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 verified by different relocation consultants. 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.

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

Book an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde at Friedrich-Krause-Ufer. Your appointment should be 4 to 6 weeks before your visa expires1.

Do not wait until the last minute! It's very hard to get an Ausländerbehörde appointment1. Usually, there are no appointments. Sometimes, the appointment website does not work. You must try again and again1. It can take weeks to find an appointment.

If you can't find an appointment, you can also go in person1. You must wake up very early, wait in line, and hope you get an appointment.

Related guide: How to visit the Ausländerbehörde without an appointment

Once you have an appointment, your freelance visa is valid until your appointment date1. You can work until your appointment date, even if your visa expires. Your expired visa does not let you travel in other countries1. You must book the appointment before your visa expires, and you must go to your appointment1.

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 and c/o Germany. I have worked with them many times.

Related guide: List of relocation consultants in Berlin

    7. Go to your Ausländerbehörde appointment

    Arrive 15 minutes before your appointment. You need time to find the correct building and waiting room. You can find the building (Haus), department, waiting room (Warteraum) and waiting number (Vorgangsnummer) in your appointment confirmation email.

    The appointment takes around 15 minutes1. Your number will be called on the television. You must go to the room on the screen, sit in front of an employee, and give the documents they ask for.

    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 must go home, collect the 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

    If your visa is approved, you must go back to the waiting room until the employee calls your number again. If you are sent to the waiting room, it usually means that your visa is approved. They just need time to scan your documents.

    The employee will call you back from the waiting room, then take your fingerprints, your signature, your height and your eye colour. This will appear on your residence permit.

    If you had a German residence permit for over 3 years, you might get an unrestricted residence permit. An unrestricted residence permit lets you do any type of work you want. For example, you could get a full time job, or open a burger restaurant.

    Next, you must pay the fees. You will receive a plastic payment card (Kassenkarte). Bring that card to a payment machine (Kassenautomat). Follow the signs to find the payment machines. These machines only accept cash and EC cards1. They do not accept credit cards, Maestro cards, or foreign debit cards. If you don't have an EC card, you can get cash from this ATM, even at night.

    Keep the payment receipts. It's a tax-deductible expense.

    After you pay, you can go home. In 5-10 weeks, you will receive your electronic residence permit (elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel or eAT). It's a plastic card, not a sticker in your passport. Your new visa will be valid for 1 to 3 years.

    If your visa is not approved, you will receive a new appointment date. You must go home, collect the missing documents, and come back for your next appointment. You need more time to get certain documents, so don't take the closest appointment. If your current visa is expired, you will receive a temporary visa (Fiktionsbescheinigung).

    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 1,332.36€ per month for at least 12 years, or that you have 194,631€ in assets2021. This number changes every year.
      • 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 28.80€ for Turkish citizens. 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?

    The "Working and Living in Germany" hotline can answer your visa questions. It's an official hotline that helps people settle in Germany. They offer help in English and in German.

    The Berlin Ausländerbehörde offers free immigration advice in German, Turkish, Farsi and Arabic. You might also be able to get help in English.

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