Residence Permit Renewal in Regensburg

My trusty travel companion, who’s been with me on every flight and across every border, needs replacing. Of course I’m talking about my passport, not Sarah! (She is my FAVORITE travel companion, but truth be told, the passport has covered more miles with me than she has, owing to frequent business trips to Romania and occasional ones to other countries). Since it expires in March, and some countries won’t let you enter at the border if you’re in the six-months-to-expiration-window, I decided to renew somewhat early in a low-urgency period of the year. I was not happy about the discrepancies in the passport renewal process descriptions on the sites (and as of this writing, they’re still there), and the unnecessary travel they caused me, but at least my new passport arrived quickly.

Getting a new passport, however, meant invalidating my current one, and my residence permit along with it. Fortunately, getting a new residence permit was not a big deal.

The Research

On a whim, I hit up to try and find out what they could tell me about the process. Short version: I didn’t find anything promising. But their Stadtverwaltung A-Z page included a mention of the department of foreigner matters (“Abteilung für Ausländerangelegenheiten“) with an email address. I fired off a one-liner to the effect of “Hi, my passport is expiring and I’m getting a new one, but what about my residence permit?” I did not really expect much in return, or a reply in a timely fashion, but to my pleasant surprise, I got a detailed answer in response just over an hour later. My favorite Ausländerabteilung clerk (she had purple hair when she processed us back in 2004; is it weird to mention that? To her?) explained that my residence permit would be replaced with a new electronic version in the shape of a credit card for €30. I just have to bring in my new passport and my old one (containing the still valid residence permit) to start the process. She even included a PDF brochure about the electronic residence permit renewal process.

The Paperwork

It was surprisingly little. I got a paper copy of the same brochure I’d already seen — get your own copy in the language of your choice here — after signing a simple application document confirming some stuff already covered by my passport and a few new data: my eye color, my residential address (yay! finally, something government-issued with my address on it!), and height and eye color. That stuff goes onto the card in digitized format, along with two fingerprints, scanned inklessly right at the desk in the Bürgerzentrum. Less than two weeks later, I got some more paperwork in the mail from Berlin, containing super-secret PINs and PUKs and even a pre-defined yep-it’s-really-me codeword in case I have to call in and deactivate the card at some point. Why would I need to do that? It’s not just a residence permit. It’s also a form of encrypted on-line ID (provided your business partner accepts the electronic ID and you have a device at home to read your stuff off your card and allow you to enter a PIN and your OS supports the available drivers for that device, and…). So in case I need to prevent some identity theft, I can do so via phone, but only if I give the aforementioned password.

The Permit

They’re only open until noon on Fridays, so I swooped in late this morning and signed a statement that I’d received my PINs and passwords from Berlin and allowed one final modification to that old passport: Frau Lilahaar stamped a big ol’ UNGÜLTIG over my existing residence permit and wrote in that it was transferred to another document due to the expiration of that passport. So, I can finally stop carrying both passports around (the new one, because the USA part of it is valid, and the old one, because that was my proof that I am allowed to be here…until today!).

Note: it is my understanding that although the residence permit cards have your picture on them and are issued by a government authority, and even contain all that neato electronic data about you, they don’t count as state-issued photo ID. And thus, I still have to carry my passport around with me to comply with that law that says I have to carry ID.

Anybody know why? Does it have something to do with citizenship of the issuing government, perhaps?

Dialect note: Frau Lilahaar asked me the following as I approached her desk today at the Ausländerabteilung in the Bürgerzentrum:

Sie wollen abholen, oder?

This confused me. I scrunched up a bewildered look on my face and asked, “Wie, Polen?” How could she possibly know we were planning a trip to Krakow?

“AB HOLEN,” she repeated.

Oh. I thought she was asking me, in Oberpfälzisch, if I wanted a document for Poland as well.

Sie wollen aa Polen, oder?

“aa” → “auch”

10 thoughts on “Residence Permit Renewal in Regensburg”

  1. Sarah Stäbler

    You actually look pretty good with that mustache & beard…put on a cowboy hat and it’d be perfect! ;)

    I need to go get that done too, ASAP. It’s been hard to find a time where both Tobias and I are available to go down there and get it done. (I’m assuming I can’t get a married visa all by myself…) When he comes back from his trip we’ll have to get it done.

    It’s really a pain that this can’t serve as ID without the passport. I thought that was one of the major points of them switching to the card system!

    I don’t feel comfortable bringing my passport with me everywhere because if it gets lost or stolen, it’s such a pain (not to mention €€€) to go to Berlin to get it replaced. I always carry a copy, but I doubt that would be counted as official ID…might go see if I can get a notarized copy to carry around instead. Hmm.

  2. GinBerlin

    You aren’t actually required to carry your ID with you in Germany. You are only required to provide it at a later date if you do not have it with you. But if you are nervous, carry a xerox of your ID with you. I never, ever carry my official ID with me (though I always have my Tchibo card:-).)

  3. cliff1976

    Yeah, I do that too — a photocopy of my passport and my Aufenthaltstitel lives in my wallet, while the passport is at home in the safe if I am in Regensburg.

