A guide to German visas and residence permits for job seekers

Bas

Updated on Sep 10 • 9 minute read

Moving to Germany is a pretty good idea! As Europe’s primary economic engine, the country requires an equally impressive workforce to keep that engine running at full power. This means they can’t depend on their own native workforce alone, and multiple ‘shortage industries’ have been defined. Unfortunately for most people, you can’t just show up at the border to look for a job, so you need to prepare to meet Germany’s requirements. Thankfully, there’s more than one option to get yourself legally employed in Germany. So, let’s take a look at the various visas and residence permits and their requirements that are available or relevant for job seekers in Germany.

Do I need a visa to enter Germany?

In some cases, you don’t need a visa or you’re allowed to enter the country before you actually secure the visa that allows you to work. Though being allowed to enter the country still means you can’t start working until your shiny new work visa has been approved.

EU & European Economic Area residents

If you’re from any of the EU or EEA member countries you have the right of free travel within Europe. Essentially, you may enter the country and remain in Germany for up to 90 days, over a 180-day period. All you need is a valid ID card or Passport! If you plan on staying longer, all you need to do is prove that you can afford the living expenses of you and any dependants that came with you (such as a spouse and/or children).

Other visa-exempt countries

If you’re from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, or the USA, you’re also able to enter the country without a visa, but you will have to apply for a longer-term residence permit within 3 months of entering the country.

Non-EU residents

If you’re not from any of the countries mentioned above, you will need to apply to a visa in your home country before you’re allowed to enter Germany. You can get these visas based on why you’re trying to enter the country. A visa to visit or go on holiday is pretty easy to obtain, but if you want to work in Germany, the requirements are a lot more strict and we’ll dive into those later!

Can I work in Germany?

This is what it’s all about for you as an aspiring expat worker in Germany! And, well once again it all depends on your country of origin, as well as your level of education and or expertise.

As an EU & European Economic Area resident

  • You don’t need a visa or residence permit.

As an EU or EEA citizen, there are no restrictions on access to the employment market or to self-employment in Germany. Essentially, you’re free to look for- and work in Germany as soon as you arrive! Though, honestly, it might still be a good idea to have a job offer in hand before you actually move to Germany. To stay for more than the 90 days mentioned earlier, you will need to register with the local municipality. To do this, you need to be able to prove that you can actually afford to stay in Germany, so make sure you have something like your employment contract, proof of income (if you‘re self-employed), or proof that you have sufficient savings to stay for an extended period of time at hand! Bring these to your Anmeldungs appointment and you will be good to go!

As a resident from a visa-exempt country

  • You may enter without a visa, but will need a work visa or residence permit to work.

If you’re from the USA or any of the countries mentioned earlier, you will be free to enter the country for 90 days without a visa, but during this time you’re not yet allowed to work. If you want to work in Germany, you need a work visa or residence permit. So, if you want to start working directly after your arrival, you should make sure you have a valid work visa before coming to Germany.

Non-EU residents

  • You will need a valid work visa or residence permit to enter- and be allowed to work in the country.

If you have a job offer or contract and your If you already have a recognized qualification such as your university degree or vocational qualification you’re ready to apply for a work visa. There is a fast-track procedure for ‘skilled workers’ and shortage industries. Also note that if you’re from outside of Europe, you might need to get your academic or vocational qualifications recognized by the German government, especially if you’re in a restricted profession that requires a license, such as a doctor or a lawyer.

So, now that you know if you need a visa or not, let’s take a look at the different options you have and the requirements attached to them.

German visa types

So you need a Visa to work in Germany, but which one do you apply for? Let’s ignore all the tourist and visitation visas and focus on the visas that allow you to live and work in the country.

Top tip!: German visa applications can take between 6 weeks and 3 months to be approved, so make sure you apply up to half a year before you plan on moving to Germany! This sounds like a lot, but if you’ve for example a job offer, you could start out by working remotely if your position allows you to do so. Besides, many Germans work from home during the corona pandemic anyway!

German visa applications can take between 6 weeks and 3 months to be approved, so make sure you apply up to half a year before you plan on moving to Germany!

Short stay visas (I don’t have a job offer yet)

If you don’t have a job offer yet, don’t panic! There’s a very good solution for this. By using a job seeker visa, you can look for a job while staying in Germany.

Academic or non-academic Jobseeker visa

With a Job Seeker visa, you can in Germany for up to six months in Germany to find a job that matches your vocational qualifications or academic degree. You need to have completed vocational training of two years or more, which also has been recognized in Germany. Or, if you’ve completed your studies at a university, a recognized University degree.

Once you find a matching job, you can apply for a residence permit. A qualifying job has to meet your vocation, i.e. if you’re qualified as a plumber or biomedical engineer, it doesn’t count if you find a job at a local supermarket.

