Applying to live long term in Germany after you have arrived here
Before you travel: Visa vs. Residence Permit
German Consulates and Embassies can only issue a D Visum (entry visa) while the foreigner is still abroad, whereas the local ABH can only issue an Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residence permit) once the foreigner has arrived. It is important to determine before
you travel whether or not you need to apply for a D Visum in your country of residence; not everyone can just turn up at their local ABH to apply for a permit!
§41 Abs 1 of the AufenthV makes it possible for citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the USA, and the UK to apply for residence and work permits (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) at their local Ausländerbehörde within 90 days of arrival. Furthermore, under §41 Abs. 2 citizens of Andorra, Brazil, Honduras, Monaco und San Marino are allowed to apply for residence permits after arrival as long as their main purpose in Germany is not
to work (citizens in this second group whose main purpose in Germany is to work need to apply for a D Visum in their country of residence).
Under EU Freedom of Movement laws dependents of EU citizens (regardless of citizenship) may apply for an Aufenthaltskarte in Germany without first obtaining a D Visum abroad. Keep in mind that in Germany, Germans cannot take advantage of the relaxed rules for EU citizens unless they have previously lived in another EU Member State.
Citizens of all other countries who enter Germany on a Schengen Visa (as well as those who do not require an entry visa) are generally not permitted to change their status after arriving in Germany. Although it is possible in certain exceptional cases (for example, with a medical certificate indicating that it is not possible to travel) to extend a Schengen C Visa (aka "tourist" visa) for an additional 3 months(§40 AufenthV), Schengen rules set a limit of 90 days within 6 months for foreigners without a residence permit).
When you first arrive in Germany for a long-term stay, you have to register at your local "Einwohnermeldeamt" (aka Bürgeramt, Meldebehörde, etc). The Anmeldebestätigung that they issue is often required in conjunction with your passport for identification. Make sure you keep this document in a safe place, you'll need it often.
Keep in mind that non-EU citizens need a purpose
in Germany in order to obtain a residence permit. The most common reasons are employment (§18 AufenthG), self-employment (§21), education (§16), and family reunification (§28 to a German and §29 to a foreigner in Germany).
Applicants will need:
- a completed application
- a valid passport
- two biometric passport photos
- Proof of sufficient funds
- Documents supporting your purpose (eg. employment contract for employees, registration for students, freelance contracts for freelancers, etc.)
- Acceptable comprehensive health insurance (not travel insurance)
- Anmeldebestätigung (proof of German residential address)
- Berlin´s Ausländerbehörde ("Foreigners' Office") website (in German):
If you want to work in Germany and do not have an EU/EEA/CH passport (or a spouse with one of these passports), there are three important terms you need to know.
: this refers to employment. Initially employment permits are issued bound to a specific employer and position after the Vorrangprüfung
has been completed (see below). The much sought after notation (Nebenbestimmung) Beschäftigung erlaubt/gestattet gives the permit holder the right to take up any type of employment. However, it will take a minimum
of two years (see below) for non-EU citizens to obtain Beschäftigung erlaubt/gestattet (work authorisation for dependents is linked to the conditions of the main permit holder).
: this is self-employment and most foreigners apply as freelance (Freiberuflich), which is a special category of self-employed persons.
: the term encompasses both employment and self-employment. With the notation 'Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet' it is possible to take up any employment and/or self-employment.
Employment Permits (Note:these are the rules for third country nationals)
If a German employer wants to hire a third country national, they have to prove that there is no other EU/EEA/CH citizen or a third country national with an open work permit to do the job. This is known as the Vorrangprüfung
. As of May 1, 2011, the initial evaluation of these application are being processed centrally in Duisburg in an attempt to decrease processing times and harmonize decisions. Do not expect to receive a work permit to wait tables or work an unskilled mini-job; Germany has enough unskilled and low skilled labor. Furthermore, being a native English speaker is also not sufficient to warrant a permit in most areas (there are enough unemployed native English speakers here) and it is not possible to receive a permit to work for an employment agency (see §40 Abs.1 Nr.2 AufenthG). On the other hand, Germany is looking for experienced engineers, doctors who speak German, most types of IT professionals, and certain skilled trades.
A sub-requirement of the Vorrangprüfung is the Arbeitsbedingungsprüfung
to ensure that foreign workers are not being paid less than the market rate. For example, since the market rate for call centre positions is around 9.79€/9.69 (the minimum wage for agency employees), it is possible for native speakers to pass the Vorrangprüfung and the Arbeitsbedingsungsprüfung to receive a work permit for a relatively low paid call centre job (since they would still be receiving the market rate). On the other hand, a young graduate who passes the Vorrangprüfung for an entry-level graduate position would be expected to earn a proper graduate salary and would not be able to receive a work permit for a lowly paid position.
