In this guide, I show you how to apply for the German freelance visa. This residence permit lets you move to Germany to start a business or become a freelancer.

If you apply for the artist visa or the language teacher visa, the process is exactly the same.

Who needs a German freelance visa?

You need a German freelance visa if:

  • You are not a citizen or a permanent resident of Germany, the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland
  • and you want to freelance or run a business in Germany

You do not need a visa to freelance in Germany if:

  • You are a citizen or a permanent resident of Germany, the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland1, 2
  • or your current residence permit allows you to freelance. Look for this line on your residence permit. You must still use your residence permit for its main purpose. For example, if you have a work visa, you must keep your job. Freelancing can't become your main occupation or your main source of income.

Since Brexit, UK citizens also need a freelance visa.

If you are a student, your student visa does not allow you to freelance1, but you can have a student visa and a freelance visa at the same time1. More information here.

If you are an employee, and you want to freelance at the same time, you might need permission from your employer1. Some work contracts don't let you freelance in the same industry as your employer.

The German freelance visa requirements

General requirements

  • You must live in Germany
    You must have a place to live in Germany. You must prove this during your visa interview.
  • You must have health insurance
    All German residents must have health insurance. Many visa applications are rejected because of invalid health insurance. See the health insurance section below.
  • You must make enough money
    You must make enough money to support yourself. This means at least enough for your rent and health insurance, plus 449€ per month2.3.1.1.
  • You must have clients in Germany
    You can't get a freelance visa if all your clients are in another country. During your visa interview, you must show letters of intent from German companies who want to hire you. When you renew your visa, you must prove that you had German clients.

Are you really a freelancer?

Fake self-employment (Scheinselbstständigkeit) is when you work like an employee, but you are treated like a freelancer. This allows companies to hire people without paying for their healthcare and other benefits. In Germany, this is illegal1, 2.

More information about fake self-employment ➞

If you plan to work for a single client, you will rarely get a freelance visa.

Selbständiger or Freiberufler?

Before you apply, you should know if you are freelance (Freiberufler) or self-employed (Selbständiger). If you are Selbständiger, you must bring more documents to your interview1, 2.

  • Freiberufler: Artists, teachers, scientists, engineers, software developers and other independent professionals are Freiberufler according to §18 EStG1. Use the incomplete list of freelance professions. When you apply as a Freiberufler, it's a little easier. There are not as many documents to prepare1.
  • Selbständiger: If you are not a Freiberufler, you are Selbständiger. When you apply as a Selbständiger, it's a little harder. You must prepare more documents1.

For self-employed people (Selbständiger)

If you are a Selbständiger, these are the German freelance visa requirements1:

  1. There is an economic/cultural interest or a regional need for your work1. The regional part is important; you will not get a freelance visa if all your clients are in another country1.
  2. Your business is expected to have positive effects on the economy.
  3. You have personal capital or an approved loan to realize your business idea.

In other words, you must prove that you can support yourself after moving to Germany. During your visa interview, they will check if your business idea makes sense, how much investment it requires, the effects on employment, and your contribution to innovation and research1. The better you prepare, the easier this interview will be.

For freelancers (Freiberufler)

If you are a Freiberufler, it's easier. You need fewer documents.

In Berlin, some Freiberufler get their freelance visa instantly. Others must wait a few weeks or months after their interview.

For students

Your student visa does not allow you to freelance. You must get permission from the Ausländerbehörde1.

If you study in Germany, and your freelance work is related to what you study, you don't need to prove that there is an economic or cultural interest for your work1. This guide has more information.

If your freelance work is not related to what you study, the freelance visa requirements are the same as for everyone else.

For artists and language teachers

The artist visa is exactly like the freelance visa. The only difference is that you get it instantly during your interview1, 2. The artist visa is for artists, language teachers and journalists who want to live in Berlin1. It's only available in Berlin, not in the rest of Germany.

For people who already have a German visa

If you already have a German residence permit that doesn't let you freelance, you can apply for a freelance visa in addition to your current visa1. This allows you to freelance as a student1, or to have a side business as a full-time employee.

Sometimes, your visa or Blue Card already allows you to freelance. Look for this line on your residence permit. This allows you to have a side-business, but you must keep your job. If you only want to be self-employed, you need a freelance visa.

