German work permits

Updated on
April 13, 2023

When and how to apply for work permits

To be allowed to work in Germany you will need to get a residence and a work permit. If you have an Europe (EU) nationality these conditions may not be necessary. You first need to get your residence permit in order to obtain a work permit. See our section on residence permits for further information. Students do not require work permits, however, there is a strict yearly limit of 90 days work. See our section on student jobs for further information.

EU citizens

EU citizens do not need a permit to work in Germany provided that they have a valid passport or national identity card and comply with German employment laws and regulations (there are also special arrangements with Switzerland and EEAA countries). However, EU citizens should consider getting an EU residency permit. See our section on residence permits for further information.Romania and Bulgaria are two main exceptions to the rule, from which workers coming to Germany currently require work permits. When their EU memberships are normalised this will no longer be necessary.EU citizens in Germany have equal rights in terms of pay, working conditions, access to housing, vocational training, social security, and trade union membership. Families and immediate dependents have similar rights and are entitled to join you. There are variances for teachers and health professionals between different Bundesländer (German states). Also, there are some restrictions on some public sector employment (e.g. Police).

Non-EU citizens

For non-EU-citizens, work-permits are attached to the type of resident permit you hold. For the purpose of taking up employment (as an employee or self-employed work), there are various residence permits issued. On the type of intended employment depends which residence permit applies to you and which preconditions need to be fulfilled.

Non-qualified Employment

To receive a residence permit for the purpose of taking up employment that does not require professional qualifications, it is generally not possible. This has been allowed allowed for in intergovernmental agreements or is permitted by legal ordinance or under exceptional circumstances.

Qualified Employment

To employ professionally qualified foreigners in the case of specific vocations it is permitted. These business groups are determined by legal ordinance. Depends on type of job you’re looking for and the current arrangement for giving out permits whether you get a work permit for qualified employment.

Highly Qualified Employment

In special cases, highly qualified persons can receive an unlimited settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) from the outset. Among others, the prerequisites for this are that they have a concrete job offer and that the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) has given their approval. Scientists with special expert knowledge, teachers and scientific workers with specialist functions are people regarded in particular to be highly qualified persons. People in senior managerial positions and specialists, also included in this group, who receive a salary that is above a stipulated minimum value (double the contribution assessment ceiling for statutory health insurance, which is around €4,000).

Self-employed Work

For carrying out self-employed work, a residence permit can be issued. In particular, this presupposes that certain prerequisites are fulfilled that ensure that the work has a positive effect on the German economy. With a minimum investment sum of 1 million euros and the creation of ten jobs these prerequisites are generally deemed to be fulfilled. If the investment sum or the number of jobs is less than these values, the prerequisites are examined in terms of the viability of the business idea, the amount of invested capital, the business experience of the foreigner and involves, among others, trade authorities and associations. If foreigners are older than 45 years they only receive a residence permit if they have a suitable retirement pension.For a maximum of 3 years the residence permit is initially issued. A settlement permit can already be issued after three years regardless of the usual prerequisites, if the planned business endeavour has been successfully realised in this time.

Working illegally

Many people consider working illegally given the difficulties getting work permits. Finding illegal work in Germany is difficult and not recommended. Illegal workers are under constant threat of deportation and are often exploited by employers.

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