Visa Loophole or IT Glitch? Booking Appointments at the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin

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Red Tape Translation received an interesting question about booking appointments at the Ausländerbehörde (LABO), and we thought we’d throw it out there for discussion. 

An American citizen was not able to get an appointment before his current visa expired. Those pesky appointment times go like hotcakes, and sometimes, there isn’t one available for 6-8 weeks.

Luckily, that’s not such a huge a problem. If you can’t get an appointment before your current permit runs out, your current permit will remain valid until the date of your appointment. Whatever working conditions currently apply to you will also apply until your appointment. All you have to do is print out the appointment confirmation and carry it around with your passport, should anyone ask. You can read that on the official LABO website here.

Prima! “That’s a load off”, thought our American friend. But as he flicked through the official appointment calendar, he noticed that he could book an appointment for June 2014, thus extending his current permit for twelve whole months without a single nod of approval from the Ausländerbehörde. Could this actually be true? Doubtful, he visited Die Beauftragte für Integration und Migration, a place where foreigners can get advice about everything immigration and integration. On his first visit, the case worker there agreed that this was true. A second visit proved less helpful.

In the meanwhile, Red Tape Translation emailed LABO to see what the official word there was. Could the American really extend his current permit for twelve months just by booking an appointment? A Fiktionsbescheinigung (bridging visa) would have given him three months max. The email response from our contact at the Ausländerbehörde was unfortunately completely irrelevant to the question at hand.

Red Tape Translation then turned to a legal source, Andreas Moser, a German lawyer with a special interest in international and immigration law. Andreas explained that if it was possible to book and confirm an appointment through the LABO website, then our friend has done everything right. But, if LABO later notices an IT glitch or a loophole, they could always cancel his appointment and rebook it an an earlier date. Additionally, this twelve month extension might not prove extraordinarily useful. For example, the extension is not suitable for travel outside of Germany – he couldn’t explore Europe and hope to get back in to Germany. Also, a university or an employer might hesitate to accept his appointment booking confirmation as a valid visa, which could cause problems at work or school in Berlin. So aside from buying himself some time, he might just be prolonging the inevitable.

Please note: A tourist visa in Berlin is not necessarily a residency permit (Aufenthaltstitel). It is not clear whether you can “extend” a tourist visa by booking an appointment. Best to be safe and get your official sticker!

About the Author: Kathleen Parker attends appointments at the Ausländerbehörde with English speakers who need a translator in person at the Auslanderbehorde. She can also be found at the Arbeitsagentur, Bürgeramt, Standesamt, and other meetings, and she offers German – English translations.

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Red Tape Translation just got a great rap in Elliot Herman’s blog, Lost in Translation. Kathleen was able to find a simple solution to a problem that was driving Elliot crazy. New apartment, new lights,new stove — installation necessary! Without speaking a word of German, Elliot was having a bit of difficulty getting an appointment with an electrician. Having tried Language Line, a telephone interpretation service, Elliot was floored to discover that the cost of using an interpreter there was as much as $3.95 per minute.

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About the Author: Kathleen Parker is the founder of Red Tape Translation, a company that offers affordable interpreting solutions to expats in Berlin. Clients moving to Berlin commonly use Red Tape Translation Telephone Time to get set up in their new apartment.