The conventional residence permit, the residence card and permanent residence card, and the replacement ID in paper form are being replaced by the electronic residence permit, which will be granted in a credit card-style format.

Since September 1, 2011, applicants for a German electronic residence permit (elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel or eTA) must attend an in-person meeting at the foreigner’s office (together with any family members). Fingerprints and biometric photographs will be taken. The conventional residence permit (adhesive label), the residence card and permanent residence card, and the replacement ID in paper form are being replaced by the electronic residence permit, which will be granted in a credit card-style format.

The electronic residence permit is equipped with a contact-free chip inside the card on which biometric features (photograph and two fingerprints), ancillary conditions (special requirements), and personal data are saved. In addition, the chip is capable of being used as an electronic identity document and qualified electronic signature. The photograph is saved on the body of the card and on the chip. Two fingerprints will also be saved on the chip for all residents of non-member states age six and up. For that reason, it is necessary to appear in person for the application.

Only official entities (such as the police of aliens authorities) are authorized to access the photograph and fingerprints. Ancillary conditions are saved on the chip and on a unique supplementary sheet that comes with the electronic residence permit.

Authorized service providers such as banks and official authorities may offer electronic services in which the holder identifies himself or herself electronically using the electronic residence permit. This simplifies the process of such activities as logging into Internet portals, filling out forms, and verifying one’s age on the Internet or at machines. Only providers who possess state authorization will receive access to the holder’s data. In addition, the holder must confirm the transfer of his or her personal data with a six-digit PIN number. The service providers are not able to read the biometric features when using the online identification function.

The electronic residence permit can also save a certificate with a qualified electronic signature. This provides electronic residence permit holders with the option of signing legally effective digital documents if desired.

The permits are not produced by the foreigner’s offices and must be picked up. However, there is no need for the applicant to appear in person and it is possible to grant a power of attorney to allow another person to pick up the permit.

Finally, any permit that was granted before September 1, 2011, will remain valid until no later than April 30, 2021.