Nail your German work visa application with this guide

Like many brave people before you, you have decided to turn a new page in your life and try something bold, something hard and something worthwhile; applying for a work visa in Germany. Whatever your reasons, it’s a difficult entreprise and it may sometimes look like an Herculean task. I mean, it’s already hard enough as it is for find a job, but to have a permit to work, it’s almost double the effort.

This blog has helped to deconstruct many complicated topics before, and this won’t be an exception.

This blog has helped to deconstruct many complicated topics before, and the employment visa application for Germany won’t be an exception. So brew yourself some coffee and prepare to dive in while we go step by step.

What is a German work visa and do I need one?

The German work visa is based on a system of residency permits with different conditions based on the specific application and situation. If you are not an EU citizen (or from Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein), you will need permission to live and work in Germany in the form of an employment visa. This does not automatically let you travel and work in the rest of the EU.

Usually, you’ll need to apply before you come to Germany and wait several months for everything to be processed. You can read a broad summary here.

The German Foreigners Office, called the Ausländerbehörde, differentiates between general and specialist employment, as well as temporary employment (guest scientist, au pair, internship), job searching, freelance, and self-employment. Let’s cover the first two categories in-depth in this post.

Do I qualify for the general employment visa?

This is for anyone who wants to live and work in Germany and needs a residence permit for the purpose of employment. For the German work visa, you generally need approval from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Office) in addition to the Ausländerbehörde.

To improve your chances of approval, you first need a job lined up in Germany. Ideally, this position is on the whitelist;  there is a shortage of qualified people in Germany for this profession.

Do I qualify for the specialist work visa or EU Blue Card?

Being a specialist in your field gives you a sort of “golden ticket” to working in Germany. In other words, you’re well-educated and your qualifications are beneficial to the German labor market. You enjoy a privileged status during the visa process and special benefits if you’re approved.

If you are a company executive, senior management, university teacher, or possess special professional qualifications, then you don’t necessarily need approval from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit and can skip much of the application process. Check with your local research institution or German mission (embassy or consulate) for more details.

For the EU Blue Card, you need to have a higher education degree and:

  • earn at least €52.000 annually (gross income of €4.333 per month) at your qualified jobor
  • or
  • earn at least €40.650 annually (gross income of €3.380 per month) and are employed in a so-called “shortage occupation”: mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering, architecture, interior, urban and traffic planning, design, or medicine (except dentistry).

If you fulfill the first financial requirement and got your degree in Germany, you don’t need approval from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit for your visa. This can mean a faster application process and less hassle!

However, if you have a degree from a foreign university and only fulfill the second financial requirement, you’ll need to get that approval. In both cases, your contract needs to be meeting local German working conditions.

Once approved, the EU Blue Card visa is valid for a maximum of four years, unless you have a limited job contract. In that case your work visa is valid for the length of your job contract, plus three months. After 33 months living in Germany, you can qualify for a permanent residence permit. Get your German language skills certified at a B1 or higher level and you could qualify for that permanent residence permit after just 21 months!

Learning German is key for a faster permit.

This video is quite helpful as well to wrap your head around the problem too.

What if I don’t have a job lined up yet?

This makes the process for general and specialist employment visas very difficult. These are based on you having a job offer or letter of intent. If you already live in Germany, you can try to apply for a job seeker visa , something we cover in this article in details.

Where and when do I apply for a work visa?

Ideally, you should be applying for the German work visa before you arrive in the country. Your country’s German mission is responsible for handling the visa application and process. If, however, you have citizenship in one of the following countries, you’re allowed to first arrive on a tourist visa and then apply for a work visa in Germany: Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, and the USA. Lucky you!

Unless you qualify for this exception, you need to apply for the work visa through your local German mission. They will give you all the necessary forms and tell you the specific requirements.

In most cases, you’ll need to submit the following documents (originals plus copies):

  • application forms provided by the local German mission
  • valid passport
  • biometric photos
  • proof of your qualifications and any occupation practice permits
  • employment contract or binding job offer
  • detailed job description
  • proof of safe livelihood (such as bank statements or pay slips)
  • fee of €75, but check if you can pay less

The application process can take anywhere from 1 to 3 months, depending on the visa. So, apply as early as possible! Your employer should be aware that you can’t fly over and start right away.

What happens next?

Once you get the initial approval for your application, you’ll receive an entry visa. Time to pack your bags and find a home in Berlin!

Make sure you register your address and schedule an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde offices in Moabit or Charlottenburg right away! This is where you will apply for a residency permit, which allows you to stay in Germany after the initial 3 months of your entry visa.

You’ll get more details before your appointment, but prepare these documents ahead of time:

  • general employment application
  • residence permit application 
  • valid passport
  • biometric photo
  • job contract
  • detailed position description (from your employer)
  • proof of professional qualifications, any occupational practice permits
  • rental contract/proof of homeownership
  • rental costs or expenses for the property
  • proof of main address in Berlin
  • proof of health insurance (traveler isn’t enough)
  • proof of secure finances (EU Blue Card application only)
  • fee of up to €100 for most applications

Sources vary about how long this part of the German work visa process takes. Expect at least a few weeks and remember – you’re not allowed to work during this time!

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

Source: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/

 

What if my application for a Germany work visa is denied?

Don’t. panic.

If your German work visa application is rejected, you can ask for the reason through the remonstration process and possibly attempt to appeal the decision. The process requires you to appeal in writing to the German mission that handled your application. They must reassess your application. If they reject it again, they must tell you the reason in the form of a Remonstrance Notice.

