Because you have rights
Be an actor
If you are an applicant desiring a visa to Germany (both Schengen and national), you should be aware of a number of other rights that you have and that go beyond those stipulated by the Schengen Visa Code. These German national laws apply to all types of visa procedures, both Schengen and national.
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Access to case file
You would normally make use of your right to access to file after you have received a rejection notice (in order to prepare your appeal) or after your appeal has been struck down (in order to prepare a law suit against the German Foreign Affairs Office). Your file should contain the following documents:
- The application form filled out by the applicant
- The supporting evidence submitted by the applicant
- An interview summary, which should consist of two documents: one listing the factual points noted by the interviewer (“Befragungsniederschrift”), and one stating the interviewer’s interpretations of what was stated by the applicant (“Vermerk”)
- An analysis written by the officer in charge of making the decision on the application (“Entscheidungs-Skizzierung”)
If any of these documents are missing from your file, you should inquire with the embassy regarding their whereabouts. Should the embassy not be able to produce the missing documents, then your application has likely been processed erroneously and you may already have a good basis for appealing the authority’s decision.
Access to file can be granted on the basis of two different German laws, the “Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz” (Administrative Procedures Act, VwVfG) and the “Informationsfreiheitsgesetz Bund” (Federal Freedom to Information Act, IFG). Requests for access to file through the VwVfg are to be directed directly to the German embassy that processes your application, whereas request under the IFG are to be sent to a central body within the German Foreign Affairs Office, the “Referat 505”.
Contact information for IFG requests:
Fax: 030 / 5000 53351
Tel: 030 / 1817 2000
Contact form (in German)
Both the VwVfg and the IFG request will be able to provide you with the documents you require, however, there is an important difference you ought to consider:
The IFG determines a fairly short and definite time-frame within which the authority has to process your request. Requests have to be processed at once with the maximum allowed time being one month (see Article 7, paragraph 5). This is of course an ideal solution if you have little time to waste and need the information as quickly as possible. Under the VwVfg, however, such a time limit is not defined and it is therefore entirely possible that that the embassy may take unreasonably long to process your request. If your request for access to file is not granted within 3 months, however, you can appeal in court due to idleness (“Untätigkeitsklage”, see “Verwaltungsgerichtsordnung” (Administative Court Regulations, VwGO), paragraph 75).
Important: a request for access to information does not under any circumstances extend the deadline you have to respect with regards to signalling your appeal against a notice of rejection. If you want to appeal against a decision, but the authority is taking too long to process your access to information, please first send a short notice to the embassy to inform them that you are appealing. Make it clear alongside this notice that you are awaiting the processing of your access to file request, and therefore wish to make additional statements at a later time.
Because you have rights
Representation and assistance
As an applicant you also have the right to appoint a representative or assistant. This can be any individual that you trust to act in your interest. A representative or assistant does not need to be a lawyer or other person with certified legal knowledge.
An assistant (“Beistand”) is somebody who can accompany you to an interview in order to support you in the way you need them to. Some applicants just want to have a familiar face sitting next to them to keep them more calm when talking to an official. Others bring their assistant to take notes for them, so that they can ensure that there is an accurate and detailed recording of their statements. On top of that, an assistant also serves as a witness in case that you are subjected to inappropriate conduct, such as insults or questions that touch upon your intimate life. Lastly, the assistant can answer the official’s question on behalf of you. It is important to note, however, that any statement made by the assistant counts as if you yourself had made the statement. If you object to a statement made by your assistant, you must immediately speak up and make it known to the officer that you disagree. It is recommended that you inform the embassy of the assistant’s joining you ahead of the appointment. This could prevent conflict, especially with security at the gate.
A representative (“Bevollmächtigter”) is a person conducting any official legal business on your behalf. In order to appoint a representative, you must must make a signed and dated announcement to the concerned authority, which is called “power of attorney” (“Vollmacht”). The representative that you appoint should always receive a hard copy of this document because they need to be able to authenticate themselves vis-a-vis the authority whenever asked to. Like the assistant, the representative can directly interact with the embassy or the Foreign Affairs Office on behalf of you, both orally and in writing. Unlike the assistant, they can do so without your presence or consultation being required. You should therefore only appoint a person who you have complete trust in. A frequent reason to appoint a representative is that you cannot or do not want to engage the services of a lawyer. Representatives are often German nationals or foreign nationals with advanced German language skills. This is because these persons can write statements in German (which is the only fully legal language) and because their language skills enable them to easily research and understand German law.
Representatives and assistants are recognized legal entities under the “Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz” (Administrative Procedures Act, VwVfG), paragraph 14.