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Health insurance in Germany

Germany is often praised for having one of the best health insurance system in the world. It may very well be true but it also very complex! I have also struggled to understand it when first arriving here so i thought i’d share my experience in this overview covering the different types, and what to do if you need one of a residence permit. 🙂

health insurance in germany residence permit


Health insurance in Germany: efficient but complex

In some countries, health insurance is managed by the government as a public service, and in some others it is purely a private service. Germany has a hybrid & interesting system.

The German state has delegated around 300 insurance companies to manage it’s population’s health coverage. They all work under a contract with the state, can be public or private and are called “Krankenkasse”. Now the trick is that you can sometimes choose if you want to insured by a private one depending on your income situation. Let’s try to understand how health insurance in Germany works.

There a 3 kinds of status of health insurance in Germany you can be under: Gesetzlich, Freiwillig or Privat.


    • Gesetzlich (versichert) also called pflicht(versichert ) is most typical coverage as it compulsory for people earning less than 56K€ a year. You have to be insured by a public insurance company that your employer will most likely pick for you if it is your first job in Germany. Your employer will directly take over the payment of the coverage by paying its share and yours through your wage. The rate is set by law at 14.6%. The good news is that what you pay is directly related to what you earn so if you face a sudden decrease in income, the fee will also decreasing. If you have kids, being with the public system is really good because you can take your kids under your own coverage at no extra cost.


    • Freiwillig (versichert) is basically the same at Gesetzlich except that you earn more than 56K€ a year. You will then pay your share directly to your Krankenkasse while your employer adds your half to your gross salary. This can also mean that you are self-employed and choose to stay in the public system.


    • Privat (versichert) means that you choose to insured at a private Krankenkasse provided you earn more than 56K€ a year or don’t qualify for the public system for any number of reasons. The fees applied by private Krankenkasse are usually lower than in public ones for a better coverage if you are a young healthy person, but it increases over time. Private Krankenkassen have more complex offers than public ones in terms of what get covered and so on, so choose wisely. You also get different advantages like reduced waiting time at the clinic or at-home nurses. However, it does come with drawbacks. If you have kids, you have to pay extra for each them to have them covered. Coming back to the public system after being in the private one is also extremely difficult if not impossible.

Basically, in the public system, the rate depends on what you earn, and in the private system, it depends on your health risks.

The biggest companies for health insurance in Germany are : Techniker Krankenkasse, AOK : Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse, BKK: Betriebskrankenkasse, IKK : Innungskrankenkasse, LKK : Landwirtschaftliche Krankenkasse, etc…

All in all, depending on your Krankenkasse, you usually pay directly or indirectly minimum 270€ per month to be covered by your health insurance in Germany. The bill can even reach a whooping 500 – 600 € if you are freelancing with decent earnings. I’m coming from a country where social and health insurance is provided for free to all, so it came a bit as a shock the first months as you can imagine. (A German friend once told me “ If I have enough money to pay rent, transport, and Krankenkasse, I’m on safe side.”)

A minority of people also decide not to take coverage because they cannot afford health insurance in Germany. However this is illegal and i strongly advise against doing such thing.

Of course when you go home to visit your family and simply go abroad for holidays in Europe, your German health insurance will cover you and giving your reference numbers should be enough to be reimbursed in the end. Be careful though, you will be reimbursed at the rate that is considered normal for that particular treatment in Germany, so while it will probably cover most of the costs, the rest will come from your pocket in some cases.

Health insurance in Germany is efficient, but still costly for individuals.

Finding the best rates for private health insurance in Germany

Public Krankenkassen offer more or less the same amount of service across the board for roughly the same price. This is however not the case for private Krankenkassen. Think about how internet providers have different plans and different level of services; the market is more complex and more diverse. You need to pay attention, explore the market and pick something that suits your needs. A good place to do that are comparison platforms like TarifCheck or Preisvergleich. It lets you pick options to define what coverage you want. These are:

  • If you want additional coverage like teeth, vision, alternative medicine (Zusatzleistungen)
  • On the financial side, how much deductible you can afford (Selbstbeteiligung)
  • If you have to stop working for a while, when should a daily sickness allowance should kick in, and how much it should be (Krankentagegeld)
  • If you stay at a hospital, do you wish to have a private room, be handled by the head doctor, etc. (Krankenhausleistungen)

If you are an artist, a writer, performer: think KSK

The German government knows it hard to make a living when being an artist. Paying an expensive health insurance on top of everything else is not easy. That’s why Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) exists. If you are able to prove your main occupation is to live from artistic and creative jobs, the KSK will pay half of your current fees every month (only if you are part of the public system). The tricky part is that there is not a clear distinctions between what’s a art job and what’s not so it might be hard to get into it. Some people hire specialists to fill in the paperwork to make sure they tick the right boxes.

Taking on a German health insurance for residence permit or other visas

If you are not an EU citizen and you love Germany so much that you plan to stay to study or for a job, you will need to show that you have chosen an health insurance in Germany. It is required to obtain a residence permit or even enroll in a university. Germany is usually not very good at recognizing non-EU systems so make sure your health insurance is valid for the German system.

For a lot of foreigners applying for a German visa here for all sort of reasons, the solution here will be to sign-up for a German travel insurance provided by a German company. This makes sure that the insurance policy complies with the minimum requirements expected by the authorities. It can be classified as a private health insurance in Germany but for limited stays for up to 5 years.


If you want to study in Germany

If you are under 30 and enrolling in a university program in Germany, you have to take on a German public health insurance. This has a lot of benefits and costs only 81€ a month. It doesn’t happen automatically when you register at the university though. You have let the university know which Krankenkasse you picked. This is unfortunately only possible when you have registered an address in the country. If you are not able to join the public system for whatever reason, it is also possible to join a private insurance.

If you are self-employed

If you are running your own show, paying a Krankenkasse with everything else can be major hole in your monthly budget. This is definitely of the drawbacks of the German system; low-earning self-employed people pay a relatively high amount for their health insurance in Germany. If you have been in a public scheme within the E.U recently, you might to choose what is called a Freiwillige gesetzliche Krankenversicherung. This means that you stay in the public system, which is advised for people with kids and spouses.  For others, it is advised to stay with the private system.

I hope this little run-down helped you to understand the German health insurance system and make a better choice for your own coverage. Good luck.

Tip 1 : If you are lost on how to apply to a Krankenkasse and you plan to be a full time employee, you can often ask for help to your colleagues or to any administrative assistant that may exist in your company. They can be very helpful. In reality, you will most likely have to go on the chosen Krankenkasse website and open an “account” there. You will get a document that says that you subscribed to their coverage, you’ll send it to your company and poof ! There you go! Your employer will take care of the rest.


Sources: Ministry of Education & Research, More info on benefits and the state health system on its website here.

Liability insurance in Germany, the other essential coverage.

3569 euros.

That’s how much i could have saved if i had signed up for German liability insurance, on a fateful night of May.  That’s as simple as that. Getting that vital coverage could have avoided me a big hole in my budget and a whole lot of stress. 

And guess what: sh*t happens. Some may even argue that life is only a series of accidents. While nothing can protect you from questionable career choices, you should prepare for random adverse events in your everyday life.

Basically it looks like this:

Health insurance makes sure your body doesn’t suffer the consequences of those events.
Liability insurance makes sure you don’t pay the price for the rest.

Both are very essential and you will learn here what to pay attention to when picking a liability insurance Germany.

liability insurance Germany

(You will also learn what happened to me on that night at the end of the post *suspense music starts*)


Back to basics: how is German liability insurance defined?

Haftpflichtversicherung. That’s the (long) word you are looking for.

