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I am a UK citizen currently in Colombia, and will soon be married to a Colombian.

After getting married, we want to move to Germany. I seem to be reading a lot of conflicting information online about how we can do this. There are three broad scenarios I think may be true based on my reading from various sources (including blogs, official government websites, europa.eu, all of which seem to have slightly incomplete, vague or contradictory info)

  1. We can both just fly to Germany, and because she is my wife she'll just be let in OR she can enter on a tourist visa (no Schengen visa will be required for Colombians when we move next year so she'll have a 'free' 90 days anyway) and then as long as I get both an address and a job in Germany within 3 months, we can then both apply for residency, and then be residents there as long as I'm working.

  2. We can do as above but she'll have to apply for some sort of special spousal visa in Colombia first, to let German Immigration know that becoming residents is our intention, but I won't need to be in Germany, or have an address or job there for such a visa to be approved. Then when we get to Germany, so long as I get a job and address within 3 months we can apply for and be granted residency.

  3. I will have to be in Germany, have an address and job there, and be a registered resident there, before she can even apply for a spousal visa in Colombia. Once this visa is granted she can then come and join me, and then apply for her residency once there.

Does anybody know which, if any, of these three is accurate?

  • 1
    expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/5645/… deals with a similar situation, with the caveat that this person already had a job so that he could start the formalities immediately and did not have to worry about the first few weeks in Germany. – Gala Oct 28 '15 at 0:14
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Now that Colombian citizens are exempted from the short-stay visa requirement for the Schengen area, the closest to the truth is scenario 1, with a few nuances. Your wife will then be able to use her 90 days to enter Germany and deal with the rest later. Before that, you were in something like scenario 2, except that the “spousal visa” is only a special type of Schengen short-stay visa (you would apply with the same form but with different requirements).

In any case, you, as a British citizen, do not apply for anything. You won't even get any document confirming that you are making use of your treaty rights (such a document, called a Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung, did exist a few years ago, but no more – another source of confusion). You simply have an implicit right to stay for as long as you want by virtue of the fact that you are working. You do have to register with the municipality within a week or two of settling in the country, a procedure that has no direct equivalent in the UK but is mandatory for everybody in Germany, including German citizens.

By contrast, your wife, as a Colombian citizen, does need to complete some additional formalities. Technically, she would not really apply for a “permit”. Instead she is required to get a “card” to which she is entitled, specifically an Aufenthaltskarte für Familienangehörige eines Unionsbürgers (the fact that it's called Aufenthaltskarte and not Aufenthaltserlaubnis is supposed to underline this distinction). But in practice she needs to fill in a form and submit it to the authorities together with some documents all the same. You, the British citizen, will have to document your situation (i.e. produce a work contract) when applying for your wife's card since she is only entitled to it because you are working and sponsoring her. Your wife will then get a plastic card documenting her status.

Now if you don't have a job after 90 days, you will need another solution to ensure that your wife has a right to live in Germany (legally, as long as she really qualifies for the card – i.e. she is the spouse of an EU citizen with a right of residence in Germany – she does not risk deportation but only a fine, even if she failed to apply for the residence card in a timely manner). One option to qualify even without looking for work is to show that you qualify for residence as an “economically non-active” EU citizen, which means showing you have enough money/income and health insurance for both of you.

This status (family member of an EU citizen, working or not) also gives your wife the right to work in Germany without any additional authorization.

Regarding the contradictions between different sources, it's important to realize that there are at least three very different situations here so people might mean different things when they talk about “spousal visas” or might not even realize how their situation differs from that of others:

  1. Spouses of German citizens
  2. Spouses of other EU citizens with two sub-cases

    2.1. The spouse is visa-exempt based on their citizenship, you can enter and sort things out later.

    2.2. The spouse requires a visa to enter the Schengen area. Accompanying or joining an EU citizen should in principle make obtaining that visa simpler but it needs to be done from abroad.

  3. Spouses of third-country nationals residing in Germany

Only info specifically about situation 2 applies to you and your family. It's typically the best one to be in, people in situation 1 and 3 generally have to apply for a visa from abroad, might have to prove they know some German, have enough income to support the family, etc. (and to make everything even more complex, there are special cases and exceptions in situation 1 and 3 as well) So if you are reading a blog post from the Indian wife of a US citizen or the American husband of a Japanese citizen or the Canadian spouse of a German citizen, those people are in fact in completely different situations, legally speaking (as a matter of fact, the rules that apply to you and your wife are defined in an entirely separate statute).

Info on europa.eu tends to be dependable but it sometime paints a somewhat rosy picture based on a strict reading of EU law, which some countries do not apply fully. Germany is however quite good in this regard so if you find a job and are able to document your marriage to their satisfaction (beware of potential translation, legalization, authentication, etc. requirements), I would not expect any complication.

  • 2
    Thank you very much for the detailed, helpful answer. I sent the same question to the German embassy in Bogota and got the following response: 'Your wife have to apply for the reunion Visa with husband from Colombia, it´s not possible to entry as a tourist and get the Visa In Germany.' I'm pretty sure that for someone in my situation, i.e. 2.1, your answer is correct and the person from the embassy either misread my information, or is trying to push a specific interpretation of the law. Obviously I need to confirm the letter of the law, could you by any chance point me to your sources? – techpacker Nov 3 '15 at 0:55
  • @techpacker Colombian citizens still need a visa to enter the Schengen area so that might be why the embassy recommends getting a visa? 2.1 will only apply once Colombians are exempted from the visa requirement for short stays. Applicable law is gesetze-im-internet.de/freiz_gg_eu_2004/__5.html. Unlike the Aufenthaltsgesetz, it does not mention any specific visa as a requirement to get an Aufenthaltskarte. – Gala Nov 4 '15 at 6:45
  • The same law (§2 Abs. 6) also specifies that when a visa is required, it should be free of charge. There are also countless official sites confirming that the spouse of an EU citizen does not need to prove they speak German (e.g. here is the one in Bonn). All this derives from EU law and it means that when you need a visa, it should be much easier to obtain than a regular “family reunion” visa. – Gala Nov 4 '15 at 6:50
  • One confusing bit is that, for a handful of nationalities (in particular US citizens), there are exceptions to the requirement to hold a long-stay visa before applying for residence permit. So maybe the person you talked to thought about this and wanted to remind you it's not the case for Colombian citizens. But those rules and exceptions are part of the Aufthaltsgesetz, not the Freizügigkeitsgesetz and to the best of my knowledge they don't apply to the spouse of EU citizens. That's why the person from Lebanon who posted a question earlier did not need a special visa. – Gala Nov 4 '15 at 6:55
  • Also, did you quote the answer verbatim? The English is very poor and the advice makes little sense, you would not seek a visa once you are in Germany but a residence card. Your wife probably would not be able to get a visa (so the sentence is accurate, in a way) but that doesn't matter, you don't need a visa when you have a residence card, even if you want to leave and reenter the Schengen area. I suspect you reached a junior staff member who isn't very familiar with the rules or did not understand you very well. – Gala Nov 4 '15 at 6:58

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