Just like our article “how to get insurance over the age of 55,” this one is going to be pretty tricky, so get comfortable and maybe get out a notebook. There is a lot of information you’ll need to gather for yourself and your parents, and it’s still not a guarantee that they’ll be able to live in Germany without taking a few drastic steps beforehand.
Before your parents can apply for a visa
You’ll have to fulfill several requirements before your parents can even begin to think about coming to Germany. First, you’ll need to hold a long-term residency permit (unbefristete Aufenthaltstitel). This can be permanent residency or a blue card for highly skilled workers. Some websites we found also state that you have to be living a minimum of two years in Germany before your parents can apply (while not all articles we found say this, it’s good to keep in mind).
Another thing you’ll need to do is make sure that you can afford to support your parents and provide them with adequate accommodation.
And, one of the hardest things: your parents will need to provide proof of health insurance outside of the public insurance domain. If they apply for their visa to work full-time, then this would be a different process since they could apply for a work permit instead of the reunification of families visa.
The visa: reunification of families
Once you have a residency permit, your parents (among other eligible family members) can apply for the reunification of families visa.
Your parents will need to apply for this visa at the German embassy in their country as a tourist visa might not allow them to make the appointment from within Germany. They will then be granted a limited period of stay. You’ll notice on the website linked above for the reunification of families that parents are only mentioned briefly — this is common in many documents that refer to this application process since Germany makes the processes for the elderly quite difficult.
- Biometric photo
- Proof of relationship
- Proof of residence
- Your registration certificate (Anmeldung)
- Your visa
- Proof of sufficient health insurance
- Proof of income
- Proof of hardship
The most important document: proof of hardship
The reunification of families is mainly set out to reunify minor children with their parents and not adult children with their adult parents, which means that many people get denied in the process. Still, you’ll need to get an immigration lawyer before your parents apply to help you make your case for “proof of hardship” to the German court system. The lawyer is actually a requirement and not optional since the proof of hardship can only be determined in court. If you try to apply with your own written statement, then it’s up to whoever you meet at the Foreigner’s Office to decide if your country cannot offer a lifesaving service to your parents while Germany can.
What is proof of hardship?
German courts decide proof of hardship when non-EU residency permit holders request that their non-EU parents move to Germany. If you are a German citizen or an EU citizen, or the spouse of an EU citizen, this process is significantly easier.
Your EU citizen spouse will need to apply for the reunification of families visa for your parents in their home country. So, if you’re married to someone from Spain, your parents will need to go to Spain and not Germany. If your spouse is German, your parents will still need all of the above documents, but with the exception of the “proof of hardship” court decision.
For proof of hardship, you’ll not only need to prove that your parents will need long-term assisted care but also that this type of support is only available in Germany and not in their home country. Depending on the person overseeing your visa appointment, they may require additional information than what we’ve stated here. This seems to be a common occurrence with some appointments, and the only remedy we have is to make another appointment and hope it is with a more kind and compassionate person.
Health Insurance: the last barrier
So, you’ve managed to get an immigration lawyer and strategized how to get the proof of hardship for your parents. You’re all set, but the one thing you’re missing is proof of insurance outside of the public domain in Germany.
You’ve probably thought about private insurance, but due to the proof of hardship, your parents will automatically be disqualified — because if they are eligible for private health insurance, they aren’t eligible for proof of hardship.
The next step might be expat insurance, and while this might seem like a great idea at first, there is a huge issue with using this insurance: it will only last 5 years, and it stops at the age of 75. Also, there is a good chance the visa office won’t accept it during the application process because the reunification of families visa assumes that your parents will be with you longer than five years.
So, which insurances are left?
After looking around, there aren’t many options. We found an insurance company called Cigna Global that is pretty expensive and provides little coverage that should work for the visa (we saw people denied and accepted with this insurance, so it depends on who you get at the Foreigner’s Office). Still, even if you get accepted with this insurance, you might end up paying out of pocket if your parents need to go to the hospital because the coverage seems unreliable from the reviews.
We recommend that people over 55 find another country more suitable for retirement that offers public health insurance to pensioners and where their children can see them with only a short flight. If they somehow manage to get permanent residency in this other country, they can then transfer to Germany and use their EHIC.
This isn’t ideal by any means, but maybe if you work remotely for German company, you can support your parents in a country that allows for pensioner visas and easier access to the public health insurance system.
If this isn’t possible, your parents will most likely be stuck with an international health insurance plan like Cigna Global, which seems to provide little coverage.
Are there any other options?
Yes, but this might take longer. Under German law, if you give up your citizenship and become a German citizen (this rule might change soon), it will entitle you to different rights for the reunification of families. This is an option you should consider when speaking with your lawyer since it might end up providing the best care for your parents long-term when they come to Germany.
If you become a citizen after they arrive, then they would have already opted out of public insurance and leave them trapped in the international insurance plan.
While becoming a German citizen might not be something you want to do, it might be your only option if you’re going to bring your parents to Germany to care for them.
We wish you the best of luck!
While bringing your parents over on a reunification of families visa is made nearly impossible by different legal requirements, it could be possible for them to come on a work visa — even if it’s a smaller job.
You can see our article on getting health insurnace over the age of 55 where we offer some ideas!