Bringing your family to join you in Germany

You can look forward to spending your time in Germany with your partner and children. Although there are one or two conditions attached to entering Germany with your family, as an international skilled worker, you are sure to fulfil them.

Spouses joining EU citizens

EU citizens

Are you an EU citizen living and working in Germany and would like to bring your spouse to Germany? As an EU citizen, you are entitled to Freedom of movement, and your spouse and children can live and work in Germany. Whether your family members need a special temporary Residence permit depends on their nationality.

Spouses who are EU (European Union) or EEA (European Economic Area) citizens 

If your spouse is an EU or EEA national, they can join you in Germany very simply and live and work here without restrictions. You do not need to apply for any special Residence permit.

Spouses who are third-country nationals

If you are a citizen of a member state of the EU or EEA but your spouse is not, they must apply for a visa for spouses joining their partners. If your spouse holds a Residence permit for another EU state, they do not need a visa to enter Germany (Section 2 (4) of the Freedom of movement Act/EU [FreizügG/EU]).

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Citizens of Australia, Brazil, El Salvador, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States of America can obtain a temporary residence permit after entering the country.

How your spouse can join you in Germany

If your spouse requires a visa to enter Germany they must apply for it at the German Embassy or a German Consulate in their country. Our world map lists the contact details of all German embassies and consulates.

To apply for a visa for your spouse to join you, you will generally need to provide your passport and a wedding certificate or proof of a registered or civil partnership. Ask the German Embassy responsible what other documents need to be submitted. 

Since processing your application may take some time, we recommend you to find out what documentation necessary for the application well in advance and submit your application in good time. Spouses arriving in Germany must register their new address at the Einwohnermeldeamt (residents' registration office) and then apply in person for a temporary Residence permit for spouses joining their partners. Once a Residence permit has been granted, your spouse is immediately entitled to take up any kind of employment in Germany.

Spouses joining citizens of non-EU countries

Citizens of countries which are not member states of the European Union or the EEA can bring their dependants with them to Germany. Which regulations apply depends on the nationality of the dependants you want to join you.

If your spouse is a citizen of a member state of the EU or the EEA 

Even if you are a third-country national, if your spouse is a citizen of a member state of the EU or EEA, they are entitled to Freedom of movement and can therefore live and work in Germany without restrictions. All they need to enter the country is a national identity card.

If your spouse is a citizen of a non-EU country

Even if your partner is a national of a non-EU country, you can look forward to living together in Germany. For your spouse to be able to join you, the following requirements will need to be met:

  • Right of residence: As an employee, you have a temporary or permanent Residence permit or an EU Blue Card for Germany.
  • Accommodation: You have rented accommodation in Germany which is large enough for your family. You can find tips on finding accommodation in our Guide to Living in Germany. 
  • Health insurance and money: You have sufficient health insurance cover and funds to be able to care for your family.
  • Legal age: Your spouse is of full legal age, i.e. at least 18 years old.
  • Basic knowledge of German: As a general rule, spouses coming to join their partners must have basic knowledge of German. This is to ensure that they can communicate in German from the moment they arrive in Germany. For example, they should be able to ask the way, go shopping or introduce themselves in German. 

However, there are a number of exceptions. Your spouse does not require any knowledge of German to obtain a visa or a Residence permit if:

  • You are an EU Blue Card holder.
  • You are working in Germany as a highly qualified worker or a research scientist.
  • Your spouse has a university degree.
  • You are (or your spouse is) a national of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand or the United States of America.

Nevertheless, your family will probably feel most at home in Germany if they all speak a little German. We explain how this can be achieved in our section on “The German language”.

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Registered partners also can take advantage of Germany’s family reunification scheme if they meet the necessary requirements (Section 27 (2) Residence Act (AufenthG)).

How to bring your family to Germany

If your spouse requires a visa to enter Germany they must apply for it at the German Embassy or a German consulate in their country. Our world map lists the local contact details of all German embassies and consulates. 

To apply for a visa for your spouse to join you, you will generally need to provide your passport and a wedding certificate or proof of a registered or civil partnership. Ask the local German Embassy what other documents need to be submitted. 

Since processing your application may take some time, we recommend you to find out what documentation is necessary for the application well in advance and submit your application in good time. 

