Everything you need to know

Visas and work permits
in Germany

Deciding in what country you want to work, live and celebrate life might be a difficult choice to make. Germany is one of the most popular countries for expats or contractors. Whilst orientating, you might have noticed that it is relatively easy to start working in 

Germany as a foreign employee, whether you’re from the EU/EEA/Switzerland or a non-European/EEA country. In this guidebookguidebook, we explain more about moving to Germany and how to obtain your visa and/or work permits in Germany.

A difference between contractors from the EU/EEA or Switzerland and other countries

If you’re a contractor from the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, moving to Germany for work is relatively easy. You need a valid passport or ID document and must register your address in Germany within three months of arriving in the country. Each German city has a ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’, a word you’re probably not familiar with. It’s the German word for Residents’ Registration Office.
If you’re coming from a country other than the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you must put in a bit more effort, but it’s worth the hassle nonetheless. We promise. To make it easier for you, we’ve split up this document in two parts: ‘working in Germany as a EU/EEA or Swiss citizen’ and ‘working in Germany if you’re not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland’.

Working in Germany as a EU/EEA or Swiss citizen

As a start, it’s good to know that there are no restrictions regarding EU/EEA citizens moving to Germany, just a passport is needed. However, if you’re planning to stay for longer than three months, registration is required.

Requirement for contractors or migrants from Switzerland

If you’re from Switzerland and plan on moving to Germany, the procedure is the same as EU or EEA citizens, except for one thing: Swiss citizens must apply for a ‘purely declaratory residence permit’ at the Aliens Authority in Germany (which is called ‘Ausländerbehörde’). Each city in Germany has its own Aliens Authority.

Moving to Germany from the United Kingdom

Whilst moving to Germany from the UK is still the same for now, chances are that it will become more difficult in the upcoming years. Of course, this is due to Brexit. Potential requirements could be:

Important registration obligations in Germany

There are a few important things you must do once you’ve moved to your new home in Germany. It’s important to apply for your certificate of residence and to register your (new) German address. That’s it. Quite simple, right?

German certificate of residence

Within the first three months of your residency in Germany, you must apply for the certificate of residence in Germany. There are two possibilities to do so. You can (i) apply at the German Residence Registration Office or (ii) the Foreign National’s Authority. Besides your passport or valid ID card, you’ll need to bring some other documents:

German certificate of residence

After you’ve moved into your new place to live, you must register your address with the police within two weeks after arrival. You can do this at the local residents’ office of the town hall, which is called ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’. You need to bring the following documents with you:
Provide your landlord with the confirmation of the residency, after registration. It’s good to know that in case you move to a different city, you don’t have to de-register. When you leave Germany, you must de-register three to four weeks before leaving.

Working in Germany if you’re not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland

Whether you need a work visa or work permit during your stay in Germany, depends on which country you’re from. If you’re from a country other than the EU, EEA, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland or the USA, you will need a work visa in order to start working in Germany. It’s important to obtain your work permit before traveling to Germany. Once you’re in Germany, you’ll also need a residence permit.

What kind of work permit do I need in Germany?

Applying for the right work permit is important, because there are quite a few to choose from. All work permits that are available in Germany are as follows.

The general employment permit

The German general employment permit is for employees who have a job that doesn’t require being highly skilled. EU/EEA and Swiss citizens have priority for these jobs, so if the position can’t be filled by a contractor from the EA/EEA or Switzerland, you’ll be eligible. Normally, this permit is granted for one year but it can be extended as your situation stays the same.

The university graduate permit

If you’re a foreign graduate who holds a recognized university degree and if you have sufficient funds, you can receive a six months residence permit to look for your dream job. An important side note is that you’re not allowed to work during these months. Once you’ve found your ideal job, you can apply for a German work permit in order to start working.

Permit for highly skilled migrants

As a highly skilled migrant, or migrant who earns more than €84,600 annually, you can apply for a settlement permit in Germany. Besides being your own permit, a settlement permit allows your family to live and work in Germany.

EU Blue Card

European Union Blue Cards are for everyone with a university degree and a job with an income of at least €55,200 annually. Or, when there’s a shortage of workers, at least €43,056. This Blue Card provides you with a residence permit for the duration of your contract, which also applies to your family members. The Blue Card’s duration is limited to four years, but after 33 months you can apply for a settlement permit -or after 21 months if you can prove you master the German language on a B-1 level.

Permits for self-employed workers

Chances are that you’re planning on setting up a business in Germany. If this is the case, you can apply for a self-employed business purpose residence permit. This permit grants you the freedom to work on your business for at least three years. If it’s successful, this can be extended.

How to apply for a work permit in Germany?

A heads up to start with: the responsibility of applying for a visa or permit in Germany lies with you as an individual, not your employer. However, employers can help their employees with the application process. For example by sending the contract so you can prove that you have a job, or providing evidence that proves that you’re the only person who can fulfil the vacancy.
The documents you’ll need in order to apply for a work permit are:
It’s important to bring all the documents stated above, because if you don’t, the procedure might take much longer. Make sure you check if you have all the right documents, before you’re applying for your work permit.

In need of more information or assistance with your work permit?

If you’re in need of more information regarding visas and work permits in Germany, whether you’re from the EU/EFTA or not, feel free to get in touch with us. Our experts in the field of working in Germany are happy to help you.