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, including 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 on the other hand, 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. Access is in principle limited to certain occupational groups and normally requires the approval of the employment authorities, nonetheless there are numerous exceptions to this principle. In fact in recent years, various legislative measures have further liberalised access to the German labour market.

For unskilled and low-skilled workers access to the labour market remains limited. In contrast, in the case of highly-qualified foreign nationals such as university graduates, the legal barriers to working in Germany have been further reduced.

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 that would provide 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 they are offered the same salaries as comparable German employees and their annual gross earnings would be at least 38,688 euros (2016). In these cases 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,  

More information is available on the Federal Employment Agency's website:www.arbeitsagentur.de “Working in Germany”

Here you will find a Migration Check programme which you can use to obtain quick information on labour market access.

Following the expiry of the transitional arrangements pending the entry into force of full freedom of movement for workers within the EU, as of 1 May 2011 nationals of the following EU member states have enjoyed full freedom of movement for workers: 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. Currently, therefore, it is only nationals of the EU member state Croatia who require a work permit in Germany. They should apply for such “EU work permits” at their local German employment agency.

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 qualified 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 qualified foreign students in German universities is one of 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 qualification whilst 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 08.01.2014

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Entry and residence

Visa regulations

Here you can find out whether you need a visa for visits to Germany and the Schengen states of up to 90 days. Foreigners wanting to stay longer than 90 days in Germany, who want to work or study in Germany, as a rule automatically need a visa.


Visa requirements - list of countries


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