Once your family has arrived in Germany, you must register them at the residents' registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt). You must apply to the local immigration authority for a Residence permit within three months. To do so, you must present your passports, birth and marriage certificates, pay slips or tax statements, proof that you are renting accommodation and any other documents that may be needed depending on the specific situation of your family.

Once right of residence has been granted, your newly arrived spouse is immediately entitled to take up any kind of employment in Germany. 

Bringing your children to join you in Germany

How to bring your family to Germany

You can, of course, also bring your children to Germany, because if you or your spouse are entitled to live in Germany, your children under the age of 18 are also entitled to a temporary or permanent Residence permit.

Bringing your children to Germany 

If your children are citizens of a member state of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), they do not require a visa to enter Germany and can live and work in Germany without restriction.

If your children are citizens of a country which is not in the EU or the EEA they will generally need a visa to enter Germany. If you and your spouse hold temporary resident permits for Germany, your children under 16 years of age will also receive a temporary resident permit to enable them to join you (Section 32 Residence Act (AufenthG). If you are a single parent, you can also apply for a visa for your children. However, in this case you will need to obtain the consent of the other parent entitled to custody. 

To obtain a visa to join you, your children must also meet the following criteria:

  • They must not be married, divorced or widowed
  • They must be under 18 years of age.
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Special requirements apply to children over the age of 16. Your local German Embassy will be able to inform you about these. If your child is already 18 years of age, they must generally apply for a separate resident permit of their own.

Birth of a child in Germany

What happens if a child is born in Germany? If at the time of the birth you hold a valid right of residence, your child will also be granted a Residence permit. See Section 33 of the Residence Act (AufenthG).

German citizenship is based on the Principle of parentage. This means that if either parent is a German citizen, the child automatically obtains German citizenship at birth. In special cases children can obtain German nationality at birth in addition to the nationality of their parents. You can find more information about the rules which apply in this case in the section on “Living permanently in Germany”.

Parental leave

Parental leave

What is parental leave?

Are you interested in spending as much time as possible with your family after the birth of your child? Do you want to take leave from your job or reduce your working hours? In Germany, this is not a problem. After a child is born, mothers and fathers are entitled to take time off from work, known as parental leave (Elternzeit). This allows you to devote yourself entirely to your family. During this period, an employer is not permitted to terminate your employment except in certain special cases (for example, if the company becomes insolvent or closes, or if you neglect your obligations). After returning from parental leave, mothers and fathers are entitled to the same working hours as before, as specified in their employment contracts. If you are interested in applying for parental leave, the local parental benefit office - Elterngeldstelle –– will help you. The address can be found on the German-language website www.familien-wegweiser.de

Who is entitled to parental leave? 

In Germany, any employed mother or father can apply for parental leave; i.e, the applicant must be an employee and have a German employment contract. This includes employees with temporary contracts, part-time contracts and marginal employment, and to trainees working in companies. After a trainee returns to work, training continues as before. However, before taking parental leave, trainees should find out from the chamber of commerce or educational authority responsible what rules apply to their subsequent return to work. 

Workers are entitled to parental leave until their child reaches the age of three. School and university students, interns, the self-employed and the unemployed are not entitled to parental leave. 

If both parents are employed, they may take parental leave either consecutively or simultaneously. It is important to note, however, that parental leave is available only to employed mothers and fathers who live in the same household as the child and are the main carers.

How long does parental leave last? 

You can determine the length of your parental leave yourself. In most cases, it begins with the birth of the child (in the case of the father) or following maternity leave (in the case of the mother). In any event, you are entitled to parental leave until your child reaches the age of three. You may also have the option of saving up to 12 months of parental leave to be used before your child’s eighth birthday. However, this requires the consent of your employer; you have no legal right to do so. 

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With your employer’s consent, you are allowed to work up to 30 hours per week while on parental leave. Under certain conditions you may even have a legal right to do so.

How and where should I apply for parental leave? 

A written application for parental leave must be submitted to your employer seven weeks before you plan to begin your leave, specifying the periods within the first two years after the child’s birth during which you intend to take it. After this initial two-year period, you may submit another written application to your employer requesting the remaining leave to which you are entitled. The deadline for this second application is seven weeks before the end of the two-year period. Your employer is required to issue a written confirmation of the length of your parental leave.

