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What you need to know about work visas for Germany

Germany is a popular destination for job seekers from all over the world. With a thriving economy, a great infrastructure, and a high standard of living, it’s no surprise that so many people want to work in Germany. However, if you’re not a citizen of an EU country, you must obtain a work visa or permit to work legally in Germany.

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the different types of visas and permits you need to work in Germany, and provide some tips for navigating the application process.

What you need to know about work visas in Germany

First, it is necessary to determine whether a visa is required. If you hold citizenship in an EU or EFTA member state (including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland), you have the right to unrestricted movement and access to the German labor market. Consequently, you are not obliged to obtain a visa or residency permit to enter Germany and pursue employment.

If this is not the case, you’ll have to meet certain conditions in order to enter and stay in Germany. These commonly include the possession of a residence title (e.g. visa), a legitimate purpose for the stay, and secured financial means. Residence titles are granted in the form of:

  1. a visa
  2. a temporary residence permit
  3. a permanent settlement permit
  4. an EU long-term residence permit

This is just a short overview but if you want to find out more details on the entry and residency in Germany, make sure to read the Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory. We also recommend this quick-check to check your visa / residence permit options.

Types of Work Visas

There are several types of work visas and permits available in Germany, depending on your circumstances and the type of work you’ll be doing. There are also visas for vocational training, for the self-employed, study and research visas.

Here, we collected the most common types of work visas:

Blue Card

For many highly qualified workers, the EU Blue Card is a popular choice due to its many benefits, including the simplified procedure for obtaining a permanent residence permit at a later date. It is available to you if you have a recognized university degree and a job offer in Germany that pays a minimum of 56,400 EUR before taxes per year (or 43,992 EUR for certain professions like physicians, engineers, natural scientists, mathematicians and IT-specialists). To obtain a residence permit, you’d have to apply for a visa and bring the necessary documentation to their appointment at the German Embassy or Consulate General. After receiving approval, you may receive a visa sticker in your passport and can then apply for a Blue Card at your local foreigners office upon arrival in Germany.

Work Visa with a contract

If you have a recognized qualification (e.g. university degree) and a work contract you can apply for a work visa in Germany. Skilled workers can use a fast-track procedure if their employer provides a pre-approval from the local foreigners office in Germany. To obtain a residence permit, individuals must apply for a visa, and after receiving approval, they can apply for their residence permit at their local foreigners office after arrival in Germany.

Work with qualification that is partially recognized

If your vocational qualification is partially recognized in Germany, you can obtain additional qualifications while working there to achieve full recognition. After completing the necessary training, you can apply for a long-term residence permit to work. The general requirements include German language skills, proof of necessary training, and completion of an online application form.

Work as an IT-specialist with work experience

To work in the IT sector in Germany, you don’t need a recognized degree if you have at least three years of experience in the IT industry in the past seven years. You will need a job offer that pays a minimum of 50,760 EUR (as of 2023) before taxes or more to apply for a work visa. After entering Germany, you can obtain a residence permit from the local foreigners office. General requirements include a completed online application form, job offer that states your salary, and knowledge of German (B1), with some exceptions possible.

Job seeker visa (academic)

The Job Seeker visa allows you to stay in Germany for up to six months to find a job related to your academic qualification. A recognized university degree is required, and once you found a suitable job, you can obtain a residence permit. You will also have to prove that you can cover your living expenses. A visa is needed to enter Germany, and an online application form must be completed along with supporting documents. You should also contact the German Embassy or Consulate General in your country of residence for additional requirements and to schedule an appointment. After approval, a visa sticker will be placed in your passport.

Job seeker visa (vocational training)

If you are a non-academic vocational worker, this visa allows you to stay up to six months in Germany to find a job corresponding to your vocational qualification. In order to qualify, you must have finished a vocational training program that has been officially recognized in Germany, lasting for a minimum of two years. Also, you’ll have to proof adequate German language skills (usually B1). A visa is required to enter Germany, but a residence permit is not needed while searching for a job. Once you find a suitable job, you can get a residence permit.

Introduction of the “Chancenkarte” (Opportunity Card)

Germany will be introducing a points-based immigration program in 2023 called the Opportunity Card, which will allow international professionals to come to Germany and search for a job on-site for up to one year. To qualify, you must meet certain criteria and earn enough points, which can be calculated using a points calculator. The Opportunity Card will be introduced later this year and will be in addition to existing immigration options.

Are you unsure which visa you need for Germany? You can do a quick check here.

Tips for Navigating the Application Process

The application process for a German work visa or permit can be complicated, so it’s important to be prepared. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process:

  1. Start the application process early: Visa processing times can vary and can take up to a few months, so it’s best to start the process as early as possible.
  2. Gather all required documents: Make sure to gather all the necessary documents and ensure that they are in order. Missing or incomplete documents can cause delays in the application process. You can find detailed checklists online.
  3. Consult with an immigration lawyer: If you’re unsure about any part of the application process or have questions, consider consulting with an immigration lawyer. An experienced lawyer can provide guidance on the specific requirements and regulations for your visa category, ensure that all documents are complete and accurate, and offer advice on any potential challenges or issues that may arise during the process.
  4. Keep copies of all documents: It’s important to keep copies of all documents submitted as part of the application process. This is especially important to refer back to as an information source but also if any of the documents are lost or misplaced during the application process, having copies can help to avoid delays or even rejection of the application.
  5. Check the status of your application: Once you have submitted your visa application, it’s a good idea to check its status periodically. You can do this by visiting the website of the German embassy or consulate where you submitted your application.
  6. Stay organized: Keep all documents and correspondence related to your visa application organized in one place to make the process easier to manage.
  7. Be patient: The visa application process can be lengthy and frustrating at times, but it’s important to be patient and persistent in following up on your application.

Summary: What you need to know about work visas in Germany

  • If you’re not a citizen of an EU country, you must obtain a work visa or permit to work legally in Germany.
  • There are different types of visas and permits available depending on your circumstances and the type of work you’ll be doing.
  • Common types of work visas include the EU Blue Card, work visas with a contract, work with partially recognized qualifications, work as an IT specialist, and job seeker visas.
  • The introduction of the “Chancenkarte” as a new way to immigrate will be expected in 2023
  • The application process typically involves applying for a visa, getting approval, and then applying for a residence permit once you arrive in Germany.
  • If you’re unsure which visa you need for Germany, you can use a quick check tool
  • Navigating the application process can be complex, so it’s important to do your research, gather all necessary documentation, and seek professional help if needed.

Remember, while the visa application process can be daunting, it’s an important step towards achieving your goals. By following these tips and staying organized, you can navigate the process with confidence and make your dream of working in Germany a reality. Good luck on your journey!

Picture of Laura Villafuerte

Laura Villafuerte

HR expert & Career Coach

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