How to apply for a German work visa

The German work visa is a residence permit to work in Germany.

With a work visa, you can…

This guide explains how to apply for a work visa in Berlin or in your country.

Who needs a work visa?

The work visa is a type of residence permit. You need a residence permit to live in Germany if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the EU, EEA or Switzerland.

Who needs a residence permit ➞

Work visa requirements

To get a work visa, you need…18

  • A job offer
    You must find a job before you apply for the work visa.15 It can be a short-term or part-time job. It can be a remote job. You must be an employee, not a freelancer.
  • A fair salary
    There is no minimum salary, but you can’t be underpaid.42 You must earn as much as Germans who have a similar job.32 – Compare your salary
  • Qualifications for this job
    You must know how to do your job. For example, to get a car mechanic job, you must know how to fix cars. Your job can be unrelated to your education.31
  • Permission to do this job
    You must have all the permits and special qualifications needed for the job.12 For example, doctors, engineers and lawyers need special qualifications. – Find the requirements for your job

If you are not a citizen of Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States, you must have…38

  • Vocational training or a university degree
    You must be trained to do this job. Your education or training must be recognised by the Agentur für Arbeit. It must be equivalent to 2 years of training in Germany. If you have a university degree, try to get a Blue Card; it’s better. Your job can be unrelated to your education.31

If you are not a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States, you must have…49

  • An employer in Germany
    Your employer must have an office in Germany, even it it’s a remote job.30

If you are over 45 years old, you must have…43

  • A net salary of at least 49,830€ per year
  • or a pension plan that guarantees an income after retirement

You do not need to speak German to get a work visa.27

Work visa alternatives

If you can’t get a work visa, there are other residence permits that let you work in Germany:

  • Blue Card
    For skilled workers with a university degree, or IT specialists without a degree. There is a minimum salary. The Blue Card is better than the work visa: you get it faster, and you can get permanent residence faster. – How to apply
  • Working Holiday Visa and Youth Mobility Visa
    For young people from certain countries. Work in Germany for 1 year. No salary requirement. No education needed.
  • Job seeker visa
    For looking for work in Germany. It gives you 6 months to find a job. When you find a job, you can apply for a work visa or a Blue Card.
  • Internship visa
    For university students. Do an internship in Germany for up to 6 months.
  • Au pair visa
    Work as an au pair. Minimum income: 280€ per month. No education needed.
  • Family reunion visa
    For spouses and children of German residents. You can work, study or freelance in Germany.16 No income needed. No education needed.
  • Permanent residence or EU citizenship
    You can already live and work in Germany. You don’t need a residence permit.

More residence permit options ➞

How to apply in Berlin

You can apply for a work visa after you move to Germany:

  1. Come to Germany
  2. Apply for a work visa at your local Ausländerbehörde. You must apply at the Ausländerbehörde where you live. You can’t apply in another city.

You can apply in Germany if…

If you can’t apply in Germany, you must apply in your country.

Usually, you can’t work while you wait for your work visa.35 You might wait a few months with no income. It’s cheaper and safer if you apply in your country, then come to Germany when you are allowed to work.

Need help? An immigration lawyer or a relocation consultant can take care of everything. It costs 500 to 2,000€.45 Your employer might pay for it, or hire someone to help you.

1. Come to Germany

Come to Germany and look for a job.

  • If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States
    You can come to Germany without a visa. You can stay 90 days in Germany without a residence permit. You can look for a job, and apply for the work visa in Germany.9 You can’t work before you get your work visa.
  • If you have a German residence permit
    Your current residence permit stays valid until you get your work visa. If your residence permit expires after you sent your work visa application, you don’t need to leave Germany.
  • If you have a job seeker visa
    You can come to Germany and look for a job. When you find a job, you can apply for the work visa. While you wait for your work visa, you can work 10 hours per week for your new employer.11
  • If you have a tourist visa
    You can’t apply for a work visa with a tourist visa. Your application will be rejected. You must apply in your country.25

If these options don’t apply to you, you must apply for the work visa in your country.19

2. Find a job

You must find a job before you apply for the work visa.15 Your job offer must meet the work visa requirements.

How to find a job ➞

3. Prepare your work visa application

Before you apply for the work visa, you must…

If you are not a citizen of Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States, you must also…

  • Get your education recognised
    Your professional training must be equivalent to 2 years of professional training in Germany. It must be recognised by the Agentur für Arbeit. The recognition process depends on your profession.21 It takes weeks to a few months.8 If you studied in Germany, your education is already recognised. – How to get your education recognised

If you bring your family to Germany, you can apply for their family reunion visa at the same time. You must prepare these documents too.

