Opportunities for family members

From outstanding schools to full football stadiums at the weekend, from leisure parks to exciting career prospects, Germany has plenty to offer families. So simply bring your spouse and children with you to Germany. Here, we explain how to go about it.

Opportunities for family members

EU citizens

EU citizens

As an EU citizen, your spouse and children can live and work in Germany without restrictions. You do not need to apply for any special Residence permit.

Third-country nationals

© fotolia / Andres Rodriguez

You can look forward to spending your time in Germany with your spouse and children – although there are a few conditions attached to entering Germany with your family. However, as an international skilled worker, you no doubt fulfil them:

  • Residence permit: 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 hunting for accommodation here.
  • Money: You have sufficient financial means to be able to care for your family.
  • Legal age: Your spouse is of full legal age, that is, at least 18 years old.

Once a Residence permit is granted to your accompanying family members, they are entitled immediately to take up any kind of employment in Germany.

Must my family be able to speak German?

Must my family be able to speak German?

Not necessarily. However, as a general rule, the spouses must have basic knowledge of German in order to get a Residence permit. For example, they should be capable of introducing themselves in German or asking the way. However, there are any number of exceptions. Your spouse does not require any knowledge of German to obtain 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 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 to achieve this in the chapter “The German language”.

Bringing your children to Germany

Bringing your children to Germany

It goes without saying that you can also bring your children to Germany. If you and your spouse have a Residence permit for Germany, or if you are a single parent with legal custody of your children, your children aged up to 16 will also receive a Residence permit. Special rules apply to children over 16. The best thing to do is to enquire at the German embassy in your home country, or at a foreign nationals' registration authority in Germany.

How to bring your family to Germany

How to bring your family to Germany

Step 1 – in your home country: Your spouse and your children should go to a German embassy or consulate in their home country. There, they should apply for a Residence permit for Germany for reasons of reuniting the family. Please note: processing this application can take some time in certain circumstances. This is why you should acquaint yourself with the necessary documentation for the application well enough in advance and submit your request in plenty of time.

Step 2 – in Germany: Once your family has arrived in Germany, you must register them at the residents' registration office and at your local foreign residents' registration office. To do so, you must present your passports, birth and marriage certificates, salary slips and tax certificates, as well as proof that you are renting accommodation. Ask the registration offices what other documents are needed. Depending on the specific situation of your family, various conditions may apply.

Opportunities for your family in Germany

Opportunities for your family in Germany

Of course, your family can come and simply enjoy life in Germany. Otherwise, a variety of options are also open to them:

Work: Your accompanying family members will be immediately granted a Residence permit entitling them an unrestricted right to take up an employment in Germany

Education: Your children have a broad range of schools to choose from in Germany. Moreover, your family has access to German technical and traditional universities – at least if they speak German well enough. However, more and more courses are also being taught in English.

It is also possible that members of your family may wish to continue the studies they began in their home country in Germany. For example, if they have obtained an initial university diploma, they can have this recognised in Germany. Afterwards, they will be able to continue their studies in Germany to obtain a higher qualification.

Parental leave

Parental leave

Time to spend with children

After the birth of a child, many mothers and fathers would like to devote themselves to their families and take a break from work – without quitting their jobs entirely. This is an option for all employees in Germany, whatever their employment situation, origin or nationality. Workers are entitled to parental leave until their child reaches the age of three. Their jobs are secure during this period. Moreover, parental benefits compensate for some of their lost wages.

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 work hours? In Germany, it’s not a problem. After a child is born, mothers and fathers are entitled to take time off from work, known as parental leave. 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 violate your duties). After taking parental leave, mothers and fathers are entitled to the same work hours as before, as specified in their employment contracts. If you are interested in applying for parental leave, the Elterngeldstellen – parental benefits offices – can help you. Their addresses can be found on the German-language website www.familien-wegweiser.de

Who is entitled to parental leave?

In Germany, any mother or father who is in an employment relationship may apply for parental leave; that is, the applicant must be an employee and have a German employment contract. This also applies to employees with time-limited contracts, part-time contracts and marginal employment, as well as to apprentices in companies. After an apprentice returns to work, training continues as before. However, prior to taking parental leave, the apprentice should find out from the responsible chamber of commerce or educational authorities what the rules are for returning to work afterward.

Students, interns, self-employed individuals 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 bear primary responsibility for the child’s care.

" Here, people pay a lot of attention to the balance between work and recreation. "

Marie, USA

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May I work while on parental leave?

In agreement with your employer, 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.

If you want to work on a self-employed basis or part-time for another employer, you must first obtain the consent of your current employer.

How long does parental leave last?

You may determine the length of your parental leave. 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 are not legally entitled 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 your leave is expected to begin, specifying the periods within two years during which you intend to take parental leave (known as the Zweijahreszeitaum, or two-year time period). After that two-year period, you may submit another written application to your employer requesting the remaining leave to which you are entitled. The deadline for that 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 benefits

Parental benefits

Financial support for young families

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

How long are parental benefits paid?

Parental benefits may be paid during the first 14 months of the child’s life, beginning on the day of birth. Together, both parents are entitled to 12 monthly payments. Two additional payments may be made if both parents take advantage of their benefits 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 income or a reduced income. The parents may choose how to divide up the 12 or 14 monthly payments. However, each parent must receive at least two and no more than 12 payments.

The parents may receive the benefits 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.

Are parental benefits paid to families of international workers?

Citizens of European Union countries and of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland may receive parental benefits if they live and work in Germany. You may therefore be entitled to parental benefits even if you are a citizen of another country. For this purpose, 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 benefits is available in German from the Familien-Wegweiser (Family Guide) of the Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth

How high are parental benefits?

The amount of parental benefits 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, parents of multiples (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 benefits calculator on the German-language website www.familien-wegweiser.de.

How and where can I apply for parental benefits?

You must submit a written application to the responsible parental benefits office. 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 benefits 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 responsible parental benefits office can provide more detailed advice. The relevant addresses can be found at www.familien-wegweiser.de

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Family Guide "Familien-Wegweiser"

General information on parental leave (German)

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