What is the difference between the German permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubis) and the EU long-term residence permit (Daueraufenthalt-EU)?


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As an Expat in Germany, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the difference between the German permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubis) and the EU long-term residence permit (Daueraufenthalt-EU)

Difference between the German permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubis) and the EU long-term residence permit (Daueraufenthalt-EU): Living in Germany has a lot of benefits. However, those benefits are sometimes not easy to transfer to other EU countries if you decide to work in another EU country. Find out below what the difference is and what you need to know in case you decide to work in another EU country that’s part of the Schengen area.

residence permit

What residence permits are there in Germany?

Foreigners generally require a residence permit for entry and residence.

The German Residence Act provides for a total of 7 different residence titles:

  1. Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
  2. EU blue card (Blaue Karte EU)
  3. ICT card (ICT-Karte)
  4. mobile ICT card (Mobiler-ICT-Karte)
  5. EU permanent residence permit (Daueraufenthaltserlaubnis – EU)
  6. Settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis)
  7. Visa (Visum)

► The residence permit, the EU Blue Card, the ICT card, the mobile ICT card, and the visa are each issued for a limited period.

► The settlement permit or permanent residence permit (Niedererlaubnis) and the permit for permanent residence in the EU (Daueraufenthalt-EU) are unlimited. The main difference between the settlement permit and the EU long-term residence permit is that the EU long-term residence permit includes a right to move on to another EU member state. A residence title entitles you to work if this is stipulated in the Residence Act or the residence title expressly permits this.


residence permit

Understanding residence permits in Germany

What is a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)?

The residence permit is a residence title that is granted for a limited period of time for a specific purpose. The possible purposes are defined in the Residence Act. These are for example:

  • Residence for training (§§ 16-17 AufenthG ),
  • Residence for gainful employment (§§ 18 ff. Residence Act ),
  • Residence for reasons of international law, humanitarian or political reasons (§§ 22-26, 104a, 104b AufenthG ),
  • Residence for family reasons (§§ 27-36a AufenthG ).

The granting of a residence permit card for each of these purposes is subject to its own requirements. These are also mentioned in the Residence Act – partly for all purposes in the general part of the Residence Act and partly for the respective purpose.

► An extension of the residence permit is only possible if the requirements that were required when it was first issued continue to be met. However, the competent authority can rule out an extension of the stay is intended to be only temporary. When extending the permit, it must also be taken into account whether a foreigner has complied with their obligation to attend an integration course properly. 

► If the foreigner was or is obliged to take part in the integration course, the residence permit is generally only extended by one year until the foreigner has completed the integration course or can prove that his or her integration has taken place elsewhere in society and social life.

residence permit

What is a settlement permit (permanent residence permit / Niederlassungserlaubnis)?

The settlement permit or permanent residence permit was introduced with the Immigration Act as a residence permit alongside the residence permitIn contrast to the residence permit, the settlement permit is a permanent residence permit. It entitles you to work, is not geographically restricted, and may not be provided with ancillary provisions, except in cases permitted by the Residence Act.

The requirements for granting a settlement permit are set out in Section 9 of the Residence Act. In addition to other requirements, the basic requirement

  • is that you have had a residence permit for five years
  • can secure your livelihood
  • and have sufficient knowledge of German. 

There are special regulations for some people, for example for highly qualified people, for the granting of a settlement permit based on an order from the highest state authorities by Section 23 (2) of the Residence Act , and for foreigners who receive a residence permit for humanitarian reasons (Section 26 of the Residence Act).

Advantages of the permanent residence permit

Below is an overview of the most important advantages of a settlement permit (permanent residence permit):

  1. Secure residence
    The settlement permit enables you to live permanently in Germany.
  2. Easier family reunification
    The settlement permit makes it significantly easier for you to bring your family to Germany.
  3. Better credit
    Credit allows you to make larger investments, such as buying a house or opening a business.
  4. Enter and leave the country freely
    With the settlement permit, you receive almost unrestricted travel permit.
  5. Unrestricted Work Permits
    You can easily change jobs or start a business.
  6. No earmarking
    The settlement permit does not simply expire when your studies, training, or marriage end.
  7. Secure prospects for you and your family
    A major advantage is the planning security that you receive with the settlement permit.
  8. No more stress with the immigration authorities
    With an unlimited residence status, you are largely spared having to go to the immigration authorities.
  9. Don’t be afraid of deportation
    Apart from very special exceptions, your unlimited settlement permit cannot be taken away from you again.

Exceptions & special regulations for the permanent residence permit in Germany

Depending on which residence permit you currently hold, other legal requirements are important to you. This means that in addition to the general requirements from Section 9 of the Residence Act
just explained , there are various other legal bases that could make it easier for you to obtain a permanent right of residence. In some cases it is even possible to apply for a settlement permit earlier.

