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Reunification – Parents of third-country nationals

Moving to a new country is a wonderful opportunity to start a new life. The biggest hardship in my opinion is leaving your loved ones behind, especially your elderly parents. 
Many people are asking if it is possible as a third-country national, with permanent residence in Germany to bring their parents along to live with them.
Germany unfortunately does not a retirement visa.
New changes to the Immigration laws (from 01 March 2024) made it easier for parents of skilled workers to join them in Germany. Previously, and in some cases still valid, your parents could come to Germany on a Family reunification visa (FRV) only if they can prove hardship.

Family reunification visa

For Third-country nationals, dependent family members like spouses, children to foreign parents, and parents of a German minor can apply for a family reunification visa (FRV).
According to BAMF:
Parents or other family members (Third Country nationals)
If you are the parent or parent-in-law of a skilled worker working in Germany, you may be able to come to Germany under certain circumstances. Other family members may only come to Germany in all other cases to prevent exceptional hardship. If you are a parent or parent-in-law of skilled workers and highly-qualified persons, you have the opportunity to come to Germany if your child’s or child-in-law’s residence title was first issued on or after 1 March 2024. For this to be possible, your subsistence must be ensured, including sufficient health and long-term care insurance cover, from your own financial resources.

The requirements for a family reunification visa be found on the German embassy in South Africa website.

Previously you had to prove that your parent(s) are destitute (hardship) and that there is nobody else in South Africa, who can care for your parent(s). When there is nobody else, you can apply for them to join you in Germany. You will have to provide evidence that you can only care for them here in Germany. Hardship also means they do not have the financial means to look after themselves.

Keep the following in mind:
Keep in mind you will have to commit to financing their medical, accommodation and day-to-day expenses. They might be allowed to live with you, but then you need to have enough space in your home. Medical for someone who has never contributed to the system, and who is advanced in their age, is very expensive.
It is a difficult and expensive process, and we wish you all the best in this journey. Speak to your local Ausländerbörde and see how they can assist you. The applicable law is Section 36 of the “Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory”

The English version has not been updated yet to reflect the new laws. Here is a link to the German website.

Roughly translated
“The parents of a foreigner who, on or after March 1, 2024, for the first time received an EU Blue Card, an ICT card or a Mobile ICT card or a residence permit in accordance with Sections 18a, 18b, 18c paragraph 3, Section 18d , 18f, 19c paragraph 1 for employment as a senior employee, as a manager, as a company specialist, as a scientist, as a visiting scientist, as an engineer or technician in the research team of a visiting scientist or as a teacher, according to § 19c paragraph 2 or 4 sentence 1 or § 21 a residence permit for family reunification can be issued; This also applies to the spouse’s parents if they reside permanently in Germany. The residence permit according to sentence 1 can only be issued if the requirements according to Section 5 Paragraph 1 Number 1 are met.”

Financially independent

Germany does not have a retirement visa, so even if your parents are financially independent they can not go the retirement route.
Depending on their age and situation they can apply for any of the normal long stay visas.

I want to work or live in Germany

Important facts South African citizens need a visa to travel to Germany and a residence permit to stay longer than 90 days A visa allows you to enter the country, you apply for your visa at the German Embassy in South Africa. You must apply for the correct long-stay visa,

List of Long Stay Visas

Long Term visas are seen as visits longer than 90 days and will typically be for work or study visits. If your application is approved, you will receive a visa to enter Germany. Once you are in Germany you will need to apply for your residence permit at the local

Other options

It is possible to apply for a Family & Friends visit visa. The inviting person can ask in the invitation letter that the visa be valid for longer periods e.g. one or two years. This allows the person to stay in Germany for 90 days in a 180-day cycle.  It is not optimal but at least an option.
This will most likely not be granted if it is the first time the person visits you in Germany, also not if the person has a new Passport with no previous visas in the passport.

Friends or Family visits

Do you want to invite friends or family to come and visit you in Germany?For their trip, they will need a tourist visa, which is one of the short stay (less than 90 days) Schengen visas.  There are two types of tourist visas. One is for general tourist and the other

Verpflichtungserklärung – Sponsoring someone’s visit

One of the requirements for both short-term and long-term (National) Schengen Visas is Proof of financial status and sufficient funds. When you want to sponsor someone’s visit, for example, your parents or other family members, and they cannot prove their own financial means, you need to complete a legalised letter

Information on the web

For more information see the following websites:

Additional information

The following was shared with us by a member of our FB page. This is to be seen as a shared opinion and not as legal or immigration advice. You are responsible for your own legal clarifications. No liability accepted.

“Below is a summary of what my in-laws were told by an immigration lawyer here in DE. This will obviously differ from person to person as each case is assessed individually. These were the options given to them. The costs for each option are different, depending on paperwork etc (it’s not cheap 😯)

If anyone is interested I would suggest they book a meeting with the attorneys (they do Zoom meetings) and get the correct information relevant to them. There is a fee for the initial consultation but it’s well worth it. 

Option 1 – Family reunification.

  • Hardest to achieve, with a probability of around 20 to 30 percent. 
  • It is a discretionary decision and it is not a legal right.
  • Have to prove medical hardship that requires assistance from the family in Germany 

Option 2 – Retirement as a pensioner in Germany.

  • It is a discretionary decision, with a probability of around 30 percent 
  • Ties to Germany, speak German, visited Germany, property in Germany, German culture, take part in German feasts, children in Germany, German heritage, photos of visits, etc. 
  • Mostly meant for richer people Monthly income of about €3 000 plus other assets like shares, property, investments, etc worth at least €200 000.
  • Private health insurance is required at around €600 to €1 600 per month per person, valid for one or two years and then it can be changed to permanent after three to five years 

Option 3 – Culture exchange.

  • It is a discretionary decision.
  • Intense language course, about 18 hours per week at a cost of about €450 per month. You have to enrol privately.
  • Only basic health care insurance is required, not full health care, thus cheaper at around €300 per month 
  • The least amount of formal requirements, valid for one year during which time you work on a permanent solution. Establish ties to Germany. Then apply later for a pensioner permit before the culture permit expires.
  • One can apply for this and then later for family reunification 

Option 4 – Work permit, including Blue card for professionals.

  • Professional job related, chances are very slim without a job offer and due to age being past German retirement age.
  • Opening a business in Germany is an option. Freelancing would be an option. 
  • Has to work in your field of expertise.
  • Salary must be higher than €58 400 per year and period of employment at least one year.
  • Have to have a firm job offer before you can apply.

Option 5 – Freelance work Long process time of about 18 months.

  • Probably one of the worst options to apply for.

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