This guide shows you how to renew a German freelance visa before it expires. If you don't already have a German freelance visa, and you want to get one, read this guide.

This guide was written for freelancers in Berlin. It is based on my own experience, and it is verified by a relocation consultant. If you live in another city, the process can be a little different.

Note: in this guide, "visa" and "residence permit" mean the same thing. The German freelance visa is a type of residence permit.

Freelance visa renewal process

To renew a German freelance visa, you must...

  1. Gather the required documents
  2. Get an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde
  3. Go to your appointment
  4. Wait for your electronic residence permit

Start to prepare 2-5 months before your visa expires. You need time to gather the documents. Some documents must be verified by a tax advisor (Steuerberater). If you don't have a tax advisor, or if your finances are not organised, you need more time.

You can hire a relocation consultant. They make the application much easier. They will help you prepare your application, and go to the Ausländerbehörde with you.

0. Check if you can renew your visa

When: Before you start

When you renew your freelance visa, they check a few things:

  • You must make enough money
    They will check your invoices and your Steuerbescheid to verify your income. You must make enough money to support yourself1.
  • You must have clients in Germany
    You must have some invoices from clients in Germany1. If all your income comes from other countries, you can't renew your freelance visa.
  • You must have valid health insurance
    This time, you can't have cheap travel insurance. You must have valid German health insurance. There is more information about this below.
  • You have a retirement plan
    If you are over 45 years old, you must prove that you will get a pension of at least 1,332€ per month for at least 12 years, or that you have 194,631€ in assets1, 2021. This is not required if you are a citizen of the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey or the United States1.

    1. Find if you are self-employed, or freelance

    When: Before you start

    The required documents are different for self-employed people (Selbständiger), and for freelancers (Freiberufler).

    2. Get valid health insurance

    When: 3 months before your visa appointment

    When you renew a residence permit, expat health insurance like Mawista or Care Concept is not accepted1, 2. You need a real German health insurance.

    Most of the time, it takes 1-2 weeks to switch to another health insurance. In some cases, it can take up to 3 months. A health insurance broker can help you choose health insurance, and fill the paperwork for you. Their help is free.

    Related guides:

    3. Find a tax advisor

    When: 2-5 months before your visa appointment

    • If you are Selbständiger, you must bring a Prüfungsbericht to your Ausländerbehörde appointment. It must be verified and stamped by a tax advisor.
    • If you are Freiberufler, you must bring a Netto-Gewinnermittlung. You can prepare it yourself, but it must be verified and stamped by a tax advisor1.

    If you don't have a tax advisor, use this list of tax advisors. It takes a few weeks to find a tax advisor. They answer very slowly. Many don't answer at all.

    If you already have a tax advisor, and your finances are organised, you can get these documents in a few days. If your finances are not organised, it can take a few weeks.

    Related guide: List of English-speaking tax advisors in Berlin

    4. Get an Ausländerbehörde appointment

    When: 3 months before your visa expires

    Read How to get an Ausländerbehörde 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.

    Read Ausländerbehörde appointment ➞ If your visa expires soon

    5. Gather the required documents

    When: 1-3 months before your appointment

    Start gathering the required documents as soon as possible. Some documents take time to prepare. If you don't have a tax advisor, or if your finances are not organised, it takes more time.

    Go to the list of required documents

    6. Find a translator

    When: 2-4 weeks before your appointment

    Many Ausländerbehörde employees only speak German1. They will ask many questions. You must speak German, or bring a translator with you. I recommend Red Tape Translation. I have worked with them many times. Booka Local can also go to the Ausländerbehörde with you.

    Related guide: List of relocation consultants in Berlin

      7. Go to your Ausländerbehörde appointment

      At the Ausländerbehörde ➞ What happens during your appointment

      During your appointment, 3 things can happen:

      • If you have all the right documents, you will get a new visa. It will be valid for 1-3 years.
      • If your documents are not convincing, you could get a shorter visa, usually 1 year.
      • If some documents are missing, you will not get a visa. You will get a new appointment. You must go home, get the missing documents, and come back for your next appointment. If your current visa is expired, you will receive a temporary visa (Fiktionsbescheinigung).

      In total, you will spend around 1 hour at the Ausländerbehörde.

      8. Receive your new residence permit

      At the Ausländerbehörde ➞ If your visa application is approved

      At the Ausländerbehörde ➞ If your visa application is rejected

      Required documents

      Bring these documents to your visa interview. The official list of documents is not complete. Ausländerbehörde employees often ask for things that are not in this list.

