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:

  1. Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit form (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels)
  2. Biometric Photos
  3. Valid Passport
  4. 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.
  5. Proof of Health Insurance – see above
  6. Apartment Lease (Mietvertrag) or Proof of Home Ownership (Nachweis über Wohneigentum) – This document should include the monthly costs of rent and utilities.
  7. Landlord Confirmation (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) or Registration (Anmeldung) – see above
  8. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

  1. Be My Travel Muse
  2. Page Rollison on Medium
  3. Cat Noone on Medium
  4. Nandi Jammi on Medium
  5. Kat Loughrey on CloudPeeps blog

How I can get help or guidance?

You can of course decide to talk to immigration specialists. For more general questions, you can also call a dedicated hotline setup by in cooperation with many different German administrations. They can answer your questions in English. More info about this hotline this way.

Under which conditions can my visa expire or be terminated?

Once you have acquired your residence permit in Germany, it’s also useful to be aware of how it can be terminated. As mentioned by the German residence act, this is how it can happen:

  1. Your visa has reached expiration date, and it hasn’t been renewed.
  2. Your visa has been revoked by the German authorities or if you have been deported from the country, in case of criminal behavior for example.
  3. If you leave the country indefinitely. This means officially setting residence somewhere else or leaving for longer than 6 months. It’s usually 6 months, but sometimes can be more if you happen to leave because you serve Germany’s interests, in the case of humanitarian campaigns for example.
  4. If you apply for asylum after being granted a residence permit.

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


  • Reply Melissa 03/09/2020 at 10:51

    Thanks for the very helpful article! I still have a few questions nagging me.
    1) Education. I’m qualified as an engineer but i freelance in a totally unrelated artistic way. I’m aware that some new immigration law came out this march saying that you don’t need to work in your field of qualification anymore but will that apply to me? I’m an Indian national.

  • Reply Ignacio 06/08/2020 at 16:21

    Hi! I’m in Berlin on a jobseeker visa, and since the job search is not going particularly well (Covid times…), I’m going to apply for a freelance visa. If I get it, would I be allowed to get a job or minijob as at least a waiter, bartender, delivery guy, etc? Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/08/2020 at 22:52

      Hey Ignacio. Sorry to hear about this. With the information currently at my disposal: as a rule, a freelance visa only allows grants you residence in Germany and only sending invoices to clients of yours, not to take on an employment. Work visas can sometimes allow freelancing as well, but not the other way around, i’m afraid. Also, think about it: it would not make sense to grant you a freelance visa if you also state you might need to rely on a mini job. They grant you a visa on the basis of letter of intent of German clients, aterr all, which should be enough for you to live on.

  • Reply sanjay 24/07/2020 at 19:27

    8. Over 45 years – Alternatively, you can provide proof of sufficient private assets for retirement.
    Does these assets have to be in Germany or can be in home country? If so any document required to prove the assets?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/07/2020 at 21:41

      Hey Sanjay. that’s a good question. I am not sure. Probably depends on where this money is held? I would ask this question to people on this hotline directly.

  • Reply Emma Fath 22/01/2020 at 08:53

    Hi there!
    I would like to add on another discipline to my current visa. I don’t want to wait four months for an appointment — should I wake up early and go to Auslandebehorde, or can I email a work certificate and a letter of intent from the new line of work?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/01/2020 at 17:38

      Hey Emma. That’s a great question. I don’t know about this one. Have you tried calling this hotline to ask? If you do, please let us know what the result is.

  • Reply reza razavi 01/12/2019 at 22:10

    Hello there, Thanks for very comprehensive article. just a Question; I have graduated from a German university (Hoch schule) master course and currently have 18 month Arbeitsucher resident permit.
    1. Principally, can I apply fort Freiberufler and do some freelancer business (As Consultant and scientific work)?
    2.Does it mean my resident permit will be converted to working resident permit? If yes, am I eligible to work for a company as employee in future (like after one year) or study in PhD?
    Thanks in Advance for your answers.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/12/2019 at 00:38

      Hey Reza. 1. As a rule, you are not allowed to do any work on job seeker visa. See here. But check your docs, it may state otherwise. 2. Not sure about this. You may want to try this official hotline and ask directly.

  • Reply Turi 09/11/2019 at 15:49

    Hi Bastien. First of all, thanks for so much for your thorough guide!
    I am a front end developer who’ve just moved to Berlin few days ago with temporary visa in Europe (I’m non European citizen). I’m actually about to have full time contract with a Norwegian company. Because I can work remotely and I love to live in Berlin so far. Therefore I wonder if I’m able to settle with freelancer visa in the way that I keep working with the Norwegian company remotely from Berlin and pay the tax for Germany.
    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 11:41

      Hey Turi. From what i know, you need to prove that you work for German clients, with letter of intents from German based clients for a successful application.

  • Reply Mido 31/10/2019 at 00:52

    IAM software engineer freelancer.i,ve clients by from us ,Canada and Italy….but I,vent clients in Germany to obtain 2commitment letters for freelance visa…could I get help?
    Also,what’s the min funds of bank statement?should i,ve Deutsch language ?

  • Reply Hassan Shabbir 19/08/2019 at 00:57

    Hi Iam here on job seeker visa . I am a software engineer. can i also eligible to apply for freelancing visa ? Iam still seeking job so should i apply for freelancing visa as well ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/08/2019 at 10:01

      Hey Hassan. As a software engineer, you certainly have good chances to obtain a freelancer visa, just like a normal work visa. This type of profile is in demand in Germany. There is nothing against preparing a freelance visa application why you searching for a job. A work visa might also allow you to do some freelancing as well. Just be aware that you need to book a separate appointment for a freelance visa.

  • Reply Heath 03/06/2019 at 20:07

    Hi there, thanks for your clear, detailed article.
    You mentioned, “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.”
    Is that article up yet? I’m a novelist, keen to apply for the artist visa in Dusseldorf.
    Thank you.

  • Reply Bharti Harale 29/05/2019 at 00:20

    Hi I am Bharti Harale from India.

    I am travelling to Europe on a schangen visa in 1st week of June 2019. I have a work contract from German organization that requires me to start work immediately from 2nd week of June. Is it possible to travel to Germany of schangen visa and submit my application in Germany for freelancer visa? I have work contract with me. Or, I still have to apply from visa in Germany.

    Looking for quick reply

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/06/2019 at 14:43

      Hey Bharti. No sure about the sense of your question. If you have a work contract, then you should probably use that to obtain a work visa for Germany. Depending on your case, this work visa can also allow you to work as a freelancer too on the side, while still being employed. Is that helpful?

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.