My Experience with the Ausländerbehörde

My Experience at the German Foreigners Office (LABO) in Berlin


Getting my Residence Permit for Freelancing Purposes

The day of the residence permit appointment at the LABO office is definitely stressful, even with a visa specialist at your side, all documents in hand and a set appointment time and number. Without these things, it is even more stressful! I am going to relate what I experienced at my appointment last week in Berlin in the hopes of alleviating some of the unknowns, and thus, lowering the stress of your appointment day.  

When you made the Ausländerbehörde appointment online you received a confirmation email with essential info; this is an example of what the email looks like: 

Sehr geehrte/r Frau oder Herr xxx,

hiermit bestätigen wir Ihnen Ihren gebuchten Termin am 17.05.2018 um 16:00 Uhr.

Ort: Ausländerbehörde Berlin, Standort Friedrich-Krause-Ufer, Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24, 13353 Berlin

Sachgebiet: Sachgebiet E 2 +++ Haus C, 2. Etage, Warteräume E 2.1 - E 2.4

Dienstleistung: Aufenthaltserlaubnis für Freiberufler und Selbständige - Erteilung (§ 21)

Wartenummer / Vorgangsnummer: 50122

Alle weiteren Informationen entnehmen Sie bitte der Anlage. Bitte drucken Sie sich diese aus und bringen Sie alle darin genannten Unterlagen, Formulare und Gebühren mit.

Sollten Sie den Termin nicht wahrnehmen können, sagen Sie ihn bitte ab:

Mit freundlichem Gruß

Ihre Ausländerbehörde Berlin

This email confirmation above contains all the important details you need: 
  1. Date and time: 17.05.2018 um 16:00 Uhr
  2. Address of the LABO your appointment is at: Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24
  3. House and floor: Haus C, Etage 2
  4. Your specific appointment number (vorgangsnummer): 50122
This information is essential, but also extremely helpful, because when you arrive at the LABO, you will see a lot of individual buildings with different entrances, some with guards in front with long lines of people waiting to enter. That line of people, and where the guards are stationed at the door, is for those who didn’t make online appointments. Without a booked appointment, these people come at midnight or 1 am to spend the night waiting so they can get a number from the guards; this number allows them either to get inside the building in order to draw a waiting number from a ticket machine or to return at a later time that day with an appointment (last-minute openings, cancellations, etc). I’ve never needed to go through that building in the three different times I’ve been at the LABO, so your best bet seems to be making an online appointment and skipping that insanity.  

Foto: BLZ/Markus Wächter

When you arrive and enter the gates, there is a building to the left and three to the right. Follow the covered sidewalk to the entrance of the building listed on your confirmation email; all of my appointments have been in Haus C, this is the freelance visa section for Americans (see below).

Freelance visa sections

My visa specialist that I hired for this appointment met up with me outside the building a few minutes before the appointment. Know your appointment number (Example from above 50122) because once you have a seat in the waiting area, multiple appointment numbers are flashing across the TV screens pretty quickly and you need to be paying attention so that you don’t miss yours, and so that you note what door/room your appointment has been assigned to. You will have all your documents and the application filled out, and don’t forget your passport and photos; have these in order and know where they are so that you can hand them over quickly when asked for them.  

Waiting Number

Once your number is called and you enter the room for the meeting, everything goes very quickly and it’s all in German, so be prepared to be overwhelmed. 

The room contains two desks and two appointments are happening simultaneously; you sit down at the table and (in my experience) no niceties are exchanged-they just jump right into the meeting. The LABO worker asks for the application, the registration paper (see image below), and the passport photos and then it’s a blur of your translator/specialist asking for specific pieces of paper and documents. For more details, check out the Berlin Website for all documents required.

In my meeting last week a big bump in the road came up when the woman asked for the registration paper- I handed over the one I have from my Bürgeramt appointment last October; she looked it up in the computer and informed my translator that I don’t have a valid registration! I was surprised and dismayed because I had the form in my hand, signed and stamped! It turns out that, back in January when I was told I had two weeks to leave the country, the LABO informed the Burgeramt that I had been told to leave and I was de-registered from my address! No one in January told me this would happen, and even the LABO worker had to contact the team leader to learn the specifics because she didn’t understand it either; essentially my registration isn’t valid and I need to redo it. 

Registration Proof Berlin
Anmeldebestätigung (Proof of Registration)

Thankfully, my visa specialist immediately hopped on her smartphone and booked me the earliest appointment she could find online at the Bürgeramt. The fact that we got an appointment within three weeks AND that I had my rental contract and signed form from the landlord that I’ve moved in (in German: Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) appeased the woman and she accepted these things so that I didn’t need to be delayed anymore with the residence permit. 

The visa specialist had enough foresight and experience to tell me to bring along my degree/diploma but we were both very surprised when I was asked for letters of recommendation and a CV because I had three letters of intent to hire PLUS a contract with a local start-up for a job. 

I was again saved by a smartphone- I was able to pull them up via my email account and forward the documents to the LABO worker since I didn’t have hard copies in hand. The woman took all of these documents (application, passport, photos, all financial docs, all letters of intent, my diploma, my CV and my job contract) and sent us out of the room to go wait in the lobby. 

While we waited I emailed the woman my TEFL certificate, my letters of recommendation, my CV and the booked appointment confirmation from the Bürgeramt system; maybe 20 minutes later my number flashed back up on the TV screen and we went back to the room. She handed me all the paperwork and my passport with the residence permit pasted inside; my translator/specialist read through it to make sure all was correct.  

Important: the job title indicated on your residence permit is the only type of work you’re legally allowed to take on!

She said it looked good and the LABO worker then handed us this card that is the size of an ATM debit card and we left the office; when you leave the office you head over to Haus B and go to the 1st floor, where the payment machines are located.  

Now, this is where problems can crop up because many of us freelancers have opened bank accounts with N26 and we have a debit card from that bank that works everywhere around Berlin without an issue-but it isn’t an actual EC card and the payment machines at the LABO will only accept an EC card. You can check this article about which bank account would suit you better.

Also, cash is not accepted by the machine, so without an EC card you are essentially scr***d; I can’t offer many solutions to this except to say that my solution was to transfer the cost of the residence permit (56 euros for a two-year visa) to my visa specialist’s account and she used her EC card to pay the fee. Potentially there is a cashier line for payment somewhere in that building but I didn’t see one and we didn’t search for it because I had already told her I didn’t have cash on me and there are no ATMs in the LABO or the surrounding area so paying by cash wasn’t an option. I only saw these two automatic payment machines where you stand in line, put the card that you got from the LABO worker into the machine and then you pay using your EC card. 

Once you’ve paid the fee you are done at the LABO. You have your freelance residence permit in hand and you are set for either one year or two years, meaning that you don’t need to bother with this building for a long while, thank god.  

Berlin Immigration Office
Image: LABO - The entrance area of ​​the Berlin Immigration Office was redesigned by 15 pupils from the 7th year of the Beethoven-Gymnasium in Berlin-Lankwitz.

Of course, this isn’t the end of the process. Once you have your residence permit you are good to be here residing in Germany and working BUT, as a freelancer you have to invoice clients for your jobs, and in order to invoice you need a tax number (Steuernummer). I will cover this process in the next blog post, from how to find the form online and fill it out, where to go and what to do to get your tax number for invoicing purposes.  

Tres C is an American who’s lived and worked all over the world and who has traveled extensively. She moved to Berlin in July 2017 with her dogs; she’s excited to share her hard-earned knowledge about relocating to Berlin through her writing on this blog.



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