      • Appointment confirmation (optional)
        This document shows you where to go for your appointment. It also contains your waiting number (Vorgangsnummer). You might have to show this document before you enter the Ausländerbehörde. You can also keep this document on your phone. You do not need to print it.
      • Passport
        The passport must still be valid. It must have two free pages for your new residence permit. If your residence permit is in an older passport, bring the old passport and the new one. You do not need to have empty pages in your passport. They do not put stickers in your passport anymore. Your new residence permit will be a plastic card.
      • Current residence permit
        If you have a plastic residence permit, bring it. If your residence permit is in an older passport, bring the old passport and the new one.
      • 1 passport photo
        You need a 35 x 45mm biometric picture. There are many ways to get biometric photos in Berlin. There is a photo booth at the Ausländerbehörde1, but you should get a picture in advance. You do not need to cut the passport photos yourself; they have a tool for this1.
      • Proof of sufficient income
        You must prove that you make enough income to support yourself in Berlin.
        • If you are self-employed (Selbständiger), you must bring those documents:
          • Audit report form (Prüfungsbericht)
            The document on this page must be filled and stamped by a tax advisor (Steuerberater). It can take a few days to prepare. If your finances are not organised, it can take a few weeks.
          • AND a proof of business registration (aktuelle Handelsregisterauszug)
            You must prove that you are registered in the Handelsregister. You can request it in person, in writing, or online. It costs 10€1. If you are a Kleinunternehmer, this document is not required, because you don't have to be in the Handelsregister. It can take a few days to receive this document.
          • AND a copy of your trade certificate (Gewerbeschein)
            You get this document during your business registration (Gewerbeanmeldung).
          • AND a certification of tax-related matters (Bescheinigung in Steuersachen or Unbedenklichkeitsbescheinigung)
            This document proves that you paid your taxes to the Finanzamt. You can request it in writing from the Finanzamt where your business is registered. It costs 17.90€1. It can take a few days to receive this document.
        • If you are a freelancer (Freiberufler), you do not need a Prüfungsbericht1, 2. Bring those documents instead:
          • Tax assessments (Steuerbescheid)
            When you make a tax declaration, the Finanzamt sends you a Steuerbescheid by post. It looks like this. If possible, bring Steuerbescheide of the last 2-3 years, not just the latest one.
          • AND net profit determination (Netto-Gewinnermittlung)
            You must get this document from a tax advisor. It shows how much profit you have made. It can have different formats. It must be verified and stamped by a tax advisor (Steuerberater).
          • AND bank statement (Kontoauszug)
            Your bank account statement must show that you have a regular source of income. It should also show your health insurance payments and your rent payments. You can request this document from your bank. It does not have a specific format.
          • AND invoices (Abrechnungen)
            Bring invoices from your clients or customers. Those show how you make money as a freelancer. Bring all invoices, not just a sample. The invoices must be sorted by date.
          • AND contracts from your clients
            Bring contracts that prove that you will have more work in the future. Contracts are not officially required, but they might ask for them1. If possible, the contracts must describe the kind of work you will do. You can also bring letters of intent (Absichtserklärung) from future clients.
      • Proof of housing costs
        You must show how much you pay every month for your apartment or home. It must also prove that you live in Berlin.
        • Rent contract (Mietvertrag), if you rent a room or an apartment. Bring the original contract, not a copy. The contract must show how much rent you pay.
        • or a proof of ownership, if you own a house. It must show how much you pay per month.
      • Proof of health insurance coverage (Mitgliedsbescheinigung or Nachweis der Krankenversicherung)
        • Proof of health insurance coverage
          You can request this from your health insurer. You can usually get it from their website.
        • Proof of monthly payments
          Bring a document that shows how much you pay for health insurance. For example, bank transactions that show health insurance payments. This is not officially required, but they sometimes ask for it. Your tax advisor might also need it for your Prüfungsbericht1.
      • Proof of retirement savings
        If you are over 45 years old, you must prove that you will get a pension of at least 1,332€ per month for at least 12 years, or that you have 194,631€ in assets2021.
        • If you are a citizen of the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey or the United States, you do not need this proof.
        • If you are under 46 years old, you do not need this proof.
      • Proof of residence in Berlin
        You must prove that your main residence is in Berlin.
        • Registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung)
          This is the document you receive when you do you register your address (Anmeldung).
        • OR a rent contract + a landlord confirmation letter (Mietvertrag + Wohnungsgeberbestätigung)
          If you don't have a registration certificate, bring your original rent contract - not a copy - and the landlord confirmation letter instead.
      • Short description of your business (optional)
        Prepare a short document that describes your business, and how you make money. You can use this to explain other documents. For example, I described my website and its business model. I included screenshots of the website and graphs of the monthly traffic. I used it to show that my business is growing, and to explain why I do not need contracts for a stable income.

      How to prepare the documents

      You must print hundreds of pages. I printed around 350 pages for my appointment.

      • Print everything
        During your appointment, you can't show documents on your computer, your tablet or your phone. You can't email missing documents. You must have every document with you, printed.
      • Buy a laser printer
        You must print hundreds of pages. I printed around 350 pages for my appointment. You will need extra paper, staples and printer cartridges.
      • Label your documents
        During your appointment, you must quickly find the documents they ask for. Use post-its and a highlighter to make your documents easy to find, and easy to read.
      • Do not bind the documents together
        They will ask for the documents one by one. They will also take some out to scan them.
      • Sort your invoices
        Your invoices must be sorted by date1.

      Frequently asked questions

      How much does it cost?

      A freelance visa renewal costs 96€, or between 22.80€ and 37€ for Turkish citizens1. If you get a Fiktionsbescheinigung, you must pay 13€1.

      Some of the required documents also cost money:

      • The aktuelle Handelsregisterauszug costs 10€1.
      • The Bescheinigung in Steuersachen costs 17.90€1.
      • The Gewerbeschein costs 15€ to 31€1, 2. You probably have it already.
      • The Prüfungsbericht requires a tax advisor (Steuerberater), and costs up to 800€1.
      • The Netto-Gewinnermittlung requires a tax advisor (Steuerberater), and costs 100€ to 150€.

      Keep the receipts. Those expenses are tax-deductible.

      What if documents are missing?

      If some documents are missing, you will get a new appointment. You must go home, collect the documents, and bring them to your next appointment.

      If your documents were not convincing enough, you could get a shorter visa, usually 1 year.

      Need help?

      Where to find help ➞ Immigration questions