    I checked out an old document we got upon extending our residence permits 7.5 years ago. (Have the rules changed since then?)

    I am troubled by the subjectivity in the wording of some of the passages. Here are the relevant parts from the document linked above, with my emphasis in bold.

    Hinweis nach § 82 Abs. 3 Aufenthaltsgesetz (AufenthG) bei Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels

    Gemäß § 3 AufenthG dürfen Ausländer grundsätzlich nur dann ins Bundesgebiet einreisen und sich darin aufhalten, wenn sie einen anerkannten und gültigen Pass oder Passersatz besitzen. Sie müssen deshalb immer Sorge dafür tragen, dass ihr Pass oder Passersatz rechtzeitig von den zuständigen Behörden verlängert wird. Gemäß § 95 Abs. 1 Nr. 1 AufenthG wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu einem Jahr oder Gledstrafen bestraft, wer sich entgegen der Passpflicht nach § 3 AufenthG ohne Pass oder Passersatz im Bundesgebiet aufhält oder ins Bundesgebiet einreist.

    OK, so you have to have a passport (or Passersatz, whatever that is — anyone know?) to get into and stay in Germany. Got it.

    Ausweisrechtliche Pflichten
    Gemäß § 48 Aufenthaltsgesetz ist ein Ausländer verpflichtet, seinen Pass, seinen Passersatz oder seinen Ausweisersatz und seinen Aufenthaltstitel oder eine Bescheinigung über die Aussetzung der Abschiebung auf Verlangen den mit der Ausführung dieses Gesetzes betrauten Behörden vorzulegen, auszuhändigen und vorübergehend zu überlassen, soweit dies zur Durchführung und Sicherung von Maßnahmen nach dem AufenthG erforderlich ist. Besitzt der Ausländer keinen gültigen Pass oder Passersatz, ist er verpflichtet, an der Beschaffung des Identitätspapiers mitzuwirken sowie alle Urkunden und sonstigen Unterlagen, die für die Feststellung seiner Identität und Staatsangehörigkeit und für die Feststellung und Geltendmachung einer Rückführungsmöglichkeit in einen anderen Staat von Bedeutung sein können und in deren Besitz er ist, den mit der Ausführung dieses Gesetzes betrauten Behörden auf Verlangen vorzulegen, auszuhändigen und zu überlassen. Kommt der Ausländer diesen Verpflichtungen nicht nach und bestehen tatsächlich Anhaltspunkte, dass er im Besitz solcher Unterlagen ist, können er und die von ihm mitgeführten Sachen durchsucht werden. Der Ausländer hat die Maßnahme zu dulden.

    Hmm. Sounds like you have to be able to produce a passport (or “substitute passport”) upon request. Can’t do that? Then you have to fork over any documents you might have that could be used to secure identity papers, and they’re allowed to search you and your stuff, if evidence points to you having any such documents.

    What troubles me here is the “auf Verlangen” — based on what do you interpret that to mean “at a later date?” Are you referencing other documents or personal experience?

    I have very few personal experiences with “the authorities” here, other than my Ausländerabteilung ladies in Regensburg, so I really couldn’t say. I reported my wallet missing once a few years ago, and that’s the only contact I’ve had. For the record, it was a thoroughly pleasant experience and no one asked me for any proof of ID.

  4. GinBerlin

    A “passport substitute” would be a xerox of your passport. Though I actually only carry my German driver’s license with me. That’s when I am carrying my wallet- when I go out with my husband, I may carry nothing at all. This is a subject that has been talked to death on Toytown, where lots of people with legal experience have chimed in as well, citing the above law, to say that you don’t need one, but need to be able to provide one within a period of time. For myself, even when chatting with a police officer about whether I might, perhaps, be getting a ticket, I can say they never asked for any ID. This may be an artifact of my Anglophoness, though: we are a favored Auslander group.

    Has anyone out there been asked to provide documents and been introuble for not having them?

    1. cliff1976

      A “passport substitute” would be a xerox of your passport.

      That sounds risky to me, G. I looked it up at German Wikipedia after a finding a hint at that a Passersatz is a defined thing:

      Passersatzpapiere für Ausländer müssen grundsätzlich nach § 3 Abs. 1 und § 71 Abs. 6 Aufenthaltsgesetz mit Bezug auf das jeweilige einzelne Muster anerkannt werden, damit mit ihnen die Passpflicht erfüllt wird; soweit die Bundesrepublik den ausländischen Inhaber aber nach EU-Recht oder -Abkommen mit einem Passersatzpapier (ggf. mit Visum) einreisen lassen muss, gelten diese Papiere nach § 3 Aufenthaltsverordnung auch ohne Einzelanerkennung als zugelassen.

      This says to me that your Passersatz document has to be officially recognized as an individual document (unless EU law or reciprocity would permit your entry into Germany anyway, in which case official recognition of the individual document is moot).

      Deutsche Passersatzpapiere für Ausländer sind nach § 4 Aufenthaltsverordnung:

      • Reiseausweis für Ausländer,
      • Notreiseausweis,
      • Reiseausweis für Flüchtlinge,
      • Reiseausweis für Staatenlose,
      • Schülersammelliste,
      • Bescheinigung über die Wohnsitzverlegung,
      • Standardreisedokument für die Rückführung.

