Visa applications during Coronavirus-crisis in Berlin: A practical guide
Updated: Aug 26, 2020
We live in a weird, historical time. Starting today, we must stay in our apartments, may not go to work (excluding exceptions), must avoid social contact as much as possible and basically must concentrate on doing everything we can in order to slow down the virus.
The situation carries big challenges, not just to social contacts, work, mental health and public life, but also to admin and governmental offices. One of the questions I was asked most frequently in the past couple of weeks was: how do I apply for my visa?
The good news are the immigration office in Berlin will continue working. The better news is that there will be no face to face appointments until further notice. Urgent application will be processed digitally. This is of course great news both for visa applicants and case workers, who do not have to put themselves and others into danger while leaving the house (and being in contact with other people) during the crisis.
However, as you can imagine, their capacity is limited, and this new way of working might carry challenges (like most other changes). It is also unclear, which matters will be processed throughout the crisis and in which extent. Therefore, please be patient, as your application might take a while to get processed.
Here are the main instructions, regulations and things to know:
All appointments are cancelled until further notice. This is the most important thing. Please do not go to the Berlin immigration office (Landesamt für Einwanderung) until further notice. You might have gotten a confirmation email, they tried to send those to everyone.
This is also valid for electronic residence card pickups. The immigration office will send you your card via post as quickly as possible.
If your visa is expiring, please register online. Berlin´s immigration office (Landesamt für Einwanderung) had set up three registration forms for three groups of people, based on urgency:
Group Nr. 1: People who had appointments before April 19th, and/or people whose visas/ residence permits expire before April 19th: Here is the registration form. Group Nr. 2: People who had appointment starting April 19th, and/or people whose visas/ residence permits will expire after April 19th: Here is the registration form.
Group Nr. 3: Refugees whose documents are about to expire, or people who have to leave: Here is the registration form.
When the registration is completed, you will get a confirmation screen. Please print it out as a proof of cooperation and legality of your stay, since you will not be sent a confirmation email. Please make sure to complete the registration, both so that the immigration office could call you in for an appointment once the crisis is over and as a proof for the legality of your stay in Germany.
Some matters will not be processed during the crisis. Those are (among others): 1. Transferring of your residence permit to a new passport: For the time being, you may use both passports. Please take care of this once the crisis is over.
2. Family reunification with EU Citizens: If you fall under this group, your rights are protected by the EU-Immigration law (FreizügG/EU). Please take care of this once the crisis is over.
You may still apply for the following matters (but it will probably take some time):
1. Permanent residency.
2. Change of residence permit conditions (for example: employer change). As published, doctors and other qualified professionals in the health sector (e.g. nurses) will be given priority.
3. First visa applications: In case you arrived to Germany without a visa and may change your legal status from within Germany (for example, if you are a citizen of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the USA).
4. Changing from a student´s to a work visa: you may apply via email. However, please note that you may work for 120 days a year with your student´s visa.
5. Birth of a child: if both parents have a residence permit, or in case of a single parent, please apply via Bürgeramt. If the child has two parents, and only one parent has a residence permit, please apply via the immigration office. For those cases, please do not use the online registration form, but rather send in your application either via post or via email.
Please note that travelling and coming back to Germany is only possible within your visa validity. In case of an emergency you may go to the immigration office and apply for a special permission to leave Germany. Please note that this will only be possible in cases of emergency. Going on vacation is not an emergency. Please show good judgement in order to not put both yourself and others in danger.
Berlin´s immigration office had added a couple more cases, which become common during the corona-crisis:
1. Blue Card holders whose salary decrease below the Blue Card threshold during the Corona-Crisis (for example, due to Kurzarbeit) should not worry. However, once the crisis is over, they should get their salary back in the threshold, or alternatively apply for another visa.
2. Applying for and getting social benefits (e.g. ALG II, Soforthilfe, etc) throughout the crisis is temporarily allowed. The regulation is valid until 17.06.2020 (same as other emergency regulations of the immigration office in Berlin).
2. Employers who terminate the employment of expats must continue to inform the immigration office about the termination.
Please note, that those regulations are valid only for people who live (and are regisgtered) in Berlin. If you live in another state (e.g. Brandenburg), please address your local immigration office for further information. The regulations are also temporary and are limited until 17.06.2020.
Even though visa matters may be very stressful, and even though those delays might bring feelings of uncertainty and anxiety, please try to not worry and be understanding towards the situation. The next couple of weeks are crucial in our battle against COVID-19. Please do everything in your power in order to slow down the virus, it is in our hands!