West Berlin - Immigration


The Federal Republic of Germany issued West German passports to West Berliners on request that showed West Berlin as their place of residence. However, West Berliners could not use their passports for crossing East German borders and were denied entrance by any country of the Eastern Bloc, since governments of these countries held the view that West Germany was not authorised to issue legal papers for West Berliners. However, West Berliners travelling with West German passports carrying a secondary address in West Germany were treated as West Germans by the East German authorities.

Since West Berlin was not a sovereign state, it did not issue passports. West Berliners were issued an auxiliary identity card (German: Behelfsmäßiger Personalausweis) by the city state of Berlin (West) that was devoid of any West German federal symbols and did not indicate citizenship. From 11 June 1968, East Germany made it mandatory that West Berlin and West German transit passengers obtain a transit visa (German: Transitvisum), issued upon entering East Germany, because by its second constitution East Germany considered West Germans and West Berliners as foreigners. Since identity cards had no pages to stamp visas, the Eastern visa departments stamped their visas onto separate leaflets which were loosely stuck into the identity cards, which until the mid-1980s, were little booklets. A fee of West German Deutsche Mark (DM) 5, levied by East Germany from the transit passengers, could be reimbursed by the West German Federal Government.

For entering visa-requiring western countries, like the USA, West Berliners commonly used West German passports. However, for countries which did not require stamped visas for entry, including Switzerland, Austria, and many members of the then European Economic Community, West Berlin identity cards were also acceptable for entry. Occasionally, East Germany selectively banned travellers on their way through East Germany. From 13 April 1968, ministers and leading officials of the West German Federal Government were denied transit until further notice. In January 1970 East Germany interrupted transit traffic several times, because parliamentary committees of the West German Bundestag met for sessions in West Berlin, which – according to the East German authorities – they were not allowed to do, since West Berlin was not a part of West Germany.

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