For permanent residents

If you are a German permanent resident, you can already be self-employed. You don't need to apply for the freelance visa. You are ready to start your business.

For people over 45 years old

If you are older than 45, you must also prove that you are prepared for retirement1.

You must prove that you are on a private pension plan that guarantees1:

  • 1340.47€ per month for at least 12 years by the time you are 67 years old
  • or at least 195104€ in 2021 worth of assets1 by the time you are 67 years old

Two ways to apply

There are two ways to apply for the German freelance visa:

  1. Apply in Germany
    Come to Germany, prepare the documents, then apply for the residence permit at the Ausländerbehörde. You can't work until you have your freelance visa, but you can look for clients and prepare for your residence permit interview1. It's easier to find clients, find an apartment and get health insurance if you are already in Germany. You can't work while you wait for your visa. You might have to wait a few months without any income. If you can't get a freelance visa, you must leave Germany. This is riskier and more expensive than applying in your country.
  2. Apply in your country
    Apply for a temporary visa at the German embassy in your country, come to Germany, then convert your temporary visa to a freelance visa. You can start working as soon as you arrive in Germany. This is safer and cheaper than applying in Germany. It takes around 4 months.

The best option depends on your citizenship:

  • If you are a citizen of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States, you can stay in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa1. You can come to Germany, find clients, then apply for the freelance visa Germany1, 2. You can't work while you wait for your freelance visa, so you need enough savings for a few months. You can also apply in your home country.
  • If you are a citizen of any other country, there are two ways to get a freelance visa:
    1. Apply for the freelance visa at the German embassy in your country. This is safer and cheaper.
    2. or apply for a Job Seeker Visa at the German embassy in your country, come to Germany, find a clients, then apply for a freelance visa. This is riskier and more expensive. You must have a university degree or vocational training to get a job seeker visa1.

How to apply in Germany

Step 1: Come to Germany

Come to Germany, and start preparing for your freelance visa application. If you are already in Germany, it's easier to find clients and a place to live. You can't work before you get your freelance visa. You must have enough savings to wait for 3 to 9 months.

Cost of living in Berlin ➞

If you are a citizen of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States, you can come to Germany without a visa. You can stay for 90 days before you need a residence permit.

If you are a citizen of any other country, you might need a Job Seeker Visa to enter Germany. The Job Seeker Visa allows you to come to Germany and look for a job1. It's valid for up to 6 months. It does not allow you to work in Germany. After you find a job, you can apply for a residence permit in Germany. The job. You can't do this with a tourist visa. If you enter Germany with a tourist visa, your work visa or Blue Card application will be rejected1, 2, 3, 4.

If you can, find an apartment before you come to Germany. It's really hard to find an apartment in some cities. It's easier to find an apartment if you already have a job offer. You can also stay in a temporary place: a friend's house, a hotel or a furnished apartment.

Step 2: Make your visa appointment

You must get an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. Book your appointment as soon as possible. It can take months to find an appointment. Your appointment could be months in the future. For the freelance visa, you must go to the Friedrich-Krause-Ufer Ausländerbehörde, not the one on Keplerstraße.

You can also go without an appointment, or send the documents by email.

How to get an Ausländerbehörde appointment in Berlin ➞

If your current visa expires soon, there are ways to stay in Germany until you get your freelance visa.

How to get an Ausländerbehörde appointment ➞ If your visa expires soon

Step 3: Open a bank account

You don't need a bank account to apply for a freelance visa, but it will be useful later1. You need a bank account to register your business, find an apartment, pay your visa application fee, pay your rent, and pay your taxes, etc.

Usually, you need a registration certificate to get a bank account. Some banks let you open an account without it.

German banks for expats ➞

If you can, keep 2 bank accounts: one for you, and one for your business. It's not required, but it's a good idea. It makes accounting easier. I have a personal bank account with N26, and a business account with Kontist.

You will need money in your German bank account. I used Wise (TransferWise) to transfer money from my Canadian bank account to my German bank account.

Step 4: Register your address

You don't need to register your address to get the freelance visa, but it will be useful later. You must register your address to get a registration certificate and a tax ID. You need that to register your business with the Finanzamt.

How to register your address in Berlin ➞

If you can't register your address before your visa interview, bring your rent contract and your Wohnungsgeberbestätigung instead.

Step 5: Get health insurance

You need health insurance to get a German freelance visa.