While you wait for an Ausländerbehörde appointment, you should also…

4. Apply for the work visa

There are 2 ways to apply for a work visa in Berlin:

How to get an Ausländerbehörde appointment ➞

When you book an Ausländerbehörde appointment, you must choose the type of residence permit:

  • If you have a university degree, choose “Economic activity”, then “Residence permit for qualified skilled workers with an academic education (sect. 18b para. 1)”
  • If you have another kind of professional training, choose “Economic activity”, then “Residence permit for qualified skilled workers with vocational training (sect. 18a)”

5. Wait

The Ausländerbehörde will process your application. If you send your documents online, it takes a few weeks to get invited for an appointment. After your Ausländerbehörde appointment, it takes 6 to 10 weeks to get your work visa. If you wait more than 3 months after you apply, you can sue the Ausländerbehörde for inaction.20

In most cases, your current National Visa or a residence permit stays valid while you wait. If it expires, you don’t have to leave Germany.

If your residence permit expires soon ➞

6. Go to your work visa appointment

Later, the Ausländerbehörde will email you. They will invite you for an appointment.

When you go to your appointment, bring…7

  • The required documents
    Bring all your application documents, even if you already sent them online.47 In your appointment invitation, the Ausländerbehörde might ask for more documents.
  • Your appointment confirmation, printed
    You can’t enter the Ausländerbehörde without it. They check at the door. You must print it.
  • Passport photo (35 × 45 mm)
    You do not need to cut the photos yourself; they have a tool for this. The photo should be less than 6 months old.36 – Where to get passport photos.
  • Cash, Visa, Mastercard or Girocard
    You must pay the 100€ application fee.44 You must sometimes pay later, when you pick up your work visa. This fee is tax-deductible, so keep the receipt.
  • A translator (optional)
    Many Ausländerbehörde employees only speak German. If you don’t speak German, bring an interpreter or a German-speaking friend.53 It’s not required, but it helps. I recommend Red Tape Translation. Relocation consultants and immigration lawyers can also translate for you.

The appointment takes 15 to 60 minutes. You spend most of that time waiting. During the appointment, they take your fingerprints for your work visa.

If they approve your freelance visa, they must print the plastic card. This takes a few weeks. You might get a temporary certificate while you wait. It allows you to start working, but it’s not a valid travel document. It does not allow you to re-enter Germany.

What happens at the Ausländerbehörde ➞

What happens after your appointment ➞

7. Get your work visa

6 to 10 weeks after your Ausländerbehörde appointment,22 you get 2 letters:

  1. The eID activation code
    This letter arrives first. Save it for later. You need it to activate the eID function of your work visa.
  2. Your work visa
    Around 2 weeks later, you receive your work visa, or an invitation to collect it at the Ausländerbehörde.28 If you did not pay the 100€ fee, you must pay it during your Ausländerbehörde visit. The fee is tax-deductible, so keep the receipt.

Your work visa is a plastic card. The expiration date is written on it. It’s usually valid for 3 years.17 If you have a limited work contract, your work visa is valid for a shorter time. For example, if you have a 2 year work contract, your work visa is valid for 2 years + 3 months.3

You also get a Zusatzblatt. It describes the conditions of your work visa. For example, it can say that you can freelance, or that you can only work for your current employer.

Check if the information on your work visa is correct. The Ausländerbehörde sometimes makes mistakes.

8. Start working in Germany

Starting a new job in Germany ➞

Your first month in Germany ➞

How to apply in your country

You can also apply for a work visa in your country, before you move to Germany.26 This is cheaper and safer, because you can start working as soon as you arrive in Germany.34

To apply in your country:4

  1. Get your vocational training recognised.
  2. Get an appointment at the German embassy or consulate in your country.
  3. Go to your appointment and give your documents. The required documents are different in each country. Find the list on your embassy or consulate’s website.
  4. Receive a National Visa. It lets you to come to Germany and start working.
  5. After you arrive in Germany, convert your National Visa into a work visa.

1. Get your education recognised

To apply for the work visa, you must have a university or vocational training. Your education must be recognised in Germany. It must be equivalent to 2 years of training in Germany.46

You must get your training recognised before you apply for your work visa. The process depends on your profession.21 It takes a few weeks to a few months.8 There might be an interview or a competence test, and you might need to pay for it.24

How to get your education recognised ➞

If you are a citizen of Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States, you don’t need a degree or vocational training. Skip this step.

