Studying and working in Germany

Access to the German labour market

Foreign nationals other than European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals may reside in Germany for the purpose of taking up gainful employment if they have a residence permit which explicitly authorises them to do so. Australian, Israeli, Japanese, Canadian, South Korean, New Zealand and US citizens may obtain such a residence permit from the relevant foreigners authority once they have arrived in Germany. It is important to note, however, that they may not commence their intended employment until they have the permit. All other foreign nationals must apply for a work visa from their local German mission before coming to Germany.
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Visa regulations

Foreigners’ access to the labour market is limited by the Ordinance on the admission of foreigners for the purpose of taking up employment. In principle, access is limited to certain occupational groups and normally requires the approval of the employment authorities. However, there are numerous exceptions to this general principle, and in recent years various legislative measures have further liberalised access to the German labour market.

Access to the labour market remains limited for unskilled and low-skilled workers, but the legal barriers to working in Germany have been further reduced for highly-qualified foreign nationals such as university graduates.

Since 1 August 2012, foreign nationals with a recognised university degree have had easier access to the labour market under the EU Blue Card system. To obtain the Blue Card, they must simply furnish proof of their qualifications and a concrete job offer for a position providing annual gross earnings of at least 49,600 euros (2016). The approval of the Federal Employment Agency is not required.

In the case of highly qualified foreign nationals with a background in mathematics, IT, the natural sciences or technology as well as medical doctors, the EU Blue Card conditions still apply, provided these people are offered the same salaries as comparable German employees and their annual gross earnings would be at least 38,688 euros (2016). The approval of the Federal Employment Agency is required.

Simplified rules on access to the labour market also apply to academics, highly qualified professionals, executives, senior employees, specialists and similar groups.

In the case of foreign nationals with vocational qualifications, such as care specialists, there are now improved options for gaining recognition for qualifications obtained abroad. In addition to this, for professions experiencing shortages, access to the German labour market has been made possible without a prior labour market test, as long as the worker’s qualification is recognised as equivalent to a German qualification under the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications Act.

Further information on gaining recognition for vocational qualifications obtained abroad is available at  www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de. General information on recruitment regulations for foreign nationals is available on the websites of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS). More information on recruitment regulations in Germany is also available on the Federal Employment Agency website, www.arbeitsagentur.de. Here you will find a Migration Check programme which you can use to obtain quick information on labour market access.

Nationals of the following EU member states have enjoyed full freedom of movement for workers from 1 May 2011, following the expiry of the transitional arrangements: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Since 1 January 2014 nationals of Romania and Bulgaria have also enjoyed full freedom of movement for workers; Croatian nationals have had this freedom since 1 July 2015.

Jobseeker’s visa

Since 1 August 2012, foreign graduates with a German or other recognised university degree or a foreign degree comparable to a German degree will be eligible to enter Germany to seek employment. Holders of a jobseeker’s visa may stay in Germany for up to six months to seek employment whilst in the country. To obtain a jobseeker’s visa, applicants must simply furnish proof of their university degree and that they can support themselves for the duration of their planned stay. While seeking employment, jobseekers are not permitted to work, whether on a self-employed basis or otherwise.

Training in Germany

Third country nationals may also be granted residence permits for in-company training in Germany. This requires the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, however. Before granting approval, the Federal Employment Agency checks whether the training place has been advertised nationwide, including, if applicable, to German nationals or privileged foreign nationals (such as EU applicants).

Graduates of German schools abroad who wish to complete a certified in-company training course for a state-recognised or similarly accredited training occupation in Germany may be granted a residence permit without the approval of the Federal Employment Agency.

Studying in Germany

Germany is one of the world’s most popular destinations for students. Training talented foreign students in German universities is among the German Government’s top priorities. More information on requirements, framework conditions and opportunities to study in Germany is available on the website: www.hochschulkompass.de. If they complete their studies successfully, foreign nationals can extend their residence permit for up to 18 months in order to seek employment relevant to their qualifications while here in Germany.

Further information

For further information on the topic “studying and working in Germany”, please contact the information centre of the International Placement Services (ZAV) at the Federal Employment Agency (zav@arbeitsagentur.de). General information such as on recognition of qualifications, employability in Germany or questions relating to social security legislation is available on the websites of the ZAV www.zav.de/arbeiten-in-deutschland, of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees as well as on the EURES (European Employment Services) portal http://ec.europa.eu/eures. Further information is also available from the Federal Foreign Office help desk.

Last updated 15.09.2016

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Entry and residence

Visa requirements

Click here for information on visa requirements, an overview by country of visa requirements / exemptions, and application forms to download.


Visa requirements - list of countries


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