German Law puts an obligation on all citizens to register their residency immediately after taking up a leased property. Moreover, all foregin citizens (non-EU members) are required to obtain a Residency Permit regardless if they wish to work or not.
Residency Registration and Residency Permit are two separate matters, that are commonly mistaken.
Residency Registration (German: Anmeldung) is simply informing the authorities about the address change, that needs to be done immediately after moving in. Germans, EU-citzens and foreign citizens are required to visit a local municipality office and by presenting a passport or ID together with a landlord confirmation register their new residency address.
Residency Permit (German: Aufenthaltstitel) on the other hand is meant only for foreign citizens. Depending on the country of origin, the residency permit must be obtained before the actual arrival to Germany (entry visa) or within 90 days upon moving to Germany. The full list of countries which citizens are required to obtain an entry visa can be found at the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Regardless of the fact if a foreign citizen wishes to live in Germany as a long-term tourist, take up a job or simply move with a spouse who had obtained a work permit before, the residency permit needs to be applied for at a local Immigration Office (German: Ausländerbehörde) well in advance. Depending on a personal situation, the residency permit can contain a work permit, a family visa, a job search visa or other kind to name a few.
An exact procedure and list of documents required to apply for a permit can vary and depends on the specific situation of an applicant. Commonly all the communication with an Immigration Office as well as an interview are performed in the German language, though some forms can be bi- or even tri-lingual. Also, the documents are often required to be certified translated into German, although more and more Immigration Offices accept English versions as well.
Contact us, if you require any assistance in the immigration procedure.