If you studied in Germany, your education is already recognised.

2. Find a job

You must find a job before you apply for the work visa.15 Your job offer must meet the work visa requirements.

How to find a job ➞

3. Get an appointment at the German embassy or consulate

Get an appointment at the German embassy or consulate in your country. It can take months to get an appointment.33

Find your German embassy or consulate ➞

4. Prepare for your interview

Before your embassy or consulate appointment, you must…

If you bring your family to Germany, you can apply for their family reunion visa at the same time. Prepare these documents too.

5. Go to your National Visa appointment

Go to your appointment at the embassy or consulate, and give your documents. If you have all the required documents, it only takes a few minutes.

6. Receive your National Visa

In a few weeks (or a few months), you must go to the embassy or consulate again. They will give you a National Visa. This temporary visa lets you come to Germany and start working.

7. Come to Germany, start working

With your National Visa, you can travel to Germany and start working.40

After you arrive in Germany, register your address, get a tax ID and open a bank account. These things will be useful later.

How to move to Berlin ➞

Starting a new job in Germany ➞

8. Convert your National Visa into a work visa

Your National Visa is valid for 3 to 12 months.29 After your arrive in Germany, you must convert it into a work visa at the Ausländerbehörde.

In Berlin, you must convert your National Visa 8 weeks before it expires, not sooner.39

To convert your National Visa into a work visa:

  1. Book an Ausländerbehörde appointment
    Start looking for an appointment 3 to 4 months before your National Visa expires. It’s really hard to find an appointment. If your National Visa expires soon, send your documents online, it’s faster.
  2. Go to your appointment
    During the appointment, they take your fingerprints for your work visa. It takes around 15 minutes.
  3. Wait for your work visa
    6 to 10 weeks, you get a letter. It’s your work visa, or an invitation to collect your work visa at the Ausländerbehörde.
  4. Activate your eID (optional)

Your work visa is a plastic card. It’s valid for up to 3 years. You can renew it before it expires.

Required documents

These are the required documents in Berlin.2 If you apply elsewhere, they require different documents. Check the website of the Ausländerbehörde, embassy or consulate where you apply. – Find your embassy or consulate

  • Passport
    If you send your documents online, include a colour scan of your passport. If you go to the Ausländerbehörde, bring your passport. You get it back during the appointment; they do not keep it.
  • Passport photo (35 × 45 mm)
    The photo should be under 6 months old.36 You do not need to cut the photos yourself; they have a tool for this. – Where to get passport photos
  • Job contract or job offer
    Bring the original, not a copy.
  • Residence permit application form (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels)
    Download the form here or on Berlin.de.
  • Job description form (Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis)
    Your employer should fill this form and sign it. Download the form here or on Berlin.de.
  • Proof of health insurance
    You need valid health insurance. Travel insurance is not accepted. Ask a health insurance broker to help you choose health insurance.
    • Health insurance card
    • or proof of public health insurance
      Get a Mitgliedsbescheinigung nach 175 SGB V from your health insurer or your health insurance broker.
    • or proof of private health insurance
      Bring your insurance contract, a Mitgliedsbescheinigung, and bank statements that show health insurance payments. Get these documents from your health insurer or your health insurance broker.6
  • Proof of housing
    You need a place to live where you can register your address. If you apply in Berlin, your home address must be in Berlin.
    • Lease
      It must show the size of your apartment. Your apartment must be big enough. You must make enough money to pay your rent. It can be a temporary lease or a sublet.
    • and tenancy confirmation (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung)
      Some temporary apartments and sublets don’t give you this document. You might not get a work visa without it.1
    • and registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung)
      You must registered your address to get this document. The Ausländerbehörde might accept other proofs of your address, or a Bürgeramt appointment confirmation.5
  • Occupation practice permit (Berufsausübungserlaubnis)
    You must have all the permits and special qualifications needed for the job.12 For example, doctors, engineers and lawyers need special qualifications. – Find the requirements for your job
  • Translations
    If your documents are not in German, bring translations. For certificates and official documents, bring certified translations. They sometimes accept untranslated documents, but don’t take the risk. Get translations from Red Tape Translation or Lingoking.

If you are not a citizen of Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, the United Kingdom or the United States, you also need…

  • Proof of vocational training
    A certificate or a degree that proves that you received professional training to do this job.
  • Certificate of equivalence
    Proof that your professional training is recognised in Germany. If you got professional training in Germany, you don’t need this.50

If you send your documents online, use PDF files or photos. Word documents and other formats are unreliable.37

If you apply in person, print everything. Use A4 paper. Do not staple the pages together.

