Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Working and Living in Germany
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You are living abroad and you are in need of consular information? Please contact the German
mission which is competent for your place of residence.
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. 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.
As from 1 August 2012 people with a recognized university degree or a degree comparable to a German degree will, under the EU Blue Card system, have easier access to the labour market. 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 56.400 euros. In these cases 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 facilities and arrangements also apply, provided they are offered the same salaries as comparable German employees and their annual gross earnings would be at least 43.992 euros. In these cases the approval of the Federal Employment Agency is required.
Seeking employment in Germany
Since 1 August 2012 foreign graduates with a German or other recognized 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. 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.
Please find more information on the following webpages:
EU Blue Cards are issued by EU member states to third-country nationals. The holder of an EU Blue Card is entitled to take up residence in the EU for the purpose of taking up gainful employment.
The legal basis for the EU Blue Card is Council Directive 2009/50/EC. The EU Blue Card is designed particularly to attract highly qualified third-country nationals to jobs in occupations where there is a shortage of qualified personnel or where a shortage is likely to arise in future.
The EU Blue Card is the main residence permit for university graduates from abroad. It is a simple and unbureaucratic procedure geared to third-country nationals keen to put their talents to use in Germany.
Applicants must furnish proof that they have a university degree and have been offered a job that would provide gross annual earnings for at least 56.400 euros.
In occupations where jobs vacancies for e.g. doctors, engineers, natural scientists, mathematicians, and IT-specialists cannot be filled due to a shortage of qualified personnel applicants need a job offer providing gross annual earnings in the order of only 43.992 euros. To prevent abuse, in such cases the authorities will check the terms and conditions of the job offer with respect to working hours and salary. The EU Blue Card offers special privileges to immigrants and their families. The prospect of obtaining permanent resident status at an early stage encourages would-be applicants to plan their long-term future in Germany. After 33 months of residence, Blue Card holders are eligible for a settlement permit. Those who prove they have good German language skills may be granted a settlement permit after 21 months.
In Germany the EU Blue Card can be obtained only from the foreigners offices. Third-country nationals who are eligible for the EU Blue Card and require a visa to enter Germany will be issued a national visa for the purpose of taking up gainful employment. Once in Germany, their local foreigner’s office will issue them the EU Blue Card.
Please find more information on the following pages:
Information of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
It is possible for those working in the field of information and communications technology to obtain a residence permit in order to take up employment. A concrete job offer is an essential prerequisite for this.
An EU Blue Card or a relevant entry visa can be issued to IT workers who earn an annual salary of 50.760 euros or more.
If you do not have a concrete job offer, you can apply for a jobseeker’s visa.
A quick test to check if and when you can gain access to the labour market along with more information on the topic of “working in Germany” can be found on the employment office link below.
You can also find comprehensive information on “immigrating to Germany” on the Federal Ministry of the Interior’s website.
Find out more on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
We want to make it easier for innovative people from abroad to start their own business in Germany and help create jobs here. The changes in the Residence Act in force since August 2012 are intended to encourage would-be entrepreneurs to invest in Germany and give the federal states more leeway in assessing whether a given business project is likely to be successful.
If you wish to set up a manual trade or retail business, you can get a residence permit for self-employment (Section 21 (1) of the Residence Act) if you satisfy the following requirements:
There is commercial interest or regional demand for your product or service.
Your business activity is likely to have a positive impact on the economy.
You have secured financing for your business by way of capital or loan approval.
If you are over 45 years old, a residence permit will only be issued to you if you can also provide proof of adequate provision for old age.
Freelancers (“Freiberufler”): If you want to be self-employed in one of the liberal professions, you can get a residence permit for freelance work (Section 21 (5) of the Residence Act). This residence permit is granted if you can prove that you have the means to fund your project, to support yourself and a permit to exercise that profession. If you are over 45 years old, you must also provide proof that you have adequate provision for old age.
If your business idea is successful and you are thus able to make a living for yourself and your family, you can have your residence permit extended, initially for a maximum of three years. If you set up a manual trade or retail business, you can apply for a settlement permit after just three years.
You can find out more at the internet portal “Make it in Germany” (http://www.make-it-in-germany.com/).
For more information on visa questions, please contact your local German mission.
As a general rule non-EU nationals need a residence title (visa or residence permit) to take up employment in Germany. By law the residence title has to give information whether and to which extent access to the labour market is granted. This information replaces the former work permit. If you intend to commence work in Germany you have to apply for a visa with the competent German mission abroad before entering Germany. (Only nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States may apply for the necessary residence title after arrival in Germany.)
Details as to which documents have to be presented with your visa application are available on the webpage of the competent German mission abroad or directly from the mission itself.
EU citizens do not need a visa for entering Germany.
Since the entry into force of the Freedom of Movement Act/EU on 1 January 2005, EU citizens are no longer required to apply for a residence permit after entering Germany. However, they need to register, like everyone else, with their local residents registration office.
More information for foreign nationals interested in working in Germany is available on the websites of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Federal Employment Agency.
Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
For certain occupations (e.g. lawyer, chartered accountant, teacher, physiotherapist, doctor, nurse, midwife, community pharmacist, architect) you need to prove you have the required qualifications. Whether your qualifications obtained abroad entitle you to pursue the occupation of your choice in Germany is something you need to check with the agency responsible for recognizing qualifications in the relevant occupation.
Since April 2012 immigrants are legally entitled to an official ruling on whether their occupational qualifications obtained abroad are deemed equivalent to the relevant German qualification.
More information on the recognition of occupational qualifications is available on the following websites:
Working holiday programmes exist with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Israel, Chile and Brazil.
The programmes give young people between 18 and 30 the opportunity to gain an insight into the culture and daily life of the partner country. They can stay up to 12 months. Holiday jobs can be taken up to help fund the stay.
Citizens of Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand can apply for the relevant visa at every German mission abroad or after their arrival directly at the competent aliens Office in Germanyfund.
Citizens of Chile can apply for the relevant visa at every German mission abroad.
Citizens of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Brazil have to apply for the relevant visa for their working holiday stay in Germany at the competent German mission abroad.
More information on the application procedure, documents to be presented, fees etc. is available on the website of the corresponding German mission.
German missions abroad: Countries A to Z
The Federal Employment Agency publishes detailed information on their webpage.
The Association for International Youth Work provides more information on its webpage.
...who is also not a German national live and work with me in Germany?
If you want to live in Germany with your spouse you have to submit an application for family reunification to the competent German mission abroad. Details on the documents to be presented with your visa application are often available on the webpage of the competent German mission abroad or directly from the mission itself.
EU citizens as well as citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland citizens have the right to live and work in Germany. After arrival, they just need to register with the appropriate office of the town hall (mostly called “Einwohnermeldeamt” or “Bürgeramt”) of their residence in Germany.
The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure offers information on the validity of foreign driving licences in Germany on its webpage.