The term refers to the personal liability insurance Germany recommends for everyone, meaning that in situations where the insured person caused Personenschäden (person damage), Sachschäden (object damage) or Vermögensschäden (wealth damage), the insurance pays the costs incurred. Accidents happen, but without personal liability insurance you could risk personal bankruptcy after an accident.

People should know: an impressive 85% of Germany’s residents have this type of insurance!

Most German liability insurance contracts cover the person signing the contract (Versicherungsnehmer) as well as family and household members. This means that if your children or spouse accidentally damages something while visiting friends or thinks it’s funny to summon the fire department when there’s no emergency, the costs are covered. Be sure to to check the legal restrictions for coverage of children through!

Basic German liability insurance costs between €50 and €100 a year and the premium calculation (Beitragsberechnung) is based on the extent of coverage (Deckungssumme), whether you’re single/married and have children (Zielgruppe), the amount of your deductible (Selbstbehalt), and services you want included (Leistungseinschlüsse).


What types of situations are covered by personal liability insurance Germany?

Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere and yes, even to you. For example, during your morning run you could bump into someone who falls and breaks their wrist (damage to persons). Or you accidentally drop your friend’s laptop and they can’t do their freelance work for several days (damage to objects and wealth). Travelling to the airport your suitcase could roll in front of a moving tram, causing an accident that injures several people, damages the tram and keeps dozens of people from getting to work appointments (damage to persons, objects, and wealth).

The last is a case where good coverage is really important, because accidents involving public transportation can cost hundreds of thousands, if not millions! That’s why it’s expected that everyone gets German liability insurance to cover these types of situations.

Finanztip recommends that you select an insurance with at least €50 million in total coverage and €10 million per injured person. Your friend might think they’re worth more, but that’s probably enough to cover any damages to their person, if not their ego.

As with all insurance, some important aspects require you to sign up for additional coverage packages (Zusatzpakete):

  • Schlüsselverlust (loss of work or private keys) – This policy covers the cost of replacing the building’s locks, which can get expensive for high-security facilities or large apartment complexes.
  • Forderungsausfalldeckung (default on payment coverage) – If someone causes damages to you, but isn’t insured and can’t pay, then your insurance covers the costs instead.
  • Tierhalter-Haftpflichtversicherung (pet liability insurance) – This is often required by dog training schools or landlords to cover damages by your pet.
  • Passiver Rechtsschutzversicherung (passive legal insurance) – If someone unjustly claims you caused damages and tries to collect, this covers the legal costs for your defense.
  • Auslandsaufenthalt (coverage abroad) – This policy often differentiates between EU and worldwide travel.
  • Haus- und Grundbesitzerhaftpflichtversicherung (house and property owner liability insurance) – Very important if you own your apartment!
  • Coverage for your house construction project, like Bauherrenhaftpflicht and Bauleistungsversicherung, which cover damages to and on your construction site.


Protect yourself from terrible breakdance battle accidents 😉 (Photo by Fred Mouniguet on Unsplash)

What is not usually covered by German personal liability insurance?

When you have liability insurance Germany becomes a much safer place, with protection against debilitating costs from an accident. But it’s also important to know which situations are NOT usually covered:

  • Damages by psychologically unsound persons (deliktunfähige Personen) and young children, because the law does not consider them liable
  • Liability when driving or in motion, which is instead covered by your car insurance (Kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung)
  • Damages to your home, which are covered by a home-owner’s insurance (Hausratsversicherung)
  • Situations where family members accidentally injure each other or themselves, which is instead covered by an accident insurance (Unfallversicherung)
  • Damages related to your job, workplace, volunteer work, or company
  • Most extreme sports or risky hobbies
  • Fines and penalties


How do I sign up for one?

I’m human too: i sometimes get overwhelmed with all the terms and policies. If you feel the same, find an insurance broker to help you. I’d personally recommend Popsure for 3 simple reasons: they are an independent platform that matches your profile with the fairest policy for your needs, everything happens online in English and it’s managed from your phone.

If you decide to go shopping on your own however, you can also turn to more traditional comparison platforms like Check24 for example. Before you sign a contract, make sure you know these other common terms:

  • Echter oder unechter Vermögensschaden: also referred to as „direkt oder indirekt“- damage to wealth can happen through theft (direct) or when someone misses work or loses income due to the damages (indirect)
  • Schmerzengeld: compensation for physical or psychological damages to a person
  • Gefälligkeitshandlungen: compensation for physical or psychological damages to a person
  • Beitragsfrei/beitragspflichtig mitversichert: no extra charge for coverage, or only offered for an extra fee
  • Begrenzt/unbegrenzt: limited or unlimited policy coverage, check this in the small print
  • Allmählichkeitsschäden: long-term damage, such as an injured person needing further treatment after an accident
  • Best-Leistungs-Garantie: a best services guarantee is a promise from your insurance company to treat you at least as well as any other German insurance would


Tip: You can switch your insurance each year for cheaper or better options but pay attention to the deadline for cancellation (usually 3 months before the contract ends).

Tip 2: It’s usually cheaper to pay annually, versus monthly or quarterly. So, do yourself a favor and save some money with a yearly payment!

Hope this intro on the topic helped you towards the best liability insurance Germany has to offer for your needs. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments. And here is what happened to me:

The night was still young as i was rushing to park my bike in front of my friend’s house. There was a house party and excitement in the air. A little accident happened just then and killed the mood right off. In the hurry to lock my bike up, i didn’t take to stabilize it enough and it fell hard onto an old motorbike next to it, which also fell in turn. Damages weren’t too bad but the motorbike was a rare model; spare parts and workforce don’t come cheap. Goodbye 3569 euros. I still consider myself lucky though, it could have been much, much worse considered i had no liability insurance Germany.


Sources: 1, 2, 3,


Preparing an A+ application for your freelance visa Germany

Freelance visa Germany. A few words full of promise and paved with hurdles. The golden tri-force of your new life here. Well, you’d better buckle up!! This isn’t the easiest visa to get, unless you have the right skills and enough resources to convince the foreigner’s office that you’ll do well in Germany.

But, remember, you’re not alone!  To help you with that, we’ve gathered the latest information on the process, required documents and what you can expect when applying. Consider this an educated foreword before you dive hard into the topic. Probably one of the best intros out there. (You might want to make a coffee for this though 🙂 )

freelance visa germany

What is the German freelance visa for?

Unless you’re an EU or EEA citizen, you need permission to live and work in Germany. With the Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur freiberuflichen oder selbständigen Tätigkeit (in English the visa for freelance or self-employed work) you’re permitted to work in Germany in a specific line of work for a limited period. Different from the other types of work visas, this one isn’t tied a specific contract, but rather to a specific profession or business. Once approved, your visa is generally valid anywhere from 6 months to 3 years and allows you to travel in the Schengen area.

If you’re an artist, then you might qualify for the artist visa and skip parts of the visa process. This will be covered in a different article.

Before you start: make sure your profile matches the basic requirements

Aside from living in Germany, the freelance visa requires that you attend a personal interview and fulfill a regional or economic need. But due to the large number of documents and details you need to provide, it’s best to first do some in-depth research and ask yourself some important questions. The following ones are based on suggestions from applicants who have gone through the application process for a freelance visa in Germany.

Can you provide your work on a freelance or self-employed basis under German law?

In Germany, you have two categories of self-employment (“Selbständigkeit”); either your are Freiberuflich (Freelance) or Gewerbetreibende (business owner).

