What is the change? Five German states are allowing foreign workers to obtain family visas for their accompanying family members without prior approval by the Foreigners Office under certain conditions.

What does the change mean? The relaxation of the requirement helps speed the visa process for foreign employees planning to travel with family members, and is currently available in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg and Lower Saxony. It may be expanded to all counties in the future.

  • Implementation timeframe: Immediate.
  • Visas/permits affected: Family visas.
  • Who is affected: Foreign employees’ spouses and unmarried minor children who are applying together for visas at a German embassy or consulate and who have not lived in Germany in the past.
  • Impact on processing times: Accompanying family members will benefit from faster visa procedures. However, marriage certificates must still be legalized, and in some cases authenticated, which can add to processing times.
  • Business impact: The elimination of the pre-approval step for family members will speed up the visa process for employees planning to travel with their spouses and children.
  • Next steps: Family members of employees applying for visas for the applicable five states no longer require approval from the Foreigners Office if they are applying together and have not been living in Germany before.

Background: In 2013, Germany amended its residence regulations to remove the requirement that foreign professionals obtain pre-approval from the Foreigners Office before a German embassy or consulate approved entry visas. While this accelerated procedures for foreign employees, the process remained slow for employees planning to travel with their spouses or minor children, because family visas still needed to be approved by a Foreigners Office in Germany.

The rule applied by the five states remedies this situation.

BAL Analysis: The change simplifies procedures so that foreign employees need not be delayed if they wish to travel to Germany with their families. While the policy only applies to some states, there are plans to further amend German residence regulations to expand the rule country-wide. BAL is following this proposal and will update employers on further changes.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group and our network provider located in Germany. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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