I would be interested to hear how this turns out. German law can often be pretty silly (and unfair), but it's a blunt instrument in every country.
One piece of advice I can give you is to get a lawyer through www.anwalt.de. Because lawyers get so much business and reviews through that website, they are afraid to give bad advice or over-charge.
I would invoke your insurance, challenge the 2000 EUR and take the risk that you might lose and have to pay court costs in addition to the fine and legal costs. I don't know German law, but I find it hard to accept that you can be found guilty without a chance to defend yourself.
I would also bring a private case of Beleidigung against that bus driver just out of principle. But again, even if you win and he can't pay you might have to pay the court costs yourself.
I applied for the Niederlassungserlaubnis based on the Rentenversicherungs payments from my wife, but it was denied. Reason? My wife is a "Beamte", and doesn't pay into the pension system as such.
So it's back to renewing every 2 years. Sigh...
But on a positive note, for anyone out there who has a non-Beamter spouse, you can definitely use their payments to fulfil the requirement of 60 pension payments.
Additionally, I still have the option of paying 60 payments at once. I have the funds to do this, but I would likely never see them again. Does anyone have any bright ideas? For example, an approved pension fund where the money can be yoinked later?
Time for an update (1.10.14) for those who are interested.
I am now happily married (for a grand total of 4 weeks). Today I got a call from the Auslaenderbehoerde about renewing my freiberufliche Aufenthaltserlaubnis for another 2 years. I said that my understanding is that I might now be able to apply for an unbefristete Niederlassungserlaubnis (permanent residency), and she said she was new and would have to check with her colleagues. She called back, and they seem to be willing to accept my wife's Rentenversicherung payments to fulfil the requirements of my own application.
So, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, but she has mailed me the paperwork. Let's see if it gets the official stamp, or not.
Update to follow...
PS: Tip: Make sure you request all the forms over the phone or in person, because then they tend to accept your German language skills are good enough. If you apply via email or through a colleague, they sometimes require you to prove you can speak German (and of course have the relevant documentation to prove it), which is a time-consuming annoyance for those who already "sprechen die Sprache".
The final result was that I would have to pay the entire 5 years pension payments in a lump sum to be eligible for permanent residency - money I would be very unlikely to see again. Needless to say, I withdrew my application, and renewed my old working visa for another 2 years.
An interesting point raised by my visa officer is that once I get married to my German girlfriend, HER pension payments will qualify me somehow. I'm not sure about the specifics of this, as he mentioned it in passing, but it's another avenue to a visa once married.
I used to commute the other way - from Stuttgart to Karlsruhe, for 12 months.
The A8 is a nightmare, and I wouldn't recommend it. It often has traffic problems. I ended up taking the TGV each day, with a bike at the train station at each end, and it worked really well. Go first class if you can, because then you can time it down to the last minute and be guaranteed a comfortable seat.
I will post the information I found out for the benefit of people in my situation in the future:
I contacted the Auslaenderbehoerde, and they stated that Freiberuflers cannot meet the 60 months requirement, but that in order to apply for a Niederlassungserlaubnis, you need to have a current pension plan.
I have asked what the requirements for the pension plan are (value, etc) so I don't waste any money.
QUESTION: What do you guys think about my current plan, which is to purchase a pension plan (perhaps outside Germany), get my Niederlassungserlaubnis, then cancel the pension plan after a few months?
Oh boy. I really don't trust those plans. They always seem to find some way to screw people. For example, British pensions are halved if the recipient is in New Zealand, and it isn't indexed to inflation, so it gets less every year.
So basically you are saying that if I don't have a retirement plan with squidloads of cash in it, I can kiss a Niederlassungserlaubnis goodbye? I can simply keep renewing my current visa, but it's a hassle every 2 years.
I am a Freiberufler and meet all the requirements of the Niederlassungserlaubnis.
Except one, that is...
Being a freelancer, I never had to pay into the pension scheme which is compulsory for everyone else. But 60 months of payment seem to be a requirement of applying for a Niederlassungserlaubnis. Ruh roh!
Have any other freelancers changed from an Aufenthaltserlaubnis to a Niederlassungserlaubnis? I was told I was the first person in Baden-Wuerttemburg to get a Freiberufliches Aufenthaltserlaubnis, so hopefully I'm not the first one to encounter this problem.
I am also considering the option to rent or buy. Being a computational maths guy, I put all the variables into a spreadsheet to find out the answer, and I can only say OMFG, WTF dude!
Check out my spreadsheet - it clearly comes down on the side of renting for 20 years. BUY = lose EUR 196,780 vs RENT = lose EUR 27,524
A few notes:
1. The cash inflation rate works out to 2.755% if you average it out since 1960. (Figures from Wikipedia)
2. Capital growth is averaged out over 8 years, calculated from http://www.pfandbrief.de/cms/_internet.nsf/tindex/en_86.htm. I would be very interested if someone has figures for a longer period.
3. I cross-referenced my "capital growth adjusted for inflation" figure against DIW figures stating property values have dropped 25% in 30 years. Note, this is NOT 25%/30, it is a compound interest rate.
4. Rent and costs increase every year with inflation.
Go ahead! Poke holes in it! I am very willing to hear people poke holes in my spreadsheet, but it is correct based upon all information currently known by me.
Realistically, you can simply do what I have done for the last 4 years.
#1: If the doorbell rings, make sure you know who is on the other side before you let them in.
#2: On the odd occasion where they make it into the building (but not the Wohnung), consistently deny you own any devices and refuse to let them into the house to check.
Simple, and it has worked for me since I got here. In fact, I wrote a letter to the GEZ complaining they were harassing me for repeatedly sending me letters every 3 months asking me if I had any new devices, and the letters have since stopped.