Freelancing is a category of self-employment, meaning that you are your own boss, offering services or products to clients. The German tax law specifies what type of work can be provided on a freelance basis, including categories such as: scientist, artists, educator, writer, lawyer, doctor, engineer, architect, tax consultant, accountant, health care provider, journalist, guide and translator. And that’s about it!

Everybody else has to open a business (“Gewerbe”). For most people working on their own, they will choose to be a one-person business (“Einzelunternehmer”). I actually wrote a little guide on everything you need to know when starting as a self-employed person in Germany this way.

Before applying, you should know whether you need a special permit, insurances or certification to do this work in Germany. Do your research and don’t hesitate to reach out and ask local associations (like a local chamber of commerce) or people in your industry on what you need to start working here.

Do you have enough assets with which to support yourself for 3-4 months?

Unlike a full-time work contract, freelancers and businesses don’t always have enough clients or work each month to pay the bills. This means that you need to have enough savings or earnings in other months to cover the dry spells, without having to look for additional income from a job, loan or relatives.

Is there a market for you in Germany and potential clients?

It’s important that know that you’ll have work once you get here and how to develop your business. Do you have the right qualifications and experience? What’s the competition like? Will you need to speak German? You’ll also need to have more than one client, so you don’t fall into a pseudo-self-employment situation (Scheinselbststandigkeit). Yeah, this topic confuses Germans too. But, if you have several paying clients, then you’re usually fine. Proving that there is a need for your skills on the local market can be done very differently depending on your profile. For example, there is a very well-know shortage of software engineers in Berlin. In this case, the market is very defined and it’s easy to prove that you are needed. In doubt, you can ask for assistance at the local chamber of commerce (IHK: “Industrie & Handelskammer”), who can help you to prove that.

Do you know what you can charge clients and what your expected expenses would be?

Your monthly profit will influence the type of bank accounts you’ll want to get, health insurance costs and most importantly – whether your German freelance visa application is approved. The institutions reviewing your freelance visa application in Germany want to know that your line of work pays well enough to support you. So, do some market research and check what the standard rates are for your skills, qualifications and services.

Don’t stop believing!

Freelance visa in Germany; application process overview

Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to get started with the German freelance visa application process. As with the standard work visa, you will probably need to first apply for a visa that lets you enter Germany. You may be eligible for a 90-day tourist visa if you’re a citizen of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea or the USA. It’s best to check with your local German consulate in advance.

Don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through this long process. Grab a chair, sip on a nice glass of wine and take some notes. Let’s go!

    1. Secure an entry visa and travel to Germany.
    2. Make an appointment with the Foreigner’s Office (Ausländerbehörde) in Berlin (or if you live somewhere else, find your local office here). It can take a couple months to get an appointment, so schedule one ASAP and while your temporary visa is still valid. While it’s sometimes possible to show up early in the morning and get an interview the same day, it looks better if you schedule one in advance.
    3. Get your life set up! While there’s no exact order to these, it might feel like a catch-22 when it comes to having the right paperwork at the right time. (Or like you’re looking for Permit #A38.) You need to have this sorted out
      • Find a place to live – It’s a requirement for the freelance visa in Germany that you have your main home here. This can be difficult without an existing financial history in Germany. One common option is to move into a shared flat(Wohngemeinschaft/WG). Make sure you get a proper rental contract and that your landlord fills out the confirmation form (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung).
      • Register Your Address (Anmeldung) – Appointments at the local administrative office (Bürgeramt) are very limited, so don’t put this off for too long.
      • Open a German bank account – Keep your personal and business accounts separate and document your money transfer.
      • Sign up for Health Insurance (Krankenversicherung) – Travelers insurance isn’t enough for German freelance visa. You can either sign up voluntarily for the public insurance (freiwillige gesetzliche Krankenversicherung), which guarantees sufficient coverage, or go with a private insurance company (private Krankenversicherung). If you go private, you need the details of coverage to show that it’s comparable with what you would get under public insurance.
    4. Attend a personal interview to submit your application and necessary paperwork. It will probably last 10-15min, conducted mostly in German. Be sure to arrive early as the building is relatively big and confusing. If you don’t feel confident with your German skills (and that’s fine), bring someone who is with you.
    5. Wait for an answer to your application. That can happen on the spot, 2 weeks or 2 months after the appointment. There is no rule for this. Patience is a virtue.
    6. Finally start working with the freelance visa in Germany!

This video is quite helpful as well to wrap your head around the freelance visa Germany application process too (source:

Paperwork to bring to your personal interview:

Every applicant needs to explain their work, provide financial information, and show that they have potential clients. If you are starting a company, operating as a sole proprietor, opening a new business location or a managing director in a partnership or corporation, then you’ll need to prepare some additional documentation before and after you arrive in Germany. It’s best to review all this with an adviser if possible, to make sure you’ve done the right research and preparations.

The basic stack

The following list of documents is required:

      • Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit form(Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels)
      • Biometric Photos
      • Valid Passport
      • Fee – This will be anywhere from €56 to €100 (unless you’re a Turkish citizen) and is payable in-person via cash or debit. You may also be charged for document copies.
      • Proof of Health Insurance – see above
      • Apartment Lease (Mietvertrag) or Proof of Home Ownership (Nachweis über Wohneigentum) – This document should include the monthly costs of rent and utilities.
      • Landlord Confirmation (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) or Registration (Anmeldung) – see above
      • Proof of an Adequate Pension Plan (Altersversorgung) – This is only required for applicants older than 45, except for citizens of the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey and USA. Though if you are working towards a permanent residence in Germany, you will need this regardless of your age or nationality.
        You will need to provide an offer from a private pension or life insurance plan, which when you turn 67 will provide you either with a monthly pension of €1.188,92 for 12 years or at least €175.068 in total. Alternatively, you can provide proof of sufficient private assets for retirement.

The advanced stack

      • Finance plan and bank statements – Provide an overview of your current finances and bank statements to back up those numbers. Here you can also show if you’re getting any regular income from parents, alimony payments, or other work.
      • Revenue forecast – Prepare a document that shows your projected income and expenses, as well as the financials of your freelance business, for at least the next year. Do your research and budget wisely to show that you can make it in Germany with your intended clients and work. Be sure to include the costs of setting up your business and projections for profit or loss.
      • Curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter – Display your relevant past work, experience and education. The cover letter, while not required, gives you the chance to explain why you want to live and work as a freelancer in Germany. It also helps to provide letters of recommendation from past clients or sponsors.
      • Proof of diplomas and certificates – This is especially important if you’re legally required to have a permit or certification for your profession, but in general it’s good to have this paperwork with you to back-up the information on your CV.
      • 2 letters of intent (Absichtserklärung zur Zusammenarbeit) – These should ideally be written by local clients and explain the type and amount of work they want to hire you for. This shows that there is a need for your services and that you have potential clients. Even if you already work with non-german remote clients through Upwork or similar platforms, you need to be working with local companies for your application.
      • Current contracts – If you’ve already got clients signed on to work with you, bring this along to show your earnings and type of work you provide.
      • Work samples – Experienced freelancers in Germany recommend bringing printed copies of 4-6 examples of your work.

Additional stack for business owners/Gewerbe only

Those documents following here are only required for business owners, while the rest are required for both freelancers and self-employed business owners applying for the visa application in Germany.

      • Business Plan – A full overview of your company and concept, your educational background and career (CV), information on the capital required to start the business, a detailed budget and predications of income, costs and any profits/loss.
      • Company Profile – For this form, you’ll need to dive in deep. Provide the company name, contact information, registration, function and details about your company management, licenses, sister companies, board of directors, assets, worldwide income, staff numbers and an overview of the business’ activities. If you are a daughter company, provide all the information about the parent company as well as your location in Germany.
        You’ll also need to give details about your role in the company, education background, language skills (English or German is required) and career.
        Important: You’ll need to provide two copies of each required document in German or English.
      • Business Concept – Describe the products and services you’ll be providing, the industry and market conditions, target client group, your marketing and sales strategy, any partners or staff, company legal form, as well as information on your office space and location.
      • Capital Requirement Plan – Outline your initial investments and startup costs, as well as working capital for operations.

