The horror of the German Foreigners Registration Office

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more.

I am not German, but being a citizen of another EU country living in Germany, I never had to deal with any German authority for foreigners (EU citizens can move freely within the EU borders and have, in principle, the same rights and responsibilities in each EU country as the locals).

However, a friend of mine, who is from Mexico, has to deal with the so called Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Registration Office) quite regularly when she needs to extend her residence permit or just needs any document related to her being in Germany.

Once again, she needed a document from them. It all started on Monday, when she went there for the document. The Ausländerbehörde in Berlin opens at 7:00 am, and because she knows what’s up, she went there already at 5:50 and joined the end of a huge line of hundreds of people waiting there to get a number. Then, at 8:30, she texted me she wasn’t able to get a number…

Thursday waiting

The next try was on Thursday. The office opens at 10 am on Thursdays, so, what else, she went there at 7 o’clock, but she had to leave at 8:20, so I went there and took her place in the line (see the picture below; there were just about ten more people in front of me whom you can’t see). The experience was so frustrating I decided to write a blog post about it.


What you see is just the outer door of the building; the line continues inside, and she got to that point after already waiting in freezing weather outside for an hour and a half.

The line moved at a ridiculously slow pace. It took me exactly one hour to get from the point where I had taken the picture to the door, and then another half an hour inside. By the way, the line behind me was at least a hundred meters long at this point.

There is one thing that also needs to be mentioned: The line I was waiting in was only for students and scientists. All other people waited in different, similarly long lines.

The number

You know those offices where you come in, get a number at the reception, and then you wait until your number pops up on the screen? Well, after almost three hours of combined waiting time in the cold, I finally got to the reception and got a number, so that I could actually start waiting. And what happens if you wait for too long because you joined the line too late? An employee of the Ausländerbehörde comes out and tells you there will be no more numbers that day. Fortunately, three hours before opening time turned out to be enough.

What struck me the most was that there were only two clerks at the reception. There were many more unoccupied counters equipped with computers, and if there had been just a couple more employees, the whole process would have been fast enough so that no-one would have to wait outside.


Finally, after getting the number, I had to wait a bit before they unlocked the doors of the building where the actual offices were located (there were many such doors; above, you can see a picture of the door in front of which I was waiting).

Waiting inside was quite acceptable. There were enough places to sit (except for the very beginning), and it wasn’t cold. We (the friend joined me again) just had to wait for another three hours (well, I didn’t have to, but I stayed there too) until 1 pm, when she finally got in and got the document she needed.

Undignified experience

In conclusion, I would like to say a few words. I find it demeaning that in order to get just a silly little document, you have to stand many hours in the cold outside of the building early in the morning, and there’s no way around it; if you don’t get the documents you need, you run the risk of being expelled from Germany.

There might have been brilliant scientific minds freezing for hours in the line behind me in order to be able to bring their know-how to Germany (remember that the line I was waiting in was only for students and scientists), only to be told later they would have to try and freeze another day because there would be no more numbers that day. This is a shame of international magnitude. Sort it out, Germany.

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