Parental benefit (Elterngeld)

Parental leave

After the birth of a child, parents in Germany receive special financial support known as ‘parental benefit’ (Elterngeld). This helps young families when the parents are unable to work after their child is born, or need to reduce their working hours.

For how long is parental benefit paid? 

Parental benefit may be paid during the first 14 months of the child’s life. Both parents together are entitled to a total of 12 monthly payments. Two additional payments may be made if both parents take advantage of the benefit and at least one has a reduced income for no less than two months. Single parents may receive the 14 monthly payments if they have no, or a reduced, income. The parents may choose how to divide up the 12 or 14 monthly payments. However, each parent may receive a minimum of two and a maximum of 12 payments. 

The parents may receive the benefit either simultaneously or consecutively. If they choose, for example, to divide the payments equally, each parent may receive no more than seven monthly payments – for a total of no more than 14. 

Is parental benefit paid to the families of international skilled workers? 

Citizens of European Union countries and of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland may receive parental benefit if they live and work in Germany. You may also be entitled to parental benefit if you are a citizen of a third (non-EU or EEA) country. In this case, you require a Residence permit that allows you to work in Germany. This is the case if you have permanent residence status or if you have a Residence permit and are, or were, also permitted to work in Germany, for example if you have an EU Blue Card

Additional information on the requirements for receiving parental benefit is available in German from the Familien-Wegweiser (Family Guide) of the Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth 

How much parental benefit will I receive? 

The amount of parental benefit you receive depends on your net monthly income prior to your child’s birth. The sum ranges from 300 to 1,800 euros per month. Families with several small children or with multiple births (e.g. twins or triplets) and parents with incomes of less than 1,000 euros per month receive additional support. To determine approximately how much money you can expect to receive, consult the online parental benefit calculator on the German-language website www.familien-wegweiser.de.

How and where can I apply for parental benefit? 

You must submit a written application to the parental benefit office responsible. The appropriate application form can be downloaded at www.familien-wegweiser.de. 

It is not necessary to submit your application immediately after the birth of your child. Note, however, that parental benefit will be paid retroactively for no more than three months prior to submission of your application. It is therefore advisable not to wait too long. 

Your nearest parental benefit office can provide more detailed advice. You will find the address at www.familien-wegweiser.de. 

Child care

Day nurseries 

A day nursery is a place where children under the age of three can play with other children of the same age under the supervision of trained early childhood educators who help your children learn through play. Appropriate meals, naps and outdoor play are all part of the program. Most day nurseries are flexible about drop-off and pick-up times. Day nurseries are run by private and public agencies and by churches. Prices vary considerably and in part depend on the parents' income. Availability differs greatly by region.

Preschools

The German word for preschool is Kindergarten - perhaps you are familiar with it, since it is also used in English. In Germany, preschools are for children between the ages of three and six. More and more, preschools are focusing on satisfying the curiosity of these young children, in addition to providing plenty of opportunity for active play. Simple experiments and play-based instruction teach them about nature and technology as they hone their thinking and language skills. In Germany there are also bilingual preschools. Most of these offer English as a second language, the next most popular languages being French and Danish. The preschool day usually begins in the morning and ends either at noon or in the afternoon, depending on the specific facility. Preschools are run by cities, churches, specially-founded associations and other private entities. As with day nurseries, prices vary widely. Some preschools charge no fees at all, while others may cost several hundred euros per year, depending on the parents' income and the region.

Childminders

Childminders take care of your child in their own home while you go to work. In most cases they care for additional children as well, so your child is guaranteed to have contact with its peers. Nannies are also an option in Germany. In contrast to childminders, nannies come to your home to look after your child. Childminders and nannies are not required to be trained early childhood educators. However, they must be certified by the youth welfare office, and most of them have a great deal of experience with children. For a 20-hour week, childminders charge an average of 300 to 600 euros per month.

How to find the right child care

Step 1 - Starting your search: Start with the Internet: Local government websites usually provide a good overview. There are also websites run by and for families, where you can look for options in your area and exchange tips with other parents. 

