Work In Germany: 7-Step Guide Before Starting

Updated on
September 11, 2022

For anyone who would like to work in Germany, there are now some really exciting opportunity available – in particular for anyone involved in the tech industry. If you have the right skill set you can easily find profitable positions in this country.

There is now a strong demand for highly skilled programmers and specialists in just about every technological field, and many workers are now relocating to the country in order to seize the available offers.

If you’re planning to go work in Germany, you will find this guide useful. No matter what is your specific area of expertise, the steps all expats will take to settle in are very much the same – and you’ll find them listed here.

1 - Start by Getting Your Work Permit and Visa

When you want to go work in Germany, your first and foremost action should be applying for a visa and work permit, in order to be allowed to find employment and live in the country as a fully integrated member of society. Some exceptions might apply:

  • If you already have a work position waiting for you, the company hiring you will likely help you apply for these documents.
  • In case you are currently living legally in an EU member state or a few other specific countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein) you won’t even need to get a specific permit to work in Germany.
  • Legal citizens from the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea don’t need a visa, but they must apply for a residence and work permit – otherwise, they will only be allowed to legally stay in Germany for 90 days. You are allowed to apply for this permit before you actually find a job.

For citizens who neither live in the EU or one of the countries listed above, the application process for a German work permit will be slightly different depending on the country of origin.

In a typical situation, people who need a work permit and travel visa will usually apply for both documents at the same time. You should initiate this process before leaving your current country of residence, by visiting the nearest Consulate or Germany Embassy personally. Only if you’re coming from a few specific countries (most notably USA and Canada) will you be allowed to apply for the required documents in Germany.

Even though there several types of residence/work permits available in Germany, we recommend getting a “specialist professional residence”; this permit will provide the most versatility and it will be simple to get provided you meet a few specific criteria: you must have a contract of employment, documentation that proves your professional experience, you must have cash to support yourself while transitioning to your new work position, and you must be willing to be part of the German society.

Another option available for non-EU citizens who are also qualified and specialized workers is to apply for an EU blue card. However, this option is only available for people holding higher education degrees which are recognized in Germany, and only in cases where the person has effectively secured a position for work in Germany that pays a gross salary of over 50 thousand Euro per year.

Remember, depending on your country of origin you will have to go through alternative application processes and requirements will differ. Since in many cases the application will be done in person at the German embassy in your country, you may want to start by contacting the local office in advance to check about specific requirements.

Generally speaking, the actual application process will involve a personal visit to your local German embassy, where you’ll be expected to have your valid passport on hand (and possibly a copy), along with some passport photographs and a few required documents (which may include your diploma, an employment contract, additional references and a possibly a certificate of good conduct); it’s also worth noting there will likely be fees involved that you will have to pay when you initiate the application.

The processing time for your application will vary wildly depending on your country of origin, so you may want to ask about this while visiting the embassy. Also consider the German health insurance requirements when living and working in Germany.

2 - Making Sure You Have Your Diploma Recognized

If you have a higher education degree, you should make sure to check if your diploma is fully recognized in Germany. Since all countries have a different educational standard, that means diplomas are not universal in nature – so checking this is indeed a crucial step, especially for professions that cannot be exercised without a certification (such as medicine and advocacy), as well as for anyone who wishes to apply for an EU Blue Card.

A simple way to see if your diploma is recognized in Germany is to see Anabin resource and check if your university is listed (it should have “H+” designation). If so, you will be allowed to print certificate directly from this website that supports the recognition of your diploma.

In case your university is listed in Anabin as “H-“, that means it’s not yet recognized in Germany. In this case, you can actually attempt to contact the authorities that manage this recognition (ZAB) and ask to have your university diploma considered (or reconsidered). This process is time-consuming and you will be expected to pay administrative costs, but it is a possibility; check the official KMK site to learn more.

3 - Can You go work in Germany if You Don’t Have a University Degree?

