Getting a work permit for Germany can be a lengthy yet stimulating process that requires plenty of research and planning. While you don’t have to be the next Einstein to get the German work visa, you should be prepared to go through a lot of steps so you can make the most out of your chances…Arriving into a new country can be a daunting experience. The Germany immigration process is no exception. At an immigration seminar I attended recently the speaker stated that the Germany immigration process is one of the most difficult in Europe.
Some people set off on adventures all over the world, only to discover, once they arrive in a new city, that they have no idea how they will find work and make money. In some cases, they can get work permits and visas easily. In many others however, the procedure is more complex and convoluted. The basic requirements for working in a foreign country are an appropriate passport, having a place to live, having a way to support yourself (and possibly your family), and also being healthy enough to do the job you want.
How Can I Get Work Permit In Germany v
Categories of Work Permits in Germany
There are different types of German work permits based on your qualifications and employment type:
- General Work Permit – You can apply for this type of German work permit if you have found a job in Germany which could not have been filled by an EU national. You don’t need to have extraordinary skills as long as you are qualified for the job.
- Highly Skilled Worker Permit – You can apply for this type of work permit if you are a highly skilled worker with a lot of experience and a high income.
- The EU Blue Card for Germany – You can apply for an EU Blue Card if your salary will be at least €56,400 per year or €43,992 per year if you are in a shortage occupation.
- Work Permit for Freelancers – You can apply for this type of permit if you are a freelancer or self-employed individual and you can prove you have prospective clients.
Eligible Foreign Workers in Germany
Anyone who finds employment in Germany can apply for a German work permit, but the application process and requirements differ depending on where you come from. There are three qualifying categories, depending on nationality:
- USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, or South Korea
- Other non-EU nationals
Foreign Workers from the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland
If you are a citizen of the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Iceland, you do not need to apply for a visa nor a permit to work in Germany. The only thing you must do is register your stay if you plan to be there for longer than three months. To register your say, you must visit the local Residence Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) or Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde).
Foreign Workers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, or South Korea
If you are from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, or South Korea, you can go to Germany, find work, and apply for the work and residence permit directly from the Ausländerbehörde. You do not need to get an entry visa for employment from the German Embassy in your home country.
Other non-EU nationals
If you are from another non-EU country (outside the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, or South Korea) then the work permit application is a little more complicated. You have to:
- Find a job.
- Apply for an entry visa for employment purposes from the German Embassy.
- Travel to Germany and apply for the work and residence permit at the Ausländerbehörde.
Alternatively, you can also:
- Apply for a Job-Seeker Visa for Germany.
- Find employment.
- Submit your work residence permit application to the Ausländerbehörde.
What you cannot do is enter Germany with a Schengen Visa or through the visa-free agreement and apply for the work permit. Your application will be immediately rejected. You must prove to the Immigration Authority that you have entered Germany with the purpose of employment, not tourism.
Applying for the German Work and Residence Permit
You have to apply for a single permit for work and residence once you enter Germany at the German Immigration Authorities (Ausländerbehörde). Most people also need a visa from the German Embassy to enter the country. The application process is as follows:
- Apply for an Employment Visa or Job-Seeker Visa at the German Embassy.
- Register your living address at the local Citizens’ Registration Office (Bürgeramt).
- Get health insurance.
- Make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde.
- Gather the required documents.
- Submit the work and residence permit application at the Ausländerbehörde.
1. Applying for a Visa at the German Embassy
You can apply for either an Employment Visa or a Job-Seeker Visa for Germany. The type of visa you apply for depends on whether you have a job offer or not:
- You apply for an Employment Visa if you already have a job offer from a company in Germany and you want to enter the country to get a work and residence permit.
- You apply for a Job-Seeker Visa if you want to go to Germany and find a job. It is valid for six months, during which time you have to look for and find work. Once you have found a job, you can then submit your application for the work and residence permit.
The Employment and Job-Seeker Visas are known as long-term visas. You need one so you can enter Germany legally, notifying the authorities that you are travelling for the purpose of setting down and working in Germany. Before the visa expires, you have to submit the application for a residence permit.
Nearly everyone has to apply for a visa for employment/job-seeking at the German Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
You are only exempt from applying for a visa if you are a citizen of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland or South Korea. In this case, you can simply enter Germany, find a job, and submit your application for a work permit – no entry visa required.
You cannot enter Germany through a tourist visa and submit a work permit application!
2. Registering your living address in Germany
Once you find accommodation in Germany and move in, you must go to the local Resident’s Registration Office (Bürgeramt) and register your address. The process is as follows:
- Contact the local Bürgeramt and make an appointment. If you are not sure where that is or how to get in touch, simply look up “Bürgeramt + the name of your city” online.
- Complete the registration form. You can get the form in a physical copy at the Bürgeramt or download it.
- Collect these documents:
- Rental agreement
- Confirmation from your landlord that you have moved in at your address.
- Your passport.
- Submit the documents at the Bürgeramt on the date of your appointment.
