module two course. After three days of listening to teaching instructions only in German, I had a panic attack and had to leave. My husband is currently searching for another course for me to take. I am going to look into the other options you suggested. At present, I am overwhelmed, stressed, and not eager to try again.


      1. Thank you. I hope so. I have been using Duolingo since July. I am a university professor in the states, so I thought I could handle being in a classroom again as a student. I didn’t expect everyone to be already speaking some German and quite well. I plan to begin with the module one course. I am a bit concerned now that I read the issue the other poor woman had with her American husband. My husband keeps arguing that they can’t deport me. I think he is wrong in that assumption. I really need to get into another course soon.


  40. I am a US citizen and have been married to my German-US dual citizen wife for 27 years. We are contemplating retiring in Germany. While we have the means to do so, I wonder what my legal status would be on my own – in the event my wife passes before me. Both of us are in a good health and this is a theoretical question, but retiring here likely means selling off our house in the US and buying something Germany to retire into. These things are not very easily reversed in the best of circumstances.

    Any idea?


  41. Hi, Thanks for keeping this site up to date

    I have a few questions about your process and what sort of visa you requested

    Did you apply for a family reunion temporary permit first?
    If yes did that allow you to leave the country and for how long?
    I understand that after 3 years you can upgrade to the permanent settlement visa…have you done so already?



  42. Thanks!

    Could I clarify something again

    Was the temporary permit you acquired issued as a family reunion temporary permit?

    Sorry to persist but there are several questions to follow…there are about 8 types of temporary permits all of which appear to have special conditions


  43. So your initial temporary permit of 3 years does sounds like a Section 28 or reunification permit I think

    The question I wanted to ask around this permit was
    How were the 3 years calculated? That should be simple but it isnt set out clearly

    So, for example, did you subtract periods spent outside Germany from the 3 years?
    How long would have been allowed out of the country and still keep the permit?



    1. Nope. No stipulations. No hassles. I was even given permission to work during the 3 years. Just having a German spouse and passing the test was enough. I am in Lower Saxony though. Different rules might apply in different states.


  44. Thanks again. The reasons for these questions is that Im an Australian and also married to a German. Australians and Americans are on the same footing so when it comes to immigration your experience is very useful the part that’s confusing for outsiders is how you enter the social security system

    Did you (or your wife) have to register you immediately (as a dependant)?
    Did you become part of the system only when you entered employment?
    How were the costs estimated?

    The same questions apply to health insurance

    Expanding on all this would be awesome


  45. Thank you for sharing your adventure, I spit out my tea when I found your page, Oh My God my Wife is German! We are contemplating the same adventure with our family, thankfully her name is already changed to mine in Germany, boy what a process that was, however she has a hyphen and me and kids do not. Were in the process now of figuring out our insurance costs, I worry a lot about that, and just the other re-occurring costs auto insurance etc. My one question to you, how much inspection of your American assets, bank accounts etc, do they look at or for?


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