While you are in Germany
On this page:
Bringing children from previous relationships into Germany
Travelling in Europe or to the UK from Germany
Schengen Visas for visitors to Germany
Concessionary Families Travel
Driving in Germany
Working in Germany
AFF has been advised that children who are not biologically related to both the soldier and the spouse are not currently being issued SOFA stamps to allow them to enter Germany. As a child joining a parent in Germany is only required to apply for a visit visa to transit via the UK, it has not been necessary for the parent to show evidence of ‘sole responsibility’. There has been some concern that the normal checks were therefore not being carried out prior to the child being taken out of their home country. As the safety of the child is paramount, the MOD is liaising with UKBA to create a set of guidelines to be followed when a request for a SOFA stamp for such a child is received. As of September 2011, this issue has still not been resolved. AFF is liaising with Germany Support Group to try to establish the cause of the delay. If you have a child from a previous relationship who you wish to bring over to Germany to live with you, then you should approach your Unit Welfare Office in the first instance. For information about the normal requirements for bringing a child from a previous relationship to the UK, see ‘Visas to enter uk’ on the F&C in UK section.Back to top
The Declatory Resident Permit (DRP) replaces the requirement for a Schengen visa for those who wish to travel within mainland Europe but require a visa to do so. All soldiers and dependants who require a visa to travel to other countries in Europe can apply for a DRP, which is now available wherever you are posted to in Germany. This allows free, unrestricted travel through the countries within Europe that are part of the Schengen agreement (currently 22 countries). The cost of the DRP, and how long it is valid for, depends on where you live in Germany. Contact your UWO for further details. UK is not part of the Schengen agreement so you cannot enter the UK on a DRP.
Important News for Foreign & Commonwealth: Changes to the DRP Visa on 01 September
If you are a non-EEA national (soldiers and dependants) and you wish to travel throughout most countries in mainland Europe (not including the UK), it is recommended that you get a Declaratory Residence Permit (DRP) Visa. However, important changes to the current system takes effect on 01 September 2011. The visa will now be in the form of a card, and at the time of going to print, the fee for a one-year DRP will increase to €100 per person and it will take 4-6 weeks from initial application to receipt of your new DRP card.
Please do not forget that DRPs are issued on the basis of the validity of the NATO SOFA Status Certificate. If you are a non-EEA national, whether you are a soldier or a dependant, you should have a NATO SOFA Status Certificate (known as a ‘SOFA Stamp’) in your passport. This gives you the right to enter and travel only throughout Germany freely. If you do not have a SOFA Stamp, please visit your Unit Welfare Office to arrange for one. You must have a SOFA Stamp in your passport before you can get a DRP Visa.
Your Unit Welfare Office will have complete details on the changes and on the new application system. Please contact them for further information and for assistance with the application procedure.
Please note that the system of obtaining Schengen Visas for non-EEA visitors to members of BFG will not change. For further informaiton refer to the next section.Back to top
Relatives or friends who wish to come and visit you whilst you are in Germany may need to get a Schengen visa prior to their visit. If they will be spending the majority of their time in Germany, then they will need to apply for a Schengen visa from the German Embassy in their country of residence. For all information about applying for a schengen visas from the UK, click here. If you have a British Passport or BN(O) passport you will not need a Schengen visa.
There are a number of documents that need to be provided, both by yourself as the ‘host’ and by your visitor. The following is a list provided by the French Embassy in Suva, Fiji (there is no Germany Embassy in Fiji, so all applications are dealt with by the French Embassy).
What you will need to send to the visitor:
- Original copy of the ‘Formal Obligation’ (VERPLICHTUNGSERKLARUNG) issued by the municipal administration or town council in Germany. This is required if you are not a ‘resident’ or a German national.
- Letter from Unit Welfare Office in Germany
- A letter of invitation stating reason for visit, duration, and bank statements/payslips for the past 3 months (if providing financial support to the visitor)
- Copies of your passport plus British Army ID card
What the visitor will need to provide:
- Two passport photo's (35mm x 4.4mm with white background only)
- Applicant's request letter stating reason, duration of stay and confirmation of financial support and return to country of residence before expiry of visa
- Leave letter/proof of employment (if working)
- For children letter from school confirming definite return to school before visa expiry, parental authorisation if travelling alone (under 18) and birth certificate
- If husband or wife serving in the British Army; Copy of "Marriage certificate"
- Proof of sufficient funds to support your stay: Bank statement preferable, travellers cheques and or a valid international credit card.