You also have the option to appeal the decision within one month through the Administrative Court in Berlin. In both cases, you should find a lawyer that knows their way around these topics.

To avoid rejection, double-check that your application is complete, your passport is valid for the specified timeframe, all your documents are in good order, and you meet the requirements of the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

I’m nervous, what do I need to watch out for?

Here are a few tips to keep your composure

  1. Visas are only valid for a limited time and are often tied to your job contract. If you leave that job you will need to reapply for a visa to stay in Germany.
  2. Not sure if you should bring a specific document to a meeting? Bring everything, just in case. This will make you feel more confident going in and might even earn you a rare compliment for being well-organized!
  3. If you have poor German skills, bring an interpreter or German-speaking friend with you to appointments.
  4. Be prepared to have your most important documents translated by a certified translator, even if they’re all in English.
  5. Schedule appointments well in advance. The immigration and registration offices in Berlin are often booked solid for weeks.
  6. Be on time! Germans are big on deadlines and expect everyone to follow official procedures. They do not appreciate tardiness and requests for emergency exceptions.

Remember, the people processing your application are also humans (probably). They want to do well at their job, follow the rules, and get home for the weekend. You can make everyone’s life much easier by being well-prepared for meetings and staying organized.

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.

Good luck and feel free to leave comments below! 🙂

Sources: 1, 2, 3

14 Comments

  • Reply Nene 13/02/2019 at 17:46

    I arrived in Germany 4 years ago, I got a Blue Card, then lost my job for one year…then got a very good job back again. What will happen when I go and ask for a Permanent Resident Permit?!, …

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/02/2019 at 16:58

      Hey Nene. Sorry, i cannot help you on this matter, but this makes me think that i should write a post on it.

  • Reply P U 07/01/2019 at 15:25

    Hey 🙂 Thanks for all the tips!
    I’m from Israel and I came here on a working holiday visa which is valid through May 19. Meanwhile, I got a job and I got working visa.
    If I’m gonna quit my current job, does my initial visa is still valid till May? Or was it cancelled the minute I got the working visa?
    Another one – I’ve got the working visa for 3 years. Does it still valid when I quit? I know i’ll need a new one when getting a new job, but can I stay meanwhile on this one? If not – do I have a specific period after I quit to look for my next job?
    Thanks in advance for everything!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/01/2019 at 14:06

      Hey Pola. Well done on the visa. I don’t know about your first question. Maybe ask the Foreigner’s office directly or your embassy. Second question: you may have to check for your case again but i believe your working visa is tied to a position/company, so if you quit, that’s also it for your residence permit. Again, check with your embassy if your visa has some sort of grace period attached to it.

  • Reply NewApplicant 04/01/2019 at 14:04

    Hi there, I have received an employment contract from a company in Berlin and they will pay a gross salary of 35,000 eur. I have my appointment coming up this month with the German embassy. Is it easy to get work visa if I have all the documents ready, or is there any possibility that my visa will be denied? Also, how long does it usually take approximately?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/01/2019 at 12:28

      Hi there. thanks for posting a comment. It’s always hard to answer those questions because it’s almost a case by case basis. If you have all documents ready and fullfill conditions, then it should be fine. Processing times depend on your embassy and how busy they are, can’t answer that precisely either.

  • Reply Sivaram 02/12/2018 at 10:51

    Hi, I am Indian and I finished my Business studies in France recently. I am currently living in France on French student VISA. I did my student Internship for 6 months in Germany. The company arranged me the work permit (ZAV approval). Now, I attended an interview with a Biotech start up company in Berlin, Germany. The company is offering me 47K – 50K € per year gross salary. This time it seems that I have to do the entire VISA procedure. Does my previous German work Visa for my Internship would ease my work permit procedure if I apply on my own? Please guide me. Thank you for your patience.

    Thank you,
    Siva Ram.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 02/12/2018 at 21:04

      Hey Siva. Nice work on getting a job here! Applying on your own doesn’t improve or decrease your chances per say, it’s just that the company which did that for you has the experience and maybe the connections to get it right the first time. It’s hard to tell if your past permits can improve your chances now; definitely wouldn’t hurt to mention it in my opinion.

  • Reply Mahi 21/10/2018 at 09:21

    Hi I applied for work permit in Berlin on 1st October 2018 waiting for labour office approval.
    Iam from India I came on job seeker visa. I got offer in a German company my package is 34000e per year its been 3weeks I didn’t get any mail or call from employment office.
    Should wait for the mail or I can contact them regarding my application process.
    Whom should I contact.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/10/2018 at 18:09

      Hey Mahi. You can always call your contact person at the Arbeitsagentur. They will able to direct you towards the next logical step. Well done on your job offer !

  • Reply Angel 28/09/2018 at 13:11

    If I have my Anmeldung registration in Berlin but my job is in Brandemburg (zone C Berlin), where should I do the VISA Application???

    Thaks a lot

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/09/2018 at 19:38

      Hey Angel. Berlin offices are fine.

  • Reply MH 16/09/2018 at 12:25

    >If, however, you live in one of the following countries,

    This is not correct. You need to be a citizen of one of the countries mentioned. A Mexican citizen residing in the USA cannot come on a tourist visa and apply for the residency permit after arrival in Germany. A Mexican or other non-EU citizen on the list of privileged countries residing in the USA needs to go to the German consulate in the USA and apply for the residency permit there.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/09/2018 at 09:12

      Hi MH. Thanks a lot for the correction. The post was amended to be more accurate, i was of course referring to citizenship here.

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