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Germany Immigration, Visa, Employment, Residency and Sponsorship


Which industries employ expats in Germany?

Any industry that cannot find a satisfactory person already in Germany. Especially, IT professionals, physicians, and nurses are needed.

How can I get a permit to work in Germany?

You need to find an employer, get a binding offer (= employment contract), then apply for your work permit at the immigration office, receive the permission and only then you may start working. Approval of the permit depends on your citizenship (EU or not) and then qualifications. Generally, when no German or European citizens are available on the labor market for that proposed job, you can get it. Europeans do not need to apply for a work permit and may work for any employer.

It is the necessary to first have a concrete job offer. Until you have either unrestricted work permit or a residence permit, your permit is exclusively restricted to this one employer. You can change employers. This requires that you find an employer, get an offer, and apply at the authorities.

What are the types of work permits offered?

You either have one restricted to your momentary (/potential) employer or an unrestricted one.

Can I apply for a work permit on my own?

Yes, an expat can apply by himself. The expat is always the applicant. If you are not sure what to apply or what is the best strategy best get at least an initial consultation from a lawyer. A laywer’s job in this regard is to make sure the expat overcomes German officialdom. German authorities crave for proof of your story.

What documents do I need to submit?

You will typically have to submit a copy of your passport, job contract, application form, one biometric passport picture and whatever else is needed to support the your application.

Where can I check the status of my application?

That is not possible at all. The authorities will contact you – in 99% of all cases. They usually exaggerate the speed they will employ but they seriously process all applications. However, if you have not heard from any authority for over six months you are entitled to file a complaint in court that the office may decide. If you have not heard from the consulate after three months latest, go ahead and contact them.

What will my proof of employment residence visa be?

At the moment, they are switching from stickers to electronic ID cards. The expat will get either a stamp in his passport or an ID card. Depending on the kind of residence permit, this card will be either blue or bright red.


If my passport expires before my employment visa expires, what should I do?

You have to get your new passport. After obtaining the new one, you have to visit immigration again to have your passport linked to the permit. Best is to make an appointment online.

How can I transfer my employment visa from one employer to the next?

You have to apply for the new employment – almost as if you were applying from home. You will are not allowed to work for the new employer until you have the permit.

Can I come to Germany on a Tourist Visa to find work and start work instantly?

No, never. There is no exception whatsoever. Even when you have a visa waiver, you may only work after you have received the permission. However, since August 2012, academics have the possibilty to enter Germany and live here with the purpose of searching for a job. Click here to read more about this.

What happens when an Employer asks me to work immediately without a valid work permit?

That is illegal and can be fined with up to €300k or imprisonment for the employer and / or employee. Tax evasion or other tax related crimes will be additionally prosecuted. The customs office is the competent body to investigate illegal work “Schwarzarbeit”. You will also be banned from entry for up to five years.

How long does it take to process work / residence permit?

Processing of the papers takes up to two months. The speed varies from state to state in Germany and the country of your origin. You will get a residence permit showing your exact status and explicitly determining whether or not you are permitted to work.

How long is the validity of the work / residence permit?

The validity is typically for one or two years. The permit (=”check card”) will explicitly say so. You may remain with your employer as long as you wish. When you want to change then you will have to apply to do so. Your residence permit exactly distinguishes your status.

Aside from being hired by an employer, how else can I get a permanent permit?

Other options for obtaining a settlement permit, which allows you to work are self-employment (freelancing) and family reunion. The working spouse can always apply for a settlement permit for his direct family (spouse and minor children). When the other spouse works, then this person’s status will be independent. Children can apply for their parents a residence permit under very exceptionally basis and only to prevent an extreme undue hardship. It is imaginable as an ultimate exception that your parents may come in on the grounds of family reunion. However, the requirements are very high.

Can I get a settlement permit when I get my work / residency permit?

You will not get permanent residency upon receiving a visa or residence permit!When five years of employment have passed, you can think of applying for a settlement permit. The other most important details are 60 months of old-age security premiums, clean criminal record, and an integration course. Click here if you are interested in further details.

How long can I stay outside Germany before the work permit expires?

You may leave Germany for at most six consecutive months and then by law your permit becomes ex officio valid. However, you can apply to have that period extended – but only prior to expiration.

Is there a grace period to renew my work / residence permit?

Not really. You have to reapply prior to expiration. Do so several months ahead because offices will not give appointments very quickly. There is only grace for your residential status when you have applied on time but the office needs longer to decide on the application. You must get a special certificate for this. If you apply belatedly then you are in an awful limbo situation – not really legal but also not absolutly illegal.

After my work permit expires in the country, what are the reasons to prevent me from re-entering the country or accepting a new position from the same or another employer?

The most obvious reasons you can’t re-enter Germany would be:

What are the fees I have to pay for while I’m on my work permit?

Permit fees are around € 100 – 200 per person and depend on the kind of applied residence. Taxation depends on your taxable income. Taxation starts with 14% and goes up in brackets to 45%. For more on taxation, please click here.

Other government fees you need to consider depends on what you do. You will have to consider paying fees for public TV, radio, and computer with internet access. For more on GEZ click here.

How can my partner / spouse or children who work and live in Germany sponsor my residency?

The concept of “sponsorship” is not known in Germany. The applicant has to have the reason for living in Germany. If the breadwinner is married and has children it will be possible for the family to follow. This will be true if the salary suffices for all to live off. In legalese, this is called “family reunion”.

How can I apply for permanent residency and acquire citizenship when I get my employment visa?

You have to write a letter that you apply for permanent residency and show that you meet the requirements. If wish to know the requirements for citizenship and permanent residency, click here.

I am German currently living overseas with a partner having a non-European nationality. What are the requirements for my partner to be able to reside with me in Germany?

Your spouse has to apply for a residence permit for family reunion to a German. The spouse is entitled to it.If your spouse wants to work in Germany, then it might make sense that your partner independently applies for a residence permit.


Where can I find more information on work visa, residency and citizenship?

Legal Guide to Germany,

Will an expat’s child born in Germany acquire German citizenship?

Next to the possible citizenship from the parents, a child can get German citizenship but only optionally until 18. One of the parents must have maintained habitual and lawful residence in Germany for eight years and have settlement permission for three years. For further details click here.

There are many issues you need to consider. You have to visit several German authorities and your countries representations. You can obtain a checklist here.


What should I do to have a successful relocation?

Once you have your residence permit, you are allowed to live in Germany wherever you want. The only thing you have to take care of in this regard is that you have to register your physical address at the Meldebehörde (registration office) – just like everyone else has to do.



Alexander is a Foreigners Lawyer specializing in Immigration, Commerce, and Tax Returns in Germany. Having first hand intercultural experience as an expat, Alexander knows what it means to be away from home. He guarantees you our piece of legal mind to enable you to make the decisions you require.

E:     W: , nor the author guarantee the accuracy of the information on this page. It is recommend that particularly prior to your travels you check with the relevant government authority. Please contact us with any updates you may have. Last updated 14 February 2013.

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