Citizens of countries listed in §34 BeschV may apply for a work permit either at their nearest German Embassy/Consulate or once they arrive in Germany at their local Ausländerbehörde. Citizens of all other countries must apply at the German Embassy/Consulate in their countries of citizenship or residence. The Embassy/Consulate/ABH will then forward the application to the Agentur für Arbeit for the Vorrangprüfung and this process can take anywhere from a few days to many months.
With the notation Beschäftigung erlaubt/gestattet it is possible to take up any type of employment without having to obtain approval from the Agentur für Arbeit (i.e. no Vorrangprüfung). There are two ways to obtain this notation:
1) BeschVerV §3b Abs. 1 Nr. 1 makes it possible for after working for over 24 months while paying social security contributions.
2) BeschVerV §3b Abs. 1 Nr. 2 after three years of living in Germany with a valid permit (certain exceptions apply e.g only half the time on any type of study permit with a maximum of two years counts towards the three years).
Highly Skilled Workers
There is also a special permit for highly skilled workers that makes it possible to receive a Niederlassungserlaubnis (permanent residence permit) under AufenthG §19 upon arrival in Germany. This type of permit is reserved for executives and those with certain types of research positions.
The Blue Card was introduced on August 1, 2012, and seems to want to encourage the immigration of the cheapest rather than the best labour. More detailed info to follow.
Self-Employment (aka freelance)
It is also possible to obtain a permit to be self-employed (§21). Many foreigners apply as English teachers or artists under the subcategory for freelancers. The first step is to calculate a realistic budget including comprehensive health insurance.
Note: Foreigners here with self-employed/freelance permits are not allowed to be employed part-time to make ends meet without first obtaining permission from their local ABH (including Vorrangprüfung)!
It is possible for foreign students studying at foreign institutions who have already completed a minimum of 4 Semesters of their degrees to obtain permits for internships. Since employers now need to pay interns who are completing a voluntary internship at least the minimum wage, many employers will only hire interns who require the internship in order to graduate.
Due to abuse by unethical employers looking for cheap labor, it is becoming increasingly difficult for graduates to obtain internship permits. Foreign graduates of foreign institutions of higher education should not be surprised if their applications for internship permits are rejected if they cannot convincingly demonstrate that the purpose of the internship is to learn new skills rather than supply cheap labor.
Working Holiday/Youth Mobility Permits
Germany has bilateral Working Holiday treaties with a few OECD countries (Canada, New Zealand, Australia, etc), which grants young workers from these countries the right to work in Germany for a year. It is only possible to be employed (not self-employed/freelance) and the age limits vary by country (maximum age between 30 - 35 years). The main advantage of this permit is that the Vorrangprüfung is not required and holders of this permit can take up any type of employment (including unskilled and/or low paid positions for which they would not be able to obtain a work permit). Some agreements make it possible for applicants to file their application in Germany and others require that the permit is issued before arrival in Germany.
Au Pair Permits
Foreigners between 18 - 27 with A1 German can apply for a permit to be an au pair for a minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 months. Au pair permits are not renewable and will only be issued once. Citizens of privileged countries listed above may apply in Germany, however, all others must apply in their country of citizenship or residence.
Au pairs are responsible of taking care of children for and light housework in exchange for room and board. The au pair is expected to work a maximum of 30 hours a week and usually earns €260/month plus the cost of a language course and health insurance.
Freiwillige soziale Jahr (FSJ) / Bundesfreiwilligendienst
Another option for young foreigners wanting a low cost way to learn German is by participating in a volunteer project. There are many different projects in different areas and volunteers usually receive room and board and sometimes some spending money.
There are various types of study permits that can be issued under the section - Aufenthalt zum Zweck der Ausbildung Â§ 16 Studium; Sprachkurse; Schulbesuchâ€ of the AufenthG. The relevant paragraph is listed after each category for easy reference.
There are two types of permits for language courses. The regular language course permit does not include a work authorization (AufenthG Â§16 Abs. 5) and requires 18 hrs/wk of German. This permit is only suitable for those who want to learn German and need a short-term residence permit, but do not need to work. Only citizens of countries to whom Germany grants special privileges (see note below) may apply for a permit in Germany without having to return first to their country of origin.