Here is a reminder of how the whole process looks like (click here for a hi-res version):


What happens next?

If you don’t get immediate approval for your German freelance visa, then prepare to wait 3 to 4 months. During this time you’re probably not legally permitted to work in Germany. If your visa expires soon you may receive an extension (Fiktionsbescheinigung), so you can stay in Germany until you get an answer.

When you receive your visa, you can move to register yourself as a self-employed person. A detailed guide that way to do this.

How to get help to understand what i did wrong the first time around?

Because all freelance visas in Germany are approved on a case-by-case basis, it’s not always clear what helped or hurt each individual application. But there are some common mistakes that you need to avoid: missing deadlines, asking for lots of exceptions, insufficient funds or projected income, missing paperwork (always check if an original is required!) or insufficient health care coverage. If you’re worried, there’s also the option to talk to a visa consultant. They can look over your paperwork and advise you on the requirements and next steps for becoming a freelancer in Germany.

However your specific case goes, know that international freelancers have had many different experiences navigating their way through the seemingly endless bureaucracy tunnel.

I can recommend that Facebook group too, where people seem to be actively exchanging their experiences on the matter and don’t hesitate to give each other a hand.

Freelance visa Germany application experiences

Sometimes, it can really help and give you confidence to read what others have gone through. Some people have posted their experiences. Here are a few links

Tip: Be sure to get as much paperwork prepared before you head over. You don’t want to realize  that you need a bunch of paperwork from your last country of residence! Having the necessary documents mailed internationally can slow down the freelance visa process in Germany significantly.

I hope this massive intro helped you to get a plan together. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments and share your doubts/experiences. Good luck with your application!

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Student visa Germany application

Congrats on deciding to study in Germany and hooray for choosing Berlin! As with all new beginnings you are probably going from excitement to anxiety and from being full of anticipation to being overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! You’ll be fine! So, lets take a deep breath and tackle this step by step!

We put together a guide, on how to apply for your student visa in Germany, so you can start the process of your application organised and hopefully hassle free!

student visa Germany


What kind of student visa Germany has to offer?

Lets jump right into it and use the different types of student visas to practice a little German, shall we?

Visum zur Studienbewerbung (student applicant visa)

If you don’t have a confirmation of admission from your university yet, you should apply for this visa. It will give you three months in Germany to either wait for the confirmation or to apply for further universities, until you get into one of them. It can be extended for another three months, in case you need more time. Once you get admitted, you can apply for a student visa.

Visum zu Studienzwecken (student visa)

Your university of choice has already confirmed your admission? Then this is the visa you should apply for. Those visas are valid for three months as well. During this time you will have to apply for an extended residence permit at the Alien Registration Office in the town you are studying in. The guide that follows will concentrate on this case.

Language course visa

If you want to come to Germany to take a language class, you can apply for this visa. It is only valid for the duration of the language course but it doesn’t require to prove any German skills, or any previous academic performance. Note, that it can’t be converted into a student application or student visa once you are in Germany! If you would want to get any of those two visas after, or during the language course visa, you would have to go to your home country to apply for it.

Research visa

There are a few advantages with this kind of visa. It is especially designed for researchers coming from non-EU/EEA countries to work and stay in the EU, in order to pursue their research. These visas are normally processed faster and also provide advantages for researchers bringing family members with them. People granted the residence title “researcher”, under §20, can also teach at higher education institutions.

What are the basic requirements for a student visa in Germany?

First of all: take your time for the student visa application!

Germany is notorious for its bureaucracy for a good reason and a visa application is a lengthy process. It is also important to choose the right visa for yourself, because you can’t change a visa for another, once you’re in Germany. So keep that in mind when you choose what to apply for! In order to get your visa eventually, you will need the following five things:

1. Good enough financial resources ⚀

Because students are only allowed to work a certain amount of hours, you will have to proof how you’re going to support yourself financially. In order to do so, you will need to provide a document called “Finanzierungsnachweis” (proof of financing). It can take different forms;

  • A blocked bank account that holds at least 8700 € per year available to you
  • Your parents’ proof of income
  • A guarantee by a permanent resident in Germany to cover your expenses
  • A bank guarantee
  • A scholarship award notification

Document needed to fulfill that requirement: an official-looking piece of paper from your bank, your parents’s bank or from a scholarship satisfying the minimum financing threshold per year for your time in Germany.

2. University-entry qualification and university admission ⚁

Time to learn your first German compound noun I guess: “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung”. Beautiful, isn’t it? It basically means “university entrance qualification”. This school leaving certificate is mandatory to study at a German university. In some cases, your secondary-school certificate might be insufficient in Germany. So first of all you will need to find out whether that is the case or not. Because if it isn’t valid, you will need to attend a foundation course (“Studienkolleg”) before you are allowed to enroll.

To check if your school leaving exam is valid in Germany, or not visit the DAAD data base.  If you type in the country where you gained your school leaving certificate you should have your answer in no time.

If you want to apply for a student visa you will also need the admission confirmation from your university like the enrollment certificate or a letter of admission. You can also provide an official confirmation from the university that you have high chances to be admitted.

Document needed to fulfill that requirement: A letter from your German university stating that you got in and a school leaving certificate recognized by Germany.

3. Sufficient German skills ⚂

Whether or not you will need to proof your German skills and make a test, depends on the classes you want to enroll in and on your existing academic experience with the German language.

If you choose a study program that is taught in German, naturally you will have to prove your skills. You can do so by taking a language test such as TestDaf  or DSH.

However, you won’t need to take a separate test if:

If you enroll into an international degree programme or a special post-graduate course, German skills aren’t mandatory in advance. You can enroll into a German classes after your arrival, if you want to.

Document need to fulfill that requirement: a test score-card or an appropriate language certificate.

4. Appropriate health insurance ⚃

It is mandatory to have health insurance in Germany for the whole duration of your stay. There are 2 possible ways to go; public or private. When enrolling into a German university, you will have go public. You will also need the confirmation when applying for your residence permit. It is important to take care of your health insurance situation before you come to Germany. Public health insurance for students costs about 80€/month until you reach the age of 30.

If you fall in the following categories, you are allowed go for (cheaper) private insurance:

  • language students (e.g. in preparation of a language test)
  • practical trainees
  • scientists
  • internship students
  • students above 30

In some cases the insurance of your home country might be valid. Germany accepts the health insurance of some other countries. Such as all member states of the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Macedonia, Montenegro, Switzerland, Serbia,
Tunisia and Turkey.

If you are form any of these countries, all medical treatments should be covered through your current insurance. Figuring out your health insurance is probably one of the first things you should take care of, as you will need it in your application. Far more details on how to get health insurance in Germany for a visa application this way.

Document needed to fulfill that requirement: a certificate from an insurance company satisfying minium coverage requirements.

5. A residence permit (in most cases)⚄

On top of the German student visa, you will have to apply for a residence permit if you are not an EU/EEA citizen and intend to study longer than 90 days in Germany. For the resident permit application you will need to bring the following documents to your appointment at the Foreigners’ Office:

  • Confirmation of registration from your local registration office “Bürgeramt” (More info: Meldebescheinigung)
  • Confirmation of health insurance coverage
  • Student ID from your German university (certificate of enrollment)
  • Proof of financial resources if you somehow didn’t show one while applying for a student visa
  • Valid passport and current visa, if you have one already

A resident permit is valid 2 years and can be extended if needed. You need to do this application within the first 3 months after your arrival in Germany. Make sure you book an appointment at the Foreigners’ Office in advance then (Book here for Berlin office).

