After a certain period, a permanent status, ‘settlement permit’ (Niederlassungserlaubnis) or also translated as ‘permanent residence permit’, can be granted. However, the preconditions for this are more restrictive since August 2016.
- After three years from the issuance of a residence permit, persons with refugee status can be granted a Niederlassungserlaubnis if they have become ‘outstandingly integrated’ into society. The most important preconditions are that they have to speak German on an advanced level (level C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, CEFR), have to be able to cover the ‘overwhelming part’ of the cost of living and have to prove that they have sufficient living space for themselves and their families; The ‘overwhelming part’ leaves the local authorities some discretion. Reliable numbers only exist for Berlin, where more than 75% of their living costs have to be provided.
- After five years of stay in Germany (into which period the duration of the asylum procedure is included), persons with refugee status can be granted a Niederlassungserlaubnis under certain conditions. Most importantly, they have to be able to cover for the ‘better part’ of the cost of living, have to speak basic German (level A2 of the CEFR) and have to prove that they have sufficient living space for themselves and their families. As above, the authorities may exercise some discretion in the interpretation of ‘better part’. In Berlin the ‘better part’ of the cost of living is reached if beneficiaries provides for 50% of their living costs.
Under these provisions of the Residence Act, 40,810 persons were granted a Niederlassungserlaubnis in 2022, compared to 53,474 in 2021. This is still much higher than in previous years (in 2019, 14,028 persons were granted a permanent residence permit on this basis; in 2018 it was only 1,807 persons). The sharp increase in 2021 is likely caused by the high number of persons being granted refugee status in 2016, and who were then granted a permanent residence permit after five years.
In both cases, the Niederlassungserlaubnis can only be granted if the BAMF has not initiated a procedure to revoke or withdraw the status. In general, the Niederlassungserlaubnis shall be granted as long as the local authorities do not receive a notification from the BAMF about the initiation of a revocation procedure. This approach had been introduced in 2015 in order to simplify procedures, since before that date the local authorities as well as the refugees always had to wait for a formal notification from the BAMF, regardless of whether the BAMF actually carried out a so-called ‘revocation test’ or not. However, the initial precondition of a mandatory notification from the BAMF was re-established in 2019 for all cases in which persons had been granted protection status in 2015, 2016 and 2017, as a consequence of an extension of the time-limits of the so-called ‘routine revocation procedures’ for these cases (see below: Cessation and review of protection status). Therefore, persons who were granted refugee protection between 2015 and 2017 and apply for a Niederlassungserlaubnis either after three or after five years of stay, now need a formal notification from the BAMF confirming that no revocation or withdrawal procedure is going to be initiated.
Subsidiary protection and humanitarian protection
Beneficiaries of other types of protection (subsidiary or national) do not have privileged access to a Niederlassungserlaubnis. They can apply for this status after five years, with the duration of the asylum procedure being taken into account. However, they have to meet all the legal requirements for the Niederlassungserlaubnis, such as the requirement to completely cover the cost of living and to possess sufficient living space for themselves and their families. In addition, they have to prove that they have been paying contributions to a pension scheme for at least 60 months (which generally means that they must have had a job and met a certain income level for 60 months).
A total of 19,080 permanent residence permits were issued in 2022 based on this general provision, compared to 17,231 in 2021 and 11,117 in 2020 (2019: 9,918, 2018: 5,731), but the statistics do not indicate how many were issued specifically to persons with a subsidiary protection or a humanitarian status.
 Section 26(3) Residence Act.
 Government’s explanatory memorandum to the Integration Act. Cf. Melina Lehrian and Johanna Mantel, ‘Neuerungen durch das Integrationsgesetz’ (‘Amendments by the Integration Act’, Asylmagazin 9/2016, 293.
 Section 26(3) Residence Act
 Federal Government, Responses to parliamentary questions by The Left, 20/5870, 28 February 2023, available in German at: https://bit.ly/40KZhWi, 47, 20/1048, 16 March 2022, 37, 19/28234 6 April 2021, 41, 19/19333, 25 March 2020, 37, and 19/8258, 12 March 2019, 47.
 Amendment to Section 26(3) Residence Act, entered into force on 21 August 2019.
 Section 26(4) Residence Act.
 Section 9 Residence Act.
 Federal Government, Replies to parliamentary questions by The Left, 19/32579, 27 September 2021, 40, 19/28234 6 April 2021, 41, 19/633, 5 February 2018, 50.