There is a separate category for preparatory courses (studienvorbereitende Maßnahmen ) such as language courses and a Studienkolleg, etc. needed for acceptance into a German university*(AufenthG §16 Abs. 1). This permit includes a limited 120 day/year work authorization (in the first calendar year only during the holidays
) and is valid for a maximum of 2 years. After completing the necessary preparatory courses all foreign students may apply for a regular study permit.
There is another special permit for foreigners intending to apply to a German university (Studienbewerber) that can be issued for a maximum of 9 months (AufenthG §16 Abs. 1 a). It is not possible to work with this permit, but once the permit holder has been accepted to a German university it is possible to apply for a regular study permit.
University students can apply for the classic student visa only after receiving a letter of acceptance (AufenthG §16 Abs. 1). This permit generally includes the 120 day/year work authorization.
Foreign students who drop out of university are generally not allowed to apply for a work permit within Germany and need to first return to their country of origin (AufenthG §16 Abs. 2). However, some ABH will make exceptions for citizens of countries privileged under §41 AufenthV Abs. 1 (but not the group listed in Abs. 2).
After graduation it is possible for foreign students to stay for up to 18 months to look for a job requiring a university degree (AufenthG Â§16 Abs. 4) and full labour market access during this time.
Most non-EU students need to apply for a study permit before arriving in Germany. However, there is a special rule for citizens of the 'special' countries listed in §41 Abs. 1 and Abs. 2 of the AufenthV who only need to apply for their permit within 3 months of arriving in Germany.
Employment with a Study Permit
The standard clause in a study permit with work authorization is for 120 full days or 240 half days per calendar year. Unused days cannot be carried over to the next year. Officially if you work more than 4 hours it counts as a full day (in companies where all employees work 10hrs/day, up to 5hrs/day can be considered a half day). Working for the university/FH, or certain institutes associated with an institute of higher education does not count towards the 120 day allotment if the work is somehow course related. This is the only way for non-EU foreign students to legally work more than 120 days per calendar year.
Foreign students with study permits should not expect to earn enough from part-time jobs to cover all their expenses.
Furthermore, in some areas (especially in the neue Bundesländer) it is very difficult for foreign students to find any type of paid employment. Therefore, it is essential to secure outside funding before commencing your studies; lack of funds and weak language skills are the two most common reasons why foreign students do not complete their studies in Germany.
Students working more than 20 hours a week during the semester are taxed as normal employees (ie. unemployment, pension, and health insurance premiums). The "20 hour rule" is due to German social security laws and applies to all students regardless of country of origin!
Foreign students may work more than 20 hours/week during the semester as long as they do not exceed the 120/240 day restriction (subject to social security contributions of regular employees). Having said that, foreign students residing in Germany on a study permit can have their permits revoked/have their applications for renewals rejected if they do not make adequate academic progress (having to work does not count as an excuse for not passing exams!).
Self-employment is generally explicitly prohibited under a student visa (Selbstständigkeit nicht gestattet).
Officially students need to demonstrate at the time of application that they have sufficient funds (735€/month) to cover all their expenses. There are various ways a student can do this:
- Verpflichtungserklärung (VE) signed by a German resident
- Sperrkonto with ca. €9000 for a year
- Scholarship from a foreign government or German institute
- Guarantee from a German bank
Having said all this, very often this requirement is not enforced for citizens of OECD countries and strictly enforced for (at least) initial permit applications for citizens of non-OECD countries. Whether or not a student needs to have a Sperrkonto is at the discretion of the officials and it is impossible to predict with complete certainty whether one will be required.
Work Permits for Graduates
Graduates of a German university can receive a work permit under BeschV § 27(3) for any position that requires a university degree and is remunerated at market wages. As long as both of these criteria are met, no labor market opinion (Vorrangpräfung) is required (i.e. it is not necessary for an employer to demonstrate that there are not any EU citizens available).
- For the sake of convenience university is being used to describe all institutions of higher education.
Foreigners may also obtain permits to join their spouses and/or minor German children in Germany. The requirements vary depending on the nationality of the spouse resident in Germany.
FZF to German Citizens
The spouses of German citizens are usually required to have A1 German before they will be issued a residence and work permit. The permit will include full labor market access (Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet). Most foreigners will also be required to attend the Intergrationskurs, which includes language courses until B1 as well as a module on life in Germany. The courses are subsidized by the government and provide foreigners a great opportunity to learn German.
NOTE: Only citizens of the privileged countries noted above are allowed to apply for this permit in Germany. All others need to apply for a visa in their home country.
The parent of a minor German child can receive a residence permit (including the right to work) in order to "take care of" his/her German child. It is not necessary that the foreigner lives with child, however, the foreigner must have regular contact with the child. A1 is not required to be issued the initial permit.
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