The German EU Blue Card (EU Blaue Karte) is a residence permit to work in Germany. Skilled workers, especially in shortage occcupations, benefit from it. It provides fast track opportunities into permanent residence and facilitates family reunification.
Requirements for an EU Blue Card
From BAMF, these are the requirements:
You are a graduate: If you did not acquire your degree in Germany, it must either be recognised or comparable to a German degree. Information on the equivalence and recognition of foreign degrees is available at www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de
You have an employment contract or a binding job offer.
You have a minimum annual gross salary of 58.400 Euros.
A reduced minimum annual gross salary of 45.552 Euros applies to employment in the occupational fields of mathematics, computer science, the natural sciences, engineering and human medicine (not including dentistry) (as of 2022 - the salary thresholds are readjusted for each calendar year).
The employment must match the qualification.
What are the benefits of EU Blue Card?
Permanent Residence. Blue Card holders can obtain a Permanent Residence / Settlement Permit quicker as described here.
Family reunification. Easier to get visa for your Spouse, without German knowledge. In addition, they can also work in Germany.
Mobility. If you already have one from a different country for atleast 18 months, you can enter Germany for work without a work visa. You must apply in Germany within a month.
Living abroad. You can stay abroad for 12 months without losing permission to stay in Germany or EU. This does not mean that you can work from abroad. Your employer must allow you to do that for legal & tax reasons.
Where can I apply for the EU Blue Card?
In Germany - if you already have a residence permit.
Example: You receive a job offer as a Student and qualify for it. Or you already have it from a different country for atleast 18 months (as mentioned above)
Country of residence - If you live abroad, you must find a German embassy or consulate in your country of residence and apply there.
Will I receive an EU Blue Card when I apply from my country of residence?
No. You receive a temporary work permit. It can only be issued in the qualifying countries (EU States).
When I applied in India, I received a 6 month national visa that granted me access to enter Germany. Then I found an appointment in Berlin and applied for it.
Note: In May 2022, a friend who moved to Berlin got a 1 year national visa from India. This provides a lot of relief and prevents rushing to the Ausländerbehörde.
If you apply from India, you should try to get the pre-approval of the Federal Employment Agency (Beschäftigungsverordnung - Vorabprüfung). This can improve the processing time of getting a visa (by 4 to 6 weeks). Your employer can apply for this for you in Germany.
Pre-approval application from ZAV Germany
What documents do I need to apply?
Once you have entered Germany, find your local foreigners office (Ausländerbehörde). Here is the list of documents.
Application form for residence permit (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels) must be filled out. Only required on first application.
For the approval of the Federal Employment Agency: additional form
Form "Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis" (filled out by your employer) *
Employment contract or job offer (Original)
Proof of your residence - Anmeldung or confirmation from your landlord (Wohnungsgeber-Bestätigung)
Proof of health insurance
Current biometric photo (35mm x 45mm, white background)
University or university college qualification (Original) - Zeugnisbewertung. *
Note: * This is only required if you already did not qualify for Blue Card at the time of your residence permit application.
Costs for Blue Card
100 € when it's the first time
96 € for extension up to 3 months
93 € for extension of more than 3 months / renewal of the permit
You can pay this by cash, card during your appointment.
Where do I go for the appointment?
This should be mentioned in the letter or email you receive. There are three locations primarily where it can take place.
You can book an appointment on the Berlin website.https://otv.verwalt-berlin.de/ams/TerminBuchen?lang=en
What happens during the appointment at the Ausländerbehörde?
This could be specific to Berlin, which is where I had two appointments.
Show up to the appointment, the security guard checks your appointment time, points you to the floor
Go to the waiting room, pick up a waiting number (Wartenummer) from the machine. If you booked an appointment online and already have received a waiting number, you don't need to do this again.
My Blue Card Appointment confirmation in Berlin
Wait for your number to be displayed on the screen and it tells you which office to go to
Meet your case worker (Sacharbeiter), give them your documents, answer any questions. They will ask for your photo so it can be scanned, your height (in centimeters), your eye color.
If everything goes well, your case worker provides a form where you check all of your details are correct, you sign it
You receive a cash payment card. Take it to one of the machines outside, insert it into the machine and can pay the fees.