Jobseeker Visa Requirements:

  • Completed visa application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Biometric passport photo
  • Proof that you can cover your living expenses during your search.
  • Proof of recognition for your Academic qualification or university degree
  • Adequate proficiency in German (B1) to work in your area (non-academic)
  • Proof of recognition of your vocational training (non-academic)

Long term work visa (I already have a job offer!)

If you’ve already got a job offer, that’s great! That makes getting a work visa a lot easier! Especially if you meet the requirements for a skilled worker visa, as those are generally processed a lot more swiftly. Additionally, also be sure to check with the consulate in your country to check if there are any additional requirements for your country of origin on top of the general requirements mentioned here.

Work visa

This is the ‘normal’ visa that allows you to work and live in Germany. You can apply for this visa if you’ve got a recognized vocational qualification or university degree AND you’ve already secured a job offer. The duration of this visa is often determined by your employment contract, so most of them will last around a year. So, make sure you renew this visa if you switch jobs or your contract is renewed or extended. There are no salary requirements for this visa.

General requirements:

  • Completed visa application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Biometric passport photo
  • The job offer in question. This does need to mention your salary, which can also be provided by your employer through this form.

Self-Employment Visa:

If you plan on opening your own business or working as a freelancer, this is the visa you need! On top of the general requirements, there are some extras depending on what you want to do:

General requirements:

  • Completed visa application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Biometric passport photo

Open your own business:

Additional requirements when applying for a visa when you intend to start your own business: -There needs to be a regional demand or demonstrable economic interest for the product or service your new company provides.

  • You need to prove that you’re able to finance your new business with your own capital or through a loan.
  • If you are older than 45 you must provide proof of adequate pension provisions.

Work as a freelancer:

Additional requirements when applying for a visa when you intend to work as a freelancer:

  • You need to prove that you’re able to finance your activities.
  • You must have the required licenses for your profession.

Skilled worker visa (Blue Card):

If you work in a shortage industry or a highly sought after position, you might be eligible for a skilled worker visa. You’re eligible for this blue card visa if you’ve an accredited university degree and a gross annual salary of at least €50.800 (€4.134 Euros per month). If you work in a shortage occupation, the wage requirements are considerably lower, namely €39.624 (3302 Euros per month). You can apply for this if you ork in the following fields: science, mathematics, engineering, Medical doctors and Skilled IT workers.

A blue card is valid for 4 years, or, if your contract is shorter than that (i.e. not permanent), your Bluecard will be valid for the contract period + 3 months. If you have a blue card, you can be outside of the EU for 12 months before you lose the rights associated with the blue card.

General requirements:

  • Completed visa application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Biometric passport photo
  • Proof that your university degree has been acknowledged by Germany
  • The job offer in question. This needs to mention your salary, which can also be provided by your employer through this form.

IT worker with experience

If you’re an IT worker with at least 3 years of experience in the last 7 years, but you don’t have any university or vocational degree, you’re in luck! If you manage to secure a job offer paying at least €49.680 before taxes or more, you’re also eligible for a work visa to work in the IT sector.

General requirements:

  • Completed visa application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Biometric passport photo
  • The job offer in question. This needs to mention your salary, which can also be provided by your employer through this form.
  • Proficiency in German (B1), exceptions are possible.
  • proof of previous work experience in the IT sector.

Residence permits

Permanent settlement permits: Once you’ve been working in Germany for 5 years, you get to apply for a permanent residence permit. These basically allow you to settle and work in Germany for life! Additionally, if you’re on a blue card visa, you are eligible for this settlement permit after 33 months if you speak basic German (A1) or even 22 months if you speak German well (B1). Do keep in mind that you will need to pass the naturalization test to prove that you do!

EC long-term residence permit: This Permit is similar to the one mentioned above, but is a good option if you feel like you might want to move around in the EU in the future. With this permit, you can fast-track your application for residency in other EU countries.

Requirements for a permanent residence permit:

  • You have legally lived and worked in Germany for at least five years according to your work visa requirements.
  • You can prove that you’re able to financially support yourself and your family members without public funds.
  • You have sufficient proficiency in German and can demonstrate basic knowledge of the legal and social system and the way of life in Germany.
  • You have sufficient living space for yourself and your family.
  • You have paid the compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance for at least 60 months.

Application procedures

The application process for a visa is pretty much the same for every visa. The only difference is in the documentation required for your country of residence or specific visa. Let’s break it down!

  1. Find your local German embassy, consulate or mission here. 2.Check the requirements for your visa above and Check for any additional requirements that might be in place for your country of residence.
  2. Complete and print out the visa application form using https://videx-national.diplo.de/videx/
  3. Gather all the required documents as stated by your local German embassy or consulate.
  4. Contact your local German embassy or consulate and schedule an appointment.
  5. Bring your application form along with supporting documents with you to your appointment
  6. After approval from the Embassy or Consulate General, get your visa sticker applied to your passport.
  7. Celebrate!

If you’re still wondering if all this applies to you, check out the German government’s Visa navigator tool to show you the most up-to-date requirements or simply contact your local German Embassy or Consulate to see if a German work visa is viable for you!