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12. History, Law -- Internet Resources

12.1 History

The 2000 Jahre Chronik contains an amazing wealth of information on German history. The Deutsches Historisches Museum provides materials, mainly connected to their exhibitions, online.

The Holocaust seems to be one of the all-time favorite topics in soc.culture.german, mainly for revisionist nuts. The Nizkor project maintains a wealth of information related to the Holocaust. The Hochschule für jüdische Studien (University for judaic studies) and the Zentralarchiv zur Erforschung der Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland ( Central Archives for Research on the History of the Jews in Germany) publish studies on the history of Jews in Germany.

The state of Thüringen maintains a nice text, alas in German, on the history of the DDR (German Democratic Republic).

For the history of German-Americans, go to German Heritage or German Americana. The revolution of 1848 forced many Germans to emigrate to the USA.

12.2 Law

Angela Schmidt has put out a very impressive collection of many(!) HTML-enhanced German law texts. 1999-04

The Juristisches Internetprojekt Saarbrücken has lots of links to legal information, among them links to German courts and links to collections of legal decisions worldwide.

The RAVE project at the law school of the U Düsseldorf provides an extensive database of citations about public international and European law. The same site also provides a catalog of annotated legal links

The Anwaltssuche contains a directory of attorneys, searchable by location and specialization.

12.3 Immigration matters

Large portions of this section have been contributed by Wayne Brown and Dirk Brink.

Even though not being an immigration country is a bit of a national myth in Germany, there are lots of foreigners living in Germany — around 8%-10% of Germany's population are foreigners. The immigration laws have been greatly revised; the revised laws go into effect on January 1, 2000.

Immigration is regulated by some half dozen laws, the most important of which are the Ausländergesetz regulating residency of foreigners in Germany and the Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz regulating naturalization.

Immigration matters are usually handled by the Ausländerbehörde of the city governments. The one in München has an extensive webpage with a wealth of information, unfortunately only in German. On the practical dealings with the authorities, Wayne Brown notes that

Despite the horror stories I have heard at times, my experience with translating for foreign friends on numerous occasions and seeing the authorities up close has been good. I would describe the officials I have encountered as reserved and businesslike.
and Dirk Brink says that
These people are Bureaucrats, like everywhere else. They have their prejudices like most people do as well. If you are a white European, American, or Japanese, speak half way decent German and show up in a tie they will probably try to be more helpful than if you are from a third world country and the only German you know is the word for Asylum. Always be polite. You will never get anything done by irritating a bureaucrat anywhere in the world.
For yet another view, read Gyula Szokoly's account of his experiences with working in Germany.

Getting a work permit

Before you can work in Germany, you need a work permit (Arbeitserlaubnis). If you are a EU citizen, you're lucky: you only need to go to your local Einwohnermeldeamt and ask for a work permit. The whole process should take only a few days, but check with the local authorities.

If you are from a non-EU country, thinks are more complicated. You first need to find an employer that is interested in hiring you and can prove that you are more qualified for the position than any German citizens. The prospective employer needs to fill in several forms for you. You take these, a copy of your contract (Arbeitsvertrag) and your passport to the local authorities who will then issue you a work permit, valid for one or two years and renewable, for employment by that specific employer. If you want to change employers, you need to obtain a new work permit. Some large companies take care of all the formalities for their employees.

If you marry a German citizen you will get unrestricted, permanent work and residence permits.

A foreign employee qualifies for unemployment benefits the moment he starts paying the obligatory unemployment insurance through his employer. I believe an employee has to have worked for at least six months to draw money. If the unemployed foreigner cannot get another job, the authorities will extend his residency permit until he has collected all the money coming to him under unemployment. The payments depend on the employee's salary on termination, length of service and his age. The maximum amount one can draw, I believe, is currently about 370 US dollars a week. The maximum time of such payments is about two years. Unemployment benefits also include free medical and dental care as well as a contribution to rent, if an employed person can no longer pay his rent. If an employee has a private life insurance when he is terminated, the department of unemployment will take over those payments and pay them extra for as long as unemployment is paid.

The "Green-Card"

In early 2000, Chancellor Schröder announced that the German government will do something about the shortage of information technology workers in Germany and try to attract foreign IT workers, the talk is mainly about Indians, to Germany. The work permit that should achieve this is imaginatively titled a Green-Card and has very little in common with the permanent residence permits that the USA hands out under the same name. It more resembles a US H1-B visa.

Read the federal government's press release about the Green-Card and their FAQ about this topic.

Aufenthalts what?

To legally reside in Germany, you need a Aufenthaltserlaubnis or Aufenthaltsberechtigung. The former lets you reside in Germany temporarily or permanently, while the latter gives you the right to live in Germany permanently.

After the authorities have issued a labor permit, they also issue a residency permit for one year. At the end of a year, the residency permit and the work permit can be extended for another year. After residency in Germany for ten years, an employee can apply for an unbefristete Aufenthaltserlaubnis and an unbefristete Arbeitserlaubnis, in other words unlimited residency and work permits, which seem to be issued without much ado.

If a person just wants to live in Germany and not to work, then he goes to the local authorities and applies for a residency permit. He has to show proof that he can support himself (pension statement, bank statement, letter of credit, etc.) and that he has health insurance. Such residency permits are issued for one year and are renewable indefinitely.

Aufenthaltsrecht, right to residency, is a different story. A foreigner who has lived in Germany for many years, something around 20 years, can apply for the right to residency, which gives him the right to live in Germany for the rest of his life. Before issuing such a permit, the authorities check with local police that the candidate does not have a police record, that he has means of support and that he has normal living accommodations.

What about studying in Germany ?

First, a student should apply for entrance to the university of his choice. Foreigners do not fall under the numerus clausus system introduced some years ago to cope with the crowding at German universities. All German universities have a certain quota for foreign students; therefore, the foreigner can apply where he likes. Once accepted by the university, the foreigner takes the admittance documents supplied by the university to the local authorities (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) and applies for a student residency permit. The student must show that he has means to support himself while in Germany (bank statement, letter of credit, scholarship statement, etc.). The university will advise how much money and what else the student needs to satisfy the visa requirements.

The best way, I believe, to get a temporary work permit for a period of practical training is to apply to one of the many programs offered by German companies and to get accepted. Such a company then handles all the formalities connected with the program.

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o Last modified: 2001-09-03 Page created: 1999-02-06 Send comments about this page to