Which health insurance is valid for a freelance visa? ➞

How to choose German health insurance ➞

Many visa applications are rejected because of invalid health insurance. German public and private health insurance is always valid. Expat health insurance from Feather, Ottonova and Care Concept is also valid. Cheap expat health insurance is often rejected.

If you just moved to Germany and never had German health insurance, you might be forced to get private health insurance or expat health insurance. Public health insurers often reject freelancers from non-EU countries.

If you don't know which health insurance to choose, just talk to a health insurance broker. They will help you find the best, cheapest health insurance for your situation. You will be 100% sure that your insurance is valid for your visa application, and that you have good coverage. Their help is free.

I work closely with Feather and B-Protected since a few years. I know them personally. We met dozens of times and worked on many guides together. Feather helped me save over 400€ per month on health insurance. You can trust their advice.

Step 6: Gather the required documents

List of required documents ↓

The letters of intent are the hardest to find. Look for them as soon as you can.

Step 7: Go to your freelance visa interview

At the Ausländerbehörde ➞ What happens during the appointment

You must go to your interview at the Ausländerbehörde on Friedrich-Krause-Ufer. Your visit should take around 1 hour. Bring all your documents with you.

Your interview will probably be in German. Some interviewers speak English, but this is not guaranteed. If you don't speak German, bring an interpreter with you. If you can afford it, bring an immigration lawyer or a relocation consultant. I often work with Kathleen Parker from Red Tape Translation. She is my expert on German bureaucracy. Booka Local can also go to the Ausländerbehörde with you.

Step 8: Receive your freelance visa

At the Ausländerbehörde ➞ If your visa application is approved

At the Ausländerbehörde ➞ If your visa application is rejected

Some people get their freelance visa immediately during the interview1. This depend on your field, and on how well you have prepared. It's very random. Artists and language teachers almost always receive the visa on the spot. Software developers sometimes get it on the spot1, 2, and sometimes not.

When you get your freelance visa, it will be valid for a period between 6 months and 3 years1, 2. When your visa is about to expire, you can renew it. The process for the visa renewal is very similar.

Step 9: Start your business

Once you have your visa, you still have some work to do before you can run a business in Germany.

  1. If you are a Gewerbetreibende, you must get a Gewerbeschein. If you are a Freiberufler (according to the Finanzamt's definition), you don't need one.1
  2. You must register your business at the tax office (Finanzamt). This is how you get a tax number (Steuernummer), a VAT number (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer), and an entry in the trade register (Handelsregister).
  3. You must make sure your website follows the German and European Union laws.
  4. It's a good idea to get professional liability insurance (Gewerbehaftpflichtversicherung or Berufshaftpflichtverischerung) to protect yourself against lawsuits. You can also get disability insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung), in case you get injured and can't keep working.

Related guides:

How to apply in your country

Step 1: Get your appointment at the German embassy or consulate

You must get an appointment at your local German embassy or consulate. It can be hard to find an appointment. You might only get an appointment 2-3 months later1, 2, 3. Start looking as soon as possible.

Step 2: Prepare for your visa interview

Before you go to your visa interview, you must prepare the required documents. You must also find health insurance and find a place to live in Germany. In your case, you might need expat health insurance for a few months, until you can get public or private health insurance. Expat health insurance from Feather, Ottonova and Care Concept is valid. A health insurance broker can help you choose the correct health insurance.

The list of required documents is different in each country. Check the website of your local embassy or consulate. The list on this page is for people who apply at the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin.

Step 3: Go to your visa interview

You must go to your interview and give your documents. If you have all the required documents, the interview only takes a few minutes.

Step 4: Receive your temporary visa

You must go to the embassy or consulate again. They will give you a temporary visa that lets you enter Germany and start working. The temporary visa is a sticker in your passport.

Step 5: Come to Germany

After you get your visa, you can travel to Germany.

You can start working as soon as you arrive in Germany. You will need to find an apartment, register your address, get a tax ID, open a bank account and a few other things. You can find an apartment, open a bank account and get health insurance before you arrive in Germany. It will save you some time.

How to move to Berlin ➞

Step 5: Start your business

How to start a business in Germany ➞

Step 6: Convert your temporary visa to a residence permit

Your temporary visa is usually valid for 6 months. You must go to the Ausländerbehörde and convert your temporary visa to a freelance visa. Your freelance visa will be valid for up to 3 years.

