Other than the fact that they are tall, handsome and well-educated.
This is a long post, so get ready!
I decided to write this post because, as an expat here in Berlin, the land of expats, I get asked a lot of questions about marrying a German citizen. This post is probably more for people who are considering marrying a German and living in or moving to Germany, but maybe it’ll be interesting for others as well.
I won’t claim to be an expert on any of this, but this is what I learned through the process. So I thought I’d just answer the most frequently asked questions I get about what happens when you marry a German.
1. Is it easier to get married in the US or Germany?
I can only speak to how easy it is to get married in the US, and New York specifically, although I have heard stories about the crazy bureaucratic mess getting married here in Germany can be. If you read my last post, you probably have an idea of how fun German bureaucracy is.
Anyway, after doing some brief research, it seemed way easier to get married in New York. We did a civil wedding at City Hall, but the process also seemed pretty straightforward if you wanted to have a ceremony elsewhere. There were no appointments, we could just pick a day and voila! I have heard that depending on where you want to get married in Germany, the wait for an available appointment can be months. You do have to make an appointment and bring lots of documents.
So, on this one, I’ll say I think it’s easier in the US, but feel free to prove me wrong.
2. Does it make a difference if you get married in the US or Germany?
Not that I’ve experienced.
Like I said above, I think the biggest difference is in time and potentially ease. We obviously have an American marriage license, and once you get all your documents in order there is no issue with having an American license. You don’t have to get an additional German license, or anything like that.
3. What’s an Apostille and where do you get one?
An Apostille is a special document that is issued by the Secretary of State, essentially to verify that your document is legitimate. So if you have an American marriage license, you NEED to get this document as well. It shows the German government that the American government recognizes this as a legitimate and authentic document.
To get an Apostille, you must first have the marriage license and then you just request one from the Secretary of State from the state where you got married. So, for example, we got married in New York City, where the Secretary of State’s office is just down the block from City Hall. So once we had our license, we were able to take it and the form requesting the Apostille (which you can usually also get from the physical office) straight to the office, where we paid a small fee and ta-dah: we had our Apostille! (There was a little more running around than that, but it was quite easy overall).
You also need one of these for your birth certificate, if you need to show that to German authorities as well. I was born in South Dakota, so I had to reach out to them online. I filled out their online request form, mailed my birth certificate as instructed and they mailed it back with the Apostille.
So, don’t forget this part if you get married stateside! It’s so much easier to handle it from the US, than from Germany because you’re working with physical documents. Nobody wants to be mailing important documents all over the world.
4. Do you need to get your documents translated?
I’m actually not sure on this one.
We got our marriage license translated, and the visa officer seemed happy that we had that, but I’m not sure it’s really required. At least we couldn’t find concrete information on that anywhere.
As with most things in Germany, sometimes it just depends on the person you’re dealing with that day. If you’re lucky, they won’t care and you’ll be fine and you’ll get your visa. If you’re unlucky, they could tell you to get it done and come back another time.
Unfortunately, getting official documents translated is not cheap because it has to be done by certified translators and must be notarized (Germans love their notaries!).
I think this one depends on how much risk you want to take at the Ausländerbehörde.
5. Do you get a work permit?
As far as I know, you will immediately get the right to work, as stated on your visa. Mine has no restrictions of any kind, and is just an open-ended work permit. This is, I think, the BIGGEST perk of having a German spouse, if you’re living in Germany.
I’ll do another post about the challenges of finding work in Germany, but doing it without a work permit can be…challenging.
6. What are the benefits of getting married?
So, other than the above mentioned work permit and of course, marrying someone you love, there are a few other benefits to marrying your German partner.
First, you get some tax breaks! This is particularly helpful if one partner is not currently working, or is earning significantly less than the other. This can really help you save some money.
Second, you get the right to stay in Germany! Obviously, you get your work permit, but you also get at least a 3 year residency visa, which can then be extended for two more years before you can finally apply for permanent residency, or even choose to become a citizen if you like. I also think it’s much faster and easier to get both the work permit and the residency permit when you’re married.
Essentially, you apply for a “Family Re-unification” visa, and assuming your German spouse is a citizen and there’s no funny business going on, I don’t think it’s common that they deny these types of visas. They seem quite happy to encourage Germans to bring their families back to Germany and live here.
Third, you get ALL the things Germans get. Well…at least all the ones I can think of. You can be on your spouse’s health insurance, you can even apply for unemployment benefits, assuming you qualify, etc. I’m not sure what the rules are on these things if you’re not married, or a resident…but I imagine you don’t have the same access.
Lastly, you can sometimes get assistance with learning German! The visa officer who handled my application decided that I needed to learn some German and required that I take the German Integrationskurs, which involves language courses up to the B2 level and an orientation course (which I’ll post about later).
Many country’s citizens are exempt from this requirement, and apparently the US is one of those countries, but again, it depends on the person you’re dealing with. So far, I’m the only American I know that has this requirement stated on my visa, but it actually works out for the best.
If the German government requires you to take the Integrationskurs, and you complete it within 2 years of getting your visa, you can request reimbursement of up to 50%. The courses are not too expensive, but I think this is just an extra incentive to take some language courses and improve your German, while you’re struggling to find work.
I think that’s all the questions I’ve been asked regularly from other American expats – I hope it was helpful/interesting. If anyone has any others, comment below and I’ll try my best to answer them!