German work visa

Work in Germany: Getting a German work permit

Comments20 comments

If you want to work in Germany – and you're not from the EU/EEA or Switzerland – you'll need a German work permit, which will be linked to your residence status in Germany.

Working in Germany offers a good work-life balance, although unless you are from the EU/EEA or Switzerland you'll need a German work visa and permit.

Work in Germany averages about 1,371 hours per year, or an estimated 26.3 hours per week, the lowest in the world according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). However, Germany also consistently ranks in the world's top 10 productive countries. Added to this is a minimum requirement of 20 paid vacation days per year (though the average is 30) and up to 13 public holidays, meaning Germany is a work hard, play hard culture.

Getting a work visa in Germany isn't always easy, less so for non-EU/EEA/Swiss citizens, who typically need a residence permit with work authorisation. The right to work in Germany – and to what extent you can work -– will be detailed on your residence permit.

If you're joining a relative who has permission to work in Germany, you will also be allowed to work. However, in most other cases, citizens from countries outside of the EU/EEA/Switzerland can only work in Germany if the position cannot be filled by an EU worker, or if they are highly skilled or highly qualified.

As Germany is keen to attract professionals into the country long-term, such as natural scientists (biologists, physicists and chemists), engineers, IT specialists, other senior personnel and academics, these people are granted preferential approval for a German work visa or permit.

Before checking how to apply for a work permit in Germany, it's important to understand the different German work visas available for foreign nationals.

Germany work visa – work visa Germany

Types of German work visa and permits

Permits for general employment

If you are coming to work in Germany in general employment (ie. a job that does not require you to be highly skilled or highly educated), you will need to apply for a German residence permit for the purpose of general employment (essentially a German work visa and German work permit), and you will only be eligible if the position cannot be filled by a worker from the EU/EEA or Switzerland.

Before applying for a German work permit, you will need to have a vocational qualification and a firm offer of a job in Germany; you will need to show both evidence of your qualification and an employment contract or letter of intent in your application. Find information on German recognition for foreign vocational qualifications here.

The permit is usually granted for one year and is extendable as long as your situation remains the same. After five years of working in Germany, you can apply for a settlement permit or EU right of residence in order to stay in the country indefinitely.

To apply for a residence permit to work in Germany, contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country/legal country of residence. You can find the German work permit application form in different languages here:

Permits for university graduates

Do you have a university degree? If you're a foreign graduate coming from abroad, hold a recognised university degree and have sufficient funds to support you during your stay, you can come to Germany on a six-month residence permit to look for work, known as the jobseeker's visa. You are not permitted, however, to undertake any work in Germany while looking.

Foreign graduates from German universities who want to stay and look for work can apply to extend their existing residence permits for up to 18 months (and work unrestricted), as long as they have evidence of their degree, have health insurance and can support themselves financially.

Once you have found employment you can apply for a German work permit. As from August 1, 2012, if you have a recognised university degree comparable to a German degree, and a firm job offer with annual gross earnings of least EUR 50,800 (or in the case of highly qualified people in mathematics, natural sciences or technology, or medical doctors, a salary of EUR 39,624), you can apply for an EC Blue Card (Blaue Karte EU). If you don't meet the income requirement, then you will have to apply for a residence permit (as above).

This is usually granted for four years (or the duration of your contract) and gives you certain benefits, such as the ability to apply for a settlement permit after 33 months instead of five years (or 21 months if you can prove a B1 level of German proficiency) and immediate access to work in Germany for spouses. 

EU Blue Cards

To apply for an EU Blue Card in Germany you need:

  • a university degree from a German university or equivalent from a foreign university; and
  • a guaranteed job in Germany with an income of EUR 50,800 EUR (EUR 39,624 in shortage occupations).


  • Residence for four years (or duration of employment contract).
  • Permanent residency after 33 months (21 months if you have achieved level B1 in German language proficiency).
  • You can stay outside Germany in non-EU countries for 12 months without the EU Blue card expiring, and move to another EU country (except the UK, Ireland and Denmark) for the purpose of highly qualified work after 18 months without the need for a visa (although you'll need to apply for a new Blue Card in your country of residence).
  • Family members can come to Germany and work immediately without restriction or the need to prove German language skills, as well as receive all the other benefits.

To apply, go to the website of the German embassy or consulate in your home country/legal country of residence. You can find the contact details and website address of all the German embassies and consulates here.

Permits for highly skilled workers

Those who fit this category (plus earning more than EUR 84,600) can apply for a settlement permit, entitling you ­– and your family members – to live and work in Germany indefinitely (if you were to come to Germany on a regular residence permit, you would have to be resident for five years before applying for a settlement permit). You will need to have a specific job offer and the permission of the Federal Employment Agency.

Permits for students

Do you want to undertake a professional or vocational training course?

You can be granted a residence permit to come to Germany for professional or industrial training (which must also have been advertised to German nationals or privileged foreign nationals) with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency. If you're a graduate of a German college abroad you may be granted the same permit without the approval of the Agency.