Required documents

The following documents are required when applying for a German freelance visa. Some of these documents are not mentioned on the official documentation on Berlin.de, but they are still required. The documents you bring should be in German if possible. Some interviewers do not speak English.

Some interviewers will look at every document. Some interviewers will ignore most of the documents. It's important to be prepared, but don't worry too much about every detail.

If you need to translate documents to German, use Lingoking.

Basic documents

  • Freelance visa application form, filled (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels)
    Template - detailed guide
    This form is available in German, English, French and Italian. For instructions on how to fill this form, see this guide. This is only required if you apply for the first time1.
  • Appointment confirmation
    This document shows a lot of useful information about your appointment.
  • 2 passport photos
    Detailed guide
    You need two 35 x 45mm biometric pictures. There are many ways to get biometric photos in Berlin, including from the photo booth at the Ausländerbehörde1. You do not need to cut the passport photos yourself; they have a tool for this1.
  • 100€ for the visa application fees
    The Friedrich-Krause-Ufer Ausländerbehörde accepts Girokarte, cash, Visa and Mastercard1. The visa application fee is between 28€ and 100€1. You only need to pay when you get your visa. If you don't get a visa, you don't need to pay anything. The Ausländerbehörde now accepts credit cards, but bring enough cash just in case.
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
    Detailed guide
    Health insurance coverage is mandatory in Germany. You must prove that you are covered by an approved health insurance company. The previous section has more details.
  • Proof of residence in Berlin (Anmeldebestätigung or Meldebescheinigung)
    Detailed guide
    - Wohnungsgeberbestätigung template
    You must prove that you have a place to live in Berlin. It must be big enough: there must be at least 9m2 per person in the apartment. If you rent a room, it must be at least 6m2. Student residences and communal accommodations are also accepted.2.4
    • The Anmeldebestätigung you received during your Anmeldung. It looks like this. If you lost this document, you can ask for a replacement. This document is not required. If you don't have it, it's okay. If you have not done your Anmeldung yet, bring a proof that you have a booked Bürgeramt appointment.
    • and your rent contract. Bring this document even if you have your Anmeldebestätigung. Some interviewers require it anyway1, 2. Temporary rent contracts are accepted1.
    • and the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from the landlord or the main tenant. This is the document you get from your landlord after signing your rent contract. It confirms that you are allowed to live there. Bring this document even if you have your Anmeldebestätigung. Many interviewers require it anyway1. You can find a template here.

Professional information

  • 2 or more recommendation letters
    Some interviewers will ask for letters of recommendation1. These are letters from your previous employers, clients or professors that recommend you for your work. The letters must recommend you for the profession you are getting a visa for. If possible, these letters should be signed.
  • CV or resume
    Bring a resume to help you reference your professional experience. Make the resume relevant to the visa you are applying for. Don't include irrelevant experience or summer jobs here. The resume can be in English, but it's better to have it in German. If you need to translate documents, use Lingoking.
  • Cover letter (Anschreiben)
    Example 1 - example 2
    Some interviewers simply don’t care about your cover letter, but it's good to have one. It should be in German, in case your interviewer doesn't speak English. Don't forget to sign the letter. If you need to translate documents, use Lingoking.
  • Portfolio / examples of your work
    This is not required, but it's useful1. It helps you explain what you do. Bring printed samples of your work. You need printed examples; a website address will not work1.
  • Professional permit (if applicable)
    If you need a permit to perform your profession (for example, law or medicine), bring it to your interview.
  • Proof of education (optional)
    If you have relevant degrees or certifications, they can prove that you are qualified. Bring the original diplomas, and copies for the interviewer1, 2.
  • Passport
    The interviewer will use your passport to identify you. If you get the visa immediately, the interviewer will put it in your passport. The freelance visa is a sticker that goes in your passport1, 2.

