Friday, January 27, 2012

Electronic Residence Permits!

Since last September, Germany has been issuing a new electronic residence permit. Instead of putting big stickers in your passport, they are now making a wallet-sized card for everyone with an electronic chip in it. The chip has all your personal info, including your biometric photo and fingerprints!

We just went in to renew our residence permits today, so we had to do the paperwork and stuff to transition to the electronic permits. Unfortunately, there's some wait time on them. With the old sticker system, we got our permits printed and put in our passports right there, and went home with them. Under the new system, cards are printed centrally in Berlin and mailed to the local office. So, right now we have to wait, and since our old permits have expired (we couldn't get an appointment earlier) we can't leave the country until they come. Apparently in about two weeks the Berlin office will send us a PIN that we can use two weeks thereafter to pick up our cards at the Heidelberg office. (I guess the two week wait is to be sure they've arrived already when we get there - ?)

The fun part about setting up for the electronic permit is fingerprinting! They now have a nifty little finger-sized scanner in the office to take fingerprints. I haven't been fingerprinted since I was a second grader in the days of the mid-80s kidnapping scares. Alas, what I learned is that I have really crappy, shallow fingerprints! She scanned my right pointer finger twice and it was rejected as not good enough both times. My right thumb turned out to be good enough, and then we moved on to my left hand. My pointer finger, thumb, and middle finger all failed to give a strong enough scan and she just gave up. Then my husband did it and the difference in his fingerprints - much clearer than mine - was pretty impressive. I hope nothing in my life ever depends on accurate fingerprinting.

EDIT: Apparently I misunderstood and the fingerprints are for the city's use, not for the residence permit.

Anyone have the electronic permit already? How is it convenience-wise - any noticeable difference?


  1. Well, I can't really comment on this in particular.

    The last time I had to have a scan of my fingerprints was i) applying for a (new) German passport, and ii) at US immigration with full finger and thumb prints.

  2. I've been hearing about this for a while, but I just had a big misconception about it cleared up.

    I have a friend locally that was looking into the new residence permit. She was told by the lady at the Ausländeramt that the card does not take the place of your passport as an Ausweis (official I.D.). So you'd just have to carry them both with you in situations like picking up a package at the post office (your favorite) or riding on the train.

    So if you have to renew anyway and this is what they're issuing now, fine. But it sounds like there's no real benefit to it in day-to-day situations. At least not if you thought you could get one of these and chuck your passport in the safe unless flying.

  3. @Sarah: interesting! I actually hadn't thought of using it to replace my passport, although that would have been really nice and I'm bummed it won't. Mostly I was thinking it was going to be inconvenient to have to carry an extra thing around all the time - to me it feels like a step backward, although I can see why it doesn't for the German govt. We have to renew our permits every year and there's no sticker option anymore.


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