  • Settlement permit for recognized asylum seekers and refugees
    For those entitled to asylum and recognized refugees, there are special simplifications about securing their livelihood and language skills. In cases of particularly well-integrated people, an unlimited residence permit for recognized refugees is possible even after 3 years. However, there are stricter language requirements for this. The legal basis can be found in Section 26, Paragraph 3 of the Residence Act .
  • Settlement permit for skilled workers
    According to § 18c AufenthG, you can receive an unlimited residence permit after just 4 years if you have a residence permit for employment as a skilled worker, have paid pension contributions for at least 48 months, are gainfully employed, and have sufficient knowledge of German. In addition, the requirements of Section 9 Paragraph 2 Sentences 1 No. 2 and 4 to 6, 8, and 9 must be met.
  • Settlement permit for family members of Germans
    If your spouse or registered life partner is a German citizen, you can obtain an unlimited residence permit after just 3 years by Section 28 (2) sentence 1 of the Residence Act, if you have sufficient knowledge of German and are not interested in deportation. The same applies if you are a minor and your parent has German citizenship.
  • Settlement permit for holders of an EU Blue Card
    In this case, you can obtain a settlement permit after just 33 months of highly qualified employment. If you have a particularly good knowledge of the German language, it is possible to obtain a permanent residence permit after just 21 months.
  • Settlement permit for children over the age of 16
    Minors who have held a residence permit for 5 years by the time they turn 16 do not have to meet any further requirements under Section 35 (1) sentence 1 of the Residence Act. For young adults over the age of 18, the slightly increased requirements listed in section 35 subsection 1 sentence 2 of the Residence Act apply.
  • for Settlement permit for the self-employed
    Under Section 21 (4) of the Residence Act, as the founder of a company that employs at least 5 people, you can obtain a settlement permit after holding the residence permit for three years if you have invested at least €250,000. If these requirements are met, the legislature assumes that there is an overriding interest in your self-employment.
  • Settlement permit for trainees/students
    If you are doing an apprenticeship that leads to a recognized qualification, you do not need to prove that you have made 60 monthly pension contributions. There is also relief in terms of your livelihood as you are allowed to receive government funding for support.
  • Settlement permit for sick people
    People who suffer from a serious mental or physical illness or disability do not have to meet all the requirements. Depending on the impairment, they are exempt from certain requirements such as independently financing their livelihood, language skills, or payments into the pension fund.
  • Settlement Permit for Highly Qualified Persons
    If you have special technical knowledge, you have the opportunity to immediately receive a permanent residence permit (e.g. scientists and other specialists) due to your great importance to the German labor market according to § 19 AufenthG .
  • Settlement permit for former Germans
    Former Germans can receive an unlimited residence permit under Section 38 (1) Sentence 1 No. 1 AufenthG  if they have previously resided in Germany as Germans for five years. In principle, subsistence must be secured here, but exceptions are possible.
residence permit

What is a Permanent Residence Permit – EU (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EU)?

The permit for permanent residence – EU according to § 9a AufenthG is an unlimited residence permit that foreigners from third countries receive after five years of legal residence in a member state of the European Union. This title includes the right to move on to another member state and, like the settlement permit (permanent residence permit), offers third-country nationals extensive equality with German nationals, for example in terms of access to the labor market and social benefits.

You will receive the EU long-term residence permit if:

  • You have lived lawfully in Germany for at least five years. 
  • Your livelihood and that of your family members is secured 
  • You have sufficient knowledge of the German language and basic knowledge of the legal and social system and living conditions in Germany 
  • Have enough living space for you and your family members 
  • And have paid at least 60 months of compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance due to your employment. 

In the case of certain residence titles, however, granting a permit for permanent EU residence is excluded, for example, in the case of a residence permit for specific humanitarian reasons or training.

Can you work in any EU country with the Permanent Residence Permit – EU?

One of the main benefits of this card is that it allows access to a residence or residence and work permit in any country of the European Union.

Does this mean that it implies the right to reside and work in another European country? Will I be able to move to France or Italy (for example) and be able to work directly legally?

Unfortunately the answer is no, and this is of great importance.

► What this advantage means is that when you move to another European country you will have greater facilities and agility at the administrative level to become a legal resident in the new EU country.

► It will be easier to obtain a residence permit in any other EU country since that new EU country would directly exchange your settlement permit / permanent residence permit obtained in Germany for the homologous card that they have there (following the requirements specified in that country).

IMPORTANT: You must first find a job offer (or prove that you have sufficient financial means) and carry out the transition process, which, as easy as it may be thanks to being the holder of this card, is still necessary.

RECOMMENDATION: If you plan to establish yourself in another EU country in the medium-long term, apply for the EU long-term card as soon as possible (without waiting to lose your job in Germany or have the need to leave the country in search of new opportunities).

IF YOU DONT MEET THE REQUIREMENTS: because you’re not working, for example) you can always apply first for the settlement permit (Niedererlaubnis) and then switch to the Permanent Residence Permit – EU (but never the other way around, because if you are denied the Permanent Residence Permit – EU you will not be able to request the settlement permit (Niedererlaubnis).

Differences between the Settlement permit / Permanent residence permit ( Niedererlaubnis) and the Permanent residence permit – EU (Daueraufenthalt-EU)

Settlement permit / Permanent residence permit (Niedererlaubnis)Permanent residence permit – EU (Daueraufenthalt-EU)
Settlement permit expiration:

• in the event of an absence of more than 6 months / 12 months in the case of the EU Blue Card
• departure for non-temporary reasons

• 15 years of legal residence
• secure means of subsistence
• no reason for expulsion


• marital cohabitation with a German & no reason for expulsion
Permanent residence EU Expiration:

• 6 years residence outside Germany or

• 12 months outside the EU (or in IRL,

• 24 months outside the EU (or in IRL, DK) if previous EU Blue Card holders or their family members
NO onward migration to other Schengen countries(Visa-free) onward migration to other (Schengen) EU countries with a secure livelihood ALLOWED

Granting requirement

The following overview shows the different granting requirements for the permanent residence permit in Germany and the Permanent Residence Permit – EU

residence permit
AE = Aufenthaltserlaubnis – NE = Niedererlaubnis


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