Joining your German spouse
or registered partner

Foreign nationals who wish to relocate to Germany to join their German spouse or registered partner must obtain a residence permit in order to legalise their stay.

German law recognises both mixed-sex and same sex marriages as well as registered partnerships / civil unions between same-sex partners. However, mixed-sex civil / registered partnerships and de facto relationships are not recognised under German law.

A national visa (D visa) can be used to obtain a residence permit for stays exceeding 90 days. A D visa enables you to travel to Germany and apply at the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) for a residence permit in order to join your spouse or registered partner. It is possible to move together with your spouse or join them later, if they are already in Germany.

Visa-free travel

British citizens may apply to the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) for a residence permit after arriving in Germany and without having obtained a visa prior to travelling to Germany.

You will need to register your new residence (Anmeldung) with the authorities (Meldebehörde) within 2 weeks of moving in, and you must apply for your residence permit at the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) within the first 90 days of your stay in Germany.

This privilege is also extended to citizens of Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Honduras, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Monaco, San Marino and the United States.

Please note that you may only take up employment once you have been issued a residence permit explicitly authorising such employment. You may also choose to apply for a visa prior to travel, effectively permitting employment from the first day of visa validity.

All other non-EU nationalities require a visa prior to travelling to Germany.

Applying for a D-visa

The visa application process consists of three steps:

  • Complete the online application form.
  • Compile your supporting documentation to bring to your appointment.
  • Book an appointment to apply for your visa.

You must apply directly to the German Mission having jurisdiction for your place of residence.

In the UK, the German Missions operate from both London and Edinburgh with two distinct jurisdictions and your place of residence determines which German Mission or Visa Application Centre you will need to contact to apply for a visa. More information can be found here.

What documents do I need?

You will need your original marriage / civil / registered partnership certificate. Any document in a language other than German needs to be translated by a certified or sworn translator. If issued outside of Germany, or the EU, documents need to be legalised or apostilled as applicable in order to be recognised in Germany.

You must also be able to prove that you have at least a basic command of the German language. This should help ensure that you can make yourself understood in simple German from the very start. A basic command of German means a knowledge of German at proficiency level A1 of the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages”. This includes being able to understand and use familiar, everyday expressions and very simple sentences.

Certificates issued by any institution testing in accordance with the standards of the Association of Language Testers in Europe (ALTE) are accepted. The test may not be older than one year. Please note that the German Embassy or Consulate General where you apply for your visa decides on the recognition of the proof of your language skills.

More information on the application process and required documentation can be found here.

After you apply

In this visa category, most applications are typically processed within 3 months.

If your application is successful, you will be issued a limited-validity entry visa – similar to a UK entry clearance.

Once you have arrived in Germany, you will need to register your new residence with the local authorities (Meldebehörde) within 2 weeks of having moved in and apply to your local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) for your Electronic Residence Permit.

We strongly recommend contacting the local immigration office as soon as possible after your arrival in Germany in order to secure a timely appointment.

German immigration support

If you have any questions about joining your spouse or registered partner in Germany, Smith Stone Walters can help.

Our Frankfurt based team can provide support in assessing your current circumstances and eligibility for a future visa application. To speak to a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.


Disclaimer: In accordance with the German law governing legal advice and services (RDG, section 2 subsection 1) our services do not include any legal advice.

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