Relocating to Germany may challenge same sex couples

If you and your partner decide to relocate to Germany you might face various unexpected challenges, especially when applying for residence permits. A marriage certificate is mandatory in any case; however, same sex couples have to obtain additional recognition of their foreign marriage certificate in Germany.
If both partners are EU citizens, no unusual restrictions apply regarding immigration paperwork. However, if one partner is a non-EU national, challenges can arise. German immigration law imposes the following restriction: Unmarried partners in general cannot acquire family reunion visa/residence permit. A marriage certificate is the basis for obtaining the permit for accompanying spouses.
In addition, same sex couples may face the fact that their foreign marriage certificate might not be legally recognized in Germany. This act of recognition is undertaken during the visa or residence permit application process by the local German foreigner’s office at the future place of residence of the couple.
The result might be that the marriage certificate will not be recognized because it does not comply with German legal regulations. In this case, same sex couples will have to register their partnership officially in Germany (enter civil union according to German law: “eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft”) in order for the accompanying partner to receive a visa/residence permit.
The legal framework
As of August 2001, German law allows a “registered life partnership” for same-sex couples. Today, the rights and duties of partners united in civil union are mostly comparable to those united in legal marriage – however, some inequality does remain. Benefits equal to those for legally married partners are: Health insurance and pension fund benefits, immigration advantages as mentioned above, inheritance. All these benefits are denied to same sex couples who are not legally united.
Registered civil unions are not granted the same rights as legal marriage regarding income tax relief and child adoption. Divorce of a civil union is handled in the exact same way as for marriages. A mandatory period of “permanent separation” of at least 12 months has to be observed before one of the partners or both can file for divorce through a lawyer.