Satisfy all requirements and you will walk out of there with the precious gem! 🙂

Student Germany visa: Can I work with it?

If you are from a EU or EEA country, you can work in Germany without any restrictions or time limit. Non-EU or EEA students can work 120 full days or 240 half days per year. That means 20 hours per week during the semester. If you’d want to exceed this time limit, you can apply at the
“Agentur für Arbeit” (Job center) authority for a work permit.

Why could my student visa application for Germany be rejected?

Rejection hurts and in case of a student visa rejection it can be really time consuming and nerve wrecking on top! We summarized five major reasons why you could get rejected and how to avoid them.

Poor grades

The grade standards in Germany are high! If the people at the embassy see your grades and think they are not suitable for the German academic world, they might reject you, as they might think you can’t succeed in your studies in Germany. In case you don’t have the best grades, you should
probably try to make up for that in your interview. Convince them why you are the perfect candidate nonetheless.

Insufficient German skills

If they are mandatory and you can’t prove you have them, it could be a reason for rejection. If you are aware that your language skills aren’t good enough, it would be wiser to postpone your application. Better to do your homework properly, than being rejected for that reason!

Irrelevant or inconsistent program choice

To switch careers after finishing a bachelor’s might make sense to you, but to see an applicant with a BA in Fine Arts, applying for a Master’s in Engineering, might seem strange and inconsistent to the people reading the application. Of course it would be easier and recommended to apply for a master’s program, that is related to your undergraduate studies. If you want to switch careers though, justify the change and bring some proof of work experience within the new field.

Wrong profile

Unfortunately Germany is targeting some specific groups. You should be young and skilled and have the potential to improve the economic landscape of the country. To avoid being rejected for not fitting meeting these requirements, do some research on where people in your profession are wanted. In case of Germany, anyone with an Engineering and IT background hast great chances.

Bad interview performance

Prepare, prepare, prepare! You interviewer might ask you all sorts of questions and test your German skills. Do a little research on what you can expect in the interview for your student visa application in Germany.

Watch out for the red lights during your application!

TL;DR: How to approach the German student visa application best?

  • Like I already said in the beginning: take your time for the German student visa application!
  • Figure out which university you want to apply for and apply.
  • Make sure to apply for the right visa. You can’t change it later! With the wrong visa you might be forced to go back home to apply again from there.
  • Check, double check, idiot check! Make sure all your forms are filled out correctly and all documents are valid and provided. Your passport for example should be valid for your entire stay.
  • Also take some time to arrive in Germany properly! Give yourself enough time to enroll and care of some administrative tasks.

Good luck with your student visa Germany application and feel free to leave any questions in the comments.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Kindergarten & Kitagutschein in Berlin for beginners

The ways of the expat life are often convoluted.

What started as a few-months stay in the city for me has now been a several-year journey which keeps on bringing new challenges.

Back in the days, i just had to worry about if i could afford another week-end out or if i had enough time to check all those abandonned sites around the city in the summer.

Fast-forwarding a few years, now a married man, i need to juggle between a side-project (this blog), a brand new job and the duties of a young father. Oh, gone are the days of simplicity and innocence ;).

I need to think about how this new life is impacting our respecting careers. One of the keys to a smoother sail in the near future is the possibility to leave our child at the kindergarten, while mummy and daddy can resume a more normal routine. There is perhaps no other more important commodity that can make such a drastic change on parenthood and work life.

This is why i thought i would round-up the process to find a kita spot for your child in Berlin.


You should know this:

The current situation: why it’s difficult to find a Kindergarten in Berlin

The simple reality is: there is a steep shortage of kita spots in the whole city. Prepare yourself to a hard-ride.

Why? To put it in the nutshell: Berlin’s population is currently experiencing a sharp increase, after years of stagnation. What’s more: young people have been flocking to the city because of (once) cheap rents. Most of them eventually settle down and start having kids.

The demand is increasing while the offer is not following, also because it’s hard to find Erziehern (caretakers) to take care of the kids.

Result: It was usually not easy to find a kita spot in Berlin, but recent events is making the matter more complicated.

Elephant in the room: start early

With this in mind, let’s start with the most important factor to find a kita spot in Berlin first: timing. It’s no secret. The earlier you start contacting Kitas, the better your chances are.  The current shortage forces you to sign-up for waiting list as early as possible.

How early you ask? It used to be enough to start looking at this at birth or so. Nowadays, it’s not rare to have parents start the process in the middle of the pregnancy. This makes sense because most kitas will take kids only from 1 year-old. This accounts for the all too common 2 years waiting time.


Picking your Kita: know the difference types

The term Kita (Kindertagesstättecovers different types and forms of childcare in Germany. This is a quick overview to understand the different types:

Krippe vs Kindergarten

You will encounter both terms during your search. Put simply; Krippe is where kids under 3 years old go. They then go to Kindergartens until they are old enough to go to school. Some Kitas have both groups within their buildings, some have Kindergartens and not Krippe. They often also have different opening times.. Depends.

The different “operators”

Privately operated  (Freie Träger)


These institutions are offering different approaches concerning pedagogy with kids, often coming from their particular nature/history. They are operated by associations, religious communities or charities. If you want your kid to be educated within a certain community, this might be good option. Some examples:

  • Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband – Dachverband vieler kleiner Träger
  • Deutsches Rotes Kreuz
  • Arbeiterwohlfahrt
  • Diakonie
  • Caritas
  • pro familia
  • SOS-Kinderdörfer
  • Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland e.V.
  • Internationaler Bund – Freier Träger der Bildungs-,Jugend-, und Sozialarbeit e.V.
Eltern Initiative

When there is a need for more spots and parents talk to each other, they might want to start organizing their own KiTa. This is what the term “Eltern Initiative” (Parents’ Initiative) covers. It’s then operated through an association (“Verein”) managed by the parents themselves. This also allows for greater flexibility in the education and in some cases, a higher level of care. However, there is a catch. One of the conditions to get a spot is often to contribute your own time and resources to run the whole thing (buying supplies, bookkeeping, gardening, renovation works, etc.). It’s a great way to be involved in the community.

For profit companies (GmbH)

Although it might be unusual to place kids in a structure run by a company, they offer equally good environments for the development of the child. Their operations are under scrutiny by local authorities and must provide a strict standard of service as well as a pedagogy framework.

Kindertagespflege – Tagesmutter

This another form a childcare provided by single persons, often women, hence the term Tagesmutter. They provide childcare in the environment of their own home, often along side their own children. It usually offers a greater time flexibility and a somewhat more personal approach. It won’t be a group of 10 or 15 kids.

City operated  (Öffentliche Träger)

KiTas that are working under direct contract with the local authorities.



Picking your Kindergarten in Berlin​ : Pedagogy and education style​

Regardless of the structure, the Kita must follow a basic set of requirements, when it comes to educating and stimulating kids. It is a framework defined by the Berlin senate around 6 themes; health, social and cultural life, communication, arts, amtehmatics, nature & environmentYou can find more info about it in mutliple languages here.

However, each Kita has the freedom to set their own ways to get there. This is why you must not hesitate to ask about how they do things, the daily routine, the outings, etc. This is why you will probably encounter different methodologies such as Montessori or Waldorf. Here are the most common ones and very short summaries.