- Get your Residence Registration Document (Meldebescheinigung). You need this document when you apply for a work and residence permit at the Ausländerbehörde. You will usually receive it within the same day you apply.
3. Getting health insurance
Once you get a residence permit for work, you can enrol with German statutory health insurance. However, you still need some form of insurance when you submit the application. Because public health insurers will likely not accept to cover you if you don’t have a proper residence permit yet, your best option at this time is to get an insurance plan from a private company.
Once your application is finalized, you will be eligible for the statutory health insurance scheme.
4. Making an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde
Once you have registered your address and gotten health insurance, you should make an appointment at the German Immigration Authorities (Ausländerbehörde). There are different Ausländerbehörde offices based on the region, so just find the website of the office you must go to, and follow the instructions for booking an appointment.
For example, if you are settled in Berlin, you can book an Ausländerbehörde appointment here.
After you book an appointment, you will usually get a confirmation email that includes the date and hour of the appointment, the address, as well as an appointment number.
Sometimes, you may be able to go to the office directly (without an appointment), get a number, and wait in line, but most German immigration offices have abolished this option after the coronavirus outbreak. You will most likely need to make an online appointment.
5. Collecting the required documents for a residence permit for work
The documents you need when applying for a work and residence permit in Germany include:
- Your passport.
- Passport-size pictures. They must follow the ICAO visa photo guidelines.
- The application form for a residence permit. In German: Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels.
- Declaration on the Employment Relationship. This is known as the Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis and has to be completed by your employer. You can find it on the website of the German Federal Agency for Work (the form is in German).
- Your work contract or offer. It must state your position, the duration of your employment, as well as your salary.
- The Certificate of Registration (Meldebescheinigung).
- The housing lease along with a written confirmation letter of residency from your landlord.
- Your university or college diploma. Original copy.
- Proof of health insurance. If you have statutory insurance, submit the electronic health card and a confirmation of health insurance. If you have private health insurance, you must submit a certificate from your health insurance provider, proving that you have paid your contributions and mentioning the details of your insurance. We would recommend DR-WALTER’s health insurance plans!
- A Curriculum Vitae (CV).
- Bank statements.
- Cover letter. It must state the reason you are applying, the work you will do, and give an introduction of yourself.
- Any other required documents that the Ausländerbehörde may ask for.
6. Submit the application for a residence permit for work at the Ausländerbehörde
Once you have collected all the required documents, you can submit your completed application at the Ausländerbehörde on the date of your appointment. As with all bureaucratic matters, you may have to wait a while until your number is called, but you should still arrive a little early. Keep in mind the following as well:
- Dress appropriately, even if it’s more on the “formal”, office style side.
- Keep your documents in a folder or binder and well-organized.
- You may also have to pay an application fee, so take some cash or your credit card with you.
From the moment you submit the application, it will take a few weeks to receive an answer. If the waiting period is longer than the validity of your entry visa, it is not a problem seeing as the fact that you are awaiting a decision makes your stay legal.
Once you receive your residence permit, you can start working in Germany!
Health Insurance for Employees in Germany
There are two types of German health insurance schemes: public and private. If you are employed in Germany and earn less than €60,750/year (5,063/month), then you are obligated by law to enrol under a public health insurance scheme (hence why it is also referred to as “statutory insurance”). Every month, 14.6% of your gross salary goes towards your health insurance contributions; you pay half while your employer pays the other half.
If you earn more than €60,750/year, you are allowed to unsubscribe from statutory insurance and get a private health insurance plan instead. This is an option mostly preferred by single, young, healthy, and high-income workers. That’s because they can find a private health insurance plan which would cost them less than a statutory one.
Taxes You Have to Pay as a Foreign Worker in Germany
Once you have a German work permit and start work, you will have to pay income tax. The income tax rate in Germany starts at 14% to a maximum of 45%, based on how much you make; if you make less than €9,744 per year, you are exempt from paying income tax. Here is the income tax rate, depending on your salary:
|Salary||Income tax rate|
|Up to €9,744 per year||0%|
|Between €9,745 – €57,918 per year||14% to 42%|
|Between €57,919 – €274,612 per year||42%|
|Over €274,613 per year||45%|
There are also other types of taxes, which do not necessarily affect you as an employee. For example:
- Value Added Tax – VAT. Businesses and freelancers have to charge Mehrwertsteuer (value added tax) on their products and services, which they submit to the German state through the Finanzamt. The VAT rate in Germany is at 19%, while a reduced rate of 7% applies to products like food.
- Church tax. The Church Tax in Germany is at 8% to 9% of your income tax, but you only pay it if you want to become a member of Germany’s established churches.
Who Pays the Taxes?
Your employer automatically deducts income tax every month from your salary; you pay half the tax contribution yourself while your employer covers the other half. Freelancers, on the other hand, usually pay all the contributions themselves.
At the end of the tax year, you have the option to file for tax returns at the Finanzamt, through the ELSTER portal in case you have paid more than you should. However, as a salaried employee, it is very rare to receive reimbursement on your taxes.