You can work up to 10 hours a week on this permit, which lasts for two years (or the duration of the training, if less than two years). You can extend your residence permit for another year while you seek work. For more information see our guide to German student visas.

Permits for self-employed/freelancers

If you want to come to Germany to set up a business, you can apply for a residence permit for self-employed business purposes. It is valid for three years and can be extended if the business is successful. Read more about how to start a business or freelance in Germany.

You need to prove that the business will fulfil a need in Germany, benefit the country economically and be fully financed by a bank loan or your own capital. You'll need to have a viable business plan, relevant experience, and show how your business will contribute to innovation and research in Germany.

When you apply, you will have to provide evidence of all of these things, plus proof of pension provision if you're over 45, guaranteeing a monthly amount of around EUR 1,110 after the age of 67; citizens from Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the United States of America do not need to provide proof of pension. 

Freelance workers in Germany can also apply for a residence permit for self-employment. Freelancers include those with traditional liberal professions called 'catalogue professions' (Katalogberufe), including self-employed people working in science and engineering, the arts, professional writing or teaching, or who offer a professional service, such as a doctor, dentist or lawyer.

You will need to provide evidence:

  • that there's a need for your services in Germany;
  • of your qualifications; and
  • that you can finance yourself.

If you’re able to invest a minimum of EUR 250.000 into the country and create a minimum of five jobs, you can skip most steps required for self-employed individuals.

See here for more information on starting a business in Germany, and details of the German Chambers of Trade, Commerce and Industry.

Permits for scientific researchers

If you want to come to Germany as a researcher, then you need to have a ‘host' agreement (contract) with a research institute recognised by BAMF, which will confirm the details of the research that you will be carrying out, and that you are properly qualified and financially secure (no further examination is carried out if you have a monthly minimum of EUR 1,680).

Residence titles for researchers are valid for at least one year (or the duration of the research if less). You can work in the same field while you are undertaking the research, and travel to other parts of the EU without a visa. You can also lecture at your recognised institute.

See here for a list of recognised research institutes and a sample ‘host agreement'. Another organisation, Euraxess Germany, provides comprehensive information on research jobs and funding opportunities.

Researchers may also be able to apply for the EU Blue Card, or a residence permit as an employee, self-employed or as a highly qualified person, depending on personal circumstances.

Germany work permit

Partners and relatives – who can work in Germany?

If you have come to Germany to join a family member or partner, you will also be able to work if your relative/partner has been authorised for employment, has a permit for research or an EU Blue Card, or is a highly skilled worker with a settlement permit.

For more information, see our guide on German permits for family reunification.

Finding work in Germany

To find a job in Germany, you can search Expatica's jobs pages and see our guide to finding jobs in Germany. For more information on working in Germany, as well as work opportunities via their Job Exchange, see the Federal Employment Agency. For guidance, information and job vacancies for jobseekers, see European Employment Service (EURES).

German immigration contact

For personal advice about job searching, qualifications, residence and learning German, foreigners can contact the 'Living and Working in Germany Hotline' from 9am to 3pm CET, Monday to Friday at +49 30 1815 1111. You can also contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country to find out what you need for a German work permit, or the BAMF information service:

Monday to Thursday: 9am to 3pm
Friday: 9am to 2pm
T: +49 911 943 6390

Read more:


Note: The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the German embassy or consulate in your home country.

Expatica Ask the Expert
Need advice? Post your question on Expatica's Ask the Expert service to see if we can help. 

Updated 2017.

Comment here on the article, or if you have a suggestion to improve this article, please click here.

If you believe any of the information on this page is incorrect or out-of-date, please let us know. Expatica makes every effort to ensure its articles are as comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date as possible, but we're also grateful for any help! (If you want to contact Expatica for any other reason, please follow the instructions on this website's contact page.)

Captcha Note: Characters are case sensitive
The details you provide on this page will not be used to send any unsolicited e-mail, and will not be sold to a third party. Privacy policy .

20 Comments To This Article

  • Sikandar posted:

    on 28th January 2017, 21:23:21 - Reply

    Hi Sir. I am Mechanical Engineer from Pakistan. One of my friend have a bussiness in Germany and he is offering me a job which is totally diffrent of my field the offer he gived to me is pretty atractive but i have some Question if you could email me we can discuss.
    Regards sikandar

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Salman posted:

    on 13th January 2017, 14:20:58 - Reply

    Hii faisal bro
    Can you give me some info about german work permit
  • Kashif posted:

    on 28th November 2016, 15:34:52 - Reply

    I have italian residence permit and recently I got a job as pizza delievry on bike. I just started this job a week ago and now I got accident that I have severe pain in the knee. My question is that am i still insured by AOK as i have applied today and now will visit the doctor so is there any possibilty that my manage still give me this sick benefit as its only one week unfortunatly.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Faisal posted:

    on 17th October 2016, 23:07:49 - Reply

    Friends right now i am in Germany and looking for a way to get work permit here if someone have any information on this matter so please let me know would be grateful thanks...

