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):



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


  • Reply yootazi 23/07/2020 at 11:43

    Hi Bastien,
    Thank you for your amazing job in here. I am a non-EU national and hold a Masters degree from a German university and worked in Germany in a related field for two years, and also have a B2 German certificate. I left my job at the end of two years (paid into the pension system for 24 months), and since then I could not find another job related to my degree and my work permit will expire in 5 months from now. Do you think I could extend my work permit with an unlimited contract to work full time in a cafe instead? Would it matter how much I earn? Also, in case I could extend my permit, for how long it will be extended? I appreciate your help and your time!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/07/2020 at 21:26

      Hey Yootazi. I really can’t comment on individual cases for such precise questions as it depends on too many parameters. I can’t risk giving you false info. I suggest to write the Because Berlin team there, or call the hotline i suggested in the post. they might help you.

  • Reply Abhimanyu 11/07/2020 at 14:31

    I am a working Software professional. I want to apply for German JOB search VISA but I do not want to quit my current JOB.
    Is it possible to apply for JOB Search VISA with holding my current JOB. I can avail Work from Home option to continue my services with current company. Whenever I got a new opportunity, I will resign from my current job.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2020 at 09:35

      Hey Abhimanyu. If i understand your situation correctly, you won’t be needing a job seeker visa (more details on that here) since during your search, you will still be working for your current company. You have to check if your current work visa allows you to switch companies at this point.

  • Reply adam 19/05/2020 at 09:48

    hello everyone,

    my work permit was denied for this reason :

    „Ihre Anfrage nach § 38a AufenthG laut dem Arbeitgeberservice der Arbeitsagentur Berlin-Mitte stehen für die Beschäftigung bevorrechtigte Arbeitnehmer zur Verfügung”
    any suggestions? is it possible to make an appeal ? if so is there any chance?

    Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/05/2020 at 10:00

      Hey Adam. It’s always possible to appeal a decision of course, but no positive outcome is guaranteed. If i understand this properly, your position is not considered to be part of so called “shortage” occupations and there are other people in Germany that can do this job. Maybe try to see with your employer if the position can be described differently so it does qualify as a that?

      • Reply Adam 25/05/2020 at 01:37

        Hey Bastien, Thank you for response.

        This position requires languages skills ( Italian , french and English ) and customer support experiences ….

        dishwasher , delivery man and security agent are shortage occupations ??

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/05/2020 at 09:42

          Hey Adam. You can check for yourself via this list, but i believe that would not be the case.

          • adam 26/05/2020 at 21:00

            Dear BASTIEN ,

            it was an ironic question as three of my friends got work permit with these jobs despite that they are not present in that list.

  • Reply Anna 27/04/2020 at 15:16

    I am planning to change my “Job search residence permit” for the “Working residence permit”. There are two points which I don’t have:
    1) rental contract/proof of homeownership
    2) rental costs or expenses for the property,

    as I live with my partner, who is paying and having the rental contract on his name.
    Nevertheless, I do have an Anmeldung on the current address.

    What should I do in that case? Is only Anmeldung enough? With which documents I can explain my situation to the Immigration office?

    Looking forward for your advice!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/04/2020 at 15:46

      Hey Anna. What i would do in my opinion, would be to make you the Untermieter so that you have a real contract to show, your partner being your Hauptmieter.

  • Reply LT 11/03/2020 at 19:35

    Hi Bastien,
    I have studied my Masters at a German University (in English), then right after took on a full-time job and had quit after 23 months of working there. I went to the Ausländerbehörde and they gave me a 3-months Fiktionsbescheinigung to look for a job within this timeframe. However, My 3 months is almost up and I still have some job applications that are open and no new job secured/lined-up yet. In this case, do you know what are the possibilities of extending my Visa? Should I continue to ask for another 3 months Fiktionsbescheinigung or can I apply for a German language visa and then attempt to convert to employment visa after I find a new job?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 19/03/2020 at 21:38

      Hey LT. I cannot comments on individual situation with so little details. You may want to ask a specialist to see where you best cahcens are,

  • Reply Katherine M Neugebauer 25/02/2020 at 05:33

    I have relatives in Bavaria that own a dairy farm, and they’ve offered for me to work for them. I don’t know German all that well, and I have no farming experience or education. I know the German part and experience are biggies when it comes to being approved, but I will be staying and working for family so I should be able to be approved?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/02/2020 at 21:24

      Hey Katherine. I can’t really comment on individual profiles. Sorry.

  • Reply Chuck 31/01/2020 at 06:42

    If you’re a USA Citizen applying for a general employment visa/residence permit and have a job offer lined up already, are you required to prove German language proficiency? It seems a lot of websites don’t mention it but some mention needing it but rather vaguely.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/02/2020 at 21:40

      Hey Chuck. The best way to interpret this is that it increases your chances during the review process. It is not listed as required officially no, especially if it’s one of the so-called shortage occupation.

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