How to get a German work visa

In this guide, we explain how to apply for a German work visa for employees, explain the application process and list the required documents.

This post was last updated on December 7, 2022

In this guide

An application form for a work visa lying on a table

What is the German work visa?

The German work visa allows you to work for an employer in Germany. This visa is only for employee jobs and is tied to a specific job. The work visa allows travel to Germany and gives you access to a residence permit for the same duration as the work visa. The official German name of the visa is Aufenthaltserlaubnis zum Zweck der Beschäftigung (residence permit for the purpose of employment).

Please read our freelance visa guide if you want to do consultant work or open a business in Germany.

High-skilled or tech workers, as well as researchers can apply for a Blue Card which is the same as a work visa but with additional benefits.

Who does not need a work visa in Germany?

  • EU citizens as well as citizens of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein do not need a visa to work in Germany.
  • Students who have a student visa can work up to 120 full days a year source without an additional visa.

Who needs a work visa in Germany?

  • Citizens from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the USA need a visa to work in Germany but do not need a visa to enter Germany for up to 90 days.
  • All other citizens need a visa to enter Germany source and another visa to work in Germany. In this case, it is recommended that you apply for a work visa from your country before coming to Germany. You can however enter Germany on a job seeker visa.

You can check this tool to find out whether you need a visa or not.

Requirements for the German work visa

  • You must have a guaranteed job offer in Germany.
  • Your employer must be based in Germany.
  • You must be qualified for the job.
  • You must be allowed to do this job in Germany. Germany has about 150 regulated professions like teachers, lawyers, doctors or opticians. Check this EU database for regulated professions to see if your job is regulated in Germany.

Which institution approves my German work visa?

The German work visa needs approval from

  • the Federal Employment Office, called Bundesagentur für Arbeit, especially the division on foreign labor called Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung (ZAV). The ZAV checks whether the position can't be filled by an EU citizen. You get the approval only if there is a shortage of workers in your field, especially if your job is on this list of professions which are in high demand in Germany (PDF). You can skip this step and let the Ausländerbehörde send the documents to the ZAV when applying for a visa.
  • The Foreign Office is called Ausländerbehörde.

Where do I apply for a German work visa?

  • You can apply for a work visa and a residence permit at the Foreign Office (Ausländerbehörde) at your place of residence inside Germany.
  • It might be easier for some citizens to apply for a work visa at the German consulate in your home country.

Follow these steps to get a work visa and a residence permit in Germany

  • Step 1: Find a job in Germany from your country. Read our guide to finding a job in Germany from abroad.
  • Step 2: Get all the required documents. Read more about the required documents here.
  • Step 3: Apply for a work visa at the German consulate in your country. Citizens from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea or the USA might skip this step as they can enter Germany on a tourist visa and then apply for a work visa and a residence permit at the Foreign Office. Citizens from other countries need a visa to enter Germany but can apply for a work visa at a German consulate in their home country before relocating to Germany. A job seeker visa can be used to enter Germany to search for a job.
  • Step 4: Travel to Germany.
  • Step 5: Open a German bank account. This is not required per se for the visa but it will be hard to rent a flat in Germany without a checking account. Read more in our guide to opening a checking account as a foreigner. Some banks let you open a checking account without a registered German address. We have an overview of the best bank accounts for foreigners in Germany.
  • Step 6: Find a place to live in Germany. You need a registered address before going to the Ausländerbehörde. You need a document called a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from your landlord in order to register an address. You don't get this document when living in an illegal sublet, a hotel or AirBnB flat.
  • Step 7: Register your German address at the local Bürgeramt. You need a document called Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from your landlord for this and receive a document called Anmeldebestätigung from the Bürgeramt.
  • Step 8: Get health insurance. Read our guide of health insurance plans for more information.
  • Step 9: Make a visa appointment at the Ausländerbehörde for the residence permit and/or the work visa.

How long does the process take?

  • The approval from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit / ZAV takes around 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Opening a bank account can take anything from a couple of days to several weeks.
  • Finding a place to live can take anything from a couple of weeks to many months in cities like Berlin, Munich or Hamburg.
  • Registering an address at the Bezirksamt can take anything from a day when you just walk in there early in the morning or you might have to wait for several weeks if you made an appointment.
  • Same for the visa appointment. You can walk to the Ausländerbehörde and get an appointment for the same day or later if you come early in the morning and are lucky or you can make appointments online for a later date. The visa processing can take anything up to 3 or 4 months. You cannot start to work while waiting for the work visa.

Required documents

These are the required documents to apply for a German work visa source.

  • Two versions of the application form.
  • Two biometric passport photographs.
  • Valid passport.
  • Sometimes a birth certificate is required source.
  • Proof of residence of your foreign address when applying from abroad. This can be your driving license and some utility bills for electricity or similar. Alternatively, a registered address in Germany if you are already in Germany. The official document is called Anmeldebestätigung.
  • Health insurance. Read our guide to health insurance plans for more information. - *Feather is an independent broker that can advise you about expat health insurance in English language.
  • An employment contract or a binding job offer that indicates your gross annual salary and a detailed job description.
  • Approval by the Federal Employment Agency.
  • Curriculum Vitae. Your updated CV, that indicates your academic qualifications and your job experience.
  • Diplomas, certificates or anything similar that proves your qualifications.
  • Letter explaining the exact purpose and duration of stay.
  • Proof of a clean criminal record.
  • Proof of paid visa fee.
  • Declaration of the accuracy of information.
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