GERMANY - Biometric Residence Permits Impacting Processing Times for Preferred Nationals
The German government has announced the introduction of biometric residence permits to take effect from 1 September 2011. This was originally scheduled for 1 May 2011, in line with EU regulations, but was postponed to allow preparation of the infrastructure to process and print the permits. The introduction of the biometric permits has a significant impact on so-called "preferred nationals", who will now have to wait several weeks longer for permission to commence work in Germany.
Why is Germany Introducing Biometric Residence Permits?
The move to introduce residence permits with a biometric component (in this case, a biometric photograph and a chip containing fingerprint details) is the result of a European Union (EU) regulation. All European Union member states were required to implement biometric residence permits by 1 May 2011 and most are on the way to doing this; however, many have experienced delays. EC regulations 1030/2002 and 380/2008. The biometric residence permits are supposed to be more secure than previous documents, plus must be issued in a uniform format across the EU.
How Will Biometric Residence Permits Work in Germany?
Germany's basic immigration system for non-European Union national corporate assignees involves three steps:
- Work permission approval
- Application for an entry visa at the German diplomatic post in the assignee's home country, and t
- Collection of the residence permit for employment purposes post-arrival.
It is this final step which will be completely restructured from 1 September 2011. Instead of a residence permit sticker in the applicant's passport, a biometric residence permit card will be issued. Applicants will need to attend an appointment in person to give their biometric details (fingerprints and a photograph). The cards will then take several weeks to be printed. Current estimates of timing run at around six weeks; however, combined with potential waiting times for biometric detail appointments, the delay is likely to be closer to 10-12 weeks.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that, since 1 May 2011, several local labour offices of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur fuer Arbeit) have closed, meaning that work permission approval is now handled in just four locations in Germany.
This restructuring occurred because, from 1 May 2011, Germany is no longer able to require that nationals of the eight countries that entered the EU in 2004 (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia) must obtain work permission. Nationals of these countries are now treated the same as other European Union nationals and are required to register and obtain EU "freedom of movement" permits only. See Peregrine's previous alert for more details.
The restructuring came about because the removal of the work permission requirement for the EU8 countries has resulted in less work for the labour offices - however, since the restructuring has occurred almost simultaneously with the introduction of biometric residence permits, we anticipate that it will cause additional delays.
Why Does This Impact "Preferred Nationals" Most?
So-called "preferred nationals" (nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States are permitted to arrive in Germany for employment purposes without first obtain an entry visa from the German diplomatic post in the country of residence - in effect, they can arrive as tourists or business visitors and change status post arrival. However, work permission is no granted until the final residence permit for employment purposes has been obtained. To date, this residence permit has taken just one to three days to obtain once work permission has been granted; however, with the introduction of the new biometric residence permits, processing time will be at least six weeks, even where the appointment has been successfully booked weeks in advance.
It is possible that the German government will authorise work once the biometric residence permit has been applied for, by means of issuing a temporary permit or receipt, but details of any such plan have not yet been announced.
Nationals of other countries, who are required to obtain visas pre-arrival, will still need to obtain biometric residence permits post arrival, but sine their visas authorise work in the interim period (for up to 90 days), the change does not have such a large impact.
- Note that lead time for "preferred" nationals to obtain work permission after arrival in Germany may be extended by at least six weeks from 1 September 2011
- Note that for all non-European Union/EFTA nationals (plus nationals of Romania and Bulgaria), biometric residence permits will be a requirement, and the administration in arranging appointments for these should be taken into account.
- Peregrine is monitoring the situation and will keep our readers updated.