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I am a non-EU-citizen studying in Amsterdam who did an exchange semester in Germany. Since I am not a EU citizen, I had to get a National Visa (D) for my exchange Semester in Germany.

I remember quite well the officer at the German embassy in Amsterdam telling me that address registration wasn't necessary since I was planning to stay in Germany just for one semester (covered by the validity of my D-visa), not to extend my residence permit, and that they will just send a copy of forms to the city council. Therefore I finished my semester in Germany and now I'm moving back to Amsterdam without having register my address. But I'm starting to have doubts about this and I'm afraid I may have done something irregular. Is it normal? Would this affect my future application for a German visa if want to continue my studies there, e.g, a master or PhD?

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I'm not a specialist on law but I can give you my intuition as someone who has moved in and out of Germany a couple of times.

To my knowledge there are quite a lot of people (Germans) who moved to a city and "forgot" to register. Technically there is a fine on it but I think it's rather rarely applied. The case of the fine arises only when you go to the Bürgeramt to get your new address registered. Once all that is already in the past, I feel like it looses a lot of importance.

One more thing: The concept of Hauptwohnsitz (main residence) has a relatively unclear defintion in German law. Usually, the main residence is considered to be the place where you have the center of your life (if that makes any sense). It can be totally legal for a German student to study in Berlin and have a small apartment in Berlin while he still has his main residence in Potsdam because his parents have a house there and he still has a room there. I think a semester abroad in Germany might be a similar case.

What would have happened if you had lived in hotels or other temporary places the whole time? You definitely cannot register those as your residence either…

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    If you check into a hotel, the hotel performs the registration on your behalf. – Jan Jun 13 '17 at 23:26
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    The example you make about main residence and 2nd residence would possibly work the other way round. And please note: German law says you can have your main place of residence in Germany and a 2nd residence in another country, but not vice versa. – TorstenS Aug 9 '17 at 14:04
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You should have registered a place of residence, yes. This is covered in § 17(1) of the Bundesmeldegesetz (federal law on registration):

(1) Wer eine Wohnung bezieht, hat sich innerhalb von zwei Wochen nach dem Einzug bei der Meldebehörde anzumelden.

Translated:

(1) A person who moves into a flat is required to register with the registration authority within two weeks after moving in.

The only exceptions to this rule are people under the age of 16 and foreign diplomats. §54 of the same law states that you can be fined up to €1000 if you fail to fulfill the requirement.

It is true, however, that occasionally even Germans ‘forget’ that they have to register. Some might even unregister even though they still live in Germany. In most cases, they will not be found and thus not fined.

It is a bit hard to say whether or not it will make a difference if you decide to do a PhD in Germany. If you happen to draw a lucky card and get a very zealous civil servant, they may dig it up and give you a thorough questioning; they may even decide to fine you (I cannot tell you the limitation period). However, I would expect them to not care in most of the cases. They gain nothing from it since you would have also unregistered in the time being.

  • Yes, "moves into a flat". Not "stays in a hostel" or similar. Funny enough, in many cases the issue goes the other way round: The "Meldebehörde" often tries to refuse to register a place of residence for foreign people because this is usually the first foot in the door when it comes to registering for any social security benefits. – TorstenS Aug 9 '17 at 14:01
  • @TorstenS Interesting. Though it sounds to me that if they do that for somebody legally being in Germany and legally having rented a flat they are acting illegally. I wonder if anybody ever challenged that if it happened. IANAL, though. – Jan Aug 10 '17 at 0:30
  • Yes, this has been challenged and in many cases successfully. Though to be fair, there had been vast abuse of registrations before by people who pretty much "visited" Germany (flew in for a few days), registered, opened a bank account, claimed benefits and went home with the ATM card. – TorstenS Aug 10 '17 at 9:47
  • So they invested like 200-300 EUR for the trip and were able to conveniently draw cash in the 4-digits per month at least for some months from the ATM back home before any authorities in Germany noticed that abuse and stopped the payments. Of course this is fraud, but I don't know of a single case where those people have been prosecuted and money repatriated (note that this are two steps), despite this is all happening inside the EU. – TorstenS Aug 10 '17 at 9:47
  • @TorstenS Maybe one of the reasons why a Vermieterbescheinigung is now required. Can of course still fraudulently be obtained but hey, then we have a German who we can at least prosecute easily. – Jan Aug 10 '17 at 10:19

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