You might need a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) to live, work and study in Germany. This guide explains how residence permits work.
Who needs a German residence permit?
Most people need a residence permit to live in Germany for more than 90 days.12 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 Germany.1 If you work in Germany, you still need to register your address, get a tax ID, and get German health insurance.
You need a residence permit, but you can get any job you want.2 – More information
- Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States3
You need a residence permit to work, study, or freelance in Germany. You can visit in Germany for up to 90 days without a visa.4 You can apply for a residence permit in Germany, or in your home country.
- Any other country
You need a job seeker visa to visit Germany and look for work.4 You need a residence permit to work, study, or freelance in Germany. You might also need a touirst visa to visit Germany as a tourist. You can’t convert a tourist visa to a residence permit.5
If you are a German permanent resident, you can already live, work and study in Germany. You do not need another residence permit.
Use this tool to know which residence permit you need to stay in Germany.
Types of residence permits
Full list of residence permits – diplo.de
Residence permits to work
If you have a job offer:
- Work visa – How to apply
For working in Germany. You need a job offer to apply for this visa. You might need professional training.
- Blue Card – How to apply
For working in Germany. Only for university graduates, or IT specialists with 3 years of experience. There is a minimum salary requirement.
- 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.
- 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. You must be under 27 years old.10 It’s valid for up to 1 year.
If you don’t have a job offer:
- 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.
Permanent residents can have any job they want. They don’t need permission.
Residence permits to start a business
- Freelance visa – How to apply
For freelancers and self-employed people who want to live in Germany. You must have clients in Germany. The Artist visa is a type of freelance visa.
The work visa and the Blue Card sometimes allow self-employment. Look on your residence permit, and on the Zusatzblatt. If it says Selbständige Tätigkeit gestattet or Erwerbstätigkeit erlaubt, you can be self-employed in addition to your job. You must keep your job, and it must be your main source of income.11
By default, the student visa does allow self-employment. You must get permission from the Ausländerbehörde first. They will update your student visa, and let you study and run a business at the same time. – More information
Residence permits to study
- Student visa
For people who want to study in Germany. You must be enrolled in a German university. You can work during your studies. You can work while you study.
- Internship visa
For university students.6 This residence permit lets you do an internship in Germany. It’s valid for 6 to 12 months.7
Residence permits for your family
- 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.
How to get a residence permit
- At the Ausländerbehörde in Germany
If you apply in Germany, you get a residence permit. Usually, it takes 2 to 3 months, but it can take longer.8 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 States3
- 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. It’s valid for up to 12 months. When you get the National Visa, you can move to Germany and start working or studying. When you arrive in Germany, you must convert your National Visa to a residence permit at the Ausländerbehörde. You must do this before your visa expires.9
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 renew a residence permit
Your residence permit is valid for 6 months to 4 years. Around 8 weeks before it expires, you must go to the Ausländerbehörde to renew it.
They will check if you still meet all the requirements. You might need to bring a lot of documents, so you should prepare in advance.
After a few years, you might qualify for German permanent residence or citizenship.