Traditionally citizens of countries outside the EU received the residence permits required to enable them to live in Germany in the form of a “sticker” in their passport. This procedure has now been changed – on 1 September 2011 the classic sticker became obsolete. Electronic residence permits in “credit card” form are now being issued instead.

The “old” residence permits are, however, not quite a thing of the past. They will continue to be valid until 30 April 2021. People with an old residence permit will receive a new-form permit as and when their old one expires and they apply for an extension. Holders of permanent residence permits must ensure they apply for the new electronic permit prior to April 2021.

The driver for this change is an EU Directive which seeks to prevent the misuse and forgery of residence permits and to standardize them across the EU. The new permit is therefore equipped with a chip, which contains a photograph of the holder, his fingerprints, personal data and the conditions of his residency. Additionally, the permit can act as a qualified electronic signature. With the integrated online identification function the new permit can be used as a means for secure electronic communication and authentication on the Internet. Registration and trade on the Internet should thereby also become more secure for foreign consumers in Germany.

Employers in Germany should be aware of this new legislation and ensure that a proper residence permit is submitted when employing non-EU citizens. Further information about the new electronic residence permit can be found on the homepage of the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees.