How to get your German work visa: Step-by-step guide


Updated on Sep 05 • 6 minute read

Your German work visa is your gateway to a job in Germany, where you can enjoy an average monthly net salary of €2,645. Unless you're pursuing a job seeker visa, having a job offer from a German employer is usually a requirement. To help you navigate this process, we've outlined the main types of German work visas and provided straightforward step-by-step instructions for securing one.

Do I need a visa to work in Germany?

Germany's visa requirements vary from country to country. Some non-EU nationals don't need a visa, only a residence permit, while others require both.

  • Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, UK and USA nationals: To work in Germany for longer than 90 days, you can enter Germany without a visa and apply for a work-related residence permit from Germany. This will last the duration of your contract.
  • Other countries nationals: Apply for a visa in your home country before you enter Germany. Upon arrival, you must convert your visa into a residence permit within 3 months.
  • EU/EEA and Switzerland nationals: All you need is a valid ID or passport. If you plan to live in Germany for more than 90 days, you must register at your city's residents' office (Einwohnermeldeamt).

Types of German work visas

Germany offers several types of employment visas, depending on your educational background and career history. The 5 main types of work visas in Germany include:

  1. Job seeker visa
  2. EU Blue Card
  3. Qualified professionals visa
  4. Visa for IT specialists
  5. Self-Employment Visa

German job seeker visa

If you don't have a job offer in Germany yet, don't panic! With a job seeker visa, you can stay in Germany for up to 6 months to land a job that matches your qualifications. The visa will act like a temporary residence permit.

Note: A job seeker visa in Germany cannot be extended.

To apply for the job seeker visa in Germany, you must fulfil the following requirements:

  • proof that you can cover your living expenses during your search (at least €903 per month in 2023)
  • proof of academic or vocational training
  • recognition of your degree in Germany
  • if you've completed vocational training, proof of sufficient German language proficiency to work in your field (usually B1)

EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is for highly skilled workers with a university degree and a job offer that offers a high income.

This visa comes with several benefits. For instance, you can get a settlement permit after the first 33 months or after 21 months if you know B1-level German.

Requirements for EU Blue Card Germany:

  • job offer from a Germany-based company
  • German degree or recognized foreign higher education degree
  • position has to match your degree
  • licence to practice regulated professions
  • minimum gross salary of €58,400 per year (2023) or €45,552 (2023) if you work in science, engineering, mathematics, medicine or IT

With this type of residence permit, you can live in Germany for the duration of your work contract, plus 3 additional months, or a maximum of 4 years.

Germany skilled worker visa

You're eligible for the German skilled worker visa if you have vocational training or a higher education degree. Unlike the EU Blue Card visa, there's no minimum gross salary requirement for this employment visa.

Requirements to apply for a German work visa for qualified professionals:

  • concrete job offer or a German employment contract
  • recognized vocational qualification or a higher education degree
  • licence to practice regulated professions

Your visa is valid for 3 months. Your residence permit will be valid for the duration of your employment contract, meaning that if you change your job you have to renew it.

Visa for IT specialists

Germany offers a special visa for those working in the IT sector.

Requirements to apply for IT specialists' work visa in Germany include:

  • at least 3 years of IT experience over the last 7 years
  • proof of theoretical knowledge from courses and exams
  • gross annual salary of €52,560 (2023)
  • job offer or employment contract from a company based in Germany
  • (optional) B1 level German if your company's language is German.

Your work permit is valid for your contract's duration.

Self-employment visa

If you aim to open your own business or work as a freelancer, then the German self-employment visa is for you. The requirements vary:

  • If you're an entrepreneur: there has to be a regional demand for your business and a positive economic impact. You should also be able to finance the venture.
  • If you're a freelancer: provide financial proof that you can support your projects and have the required licences to practice your craft.
  • In both cases, if you're over 45, you must provide proof of adequate old-age pension provision.

Both visas are valid for 3 years.

German work visa requirements

Besides the abovementioned requirements, you need certain documents for every German visa application.

  • a completed visa application form
  • a passport valid for at least 6 more months, with at least 2 free pages
  • biometric passport photo (35 x 45mm)
  • proof of private health insurance
  • proof of accommodation in Germany, either in the form of a signed rental agreement or registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung).
  • approval from ZAV to work in Germany unless you're eligible for the EU Blue Card and will earn above €58,400 or if you're a freelancer. Your employer applies for ZAV.

German work visa application process

The application process is generally the same. But depending on your country of residence, there might be slight differences. We advise you to check the website of the German embassy or consulate in your country.

  1. Find a job in Germany or meet the requirements to start your own business.
  2. Check which visa is appropriate for you and if you meet all the visa requirements.
  3. Complete the visa application form and pay the visa application fee.
  4. Gather all the required documents as stated by your local German embassy, consulate or mission.
  5. Schedule an appointment at your local German embassy or consulate.
  6. Bring your application form and supporting documents to your visa interview.
  7. Get your visa and travel to Germany.
  8. Convert your visa into a residence permit.

Getting a work permit in Germany

Once your visa is approved and you've arrived in Germany, you must apply for a residence permit. You should apply as soon as possible because it might take around 8 weeks to get an appointment at the German immigration office. Your residence permit, once approved, will include the necessary work authorization.

German work visa processing time

A German work visa typically takes 8 to 12 weeks to process. It's essential to consider the embassy or consulate's workload when applying and do so well in advance.

If you're applying for an EU Blue Card with a salary exceeding €58,400, you can expedite the process as you don't require approval from ZAV (Federal Employment Agency).

During our interview with Renjith, an expat who applied for an EU Blue Card from India to work in IT, he shared he was eligible for a fast-track process. Once he secured the appointment, the visa processing for him and his family took only 1 week!

German work visa costs

A German work visa costs approximately €75. However, fees can change, so check your home country's German embassy or consulate website. Additional costs like document translation and health insurance may apply.

Is it hard to get a German work visa?

Getting a German work visa can be difficult because you need to have a job offer or a signed employment contract and approval from the governmental organization ZAV (Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung). On the other hand, getting a German work visa can be straightforward if you have in-demand skills and a job offer.

How can I get a German work visa without a job offer?

To get a work visa in Germany without a job, either apply for a job seeker visa or a freelancer or self-employment visa.

Remember that if your visa gets rejected, your money won't get reimbursed.

How long is a German work visa valid?

The long-term German work visa is typically valid for one year, but the actual length of your residence permit aligns with your employment contract's duration. You can extend the permit if your employment status remains unchanged.

Can I switch jobs on a work visa in Germany?

Yes, you can switch jobs while on a work visa in Germany. Secure a new job offer, notify the Ausländerbehörde, and ensure you meet visa requirements for the new position. You may need to apply for a new visa if the new job differs significantly.

What happens to my work visa if I lose my job in Germany?

If you lose your job in Germany, it's important to notify the Ausländerbehörde (local immigration office) promptly. Your residence permit will typically remain valid for a few months, but the specific duration may vary depending on the regulations of the province where you reside. Additionally, you can apply for a job seeker visa, providing additional time to search for a new job.

Good luck with your visa application and life in Germany!

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