- Flight Itinerary (less than 3 months & return)
- A travel health insurance covering at least £20,000 and valid for all member states of Schengen.
- Fee: Eur 60 = F$143.80
SCHENGEN Visa Application Process (as at July 2011)
- Family or relative interviewed in country of origin by German Embassy or Consulate staff (or the nominated Embassy\Consulate who are representing German interests).
- Family or relative informs sponsor in Germany of interview result.
- Germany based sponsor applies for visit documents through UWO office.
- Details of visit forwarded by Welfare office staff to the SLO Liaison Assistants Office.
- Details forwarded by SLO to Alien Department (Dept) in Celle\Fallingbostel (as appropriate).
- Appointment arranged for sponsor to visit Alien Depart.
- At interview, the sponsor provides evidence of income (pay statements) to support visit of relative. Sponsor must satisfy they meet the minimum income* requirements (Declaration of Obligation table refers).
- Aliens Office issue Letter of Obligation to sponsor.
- Sponsor forwards letter to relative in country of origin.
- Relative gives the letter to the German Embassy\Consulate (or representative office).
- Embassy\Consulate (or representative office) issues SCHENGEN Visa.
*If the sponsor is unable to meet the income requirements, they may have to open a deposit or savings acct with their bank in which funds to support the relatives visit will be deposited. These funds will be frozen for the duration of the relatives visit and the deposit is released when the relative has departed Germany.
Visitors may be required to obtain a Border Control Pass (Grenzübertrittsbescheinigung) on arrival from the Alien Department, which they hand in to German immigration officials at the point of departure.
Visa Costs and Validity:
- Application: €25.00
- Validity: 90 days within a 6 month period
Can visitors stay in my quarter?
You will need to speak to your UWO for a certificate to allow your visitor to stay for more than 28 days. Certificates are issued for immediate family only, extended family members and friends are only allowed to stay for 28 days. Applications for periods in excess of three months must be forwarded to HQ UKSC (J1 Comp) for authority. Full details are given in Standing Instructions for British Forces Germany 3217, Section 4.
Can visitors use the medical facilities?
Close relatives and dependants of Service personnel or their spouses who live in the UK and who are on official sponsored visits, may be assessed at a Forces Medical Centre in the event of an emergency. Close relatives are not entitled to free treatment in a Designated German Provider (DGP) Hospital or any other German civilian hospital. The sponsor family should ensure that any visitors are covered by a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and appropriate medical insurance.Back to top
This is provided to allow travel for the immediate family of deployed personnel who are in receipt of the Operational Welfare Package (OWP). Immediate family of F&C service Personnel who are based overseas, are now able to claim this allowance to offset the cost of travel back to the country of origin, up to the capped amount of UK travel which is currently £125. Speak to your RAO for more information.Back to top
Many non-EU F&C soldiers (except those requiring a licence for work purposes) and dependants are only able to drive in Germany for six months using the licence issued in their Country of Origin. After that, you are required to obtain either a German or a UK driving licence if you wish to continue to drive. It is not possible to take the UK driving test in Germany (there has been research undertaken in the past few years looking at the possibility of offering UK driving tests in Germany, but it was considered to be too costly). Unfortunately, German driving licences are more costly and time consuming to obtain than English ones, requiring not only a theory and practical test but also hearing and first aid tests. Each garrison has links to German driving schools with English speaking instructors who will take you through the requirements.