  • Situationsansatz: This is about letting the kids decide what to do, depending on their current interests and their own curiosity
  • Montessori-Kinderhaus: The focus is to develop a sense of own responsibility with each child, by providing a supportive learning environment
  • Freinet-Kindergarten: One trusts the instincts of the child and build upon them, about cooperation too
  • Waldorf-Kindergarten: Focus on intellectual, artistic development
  • Reggio Emilia-Kindergarten: Priority given to experimentation
  • Waldkindergarten: Nature Kindergarden in the outdoors
  • Bewegungskindergarten: Pushing for physical activities and movements

How to find KiTas in Berlin around you

A good old Google search, paired with a physical scouting of your area and recommendations from friends can already do wonders. Added to that, you can turn to 2 great websites/databases:

Kita-Suche is a great project that allows to search for a kita visually on a map!

Getting a Kita Gutschein in Berlin:

What is a Kita Gutschein

It is basically a “pass” provided by the city that states how much childcare your kid will get at a Kita. This is how the KiTa knows how much money they will get from the city in return, when taking on your child. It is the paper connecting you, the Kita and the city. Some Kitas won’t accept you on the waiting list unless you have one already. Although, considering the dire situation, i have found that many Kitas don’t have this requirement. You can get one maximum 9 months before the child care starts and need to have it sorted at the latest 2 months before.

Applying for a Kita Gutschein

The process for getting a Kita Gutschein in Berlin is fairly easy in nature and it can be done online here. It is essentially a form asking you how many hours ( 4-5 hours, 5-7 hours, 7-9 hours or 9+ hours of childcare per day ) , what your resources are, who the legal guardians are, etc. One still has to justify income (because before, one had to contribute a fee based on their income) and your working hours, which is easy for employees but a bit annoying for freelancers as you can’t just give in your employment contract for proof. You will also need to provide basic documents such as birth certificate, Meldebescheinigung & a copy of ID card/passport.

When your application has been accepted, the Kita Gutschein in Berlin remains valid only for a few months, which means you will need to apply again if you haven’t gotten a contract with a Kita in that time span. Without it, you can’t sign a contract.



Some others tips

Staying on the top of the waiting list

Make sure to ask the KiTa manager how to proceed there. It’s usually best practice to call every 3 months or so, to confirm again that you are still interested in a spot. However, some don’t like this.

About costs

To that regard, we are pretty lucky in Berlin because it was made completely free for all kids. This is not the case everywhere in Germany. The only part that you have to pay is a contribution for the food; about 25€ per month, and sometimes small additional fees for extra activities.

Alternatives until you get a spot

​If you haven’t planned ahead, it’s unlikely you will get a kita spot right away (unless you have good connections or ​a ridiculous amount of luck). In the meantime, you will have to come up with a plan B until you obtain the holy grail. As foreigners away from home, we cannot rely on the help of close relatives like grand-parents. You can instead turn to the following options.

Krabbel- und Spielgruppen

​Meaning “crawling and play” groups, they are simple initiatives from parents​ meeting in cafes or other public places to let babies socialize with one another. I grant you; it won’t free up your time since you have to keep an eye on your child. However, it will make up for the lack of social interactions with other kids your child may experience, especially if it’s your first child. It will also allow you to chat with other parents, exchange experiences and tips. Sometimes, you may also hear about neighboring Kitas, how good they are, what you should do to get in, etc. It’s a good entry point into your local neighborhood and you might feel less alone in the impossible task of finding a kita spot in Berlin.

You can search krabbel groups in Berlin on this page, or these Facebook groups: 1 and 2.


As mentioned above, Tagesmutter could prove to be an excellent alternative if you need a helping hand, with added flexibility. There is a search engine for this here and plenty of other websites such as this one here. Beware though: for a lot of people, this is the next best option after getting a Kita spot in Berlin. There is also a high demand for that. It might also be clever to start your search and make calls early.


Not a lot of people know this but if you are registered with the Jugendamt, you can ask for a babysitter to be paid while you are looking for a Kita. They help you to pay a babysitter at a rate of about 600€ per month! That could be huge help to bridge the gap. Take advantage from this! More info there.

Making the situation change

​This situation sucks, there are just enough kita spots in Berlin. Every year, thousands of kids aren’t able to find a spot. If you want to commit and make the situation change​, you can go sign the petition and demonstrate. More info here.

I wish you all the best for you and your child. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

How to get started and become a freelancer in Germany

A little over 2 years ago, i decided to quit my job to become self-employed in Germany. After years spent in the cosy realm of full-time employment, i took a leap into completely uncharted territories for me. I was excited, i was motivated and with no regrets. Soon thereafter however, i was facing a little mountain called bureaucracy. To become a freelancer in Germany was not going to be easy but with my best efforts and a little help, i did go through that challenge unharmed. This guide is an attempt at transferring my experience to spare you some sweat, tears and stress.

How to become a freelancer in Germany

Disclaimer: Please note that this is an attempt at covering an excessively broad topic. You might want to prepare a cup of tea before diving in. It’s a whale of a read.

The difference between freelancer & self-employed: which one are you?

Before worrying about documents, registration, taxes and so on, you will need to understand the difference between being a freelancer and being self-employed in Germany. Although it does sound similar, there are pretty substantial differences between the two. Self-employment can be divided into 2 broad categories:

  • Freiberuflich or freelancer: it is one specific type of self-employment that is limited to only a certain number of liberal occupations. Those professions are often linked to some sort of scholar, academic or creative service, as defined in income tax law here (EStG § 18). Those can range from dancers to doctors, from architects to journalists, from lawyers to programmers. Freelancing in Germany does not require to register a business which involves less paperwork.
  • Gewerbetreibende or tradesman/business: this is linked to all other kinds of occupations that don’t qualify for the official freelancer definition. Any other sort of commercial entreprise usually falls under the classification of business in Germany. Most often than not, it is about building, trading or selling physical stuff. In this case, you will need to register a business (Gewerbe), which explains why the term “Gewerbetreibende” is used to differentiate this category.

Registration for freelancers in GermanyEverything around registration

In that part, i will assume all that you have already cleared the following things:

If not, just click on the link for each topic. It will redirect you to another guide on this blog.

Registering as a freelancer in Germany

Registering as a freelancer in Germany is a fairly straightforward process as it doesn’t involve registering a corporation or getting trade permits. However, please hold in mind that some occupations will require a specific degree to be able to do freelancing in that field.

All you need to do is to:

  • Fill in this form (Fragebogen zur steuerliche Erfassung). It’s a small questionnaire to let your Finanzamt know that you plan to become a freelancer in Germany. You can fill-it online, save it or print it when you are done. If your German is a bit sketchy, you can use this little guide or get help from a German friend.
  • Bring it to your local Finanzamt. If unsure, which one is yours, you can check this here.
  • Receive your new tax-ID (Steuernummer), which you will put on all your bills from now on.

Registering as self-employed in Germany (Gewerbetreibende)

As the name suggests, you will need to register a Gewerbe (a business) at your local Gewerbeamt (Trade office). Please note that in this case, you will need to register your Gewerbe before going to your Finanzamt. The process at the Finanzamt is then the same as mentioned above for freelancers. This is also fairly easy, especially if your status is going to be Einzelunternehmer (Sole proprietorship). You will need to bring the following with you at the Gewerbeamt:

  • A valid ID document or passport
  • Your Meldebescheinigung (adress registration certificate)
  • The filled-out Gewerbe-Anmeldung form available on your city’s local platform. (Links for BerlinHamburgMunichFrankfurt)
  • Between ten and forty euros for the registration fee

Additional pieces could be health or regulatory permits (for opening a café for example), certificate from trade offices if you are going into a particular skilled craft sector or if working with children, a certificate that you don’t have a criminal record. If you are unsure about this, get in touch with your local Industrie- und Handelskammer – IHK (Chamber of commerce); they will tell you about all the permits you need for your activity.

