Visa guide: How to get a work visa in Germany

If you want to work in Germany as a Non EU-Expat, you’re probably going to need a work visa. The German visa system involves quite a lot of paperwork and there are different visa types and ways to apply for a work visa. But don’t panic – assembling your visa application doesn’t have to be that difficult with our visa guide!

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Who Needs a German Work Visa?

As a Non-EU or Non-EEA nationals you require a work visa for working in Germany. If you plan to stay in Germany for longer than 12 months you have to get some form of residence permit like the EU Blue Card.

Citizens of the following countries can apply for their residence permit to work or study in Germany without a visa:

Citizens from other countries than the ones listed above do need a visa for working or studying in Germany.

What is the difference between work visa and work permit?

Both are permissions for work purposes in Germany. Which one you need depends on the country you are originating from.

Residence permit: 

Work visa:

What type of visa do you need?

EU, EEA and Swiss nationals do not need a visa to work or study in Germany. For everyone else, there are essentially three main types of visa:

  1. Transit visa: for stopovers at German airports
  2. Schengen visa: for short stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period
  3. National visa: for stays of 3-12 months

If you want to work or study in Germany and have not yet applied for a residence permit, you will need a national visa. If you are unsure what you need, the German government has created a handy online tool to help.

All visa applications require a processing fee. These vary based on the region, as well as which kind of visa you’ll need. Try to bring at least EUR 100 in cash, though many also accept credit and debit cards.

For all three of these circumstances, you’ll need to visit your local Ausländerbehörde or, immigration office. Before you proceed, check the website of the office in your city for more valuable information, like opening times, necessary forms and more.

Staying longer than 12 month in Germany:

If you want to stay and work longer than 12 month in Germany you have to get a residence permit. You can apply for the residence permit at your local immigration office.

The EU Blue Card for example is a residence permit for foreign nationals of non-EU countries who are highly skilled in a profession and want to work in Germany.

How do you get a work visa?

Germans are known for their love of paperwork. You need to assemble a lot of different documents to prepare your visa application. There is always a chance that the government worker handling your case might ask for your information; don’t be discouraged!

Bring extra copies of everything and if you have additional documents not listed below that might help, for example, a reference letter from a past employer or an extra copy of your resume, don’t hesitate to bring them along.

What documents do you need for a German work visa?

If this matches your profile, you can apply for a visa to work in Germany. To do so, you must put together the following documents for your visa application:

Prepare two copies of each document, and bring both sets with you to your appointment at the government office. For some professions, like nurses, medical doctors, pharmacists or teachers, more documents may be required.

With this visa, you can now begin your job search in Germany!

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Top tips for your work visa:

  • Choose the reason you give for requesting a visa carefully. Visas can only be converted into a residence permit for the same purpose. Your local German mission can advise on this.
  • Visa application requirements are extensive – check out ottonova’s detailed work visa guide and special expat tariffs.

How do you get a work visa if you already have a job offer?

Congratulations, if you have a job offer it is the simplest way to get your work visa for Germany! If you’ve already gone through the interview process, finalized your offer and received a signed working contract, you’re almost done. All that’s left to do is visit the Kreisverwaltungsreferat, the German regional administration office, and get your work visa accepted and approved.

What documents do you need?

Once you have assembled these documents, look online to make an appointment. These can fill up months in advance, so if you can’t find an appointment soon enough, you must go in person.

How do you get a work visa if you are still looking for a German job?

Not everyone is fortunate enough to arrive in Germany with a job offer in hand. Luckily, the German government understands this, and offers a German work visa for jobseekers.

This visa is valid for up to six months, during which time you can check out the job market and find jobs you can apply for. Be aware that once you receive an offer and get the job, you need to apply for a work permit to in Germany for that specific offer.

What requirements do you have to meet for your work visa?

  • Bachelor’s degree from a German university, or the equivalent for a foreign university
  • At least five years of work experience in your field
  • Financial means to cover your expenses while in Germany (i.e. bank statements)
  • Health insurance for your time in Germany
Worker Visa Germany

You need help with German health insurance?

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Does ottonova help with my visa application?

Definitely! ottonova is a fully licensed German health insurance and fulfills all regulatory requirements, unlike other providers such as Mawista, Cigna or Allianz Worldwide Care.

We are regulated in § 257 SGB V, which is necessary for your visa applications. This also includes the Expat tariff.

Tips for getting a job in Germany

If you are looking for a job in Germany you can look on the large job platforms but there are also a lot of specializes job websites for a certain profession or sector like IT, start-up or Non-profit organizations. Of course you can also look directly on the websites of companies that interest you or hire a recruiting agency that will assist you with finding a job.

Where to look for a job in Germany?

1. Job websites such as:

2. Apply directly on company websites

3. Find special job platforms for your profession

4. Sign on for a recruitement agency

What documents do I need to apply for a job in Germany?

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Your free visa checklist!

Learn how to get your visa and what you need to know about your move to Germany with our fact sheet.

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How do I get my work visa in Germany if I'm a freelancer?

Freelancer Visa Germany

If you’re a practicing freelancer and would like to continue your work, there’s also a German work visa for you. You’ll need to assemble the right paperwork to start putting together your visa application. It’s a long list, but each document is very important to ensure that your application is accepted. Here’s what you’ll need:

What documents do I need for a visa as a freelancer?

What type of health insurance is right for me?

Expats should at least consider private health insurance. Private policies often cost much less than public insurance or private insurance in other countries. Also private health insurance in Germany offers wide-ranging benefits, especially if you do not plan to stay in Germany longer or permanently.

ottonova is fully regulated by the BaFin and therefore fulfilling the requirements (§ 257 7Abs. 2a Satz 1 SGB V and the § 61 Abs. 5 SGB XI) for you to be able to apply for a visa with your ottonova insurance, which also includes our Expat tariff of course.

If you are eligible for private health insurance and you are in Germany on a visa or a limited permit, we can offer you the Expat Tariff up to five years.

We can help you write your cancellation letter for your current insurer and send it to you by email. You simply need to add your insurance number and signature and then send it to your insurer. We are unfortunately not allowed to contact your current insurer directly.

Marie-Theres Rüttiger
HIER SCHREIBT Marie-Theres Rüttiger

Marie-Theres is online editor for health and insurance topics at ottonova. She researches and writes mainly about private health insurance, (e-)health and digital innovation that make life better.

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