Proof of self-sufficiency

  • Bank statement (Kontoauszug)
    This shows how much savings you have. It proves that you have enough money to support yourself while you start your business. The more money you have in your account, the better. In general, bank statements from foreign banks are accepted, but some interviewers want statements from a German bank1. Just open a German bank account, and transfer some savings with Wise. According to this poll, 3,000€ to 5,000€ in savings is enough1. If necessary, convert the amount to Euros1.
  • Revenue forecast / profit and loss statement (Ertragsvorschau)
    Detailed guide 1 - detailed guide 2 - example 1 - example 2
    Make a spreadsheet with your expected monthly revenue and expenses for your business. Do not include your own rent and expenses. This helps the Ausländerbehörde see if you will contribute to the German economy. Don't forget to include the Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer, health insurance and income tax. Some Ausländerbehörde employees prefer that you use the official template, not your own.
  • Proof of adequate pension plan
    If you are over 45 years old, you need to prove that you have adequate preparations for retirement. See the section above for more details. Proof of a pension plan is not required for these nationalities: Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the United States of America1.
  • Proof of regular income (artists and language teachers only)
    If you are applying for as an artist or language teacher in Berlin, you must prove that you will have a regular income. This can be your own savings, regular bank transfers from your family, or a letter from a guarantor1.

Business strategy

  • Business plan (not required for Freiberufler)
    Detailed guide 1 - detailed guide 2
    In order to get a German freelance visa, you must prove that there is an economic interest or a regional need for your services. In your business plan, you must highlight how you plan to find work and grow your business1. This document is a summary of the company profile, capital requirement plan, business concept and financing plan. You can write your business plan in English or in German.
    • Company profile (not required for Freiberufler)
      Template
      This document gives all the important information about your company: official proof of its existence, names of managing directors, total equity, annual turnover, official business address in your city, official function etc1. The company profile can be in English or in German1.
    • Capital requirement plan (not required for Freiberufler)
      This document details all the expenses you plan for starting your business: equipment purchases, real estate, licensing fees, vehicle fleet etc.
    • Business concept (not required for Freiberufler)
      Template
      This document contains the industry, the target customers, marketing and sales strategy and the market forecasts of your company.
  • Financing plan / Capital budget (Finanzierungsplan)
    Template - detailed guide
    This document details how you plan to finance your business. In this document, you must list your liquid funds, tangible assets, loans, venture capital etc.1
  • 2 or more letters of intent or contracts (Absichtserklärung)
    Template - example - detailed guide
    These letters come from potential clients that want to hire you. They are not necessarily contracts; they only show that companies have the intention to hire you. These letters are really important1, 2, 3. They prove that you can find work in Germany. Letters of intent in German and from German companies are preferred, and sometimes required1, 2. Signed contracts are better than letters of intent. Some Ausländerbehörde employees want letters with salary information1.

Complete document checklist

This list contains the same documents as above. You can use it as a checklist when gathering the documents.

  • Address registration confirmation (Anmeldebestätigung)
  • Appointment confirmation from the Ausländerbehörde
  • Bank statement (Kontoauszug)
  • Business plan (not required for Freiberufler)
  • Cash for the application fee, 100€
  • Cover letter (Anschreiben)
  • CV or resume
  • Financing plan (Finanzierungsplan)
  • Freelance visa application form (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels)
  • Letter of confirmation from your landlord (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung)
  • Letters of intent from German companies x 2-5
  • Passport
  • Passport photos x 2
  • Portfolio / examples of your work, printed
  • Professional permit (optional)
  • Proof of adequate pension plan (if you are over 45 years old)
  • Proof of education (optional)
  • Proof of regular income (artists and language teachers only)
  • Proof of health insurance coverage
  • Recommendation letters x 2-5
  • Rent contract
  • Revenue forecast / Profit and loss statement (Ertragsvorschau)

If possible, translate these documents to German. Lingoking is an easy way to get official translations. Red Tape Translation can also help you, and they have a lot of experience with the Ausländerbehörde.

Questions and answers

How long can I leave Germany with a freelance visa?

You can leave Germany for up to 6 months1. If you want to leave for a longer period, you can request a special permission1.

What is the minimum income for the German freelance visa?

In Berlin, you must earn enough to pay for your rent and health insurance, plus 449€ per month2.3.1.1. For example, if your rent is 800€ per month, and your health insurance 400€ per month, you must earn at least 1649€ per month (800€ + 400€ + 449€).

Can I get a permanent residence with a freelance visa?

Yes. You can apply for a permanent settlement permit after 3 years1. If you are a freelancer (Freiberufler), you can only apply after 5 years1. You can find more information here.

Where to get help

Where to find help ➞ Immigration questions