For members


Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?

Unlike in EU countries such as Portugal or Spain, Germany does not have a visa specifically for pensioners. Yet applying to live in the Bundesrepublik post-retirement is not difficult if you follow these steps.

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?
Two pensioners enjoying a quiet moment in Dresden in August 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Due to its quality of life, financial security and health care, Germany snagged the number 10 spot in the 2020 Global Retirement Index. So just how easy is it to plant roots in Deutschland after your retirement?

Applying for a residency permit

As with any non-EU or European Economic Area (EEA) national looking to stay in Germany for longer than a 90-day period, retirees will need to apply for a general resident’s permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) under which it will be possible to select retirement as a category. 

READ ALSO: How does Germany’s pension system measure up worldwide?

This is the same permit for those looking to work and study in Germany – but if you would like to do either after receiving a residency permit, you will need to explicitly change the category of the visa.

Applicants from certain third countries (such as the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Canada, and New Zealand) can first come to Germany on a normal tourist visa, and then apply for a residency permit when in the country. 

However, for anyone looking to spend their later years in Germany, it’s still advisable to apply at their home country’s consulate at least three months in advance to avoid any problems while in Germany.

Retirement visas still aren’t as common as employment visas, for example, so there could be a longer processing time. 

What do you need to retire in Germany?

To apply for a retirement visa, you’ll need proof of sufficient savings (through pensions, savings and investments) as well as a valid German health insurance. 

If you have previously worked in Germany for at least five years, you could qualify for Pensioner’s Health Insurance. Otherwise you’ll need to apply for one of the country’s many private health insurance plans. 

Take note, though, that not all are automatically accepted by the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office), so this is something you’ll need to inquire about before purchasing a plan. 

READ ALSO: The perks of private health insurance for expats in Germany

The decision is still at the discretion of German authorities, and your case could be made stronger for various reasons, such as if you’re joining a family member or are married to a German. Initially retirement visas are usually given out for a year, with the possibility of renewal. 

Once you’ve lived in Germany for at least five full years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit, or a Niederlassungserlaubnis. To receive this, you will have to show at least a basic knowledge of the German language and culture.

READ ALSO: How to secure permanent residency in Germany

Taxation as a pensioner

In the Bundesrepublik, pensions are still listed as taxable income, meaning that you could be paying a hefty amount on the pension from your home country. But this is likely to less in the coming years.

Tax is owed when a pensioner’s total income exceeds the basic tax-free allowance of €9,186 per year, or €764 per month. From 2020 the annual taxable income for pensioners will increase by one percent until 2040 when a full 100 percent of pensions will be taxable.

American retirees in Germany will also still have to file US income taxes, even if they don’t owe any taxes back in the States. 

In the last few years there has been a push around Germany to raise the pension age to 69, up from 65-67, in light of rising lifespans.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could people in Germany still be working until the age of 68?

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For members


Reader question: How long will it take to renew my Swiss permit?

The answer to this question, which is, naturally, of concern to foreign nationals living in Switzerland, depends on several factors.

Reader question: How long will it take to renew my Swiss permit?

The first thing to consider is what kind of work/residency permit you have, as different rules apply.

Let’s look at the long-term B permits and permanent residency C permits that most foreign nationals living in Switzerland are likely to have.

Typically in both of these cases, you will receive a letter from local authorities approximately six weeks before the deadline reminding you to renew.

There will also be an application form that you will need to fill out, which must be submitted to your commune of residence no earlier than three months and no later than two weeks prior to the expiration date.

READ ALSO: When and how should you renew your Swiss residence permit?

Some cantons also impose additional rules for certain categories of foreigners. 

In Geneva, for instance, non-EU/EFTA spouses of B or C permit holders must include a French language certificate if it had not yet been done previously.

Further, for nationals of a non-EU/EFTA state who depend on social assistance for an amount equal to or greater than 50,000 francs for a single person or 80,000 francs for a household of several people, a letter indicating the reasons for the dependence on government aid and the steps taken to get out of it must be submitted.

In Vaud, “your situation and your degree of integration are examined, in particular your financial autonomy”.

Your canton may have other special rules in place as well, so it’s good to find them out beforehand, allowing you to submit all the necessary paperwork with your renewal application.

How long does the renewal process take?

The extension of your current permit may depend on various factors set by your canton which, in turn, may determine how long the renewal process will take.

In straightforward cases, you will receive the renewal within two to four weeks. However, this timeline is not set in stone.

It may happen that the new permit is not immediately issued, because the volumes of applications to be processed are very large, especially in cantons with a sizeable foreign population like Geneva, Zurich, Basel, and Vaud.

And the stricter the regulations (as mentioned above), the longer the process is likely to take.

Can authorities refuse to extend your permit?

Yes, that can happen under certain circumstances.

For instance, short-term L or B permits that are tied to a particular job, which ends within the specified time period (usually up to a year), will expire when the contract is over.

As non-EU / EFTA nationals are subject to a quota system, their work permits are not automatically renewed either.

Other reasons include lack of integration or dependence on welfare, as mentioned above. Also, if you’ve committed serious crimes or other infractions, you can kiss your permit goodbye.

And if you forgot to apply for renewal in the first place, then you forfeit your right to the permit.

The authorities could take special circumstances, such as serious illness, a debilitating accident, or another extreme situation into consideration and make an exception, but you shouldn’t count on that.

READ ALSO: Can Swiss authorities refuse to renew work permits — and for what reasons?

What if you applied on time and provided all the required documentation, but your permit expired before a new one was issued?

The good news is that, if you are a holder of either a long-term B or settlement C permit, your rights are protected while you wait for the renewal.

You can continue to work and live in Switzerland as before.

Under the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act, “when the person concerned has submitted an application to extend a permit, he or she is authorised to stay in Switzerland during the procedure, provided that no other decision has been taken”.