      Die Ausstellungsvoraussetzungen sind in den §§ 5 ff. Aufenthaltsverordnung geregelt.

      For us non-Germans, I see only 7 possibilities for a Passersatz, none of which apply to our situation. Though I am curious about a Reiseausweis für Ausländer. I suspect I’d have to show a passport to get one, and explain why I need it in lieu of my passport.

      I think, like one poster in the discussion forum on opined, a Passersatz must be one of those things for which other countries don’t necessarily have a name, because there is no need for one. You don’t have any valid form of ID? OK, get some valid form of ID issued. What’s with this -ersatz business?

      For me, it still comes down to the “auf Verlangen.” I suppose the police officer on the scene has the leeway to decide whether a photocopy of the relevant pages of a passport is sufficient, and whether “auf Verlangen” can mean “this very minute” or “as soon as I get home” or “the next business day” or whatever.

      I too, would love to hear an account of a foreigner in Germany requested to show proof of identity, and especially of the consequences of not having that passport on one’s person. Bonus points if you “don’t look German” or are a non-native speaker of English!

  5. GinBerlin

    Here’s the Editor Bob answer from Toytown:
    Lots of people have posted mis-information on this topic. So here’s the definitive answer:
    No, you don’t have to carry your passport with you at all times when in Germany.

    Details: the police have the right to ask you to prove your identity (i.e. name and address, nothing more). The easiest way to prove this, of course, is by showing your passport. If you don’t have a passport then another form of ID will suffice, provided the police officer deems it credible. If you have no ID at all then you are asked for your name and address. The officer then radios this through to the Zentrale. If he thinks your story is credible, and the details match up with their computer, then you are OK. If your story is not credible they may escort you home and demand to see your passport there.

    The only requirement is that, one way or another, you should be able to prove your name and address. You are not allowed to exist in Germany if your name and address is not registered. If you are not resident in Germany, then your ID must be in the database of travellers who have recently passed into Germany through customs. If you are unable to prove your ID, you will be held in custody until they either give you an ID or decide which country to deport you to….

    Later in the comment he also asks for anyone who has had a different answer or experience. (

    1. cliff1976

      Aha, thanks for the link! I see, on pages deeper in the discussion, that they were having the same discussion in 2005, the day of the 7/7 London bombings, that we’re having now: what exactly does “auf Verlangen” mean, letter-vs.-spirit of the law, how much leeway does a police officer have, and taking your chances with that.

  6. Eleni

    I would like to ask you what do I have to do to get a residence permit in regensburg. I am from Greece and I want to come for german courses and some jobsearch in April. But the courses are very expensive unless you have a residence permit and follow the courses held by the Stadt. They told me that if I find a way to rent an appartment, then it will be rather easy to get the permit. But, is it so difficult to rent an appartment? What do I need for this to happen? I cannot find information on their websites…
    Thank you in advance!

    1. cliff1976

      Hello Eleni,

      I’m afraid we can’t help you much there. I had a job lined here in Regensburg before leaving the United States, and they knew all the procedures regarding residence permits for foreign workers living and working here In fact, they even have employees in the Human Resources department who would periodically contact me and remind me that my residence permit was about to expire and needed an extension (they don’t need to do that anymore since we’ve got permanent resident status now). So, how to GET a residence permit here is kind of a mystery to me; I only have experience RENEWING one, and transferring such a permit from an expiring passport to a fresh one.

      Nevertheless: are you a Greek citizen? Do you need the same kind of residence permit that I do, as a citizen of a nation outside the European Union? I have no idea about those things. I looked on the Stadt Regensburg website and found this:

      Die Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter der Ausländerbehörde stehen Ihnen bei allen Fragen rund um das Aufenthaltsrecht von ausländischen Mitbürgerinnen und Mitbürgern mit Rat und Tat zur Seite. Das Aufgabenspektrum umfasst dabei unter anderem die Erteilung und Verlängerung von Aufenthaltstiteln, Fragen zur Integration sowie die Beglaubigung von Verpflichtungserklärungen.

      And my translation:

      The employees of the foreigner authorities support you for all questions covering foreigner residency. The spectrum of their responsibility covers, but is not limited to, the dispensation and extension of residence permits and questions about integration and verification of obligation statements.

      So, on their website, they commit themselves to answering your questions. However, that page is not offered in English, or any other language than German, as far as I can tell, which may imply that you have to be able to contact them, and comprehend their answers, in German. Sort of a chicken-or-egg problem, right?

      I rented an apartment in Regensburg originally by answering an advertisement in one of the local newspapers, the Mittelbayerische Zeitung. You can find their real estate listings online here.

      1. Eleni

        Thank you so much for your answer! Even though you didn’t have much information you were very helpful.. As a Greek citizen (and EU one) I think I don’t need the same residence permit as you, but on my next trip to Regensburg I will visit an immigration Office to get more information.
        Congrats on your blog, I find it very interesting, and although I looked at it by chance, I have found a lot of common interests (I come from a family of chefs and someliers…).
        Thank you again and hope for the best!

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