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • shokat posted:

    on 12th September 2016, 13:08:43 - Reply

    my brother in Germany he need a work any type...age 32 name taj Hassan young and honest known language German little bit living in Germany notion please some body help me helper on my email address thank you...

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • jasbir posted:

    on 27th August 2016, 11:41:13 - Reply

    How can MBA migrate to german

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • rona posted:

    on 19th August 2016, 14:55:37 - Reply

    hi ,,im miss rona,,my employer want to bring me in germany at hamm,,she want me to work with her there,,it is posible they allow me,,thanks alot,,pls reply,,

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • Manirujjaman posted:

    on 28th June 2016, 13:55:26 - Reply

    I am Bangladeshi citizen, working a German multinational company in Bangladesh liaison office as a Senior merchandiser in RMG sector, i visited one time to Germany (Hanna city june 2016), i like to live in Germany any where city and work there, is there any possibilities to get visa for work here.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Ari posted:

    on 7th June 2016, 17:50:06 - Reply

    Hello, i have a question for you, i've got the Arbeitserlaubnis from Bundes Agentur fur Arbeit and i want to ask you that is there a chance of getting a visa reject from the embassy, and the visa rejection is that the embassy thinks that im not going there to work for real, it is all about getting an "aufenthaltstitel" in Germany. Thank you.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • SAIFUL posted:

    on 15th May 2016, 11:04:01 - Reply

    Hello, I m from Bangladesh. I have passed my graduation & post graduation from the University of Dhaka in Mathematics. I have been working as Senior Officer in a Bank.I am dealing officer of off-shore banking. now, I want to know how can I will be migrated to Germany. Is my profession is suitable for migration?? Please briefly describe me about this procedure.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • jocelyn posted:

    on 5th May 2016, 10:58:01 - Reply

    Hi Sir /Madam,

    May I check with the Germany%u2019s levy, insurance and relevant tax charges for Vietnamese.

    Thanks a lot.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • sumankarki posted:

    on 3rd May 2016, 14:04:14 - Reply

    hello i am from nepal my wife she is polish i am temporrsry residence permit holder man in poland. its posebal work in germany can you give me answar.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Davod posted:

    on 29th March 2016, 10:25:24 - Reply

    I am MSc graguated in Communication and worked fo 3 years in a petrolum company as Radio man. If I want to apply for blue Card visa, How I can find a job?!
    main Q is: what is the way fo founding a job when i am leaving in Asia!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • nasir posted:

    on 29th January 2016, 10:56:12 - Reply

    contat with me
  • DavidWongso posted:

    on 12th December 2015, 19:10:47 - Reply

    Hello friends. my name is David Wongso and I am from Indonesia. I have a job vacancy that will be place at D%uFFFDsseldorf, Germany. I am from Asia and never apply for any kind of working visa. The company required me to submit a gross salary that I am asking for. How much should I ask for it? I am applying for the position of Indonesian Speaker and the Job Category is Early Career.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.] 

  • RJIlano posted:

    on 1st March 2015, 09:36:05 - Reply

    Guten Tag! I am a filipino Civil Engineering student and will graduate in May 2015. My school is not a university but it is an ABET Accredited school, which is an international acccreditation.... if i were to apply, is the university grad permit applicable for me? or the permanent resident only? i plan to pursue working in Germany 5 years after I saved up enough funds

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert service]

  • abdellah posted:

    on 18th February 2015, 15:26:28 - Reply

    hello i'm 21 year old i'm from Marooco and i'm I am a student secondary school i love sweden i'ts my best country and I also have a lot of Swedish friends everyday i talk with All in skype
    and i want to go in sweden In any way Plz any one help me i want just change my Life I want to go in here for works and change my life plz if u have And answer This my and thank you .
  • dmfarley posted:

    on 11th November 2014, 20:01:42 - Reply

    You're really short on useful contact info here. What exactly was the point of telling us all this if you don't point us to where to proceed, aside from a few links to a few PDFs?
  • Belie posted:

    on 23rd April 2014, 15:02:22 - Reply

    Yes, there may be several avenues to the permit, but be no fool about it - the system in the country works to keep foreigners out (uneducated have a better chance under current human rights laws) and as such finding a job will be an endless endeavour (several years if you're lucky). Hiring someone locally who is not a native is not practiced in the country - they will not hire you unless you have a Ausbildung, speak the language, are German and willing to accept a position, if at all, that trashes a majority of your professional experience. Yes, cheap labour is always welcome in every country and there will be opportunties there, but that may not qualify you for a permit.
  • wallpaper posted:

    on 19th April 2012, 19:00:19 - Reply

    This article was really informative and I have learnt so much after reading this. I wonder some day I would be able to share such valuable information on my own blog.