My Blue Card payment receipt from 2019
Your case worker will most likely speak only German to you. If you're lucky, they might speak in English.
I paid the fees, what's next?
Your case worker will give you a confirmation of your approval. This includes the date in which it was issued, how long it is valid for.
This letter provides confirmation of your visa for another 2 months, until the card is issued from the Federal Printing Office (Bundesdruckerei).
My Blue Card Confirmation in Berlin in 2019
In 6 weeks or so, you will receive your card and zusatzblatt (Supplementary sheet in Green color) delivered to you, or asking you to pick up from Ausländerbehörde.
A letter with Blue Card delivered to me
I received the PIN letter but not the blue card
The letter containing the PIN code for your online identification arrives before your card (Aufenthaltstitel). You should expect to receive your card in another 2 weeks.
What is the validity of EU Blue Card?
4 years on unlimited working contract
Length of your employment contract plus 3 months on limited working contract
Example: You have a temporary working contract for 12 months. It will have a validity of 15 months.
In both cases, your validity can be extended if you have a new work contract that fulfills the requirements.
My visa expires before my appointment, what should I do?
This is what the appointment confirmation photo above contains:
Note: If your residence permit has not expired yet, the residence permit will remain effective in Germany at least until the appointment scheduled today. This also applies to all conditions stipulated on your residence permit, including the regulations pertaining to gainful employment. Please be ware, that this will only apply, if you attend the booked appointment!
Travelling abroad is only possible within the validity of your last residence permit
Schengen visa (type of visa: C) always expire with the date of validity. Appointments do not extend the legal stay with a Schengen visa.
How to speeden up the blue card process?
In Berlin, your employer can apply for you using the Business Immigration Service.
In collaboration with IHK Berlin and Berlin Partner, our Business Immigration Service (BIS) offers Berlin businesses an outstanding relocation service for foreign professionals and executives.
Through the BIS, Berlin businesses, foreign investors and start-ups, managers, highly skilled professionals and their families can quickly and easily clarify any residency issues and can be put in touch directly with the person responsible for dealing with them.
How to change jobs with EU Blue Card?
I wrote a detailed guide about changing jobs while having this permit.
What if I lose or resign from my job?
For both limited and unlimited work contracts, if your job ends earlier than expected or if you were fired from your job, you receive 3 months to find a job. Your local Ausländerbehörde can extend this 3 month duration at their discretion. Write to them if you require an extension. Additionally you can apply for a visa to find a job in Germany that can give you 6 more months.
If you are going to resign soon, read how to quit your job in Germany.
Will I lose my blue card if I lose my job?
If you change jobs, you must notify the Ausländerbehörde if there is a change of employers.
If you are fired or laid off, you get 3 months to find a job that satisfies the requirements.
Permanent Residence after Blue Card
If you satisfy these conditions, you can apply for a permanent residence as an EU Blue Card holder. Read about my experience and the process here.
In 33 months. You have paid 33 months of pension contributions and have basic German knowledge (A1 on CEFR level)
In 21 months. You have paid 21 months of pension contributions and have basic German knowledge (B1 on CEFR level) (read my B1 German Exam experience)
In derogation from subsection (1) holders of an EU Blue Card are to be granted a permanent settlement permit, if they have been employed in accordance with section 18b (2) [i.e. employed in a manner that would have allowed you to get a Blue Card] for at least 33 months and have paid mandatory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme (...). The period referred to in sentence 1 is reduced to 21 months if the foreigner has a sufficient command [i.e. level B1] of the German language.
Path to German Citizenship
To get German Citizenship, it takes 8 years of residence and you must show proficiency of German at B1 level. Holding it counts towards that period. You require passing the German Citizenship test (Einbürgerungstest).
If you do a German integration course, it takes 7 years of residence
If you do German at B2 level, it takes 6 years of residence
The time to citizenship is identical under Blue Card and skilled worker visa.
Appointments for Blue Card
I'll compile where you can book appointments in different cities in Germany. You can usually look up for "city name Ausländerbehörde" to find appointments.
Changing your address on the Blue Card
If you move to a different apartment in Germany, you have to do an address registration (Anmeldung). When you do Anmeldung, they will automatically update the address on your card with a sticker and they will inform the foreigners office.