If you’re moving to Germany (specifically Berlin) for work or study, and you’re planning to get a visa while you’re in Berlin, you’ll need to go to the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) to get your visa. It’s possible to go without an appointment (as I did) however it will require camping out overnight. I’ll explain in detail how to go about that below.

View of Bundestag over River Spree

First, a little about me. I’m from Australia, where I grew up and studied a Bachelor of Business and a Bachelor of Arts. After university I moved to London to work for two years. I fell in love with Europe and didn’t want to leave after my working holiday visa in the UK expired. So, I moved to Berlin. I didn’t go back to Australia in that time (the flight is too bloody long), meaning I had to apply for my German visa while in Berlin.

I applied for a Working Holiday Visa (also called the Youth Mobility visa), that allows young people from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Israel to get a one year working visa in Germany. You can apply for this while you’re in Berlin, but if you’re still in your home country, it’s probably easier to apply for it there.

If you’re applying for the working holiday visa in Germany, you’ll need these documents when you go to the foreigners office:

  • Valid passport.
  • 1 current biometric photo (passport photo).
  • Foreign travellers’ health insurance valid for one year.
  • Proof of funds in the amount of 2000 euros.
  • Application form, filled out. Find that here.
  • Confirmation of residence in Berlin. Here’s a guide to getting an Anmeldung that I found helpful.

Here’s the government site (in English) with details about the documents you’ll need, and the forms to download.

Apparently some people are able to book appointments at the Ausländerbehörde, but when I was applying for my visa there were zero appointments available online. I’ve heard appointments are released very early in the morning, so if you check the site every morning you might have success. Otherwise, do what I did and queue.

Queuing at the Ausländerbehörde without an appointment

Every day at the foreigners office they release approximately 100 appointments in the morning, to the people queueing outside. The office opens at different times each day, and you can’t actually be sure when they “release” the appointments. On the day I went, the office opened at 7am, and they released the appointments at about 6am. Some days the office opens at 10am. Make sure you check that you’re going to the right office, and what time they open. The office for the working holiday visa is this one.

It’s necessary to queue up early to make sure you get there to get a ticket. Otherwise, you’ll have to come back again tomorrow. If you’re arriving before university semester starts, then it’s going to be very busy, with hundreds of people wanting a visa. I arrived in April just before Easter in 2017. That’s just before the start of summer classes, so a lot of foreigners are queueing up to get their student visas.

What time do you have to get there to get an appointment?

I arrived about 2am, and could already see a few people sitting down outside the door. I think at that time I was about fifteenth in the queue. Ahead of me, among others, were a few Indian guys, a Russian guy, a Ukrainian girl, a Filipino guy and girl, and a Chinese girl. They were all in Berlin to study. We formed a circle and chatted to pass the time. People kept joining the queue for the next few hours. There are 100 appointments available, so if you join the queue after that, you won’t get an appointment.

What to bring to queue outside the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin

Other than all the documents you need to get your visa, this is what I suggest you bring with you:

  • Very warm clothing. I wore 2 coats, 2 jumpers, jeans, thick socks, a scarf and a beanie (wool hat), and I was still freezing, in April.
  • A towel, or pillow, to sit on. Wrap it in a bin bag so you can put it on the cement. It’s too cold to sit directly on the cement.
  • A book. You’ll need something to entertain yourself.
  • An umbrella. If it rains, you’ll be miserable without one.
  • A hot thermos of tea or coffee. Although, be wary. If you drink too much tea, you’ll need a wee.
  • Your phone, with full battery, and if you use it heaps, maybe a spare battery/portable charger.

When the doors open…

At about 6am, the security guard arrived. He had 100 paper tickets to give out. He opened the front door, and checked our documents before giving us a ticket. If you’re applying for the working holiday visa, all you have to do is present your passport. If you’re applying for a residence permit to study, you’ll need to present your passport and your school/university enrolment.

Once we had the ticket we were allowed to go inside to the building, where there was another waiting area. At least inside it was warm and there were seats and a toilet. They then called our numbers out in groups and we were to give over all the documents. A lady checked through quickly that I had everything and then told me to sit down again.

The wait after that was maybe less than half an hour. I think it was about 7:30am at this time. My number was called alongside a room number, and I went through, where a new person had all my documents. I didn’t have to do anything, he just handed me my passport with my visa inside, and told me how to pay. The cost is 60 euro, and you take your ticket down to the machine and pay. After such a long night it happened so quickly and easily. I got a visa!

Berlin trains

Some other helpful resources for moving to Berlin

Moving to Berlin and jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops can be a stressful nightmare, so here are some of the resources I found that helped me out when I was moving here:

Settle in Berlin is a good resource with info about all the bureaucratic nonsense you’ll have to wade through before you can start partying in Berghain with no worries.

BerlinExpats is a big supportive Facebook group where you can ask any question you have about Berlin and someone will know the answer.

Girl Gone International is like BerlinExpats except just for international women in Berlin. It’s such a supportive space and everyone is so helpful!

Moving to Berlin also has some helpful stuff.

If you have any questions about this whole process, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer it! If you have anything to add to this process, please let me know!