Visas & Permits for Germany

Germany is a desired country of destination for many people and because of many purposes, including work, studying, sightseeing and other leisure activities, and so on. Yet, people of many nationalities need to obtain a German visa in order to visit the country. Even more people need to get a German work permit or a German residence permit in order to stay working or studying in the country. In the article below, you will find out about what requirements the German authorities oblige visitors to comply with, who can freely work or visit Germany, and get links to really useful sources for this matter.

The Schengen Area and Germany

Germany is one of the European countries (out of 26) that signed the Shenghen Agreement, which allows the citizens of these countries to live, work, or study in any other country that has signed the agreement. I.e. if you are a French (France also signed the document) and you want to study or work in Germany, you can freely do so without a need to make a German visa or any additional documents. Your national ID card and other documents will be accepted in Germany. After staying 3 months in the country, however, you will have to get registered in the residents’ registration office located in the area you live in.

German Visa

The EU countries which are also the members of the Schengen zone (Switzerland and Norway are not in the EU, but in the Schengen zone)

The list of the countries that enjoy the free movement of people within the Schengen Area is the following: Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal, Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Italy, Iceland, Hungary, Greece, France, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Chech Republic, Belgium, and Austria. All of these countries have no border controls between each other and a common visa policy towards the third countries. Croatia shall join the Shengen Agreement in 2020.

Who needs to get a German visa?

Citizens of the majority of other countries, especially of the developing ones, require a German visa (or it would be better to say Shenghen visa issued by Germany) in order to pay a visit to this country. Considering that the list of those countries changes from time to time, it is better to have a look at it on the official websites of the German authorities (see a link at the end of the article).

However, there are some countries, the citizens of which do not need to have a German visa for staying in this country up to three months. Namely, that list includes such countries like the United States, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Japan, Israel, Canada, and Australia. Citizens of a couple of countries from the Central and South America also can enter Germany without a need to make a German visa.

Who needs a residence or work permit in Germany?

If you are not a citizen of EU/EEA/Switzerland and you want to visit Germany for longer than three months for the purpose of studying or work, then you will need a residence permit, which is officially called “residence title”, in order to stay for the period of more than three months. If you are from a country, the citizens of which have to get a German visa in order to enter the country, then you need to apply for both a German visa plus residence title.

the EU blue card

The EU Blue Card Can Be Granted to Well-Qualified Professionals

In order to apply for a residence permit in Germany, you need to go to the German embassy or consulate in your country and provide the required documents. Indeed, you cannot obtain a residence permit without, for example, a valid passport and without proving that you will have enough money during the stay in Germany.

Basically, there are three types of permits you are able to obtain:

  • The EU Blue Card. Similar to the US’s Green Card, this so-called card is a residence permit in the EU countries for highly qualified immigrants and their families.
  • The residence permit. This permit is the most common one and typically it is valid for the period of one year. Then, you can apply for extending the permit validity again, as far as the conditions under which you were granted a permit (like marriage, studying, or employment) have not changed.
  • The settlement permit & the permanent EC residence permit. Both of these permits allow you to stay in the country permanently, as you can understand from the names of those permits. Typically, you can obtain any of these permits after living 5 years in the country and in the case if you meet the requirements. Yet, highly skilled workers might be granted the permanent residence permit instantly, as well as other groups of people are eligible to apply for the permanent residence permit after 2 or 3 years of living in the country.

Types of German work permits

If you are going to work or study in Germany, you will need a respective German visa for work or studying (the word “work permit” is used more often). The list below will help you to determine which kind of a German visa (long-term one) you need:

Permit for general employment

You will need this kind of a permit if you will have a wish to come to Germany for general employment, i.e. the work that does not require you to be highly qualified or possess special knowledge. In order to be eligible for this permit, you have to prove that the work position cannot be filled by a citizen from EU/EEA/Switzerland. For getting a work in general employment in Germany, you need to be qualified for this job and receive a job offer from a German company (the documents proving both of these matters must be provided).

German permit

The German government has been recently trying to attract more immigrants from abroad

Permit for graduates

If you have just graduated from the university, you are able to go to Germany and look for a work during a 6-month period. For doing so, you will need this permit for university graduates. However, keep in mind that your degree should be recognized in Germany and you must have enough funds to finance yourself during this period. Once you have found a job, you should apply for work permit (see above). If you your total annual income exceeds 46,400 Euros, you are eligible to apply for the EU Blue Card.

EU Blue Card

You should have a university degree from the university recognized in Germany and a job with an annual income of at least 46,400 Euros for being eligible to apply for the EU Blue Card. This card gives you lots of benefits, namely: your family members can move to Germany too, you get a permanent residence after 33 months, residence of four years or more at the beginning, and an opportunity to stay outside the EU for 12 months.

Settlement permits for highly qualified workers.

If you have a high qualification and a gross annual income of more than 84,600 Euros, you can apply for a settlement permit. Then, your family members will be able to move with you to Germany and live there indefinitely. In order to get a settlement permit, you should have a special job offer and a permission from the Germany’s Federal Employment Agency.

Permit for students

If you get an approval of the Federal Employment Agency, you can come to Germany for going through a vocational or professional training course. If you have graduated from a German university or college abroad, you might be given the same permit yet without an approval from the agency.

Permits for freelancers and self-employed workers

Freelancers working in teaching, professional writing, arts, science and engineering, as well as providing professional services, are eligible to apply for a work permit for self-employed people. You will have to prove that your skills are needed in Germany, that you can financially support your stay, and your qualification.

Those people who want to set up a business in Germany are also eligible for applying for this permit. It requires to have a relevant experience, a realistic business plan, and proofs that that business will facilitate innovations in Germany.

Permits for scientific researchers

In order to come to Germany as a scientific researcher, you should have a contract signed with a research institute (which also must be recognized by BAMF). You will get a residence title at least for one year and you will be able to work in the field, in which you will carry out researches.

Useful sources

Federal Employment Agency

The European Job Mobility Portal

Countries the citizens of which require or do not require a German visa to enter the country

Information about German embassies and consulates across the world

Detailed information about the German visa regulations

The Federal Foreign Office

Information for asylum-seekers

Information for scientific researchers