Live in Berlin for long enough and you get familiarised with the saying “Don’t forget to go home”. With the hip clubs, trendy bars and amazing parks it’s easy to lose track of time in this eccentric city. I have my own version of the quote for expats, it’s “Don’t forget to go to the Ausländerbehörde”. The Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office) is your one stop shop for (almost) everything visa and permit related if you’re an expat in Germany.
The Ausländerbehörde is often described as an unpleasant place by people who have been there. “Overcrowded” and “understaffed” are two adjectives associated with the office. The government of Berlin has taken notice, though. In February 2019, the State announced plans to reform and enhance the experience at the Foreigner’s Offices and make them more “welcoming” by hiring more workers and increasing funding towards the mission.
Until then, we still have to cope with the current situation and it can be very helpful to know some tips and tricks to make your next trip to the Foreigner’s Office easier:
Know where to go
Since 2016, the city of Berlin opened up a new office in Charlottenburg to cope with the ever increasing demand. This has apparently caused a bit of confusion amongst the folks. So to clear the doubts in your head here is a summary:
You should visit the Ausländerbehörde on Keplerstraße in Charlottenburg if you are:
- A student
- Conducting research
- Applying for an EU Blue Card
- Applying for a Job Search Visa with a German degree
- Applying for a Working Holiday Visa
- Attending a language course
The full list of services provided at Keplerstrasse is listed on their webpage.
The second office, which used to be the only one until 2016 is the one on Friedrich-Krause-Ufer in Wedding. You should visit this office if you are:
- Applying for a job that does not grant you an EU Blue Card
- Applying for a Job Search Visa with a foreign degree
- Seeking medical treatment
- Attending a language course
The full list of services provided at Friedrich-Krause-Ufer is listed on their webpage.
Can’t find an appointment? Try again!
If you’ve ever tried booking an appointment using the online-portal you know you can keep clicking on “next month” to find the blue date where an appointment is available and before you realise, you’ve reached August 2022 and there is ONE day free with an appointment at 08:30 am. This can obviously be frustrating, but don’t worry there are two tricks often used by Berliners to secure that appointment you always wanted:
- After asking people for advice on this topic and searching the depths of help groups on facebook, I have learned that it is in fact possible to book an appointment online which is not 3 years in the future. The trick is to refresh the page between 7:00 and 9:00 every few minutes and sometimes an appointment shows up due to cancellations. If this works out for you, viola! You have beaten the system.
- If you think you have a time-critical case in your hands and can prove it to the concerned authorities, you can give them a call and they should be willing to accommodate your request and give you an appointment within a week.
There is one telephone number for both the offices: (030) 90269-4000
Didn’t find an appointment? This one might be a bit rough…
Imagine this: You’re in New York, in front of the Apple flagship store, the new iPhone is going to start selling at 9:00 am on Monday and you already see people queueing up hours earlier on Sunday night, some have gotten a chair to sit on, some have decided to finish the book they just can’t seem to finish, the others are sharing snacks and having a laugh. Well, believe it or not, the scenes in front of the Ausländerbehörde are similar.
Since it’s so hard to book an appointment online, the offices start giving out numbers for same day appointments usually an hour before opening times. The demand clearly exceeds supply in this case hence, as a rule of thumb, people start queuing up upto 4 hours before the numbers are given out.
There are stories of people who have shown up to queue at 4:00 am and there are already 40 people waiting in line.
If you do the math, you probably have to get there a total of 5 to 6 hours before the offices open. Once you have the number, you wait again for your number to show up on the screen, this can usually take another 2-3 hours.
Now that you have basically put in a full day’s shift at the Ausländerbehörde, you can at least say your work got done!
When to go to the offices:
- 7:00 am – 2:00 pm on Mondays and Tuesdays
- 10:00 am – 6:00 pm on Thursdays
All other days and times are reserved for people with appointments.
So remember, before going to the Auslanderbehorde make sure:
- You know which office is responsible for you
- You have an appointment
- If you don’t have an appointment, don’t give up on the online portal, keep refreshing!
- If you still don’t get an appointment online, get there 4-5 hours before opening time to get a number for same-day appointments
- Make sure you have all the required documents to avoid making multiple trips and looking like a fool!
Well, there it is! A few tips, tricks and advice to make your next trip to the Foreigner’s Office a tad bit easier (I hope!).