While it’s not impossible for citizens coming from outside the EU to find work in Germany without a recognized diploma, this process is considerably challenging. Here are some possible workaround solutions that could be useful:

  • If you already have an employer in mind, they can apply for a special license in your behalf that will – if approved – allow you to apply for a specialist professional residence.
  • You can try to get diploma equivalence from a Germany university, which might allow you to then apply for your EU Blue Card.
  • You may also succeed in getting your EU Blue Card if you have over 5 years of experience in your line of work, provided this experience is comparable to German higher education.

In case you are a legal resident of the EU, you will find it much easier to go work in Germany, since in this case, you can move freely to the country without any need for a work permit.

4 - Things to Consider before Looking for Housing

Once you have dealt with the preliminary work and have all the documents sorted out, it’s time to start thinking about our living arrangements. In some cases, your employer may be able to provide you with temporary housing (make sure to ask about this possibility) otherwise you can find local housing through platforms like AirBnb while you’re looking for a long-term solution.

Once you’ve found your preferred long-term housing solution, you just have to worry about settling in. Some employers in Germany will actually help cover some of your moving expenses as well as partly support travel expenses to relocate your family – so make sure to always ask about these possibilities.

5 - Learning about the Intricate German Tax System

When you work in Germany you will be subject to income tax that can go anywhere up to 45% (the more you earn, the more you’re taxed). Your taxation will depend on the category assigned to with, and there are a total of 6 classes comprising a total of over 30 different taxes.

Class I: single person, divorced or unmarried

Class II: single person with children

Class III: married with a person who ears significantly less

Class IV: household supported equally by a couple

Class V: married to a person who earns significantly more

Class VI: a person with multiple revenue streams

There is a slight tax benefit in Germany for married couples; taxation only begins on yearly revenue per person over €9,000; this value is doubled for married couples whosereturns are combined.All taxable income that exceeds over €54,950 per year will be taxed at 42%; only people who earn over €260,533 will pay the maximum tax of 45%.

Among the different taxes you’ll have to pay as a German worker, there’s a solidarity tax which consists of 5.5% of the total amount of your income tax.There is also a church tax that could range from 8 to 9% according to the Federal State where you live.

Households with children under 18 will be regarded as having less taxable income.In case you’d like to determine what your net income would be after moving to Germany and paying all your taxes, there are salary calculators available that you can use to quickly check this.

6 - You Can Actually Work in Germany without Speaking German

While you should consider learning German to better integrate the local society, you may be happy to know that it’s possible to work in Germany without speaking the native language. This is especially true for jobs in the tech industries, where typically English fluency is the key requirement.

Despite the aforementioned fact, many people in conservative industries (ranging all the way from healthcare to civil service) won’t be too kind or tolerant regarding people who refuse to learn to speak German; so if you’re planning to stay for a while in the country you should consider learning the language, since it will add to your enjoyment and quality of life.

7 - Things You Should Know about Driving in Germany

Once you’re settled into your new job and already found a permanent residence, the next logical step is to consider getting a driver’s licence. This won’t always be a crucial consideration, since many cities in German have a great public transportation system that run nearly uninterrupted and provide the best way to move around.

In case you live in an area where the public transportation doesn’t fully cater to your needs, or even if you just like driving, you are allowed to get a local driver’s license specifically meant for expats.

People coming from EU member states, some states in the USA, or Canada (and a few other countries) who already have a driver’s licence can apply for full reciprocity – which simply means getting document validation to allow you to drive in Germany without having to take additional tests to get a local driver’s license.

Certain states in the USA only offer partial reciprocity on German driver’s licence. This means that you will have to take a test before receiving a local driver’s license, but it will be quite simpler than getting a German driver license from scratch.

In any case, it’s worth keeping in mind that traffic laws in Germany are sometimes quite specific, so if you plan to drive around in the country, you should make sure to brush up on this information.

Anyone coming from a non-EU country who wants to work in Germany and drive a car will have no choice but to get a local license. You can only apply for a German driver’s license once you have been in the country for over 6 months; the typical costs are around €1,500 and involve around 40 hours of driving classes.

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