I’m not covering here other business structures such as UG, GmbH or GbR as this post is aiming at one-man businesses and at how to become a freelancer in Germany. It usually requires to go in front of a lawyer to establish the corporation, and registration at the local IHK first (Handelsregister).

Health insurance self-employment in Germany

Everything around health insurance

A big concern when becoming a freelancer in Germany is to be able to understand the system & pick the right health insurance. You probably know that you can either go with private or public companies. If you need to refresh your knowledge on the matter, have a look at this post on this blog that explains how it all works. In a nutshell though;

  • Going with public companies (Gesetzlichen Krankenkasse) means that yours fees for health insurance will be based on your income at around 15% of what you earn, with a legal minimum monthly fee of about 350€. This option is more costly, especially in the beginning when you don’t earn anything, but it does cover kids and spouse with you.
  • Going with a private scheme (Private Krankenversicherung) means that the rate is based on your health profile and risks. Consequently, if you are young and fit in your twenties, you might have plans as cheap as 150€ per month. However, as years go by and your health is more fragile, it can quickly increase to 500€ or even more if you are in your fifties. Kids and spouse are not covered. Pick your provider carefully since they each have unique plans and different coverage at different prices. The offer is way more diverse than in the public system. It is recommended to meet a broker or use comparison platforms such as Tarifcheck or to find the best fit and the best price.

Good to know

Artists & performers can have half of their fees covered by the KSK (Künstlersozialkasse) when they stay in the public scheme.

People currently out of a job and registered at the Arbeitsagentur can apply for a Gründerzuschuss. It is a little grant which helps you pay your health insurance in the early days of your self-employment in Germany.

Taxes as a freelancer in Germany

Everything around taxes

Let me first introduce the main actors involved in this story:

Umsatzsteuer or Mehrwertsteuer (V.A.T)

As pretty much anywhere, a value-added tax paid by businesses (19% or 7% in Germany). Here, you can deduct the amount of V.A.T you paid on good or services you bought from the amount of V.A.T you added to your own bills. If you paid more than you received, the Finanzamt will refund the difference. This is paid monthly to the Finanzamt during the first 2 years and quarterly after this if you don’t collect so much V.A.T through your activity.

Freelancers and other self-employed people earning less than 17.500€ per year can choose to avoid this scheme altogether by adopting the “Kleinunternehmerregelung” (Small business rule). This means that there is no V.A.T on your bills, but you can’t deduct V.A.T on things you bought either. This rule makes sense for smaller operations with little investment: less strain on the cash flow. Above this limit, it’s compulsory to bill V.A.T as well. You also need to register for an EU V.A.T ID if you plan to do business with clients outside of Germany.

Einkommensteuer (Income tax)

For freelancers and self-employed people, the income tax will apply to everything you earn with your small business. In Germany, there is a threshold under which the income is always tax free. In 2016, this amount was 8 652€ per year, i.e; any euro above this is taxed.  The tax is due every year to the Finanzamt and should be declared before the 31st May of the following year. It is a part of your Steuererklärung. For high-earners, the Finanzamt might decide to set quarterly installments instead, based on previous statements. This means that instead of paying the whole amount at once every year, you need to transfer a part of it every quarter. This has the advantage to be safer/smoother on your cash flow.

Gewerbesteuer (Trade tax)

This trade tax only applies to Gewerbetreibende. It’s an additional tax that applies on your overall turnover for the year. You are not required to pay if your turnover is below 24 500€ per year. It is due yearly to the Finanzamt and should also be part of your Steuererklärung, sent in before the 31st May of the following year. For high-earners, you can also expect quarterly installments too.

So to sum it up:

Tax typeWho pays it?When?How?
UmsatzsteuerFreelancer – Gewerbetreibende (except if Kleinunternehmer rule applies)Monthly until the 10th of next month, then every quarter if you don’t collect a lot of V.A.T.Fill in form: “Ust-VA”

(Umsatzsteuer Voranmeldung)

EinkommensteuerFreelancer – GewerbetreibendeEvery year until 31st May (for the year prior). High-earners can have quarterly installments instead.With your Steuererklärung

Fill in form: “Est 1 A”

GewerbesteuerGewerbetreibendeEvery year until 31st May (for the year prior). High-earners can have quarterly installments instead.With your Steuererklärung

Fill in form


How do i communicate with the Finanzamt?

It is highly required to use the government’s issued ELSTER tool to communicate with the Finanzamt. This software has all the forms required to be able to declare what’s relevant and do your tax return.

What does the process for the yearly tax return (Steuererklärung) look like?

I have made detailed guide about this topic this way. It has a lot more details and i will avoid making this post longer than it already is.

Which expenses can I put off in taxes?

Being successful as a freelancer in Germany is just as much about increasing your income as it is about decreasing your taxable income. There are a certain number of expenses that can be accounted for to reduce your total taxable income. This is why you need to make sure to keep during 7 years all bills related to:

  • Stationery
  • Office space and equipment, also if working from home.
  • Work-related trips
  • The services of an accountant
  • Half of your phone bills
  • Cost of childcare
  • Business lunch or dinner
  • Health, pension and other insurance contributions.

You can find a more detailed list this way. How to properly account them for, i will cover them in the part about book keeping later on in this article.

Banking for freelancers in Germany

About banking

Do i need a special business bank account?

Becoming a freelancer in Germany (or simply self-employed for that matter) comes with simplified management, and that’s true for your bank account too.  You can simply use your personal bank account if you already have one to support all your expenses and incoming payments for your operation. This comes with the risk of using your personal funds to support your professional life though. Make sure to separate both to avoid cash flow issues, especially if you decide to pay V.A.T as well.

You can of course decide to open a second bank account dedicated to your professional life. If you need help on how to open a bank account in Germany, i have already made a dedicated guide this way.

Bookkeeping self employment in Germany

Around invoices, bookkeeping & billing

Doing invoices right

Now that you are a proper business, make sure that your bills are also as professional as your business cards. They need to include all the following items to be valid:

  1. Your full name and address
  2. Full name and adress of your customer
  3. Location, date and unique ID of invoice
  4. Your tax number (Steuernummer)
  5. Description of goods/services, time of delivery & when payment is due
  6. Net price & discounts if applicable
  7. Added tax if applicable (If not; mention the Kleinunternehmer rule § 19 UStG Paragraph 1)
  8. Total price

You can find a pretty nice excel template on this website. You can then edit them to fit your situation and your looks.

Keeping your books clean

I don’t need to tell you that one of the challenges becoming a freelancer in Germany is to be able to keep an eye on your finances, your ingoing and outgoing bills. A lot of self-employed people in Germany have failed their projects or lost a lot of money because of bad accounting. I know i know; it is sometimes frustrating to be almost spending more time being an accountant than doing your actual job. Why is this important:

Rigorous accounting has 3 long-term advantages

  1. At some point or other, you will get audited by the Finanzamt. This means they can ask questions on anything. Keeping the records straight will avoid headaches and conflicts, especially if it’s about 5 year old items.
  2. Every year until the 31st May, you will need to do your tax return (Steuererklärung) and communicates how much in total you earned during last year, this can be done in minutes if things are kept clean, not hours.
  3. You can account for all small expenses you had during the year, which will add up to a lot to reduce your taxable income for your tax return to. This requires properly recording and filing each bill you received, physical or not.

