Stuttgart Ausländerbehörde lambasted as people camp in 14-hour queues to be seen

Stuttgart Ausländerbehörde lambasted as people camp in 14-hour queues to be seen

Reports by German news magazine FOCUS have found that migrants in Stuttgart are waiting up to 14 hours outside their local foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde). Desperate to be seen, many are camping out overnight without any guarantee of getting an appointment when the sun rises.

Queues camp for Stuttgart Ausländerbehörde appointments

Stuttgart’s Ausländerbehörde has come under fire after a report by FOCUS magazine revealed that people sometimes camp outside the building for up to 14 hours in the hope of getting an appointment to renew their visa or residence permit.

“I’ve been standing here in the queue since 6.50pm yesterday evening”, a Russian man, who was part of a queue of 50 waiting outside two hours before the office was due to open at 8am, told the magazine. “If you want to get an appointment here, you have to turn up at two or three in the morning,” he explained.

Craving some method to the madness, FOCUS reported that the people who arrive outside the building the evening before they hope to get an appointment usually add their names to a self-created list so that they know who arrived first and don’t have to spend all night standing in a rigid queue.

Waiting 12 hours but not guaranteed a visa appointment

Sitting around in camping chairs and sharing food among each other, the people who wait outside the Ausländerbehörde for 12 or more hours are not even guaranteed an appointment once the sun rises and the glass doors open.

Overwhelmed and critically understaffed, the office will only see people whose residency permits or visas are just one week or less away from their expiration date - and even that doesn’t guarantee you one of the necessary meetings. When the office opens security guards come around and give tickets to the people at the front of the queue, anyone who isn’t far enough forward will have to wait another day.

This chaos can mean stress and severe disruption to people’s lives. Interviewed by FOCUS, one woman from Hong Kong who had been studying and working in Baden-Württemberg for 10 years told the magazine that she was standing in the queue the night before her visa was due to expire. Refused an appointment she was at a loose end with no time left to wait around, “I have to work [tomorrow]” she explained.

Migrants in Baden-Württemberg are not alone

While the news story has taken the German media by storm, the scenes in Stuttgart, though perhaps an extreme example, are something that many foreigners all over Germany know well or have heard about from friends.

In June, the director of the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin, Engelhard Mazanke, called his own office “nigh dysfunctional”, with people coming to join the queue to renew their residence permits in the wee hours now an increasingly regular occurrence. Mazanke named a “nationwide phenomenon of overburdening. [...] not just in immigration offices but in all administrative authorities” as the reason for the chaos.

With record-high worker shortages, which are particularly bad in the public sector, Germany finds itself in a Catch-22; desperate to get more people to come and work in the country, but often making them feel unwelcome when administrative infrastructure buckles as they try to settle into their new home.

But for Flüchtlingsrat Baden-Württemberg, an organisation that represents migrants in the southwestern federal state, longstanding staff shortages are now nothing more than an excuse from the government. “Politicians must not continue to hide behind the excuse of the shortage of labour and skilled workers, but must do their utmost to eliminate the abuses at the foreigners authorities,” Anja Bartel of the Flüchtlingsrat told IamExpat.

Bartel pointed out that the “undignified” circumstances which mean foreigners have to camp out for appointments have a snowball effect on all aspects of their life in Germany; “Without an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde, the already precarious situation of many people in terms of residence law comes to a head, jobs cannot be taken up and apartments cannot be occupied,” Bartel said, “This clearly shows that migrants and refugees in Germany are still treated like second-class citizens.”

Thumb image credit: terekhov igor /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan

Editor for Germany at IamExpat Media. Olivia first came to Germany in 2013 to work as an Au Pair. Since studying English Literature and German in Scotland, Freiburg and Berlin...

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MarcoAngeloSamonte2 11:29 | 21 September 2023

I experienced camping out last Tuesday from 7pm until the next day, only to be 12th in the line (they only let in 20-30 people everyday). I came in prepared (with bedding, food, books) but it was not enough. I realized people could die out there being in the cold for hours in the middle of the night. The area is also filled with bars and you can expect drunk and violent people who could attack the people camping out there. The situation is dangerous, especially with the winter coming soon. Yet people (like me) go through it because without a valid residence permit, we can't go outside Germany, visit our home country, or switch jobs. And many of us, have already been waiting long. I requested for an Appointment 11 months ago now, with complete documents and all. And I don't foresee myself getting an appointment in the next year or so. Because they gave me a Fiktionsbescheinigung valid for a year. And I don't even really know for sure if this Fiktionsbescheinigung (a piece of glorified paper) will be accepted or understood by other countries, especially my own in the Philippines. They have basically locked us up in Germany, for who knows how long. Their excuse, that "digitizing the processes and onboarding new employees takes a long time to take effect" for not starting these solutions is stupid. It only delays the positive changes if they don't start it TODAY.

MarcoAngeloSamonte2 11:37 | 21 September 2023

And after 12 hours of a dreadful experience sleeping (not really sleeping, just laying down or sitting) on the streets, comes the next stressful challenge: how do we now organize ourselves again now that there are already 50 or more people there, some coming in later than others, and the "line" already getting messed up. Although there is a list that people have created to record who came when, it gets harder to track this in the middle of the night when you all would like to get some "rest".