After you get your work visa

Bring your family to Germany

The family reunion visa lets you bring your family to Germany. If they have a family reunion visa, your family members can work, freelance or start a business in Germany.

You can apply for it at the same time as your work visa.

Activate your eID

You can use your work visa to log into online government services. For example, you can use it to apply for unemployment benefits. You must activate this feature at the Ausländerbehörde. Activate your eID before you need it.

How to activate your eID ➞

Renew your work visa

Your work visa is valid for up to 3 years. You must renew it around 8 weeks before it expires.

You can also apply for permanent residence after 4 years.10

If you change jobs

When you change jobs, tell the Ausländerbehörde. You might need their permission to work for a different employer.

What happens to your work visa ➞

If you lose your job

If you lose your job, your work visa stays valid. Tell the Ausländerbehörde as soon as you can. In Berlin, they give you 6 months to find another job.

While you are unemployed, you can get unemployment benefits.

What happens to your work visa ➞

How to get unemployment benefits ➞

If you travel with a work visa

Your work visa lets you visit other Schengen area countries without a visa.

With a work visa, you can leave Germany for up to 6 months.23 To travel longer, you need permission from the Ausländerbehörde.

Self-employment with a work visa

Your work visa might 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.52

Make a tax declaration

Your immigration expenses are tax-deductible, so keep all your receipts. At the end of your first year, make a tax declaration. You will pay less income tax.

Where to get help

Where to ask immigration questions ➞

The Ausländerbehörde can answer your questions, but they are very hard to contact. They can take months to answer. Sometimes they don’t answer at all.

How to contact the Ausländerbehörde ➞

Sources and footnotes
  1. Elliot Herman (October 2023), multiple relocation consultants (October 2023) 

  2. Berlin.de, Business Immigration Service 

  3. §18 Abs. 4 AufenthG, Berlin.de, Fiona Macdonald (August 2023) 

  4. DARE Consulting (page 8) 

  5. Kathleen Parker at Red Tape Translation (December 2023), Berlin.de 

  6. Berlin.de, Business Immigration Service 

  7. Berlin.de 

  8. DARE Consulting (page 9), BAMF 

  9. §41 AufenthV, Berlin.de 

  10. §18c Abs. 1 AufenthG, Berlin.de, Make it in Germany 

  11. §20 AufenthG, Berlin.de, Make it in Germany 

  12. §18 AufenthG 

  13. europa.eu, ind.nl, HousingAnywhere 

  14. §29 AufenthG 

  15. §18 Abs. 2 AufenthG 

  16. germany-visa.org 

  17. §18 Abs. 4 AufenthG 

  18. Berlin.de 

  19. Multiple relocation consultants (October 2023) 

  20. §75 VwGO 

  21. DARE Consulting (page 9), BAMF 

  22. Berlin.de 

  23. §51 Abs. 1 AufenthG 

  24. BAMF 

  25. Auswärtiges Amt, §3 AufenthG, reddit.com/r/germany, facebook.com, einwanderer.net 

  26. make-it-in-germany.com 

  27. make-it-in-germany.com, DARE Consulting 

  28. It depends on your case worker (October 2023) 

  29. Ina Bozhilova at Noah Mobility (July 2023), Berlin.de 

  30. Berlin.de 

  31. New in November 2023. Make it in Germany, §18a AufenthG, §18b AufenthG, Red Tape Translation 

  32. DARE Consulting (page 10), Agentur für Arbeit 

  33. DARE Consulting (page 14) 

  34. Berlin.de, Multiple relocation consultants (October 2023) 

  35. Berlin.de 

  36. It depends on the case worker. Multiple relocation consultants (November 2023) 

  37. Berlin.de 

  38. §26 BeschV, DARE Consulting (page 25), German embassy in Belgrade 

  39. Berlin.de, Elliot Herman (October 2023), Anja Kunzke (October 2023) 

  40. Berlin.de 

  41. make-it-in-germany.com 

  42. BAMF, Auswärtiges Amt 

  43. Berlin.de, BAMF 

  44. Berlin.de 

  45. Multiple relocation consultants (November 2023) 

  46. make-it-in-germany.com 

  47. Elliot Herman, relocation consultant (December 2023) 

  48. Emily at Archer Relocation (November 2023) 

  49. §26 BeschV 

  50. Berlin.de, §26 BeschV 

  51. Multiple relocation consultants (November 2023), German embassy (US), visaguide.world 

  52. Red Tape Translation 

  53. Touring Artists