For this, a simple excel sheet will do if you have patience and you are rigorous. This page has a pretty neat Excel template (especially for Gewerbetreibende). This involves a manual entry for each item in a table divided by month. It’s also hard to keep a copy of each bill when you have expenses.

However it doesn’t have to be that way. Nowadays, there are free or reasonably priced apps that allow to keep control of all movements during the year and facilitate the work of a Steuerberater if you have one. This is a little selection of bookkeeping software for freelancers in Germany:

  • Lexware: Consistently awarded by “Praxis Tests”, trusted by Steuerberatern and used by thousands of small business owners and freelancers. It is a reference in Germany and covers all of your accounting, invoicing and tax returning. (From 10€ per month – Interface in German only).
  • Debitoor: Also, a trusted name in the German market and internationally and my personal favorite. Debitoor offers the same broad array of services as Lexware but it seems to be a bit more open to a new economy use by integrating third party partners or API to make it easy to accept payments through PayPal, use Izettle or connect your online shop. (From 12€ per month – Interface in English, German or 7 other languages – Free test)
  • FastBill: A great contender on this list, FastBill is great at keeping an overview of the current affairs in a slick interface. You can also use different ways to receive your money and manages international business too.  (From 9€ per month – Interface in English – Free trial month)
  • Reviso: Formely know as e-economic, it’s also making a name for itself with its KPMG-certified software. Unlike its competitors, the different prices and plans don’t limit features but simply the amount of entries. (From 10€ per month – Interface in English & 6 other languages – Free trial month).
  • Zervant: A simple to use tool to manage your invoicing. It only does that but it does this well and most of all: it’s for free.

Remember if you pick one of the paid options: this would count as an expense you can put it off in taxes too! It’s money well invested.

Using a Steuerberater

You may have worked with a Steuerberater before to optimize your tax return as an employee, but if you become a freelancer in Germany, they can do much more than this. Although the name “Tax advisor” only suggests proficiency in tax related issues, they can help freelancers for the following issues:

  • Bookkeeping & Accounting
  • Professional law
  • Help with with V.A.T, Income & Tade Tax (calculating and filing when it’s due.)
  • Help with the annual tax return (+ EÜR & Gewerbe tax for Gewerbetreibende)
  • Representative duty (communicating with the Finanzamt in your stead.)
  • General legal counselling

Using a Steuerberater can appear costly but it’s often worth it when you are starting to earn well. The bet is that the benefits/return will off-set the expenses. Their fees are usually paid monthly if they are involved with the daily accounting business and/or yearly, if you only need help for the tax return until the 31st of May.

The costs of hiring Steuerberater is often well worth-it as it will optimize your expenses & maximize your tax return.

You can often greatly reduce their monthly fee by using one of the bookkeeping programs mentioned above. This is because it’s much less work for the Steuerberater to collect and process information through an export function than to process an excel sheet. Those software usually have a special access for Steuerberater made especially for that.

If you don’t know where to start to look for one, you can use platforms like Ageras which connects freelancers to English-speaking Steuerberater all across Germany for free. More info on how to find an English-speaking Steuerberater in Berlin here.

Resources for self-employment

Other resources to consider when becoming a freelancer in Germany

  • Make it in Germany: A government-owned website for skilled-workers wanting to move to Germany. It has information on setting up your own business.
  • Existenzgründer: Another great government-owned website that gives a lot of details on how to become a freelancer in Germany. It works for each profile of self-employment. It’s available in other languages but it is most complete in its German version.


Can i combine a normal day-time job together with self-employment?

Yes, it is possible, provided you don’t do more than 18 hours on top of your full-time job. If you are very successful and can somehow earn more with your side sig than with your job, keep in mind that you will have to start to pay your Krankenkasse contributions yourself then. In turn, your net salary should increase, since your employer doesn’t pay those contributions anymore.

Good luck!

Ps: please note that despite all my best intentions, some of this information can be inaccurate or missing details. I urge you to talk to a professional coach, especially if you are preparing your freelance visa from abroad. Let me know in the comments if you spot something unclear that needs improvement or if i should cover something more.

Sources: 1, 2

Main types of insurance in Germany

The kind of  insurance in Germany you will subscribe to might not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning to move here, but it is utmost important to plan ahead some coverage. Life is a bitch and you never know what it has in store for you so a good coverage makes sure you are not left penniless after something happens. Some may differ from what you know from back home so i made an overview types of insurances you can subscribe to in Germany.

insurance in Germany

List of possible insurance in Germany:


Your health insurance in Germany. I have made a dedicated page to see here. You can be public or private insured and you might need to subscribe to a complementary insurance for costs like heavy dental surgery for example. It’s a fairly complex topic to grasp at the beginning but it gets clearer with time. It’s a highly suggested read.


It can be translated to personal liability insurance. This is probably the only one in this list apart from health insurance that you should be sure to have. It’s so important actually that it is illegal in most EU countries not to have one! It covers you from all the little accidents that can happen every day to you as an individual. Why you should probably get one and how to pick the right coverage for your case; this is what you can learn in this dedicated post about liability insurance in Germany this way. 


That insurance will cover every item you own in your flat or house like your furniture or your TV set. It might come handy when you have finally gathered all those precious antiquities from the flea markets around Berlin. It covers your belongings in case of fire, water damages and theft happening at home. However, it only cover belongings/things/stuff. Insuring the actual walls, doors, windows or roof is something else: Gebäudeversicherung, something we cover later in this post.


Unfortunately, the Hausratversicherung doesn’t cover broken windows in your flat, this will do the trick. It might be useful if you live in a place with large windows. However some Hausrat do have protection against broken windows, for a slightly higher fee. Broken windows are one of the most common damages in a house and one of the most labour intensive too.

Car insurance – Kfz-Versicherung :

This is your car insurance in Germany that can be more or less extensive. I have made a more detailed guide about this on this page. It will help you decide which insurance is best for you and give you tips on how to get the best deal to save money. We also show you how to use your past driving record in your home country to get an even better price for your policy.

Rechtsschutzversicherung :

Literally “ law-protection-insurance”, this will cover you from any procedural fees you might have to pay when resolving a dispute in court. If you feel that conflicts with your landlords or neighbors might arise, it could be wise to subscribe to such insurances. There are policies covering personal risks or professional risks. You might also need protection in your professional life as well. Doctors have often that type of insurance in case their make a medical error and they have to face it in court. If interested, can help you to find the best rates.


Your life insurance in Germany. You never know what comes around the corner for you in life, do you? This will make sure that the people you love have enough resources while you are in heaven looking over them. You can pick policies that cover you for 15, 20, 25 or more years through your life. This is something people tend to subscribe to when they have children or get married.


Your accident insurance in Germany : this will make sure that you have enough financial means in case you become you become permanently handicapped after a grave accident. This is really relevant if your job is depending on your ability to move or use strength. It’s also something worth considering if you can’t do your job remotely or if you rely on the use of your hands for you job. Even developers can be at risk there, if they can’t use a computer anymore.


If you get far enough to buy your own flat, you will need that to cover the actual building where you live in. It covers walls, roofs and basement. This is also important if you rent your flat out. Your tenant’s insurance doesn’t cover the walls he is living in.


I can not stress enough how important is it to have some sort of coverage. Living on the edge can be fun until you must pay 5000€ to your neighbor because of water damages caused by a flimsy washing machine (true story, it happened to me).


Tip : If you want to have a look at prices and compare plans between insurance companies, i would suggest to have a look on the price comparison website They specialize in comparing prices. Maybe worth a look for your Haftplichtversicherung or Hausratversicherung at least ?