Step 2 - Making your selection: Visit some of the facilities. You can meet the teachers, childminders or nannies, and in many cases your child will have the opportunity to get to know the facility and become accustomed to its daily routine. Or ask your new neighbours, friends or colleagues if they can recommend a particular facility. 

Step 3 - Registering your child: When you have found the right facility, you can register your child. Since many nursery schools and preschools have deadlines and waiting lists, it is a good idea to contact several providers as soon as possible and have your name put on their lists.

Germany's school system

Once your children are six years old, they are required to go to school, since school attendance is compulsory in Germany. Most German schools are run by the state and there is no charge for your children to attend. In addition, of course, there are private and international schools, which charge fees.  

The individual states are responsible for education policy. This means that the school system will to some extent depend on the region where you and your family are living. Children do not always have the same curriculum in every state, and textbooks may differ as well. Individual states also have different types of schools. Basically, however, the German school system is structured as follows:  

Grundschule (primary school): Normally, six-year-olds begin their school careers at primary school, which covers the first four grades. Only in Berlin and Brandenburg does primary school continue to the sixth grade. At the end of primary school, you and your child's teachers will decide, depending on your child's performance, which secondary school your child will attend. 

Weiterführende Schulen (secondary schools) - the most common types are:

  • Hauptschule (secondary general school for grades five through nine or ten)
  • Realschule (more practical secondary school for grades five through ten)
  • Gymnasium (more academic secondary school for grades five through twelve/thirteen)
  • Gesamtschule (comprehensive school for grades five through twelve/thirteen)

Hauptschule and Realschule: Young people who have successfully completed the Hauptschule or Realschule are eligible for vocational training, or can transfer to the sixth form / senior high at a Gymnasium or Gesamtschule. 

Gesamtschule: Combines the Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium and offers an alternative to the tripartite school system. 

Gymnasium: At the end of the 12th or 13th grade, students take examinations known as the Abitur and if successful graduate from high school with a certificate of advanced secondary education entitling them to study at a university or at a university of applied sciences. However, they may also choose to undergo vocational training and enter the job market directly. 

Germany's education system

School enrolment of children and teenagers newly arrived from abroad

If your children are of school age when they enter Germany you will no doubt be wondering how they can be found a place in a school. This is decided by the school management in consultation with the local education authority. As a general rule, children who have recently entered the country and due to their lack of German are not able to attend regular school lessons will be offered special trial lessons instead. The goal is to integrate them as soon as possible into regular school classes.

How to recognise a good school

As a rule you are free to decide which of the schools in your city your child should attend. So it is a good idea to take a look at a few schools. One sign of a good school is that it not only provides high-quality instruction, but also offers extracurricular activities such as theatre, sports, language and music clubs, and school trips. A good school also encourages parent involvement. In addition to finding out whether the school has a place for your child, you should also ask about extracurricular options. If your children are not yet fluent in German, make sure that the school offers German classes, usually referred to as "German as a foreign language." Here the teachers will make sure that your child understands the lessons and can keep up with the curriculum.

Information on this website

Personalised information and advice

Find out how you can learn German.

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Schools and child care

Child care for the youngest members of your family

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Where to find the help you need

A bike ride or a football game – Ideas for your leisure time

Further information about the visa process

Information on the internet

Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)

How to bring your family to Germany (German, English)

Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ)

Read more about family reunification for German nationals (German)

Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ)

"Familien-Wegweiser": A guide for families who have just moved to Germany (German)

Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ)

Acquiring German citizenship by birth (German)

Goethe-Institut

Information about language courses and skills for the spouses of migrant workers joining them in Germany (i. a. German, English, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, Turkish)

Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

Information about child care and the rights of children and young people (German)

Federal Office for Migration and Refugees

The German school system in brief (German, English, Russian, Turkish)

Information on education in early childhood in Germany (German, English, Russian, Turkish)

Deutscher Bildungsserver

Information on daycare for children in Germany (German, English)

Familien-Wegweiser.de

Search for child care offers (German)

Association of German International Schools

Federation of international schools in Germany (English)

Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States (KMK)

Germany’s school system (German)

Schulweb.de – Service platform of the federal government and the states

Portal for searching for schools (German, English, French, Russian)