If you want to move to Germany, you might need a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). A residence permit allows you to live, work or study in Germany.

Who needs a German residence permit?

Most people who want to live in Germany need a residence permit. It depends on your citizenship.

  • European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway
    You don't need a residence permit. You can already live, work and study in Germany1. If you work in Germany, you still need to register your address, get a tax ID, and get German health insurance.
  • Switzerland
    You need a residence permit to live in Germany. This residence permit is very easy to get1, 2. More information here.
  • Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States1
    You need a residence permit to work, study, or freelance in Germany. You can visit in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa1. If you want to stay longer, or if you want to work, study or freelance in Germany, you need a residence permit. You can apply for a residence permit in Germany, or in your home country.
  • Any other country
    You need a residence permit to work, study, or freelance in Germany. If you want to look for work in Germany, you need a job seeker visa1. If you want to visit Germany, you need a tourist visa. You can't convert a tourist visa to a residence permit1, 2, 3, 4.

If you are a German permanent resident, you can already live and work in Germany. You do not need another residence permit.

If you just want to visit Germany as a tourist, you don't need a residence permit, but you might need a Schengen visa. Use this list to know if you need a Schengen visa to visit Germany.

Use this tool to know which residence permit you need to stay in Germany.

Types of residence permits

  • Work visa
    For skilled workers who live and work in Germany. You need a job offer from a German company to apply for this visa1. More information about the work visa.
  • Blue Card
    For skilled workers who live and work in Germany. It's like a work visa, but better. You need a job offer and a university degree to apply for a Blue Card. There is a minimum salary requirement. More information about the Blue Card.
  • Working holiday visa
    For citizens of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and Uruguay. You must be between 18 and 30 years old. This residence permit lets you work and travel in Germany. It's valid for up to 1 year. It's easier to get than the work visa or Blue Card.
  • Youth mobility visa
    For Canadian citizens between 18 and 35 years old. This residence permit lets you work and travel in Germany. It's valid for up to 1 year. It's easier to get than the work visa or Blue Card.
  • Freelance visa
    For freelancers and self-employed people who want to live in Germany. You must have clients in Germany. More information about the freelance visa.
  • Student visa
    For people who want to study in Germany. You must be enrolled in a German university. You can work during your studies.
  • Internship visa
    For university students1. This residence permit lets you do an internship in Germany. It's valid for 6 to 12 months1. More information here.
  • Job seeker visa
    For people who want to look for work in Germany. It gives you 6 months to find a job. When you find a job, you must apply for a work visa or a Blue Card before you start working. More information about the job seeker visa.
  • Au pair visa
    For people who want to be a helper (au pair) for a host family in Germany. You need an au pair contract to apply for the visa.
  • Family reunion visa
    For spouses and family members of German residents. This is how you can bring your family to Germany. With a family reunion visa, your spouse and your children can work or study in Germany.
  • And many others…

Residence permits to work

These residence permits allow you to work in Germany:

Residence permits to start a business

These residence permits allow you to be self-employed in Germany:

How to apply for the freelance visa ➞

How to start a business in Germany ➞

    How to get a residence permit

    You can apply for a residence permit in your home country, or in Germany.

    • At the Ausländerbehörde in Germany
      If you apply in Germany, you get a residence permit. Usually, it takes 2 to 3 months to get the residence permit1, 2, 3. During that time, you can't work or study, so you must have enough savings to survive. You can only apply in Germany if…
      • You are a citizen of of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States1
      • or you already have a German residence permit, and you want to renew or change it.
    • At the German embassy or consulate in your country
      If you apply in your country, you get a National Visa. As soon as you get the visa, you can move to Germany and start working or studying. When you arrive in Germany, you have 3 months to convert your National Visa to a residence permit. You do this at the Ausländerbehörde.

    It's better if you apply in your home country. You can start working as soon as you arrive in Germany, instead of living in Germany without any income.

    How to apply for a work visa or Blue Card ➞

    How to apply for a freelance visa ➞

    Renewing your residence permit

    Your residence permit expires in 6 months to 4 years. You must go to the Ausländerbehörde to renew it. They will check if you still meet all the conditions of your residence permit. Some residence permits (like the freelance visa) are really annoying to renew, because you need a lot of documents.

    After a few years, you can apply for permanent residency. You don't need to renew your permanent residency. It lets you do anything you want: work, study, freelance, etc.

    Need help?

      Where to get help ➞ Immigration questions