We gathered everything ready to apply for the European Schengen visa (bank statements, proof of health insurance etc.) and began completing the online application for Germany. The spot for length of stay only allowed input up to 90 days. I called the German consulate’s visa section in Houston and spoke with a very helpful lady explaining that we wanted to travel in Germany and Europe with our motor home for at least a year and how can we do this if we can’t get a tourist visa for more than 90 days.
Right away, she offered that once we are in Germany we can go to an alien office (Auslanderamt or Auslanderbehorde), which are in many cities, and apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis). I told her we weren’t going to have an address and she asked if we had friends or relatives in Germany, which we do. No problem, use their address and then register at City Hall to get an Anmeldebestätigung which is really just so the authorities can get in touch with us if need be. Registering the address needs to be done before going to the alien office. The consulate worker said we could apply in the U.S. prior to leaving but it takes much longer since the consulate has to send the paperwork to Germany and wait for it to be returned. She strongly suggested we apply in Germany and also that it must be done within the first 90 days of arriving. Normally, it takes 1-2 weeks to get the permit.
This link http://www.german-way.com/expat_visa02us.html has more information about obtaining a residence permit and what documentation is required. Be aware that if you do a search for Aufenthaltserlaubnis, various sites will provide slightly different information as to requirements.
Germany is the only country I know of where you can apply for a visa or a residence permit after arriving in country. There is one RV travel couple who has a residence permit for Spain but the application process must be started at least 4 months in advance of leaving the U.S.
If for some reason we can’t get the residence permit, our only option is to leave the Schengen countries (most of Europe except Turkey, UK, Bulgaria, Romania) for 90 days out of every 180 days.