Study and work in Germany as an international student

Marle

Updated on Sep 10 • 4 minute read

Who hasn't been there: as a student, you're almost always short of money. Neither the late-night visits to your Späti in Berlin nor the admission to the Berghain is paid for by themselves. One reason why Germany is arguably the most suitable country for international students to combine their studies and work. There are plenty of major companies in Germany that offer attractive student jobs for (international) students, and even universities provide ample work for students alongside their studies.

However, you wouldn't be in Germany unless student jobs were also tied to a number of rules. We'll show you how to work and study in Germany and explain the working hours that apply to students, what the salary limit is, and how you can work on a student visa.

Are you allowed to work in Germany as an international student?

In a nutshell: any person holding a work visa or residence permit is entitled to work in Germany. However, the requirements for an international student to work depends largely on your EU or non-EU citizenship and the time period you plan to work, whether as a summer job during the university holidays or as a part-time job during your studies.

This means that in general, as an international student, you are free to take up student jobs. But there's one big one: In Germany, there's a strong emphasis that students should be able to dedicate their energies on their studies in the first place so that a part-time job really does remain a part-time job only.

For this reason, working student jobs are tied to a number of rules; for instance, an upper limit is set on the number of hours a student can spend at work, and there's even an upper limit on the salary that students can earn. Let’s walk you through this.

How many working hours are international students allowed to work?

International students, like domestic students, are entitled to work up to 20 hours per week alongside their studies. On top of that, this limit is lifted during the university holidays so that you could even work full-time as a working student! How many working hours you're actually able to work per week alongside your studies varies between students from the EU/EEA and students from outside the EU.

EU/EEA students

Students from the EU/EEA (i.e. including students from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) benefit from a distinct home-based advantage: as international students from the EU, you're just like German students allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during your studies.

This means: you can work up to 2.5 days a week. Obviously, you’re free to exceed 20 hours per week as a student; however, you should be aware of the consequences.

Once you work more than 20 hours per week, you are no longer treated as a student and instead considered an employee in the first place.

To put it in other words: as soon as you work more than 20 hours a week, you'll be obliged to pay social security contributions, such as health insurance.

Non-EU students

Good news for students from outside the EU/EEA: you’re free to work alongside your studies with your student visa! In this case, the regulations deviate slightly from the rules for EU students asnon-EU/EEA students that are on a student visa can work up to 120 working days or 240 half days per year. Wondering what is full and half days? A full day means 8 hours a day compromising 40 hours a week; a part-time week is anything below 20 hours a week.

Keep in mind that a voluntary internship - even if it is unpaid - also counts into your balance. However, the situation looks different when an internship is a compulsory part of your studies; here, you won't lose any of your balance.

There are a handful of exceptions you need to keep in mind before you hop onto your opportunity as a working student though. For instance, when you take on a part-time job at your university, such as as a student/ research assistant, this won't affect your permitted number of working days. Just remember to register your work as a student assistant with the Alien Registration Office. Coming to Germany as a student for a language or preparation course? Then there is unfortunately bad news for you as rules are a little more restrictive here. You’re only allowed to work if you're on holiday and have received a certificate from the Aliens' Registration Office and the Employment Agency.

What's the maximum salary an international student can earn?

Starting a part-time job as a student will finally open doors for you to become somewhat more independent from your parents and treat yourself to the one or other thing. But students working in Germany are tied to an upper limit on their salary.

This allows students to earn up to €450 alongside their studies without having to pay taxes or contributions.

The moment you exceed this upper limit, you will no longer be treated as a student but rather as an employee.

This means: once your salary surpasses 450€, you'll be issued a tax identification number and contributions and taxes will be deducted from your salary. And that also implies that you pay your own health insurance coverage. Good to know: in case you choose to cross the €450 limit per month, you may try to reclaim the taxes and social security contributions by filing your tax declaration at the end of the year.

Now, you can see for yourself: whether you want to exceed the upper limit of 450€ as a student is ultimately entirely up to you. Maybe it will pay off for you, in the long run, to exceed the upper limit when you're in the midst of setting up a company after your internship in hip Silicon Allee in Berlin alongside your studies, or when you’ve landed a part-time job in the company of your dreams. Truth to be told: in most cases, it’s not worth the hassle to cross the limit though.

Best is to simply do your math to find out whether you can and want to afford social security contributions like any other employee or whether you prefer to keep your working hours and salary within the given limits to avoid unnecessary costs - and truly enjoy your student life before diving into the working world.

Working with a student visa after graduation

So you really fancy Germany and even plan to kick start your career after your studies? Great, you have the doors wide open for you. International students on a student visa can extend their residence permit up to 18 months after graduation. What's even better: once you have a job in Germany for two years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit! This will definitely take some of the bureaucratic burdens off your shoulders.

Again, there are fewer hurdles for EU citizens as there are no restrictions for international students coming from the EU, so you can dive straight into the world of employment after graduating without a special work permit.

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