I was recently here to get my German residence permit. And after the whole process, I should say I was quite impressed with German efficiency.
I am deducting one star for the 3-month-long wait. The good thing, however, is that they have an appointment system: just go online, and schedule an appointment. I did so back in September, and that got me an appointment in December. They gave me a number, told me a time when I should be there, and so this morning, I was in the waiting room by 8:00 AM.
Sure enough, even a few minutes ahead of time, my number flashed. I entered this room with a nice lady; we chatted in German for a bit (she remarked how my German doesn't seem to have an accent; nevertheless I think it still needs improvement). She collected my documents, then told me to pay at the payment machine, and then told me to wait at the waiting room again until my permit was ready. I paid 60 EUR, and in less than 10 minutes, my passport had a shiny residence permit for academic scholars and scientists.
I would echo the other reviewer in saying I would take this over the American DMV. I had an appointment for 8:00, and I was on my way back home by 8:30. Very efficient in my book.
So true what the other 1 star reviewer had to say- the service people here are on a power trip. But the problems don't start or end there.
I hired a lawyer to help me with the process only to discover months later that the amt made a mistake on my passport.
Going it alone, I tried to correct the problem. They were willing to adjust my visa but Somehow only after 4 trips to the amt and I was still getting an attitude every time even though it was their technical error.
It's not a problem of waiting, I'm not particularly impatient, But it's almost impossible to find the right place to go and wait. Even though my German is actually functional, it's still next to impossible to get a straight answer from the people at the info counter. God forbid u ask someone in the hallway, U just might get ur head bitten off. (See tips below, maybe it will help).
This place and the people who work there are a disaster. Maybe it's insignificant to Germany, but this is a terrible introduction to the country. Only here have I found Berlin to live up to the Schnauzer reputation.
Anyhow, just a few tips...
-Hire a lawyer. It's not too expensive (e450) if ur case is fairly straightforward. It's a confusing process and it's hard to imagine getting everything right by yourself.
-Without a lawyer, Yeah best is to make an appointment, but if u need to see someone sooner than 3 months, forget it.
-Tuesday seems to be the least busy day, but get there before 9am if possible.
-Read the color-coded signs in the lobbies to find the Haus and floor for your country (remember that in Germany the ground floor is zero and up one flight is the 1st floor.) Some countries require a waiting number and others u just line up in front of a door.
-If u need help, ask some other people waiting instead of the people that work there.
-Don't talk too much, in fact say as little as possible. Don't try to be friendly and just offer only the information they ask for. Somehow friendliness seems to be antagonistic.
-Be resigned to expect to make more than one trip.
For all of us foreigners and ex-pats, the LABO Ausländerbehörde is one of those necessary evils.
If you're lucky, you get someone kind and accommodating and your visa is issued with no problems.
If you're unlucky - maybe your paperwork is incorrect, or you've caught someone on a bad day - you will have to come back several times. But if you're persistent, eventually you'll get your visa.
A few tips:
-Be on time for your appointment and give yourself some extra time if you're not familiar with the area.
-Go ahead and over-prepare - bring what you're supposed to but any extra documentation can be helpful.
-If you don't speak adequate German, bring along a friend who does.
-Smile! A good attitude goes a long way.
As far as government buildings go, I'd pick the Ausländerbehörde over the suburban American DMV, a New York City post office, or ANY Planned Parenthood office any day.
That said, it's a fairly straightforward process:
1. You make an appointment ahead of time (months in advance!)
2. Each building is divided into three sections (Haus), which are then further divided into different floors, then further divided into different sections. When you make your appointment, you're given a Haus, a floor, a section and a waiting room number.
3. You go to the required Haus/floor/waiting room, and you wait...
Coming from Kreuzberg and being in the city for almost two weeks(!), I was MISERABLY lost when I got here. I somehow ended up a good 6-7 blocks away, but made it to my 7am(!!!!!) appointment at 7:09. Just my luck, my number was up! I scurried into the assigned room and was greeted by a friendly English speaking woman.
Sure, you do have to wait a bunch but it's not as bad as people think. There's a dude on the first floor who was friendly and pointed me in the right direction. There are photobooths on various floors, so if you're a slacker, you can take one in haus. There are snacks available and this is a GREAT place to people watch.
All in all, not a bad experience. I'm not in a hurry to go back, but wouldn't be totally bummed out if I had to.
One would be hard pressed to find a group of more bitter and incompetent individuals. Each employee, without exception, is their own little dictator, accountable to no one. Likewise, should you have an issue with their "service" (and you will) you have absolutely no recourse....and they know it.
Their website instructs you to email for an appointment and then they don't reply. A phone number that no one answers. Everyone I know has a Ausländerbehörde story of stupidity and intimidation.
If Germany wants to save wasted tax money, eliminate the entire staff and replace them with a vending machine.
Sorry for the one star. Their office is convenient and well lit.
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