One Commonwealth spouse who followed this route was Yvonne:
‘I already knew how to drive in Ghana but then when I got here, I found out that the Ghanaian driving licence wasn't recognised in Europe. I had to register with a driving school, which cost 125 Euros, and pay for materials, which cost 180 Euros. I also had to do an eye test, which cost 10 Euros, and first aid lessons, which cost 8 Euros. I then had to attend classes for the theory part of the test; it cost 35 Euros to do the test, which is organised by TUV (a department like DVLA). I did 14 lessons and after that, I had to practice the theory questions with my instructor until he was satisfied and then he booked me for the theory test. When I passed the theory test, he then assessed my driving skills and decided how many lessons I needed before I could take the practical test. I remember that even with my driving experience, I had to do 14 lessons (45 minutes each) with my instructor before he booked the test. I initially thought that was too much but it paid off because I passed first time. The practical lessons with the instructor from the driving school were 35 Euros each. I paid 89 EUROS for the practical test. If you fail the test and have to do another one, you pay another 89 EUROS to TUV and pay the driving school for the extra lessons you do until you pass the test. However, if you fail the driving theory, you just pay TUV for another theory test. Of course if you don’t pass the test first time, that means more lessons and more money.'
If you would prefer to take the UK test, you are able to take the theory part of the test in Germany and then return to the UK to take the practical part. Speak to your BFG representative for more information.Back to top
GLSU (Garrison Labour Support Unit) has an excellent website listing all the available jobs for dependants in Germany, organised by area. You can download the job descriptions and the application forms here: http://lecsupport.bfgnet.de/. Most jobs require some form of either security clearance, CRB checks if the job entails working with children, or CTC clearance (Counter Terrorism). For a CTC/CRB check, if you have not lived in the UK for the five years prior to applying for the job, you will need to get a ‘police certificate of good conduct’. The form is available from the RMPs who will also take your fingerprints. It will then be up to you to send off your form to a police station in the town from which you came to UK/Germany from. If you have never lived in the UK then you will be unable to do jobs, which require SC clearance. For more information, contact your local GLSU office.
National Insurance (NI) numbers: If you would like to work for the GLSU in Germany you will need to have a National Insurance number for your deductions from your pay. If you are employed through the GLSU (Garrison Labour Support Unit) and you hold G1 status certificate you should speak directly to the GLSU HR staff who can help you with the process. In conjunction with the GLSU you will need to complete a form CA5407 which comes from the Department of Work and Pensions in such cases. These forms are not available directly from the DWP for members of the public, but for specific cases relating to employment with the GLSU only. Once the form is completed and signed by the GLSU it is returned to the DWP with certified copies of your passport. Once a NI number has been allocated it will only allow you to be employed through the GLSU in BFG. It does not contain an automatic right to employment in UK. You should request a new National Insurance number from the Department of Work and Pensions when you are subsequently posted to the UK subject to the appropriate visa and work permit requirements.
Please contact your local GLSU for more information.
If you wish to apply for employment with organisations in BFG apart from the GLSU it is your responsibility to ensure you meet the eligibility requirements for employment such as work permits and National Insurance numbers before you make your application.Back to top
Child Benefit/Child Tax Credit: Whilst stationed in Germany, families of F&C soldiers are eligible to apply for the same benefits that are available to them in the UK, usually Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit. Your UWO will usually have information on how to apply; you can also click here for more information.
If you have ‘no recourse to public funds’ stamped on your passport then your soldier spouse will be able to make the application. You should also include your details on the form. If you do not have a National Insurance number then the Tax Credit Office are supposed to assign you a number as part of the application process. However, there have been some instances where this process has not taken place and the application has been delayed for a long time.
Sure Start Maternity Grant: You may also be eligible to claim this grant if you are pregnant. If you already claim Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element you should be eligible for this. If this is your first child, you should wait until the child is born and you have claimed Child Tax Credit, then you should be eligible to apply. Recent changes to this grant mean that you are now only able to claim it if you have no other children under the age of 16 in your family. For all information click here or speak to your midwife.
Kindergeld: Unfortunately non-EU/British spouses have no eligibility to claim German Kindergeld, which is a German form of Child Benefit only paid by the German authorities to eligible EU nationals. Even if the child and the soldier are EU/British, it will still not be possible to claim as it is the spouse who has to be an EU/British national.
Fraudulant claims for Kindergeld - The German office administering Kindergeld for members of BFG, have informed BFG that the number of fraudulent claims and families receiving payments in error is steadily increasing. If you make a fraudulent claim you run the risk of being prosecuted.
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