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What Are The Requirements for a German Freelance Visa?

a man and a woman checking on freelance visa for Germany.

A German Freelance visa is an excellent opportunity to come to Germany and stay for a long period of time while being self-employed. A freelance visa can also be used by digital nomads, who want to have a base in centrally located Germany.

The main requirements for a German Freelance Visa include:

  • You must have enough money to support himself
  • You must have a health insurance
  • You must be qualified for your profession
  • You must have clients in Germany

The German Freelance Visa will allow you to stay in the country for at least a year with a possible extension for up to 3 years. Moreover, already after 3 years, you can apply for a German permanent residence permit.

So you have decided to become self-employed in Germany? In this article, we explain the requirements one must meet to qualify for a German Freelance visa.

How to become a freelancer in Germany?

a cathedral in Germany on a gloomy afternoon.

If you are planning to come to Germany from a third country and work as a freelance, you need to go through 2 step process. Firstly, one should apply for a D-type visa from the German embassy in their home country, and secondly, apply for a freelance residence permit in Germany.

In this article, we will explain the visa application process in your home country and all the requirements&documents you will face.

However, if you are from the US, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, or South Korea, you can travel to Germany, get your accommodation, and health insurance, register at the tax office, and apply for a Freelance residence permit at the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) within the country. Therefore, you don’t need an entry visa.

Be aware that Freelancers can be the only particular professionals (see below the complete list). In all other cases, a person must register the trade and become a solo proprietor in Germany.

Overall, Freelancers in Germany are people who work in these sectors:

  1. Health: e.g., doctors, dentists, veterinarians, alternative practitioners, dentists, physiotherapists
  2. Legal, tax, and management consulting: e.g., lawyers, patent attorneys, notaries, auditors, tax consultants, tax representatives, consulting economists and business economists, sworn accountants, and book auditors
  3. Scientific/technical: e.g., engineers, commercial chemists, architects, pilots
  4. Voice and information transmission: e.g., journalists, photo reporters, interpreters, translators

Plus: Graduate psychologists, massage therapists, and midwives also fall into this category.

Moreover, liberal professions include independent scientific, artistic, literary, teaching, or educational activities. All candidates will be examined by the immigration office before they are recognized as a liberal profession.

Main requirements for a freelance visa in Germany

a woman sitting on the floor while checking her laptop.

In order to get a freelance visa for Germany, one must meet certain criteria, which can appear difficult for the first time, but we assure you, it’s all manageable.

Requirements differ depending on if you are eligible to be a freelancer in Germany or need to register as a trade/business (become self-employed).

In both cases, the main criteria remain to be the same:

  • You must make enough money
  • You have a health insurance
  • You must have clients in Germany

If you don’t have clients in Germany, you will not get a German freelance visa. You only get a Freelance visa if there is a “local economic interest” for your services.

If your profession falls into one of the liberal in Germany, you need to meet these criteria:

  • You can prove the financing of your freelance project
  • You have a permit to practice the profession you are planning to do in Germany
  • If you are older than 45 years, you must also prove that you have a sufficient pension

If it doesn’t fall into one of such professions, you still can receive a Freelance visa for Germany, but only if you are a company founder, a sole proprietor, or managing director/legal representative of a partnership or corporation and:

  1. There is an economic interest or regional need for your product or service
  2. Business activities are expected to have a positive impact on the economy
  3. You have secured the financing of the implementation through equity or a loan commitment
  4. If you are older than 45 years, you must provide proof of adequate pension

Read a full article about differences between freelance and self-employment in Germany

Below you can see the general documents to apply for a German Freelance visa:

  1. A completed national visa application form
  2. Valid national passport
  3. Two recently made biometric photographs. (see photo requirements)
  4. Payment of the visa application fee
  5. Health insurance
  6. Recommendation letters from previous employers
  7. Curriculum vitae
  8. Cover letter
  9. Portfolio of your previous work. Several printed samples of previous freelance work, or regular work in the same profession
  10. Professional authorization. You need to show a license or other permission as evidence of your expertise and relevance to pursue the intended profession. This is necessary if you’re planning to exercise a job that requires prior expertise in the field, i.e., medicine, law, and similar.
  11. Certificates of earlier education
  12. Means of subsistence. Evidence showing you have enough money to cover your living and freelancing costs. This can be one of the following:
    • Latest bank statements. From a home-country bank, showing enough available funds.
    • Blocked bank account
    • Profit/loss statement. Which must show your forecasts about monthly profits and losses from the intended freelance/business activity.
    • Proof of adequate pension plan. Only if you are older than 45.
  13. Evidence of a Freelance Plan
  14. Letters of commitment from future customers/employers in Germany. You should have at least 2 of them. These letters must clearly show their intent to employ you in Germany.

Documents regarding your profession (for freelancers)

a woman sitting on the floor and rejoicing over a news.

To prove that you are eligible to work as a freelancer in Germany, you must submit the following documents:

  1. Two or more recommendation letters
    It’s advisable to have recommendation letters from previous employers, clients, or professors who recommend you. The letters must be related to the profession you are getting a visa for.
  2. CV or resume
    CV is undoubtedly a must for this type of visa; better to have one in German format and one in English.
  3. Cover letter
    A cover letter plays a significant role in Germany. Make one in English and one in German. Don’t forget to sign the letter. If you need to translate documents, use Lingoking.
  4. Portfolio/examples of your work
    You must demonstrate that you can do your job, for this you should bring printed samples of your previous work.
  5. Professional permit (if applicable)
    If you need a permit to perform your profession (for example, law or medicine).
  6. Proof of education (optional)
    If you have relevant degrees or certifications, they can prove that you are qualified. Provide original diplomas and copies.
  7. Two or more letters of intent or contracts (Absichtserklärung)

A letter of intent plays an important role when you apply for a Freelance visa for Germany. It must prove that you have some potential clients in the country. The letter must show the intention of the company or individual to hire you. However, signed contracts will be better than letters of intent.

How can you provide financial proof for your German Freelance visa?

Financials are one of the most significant parts of your visa application in Germany. There are several ways an applicant can prove their financial situation:

  1. Bank statements (Kontoauszug)
    Your bank statements must show how much income and savings you have. The more money you have in your account, the better. Generally, foreign bank statements are accepted, but better to have a German one. Typically, 3,000 EUR to 5,000 EUR in savings can be enough to get approval for the visa.
  2. Revenue forecast/profit and loss statement
    Make a spreadsheet with your expected monthly revenue and expenses for your business without your rent and expenses.
  3. Proof of adequate pension plan
    If you are over 45 years old, you must prove that you have adequate preparations for retirement.
  4. Proof of regular income (artists and language teachers only)
    If you are applying for an artist or language teacher visa in Berlin, you must prove that you will have a regular income. This can be your savings, regular bank transfers, or a letter from a guarantor.

Documents regarding your business (for self-employed)

In case your profession isn’t recognized as a liberal in Germany, you should become self-employed. For this, you need some additional documents when applying for a Freelance visa:

  1. Business plan
    Germany must see that there is an economic interest or a regional need for your services/product. Describe how you plan to find work and grow your business in Germany. This document summarizes the company profile, capital requirement plan, business concept, and financing plan. You can write your business plan in English or in German.
    • Company profile
      Includes official proof of its existence, names of managing directors, total equity, annual turnover, official business address in your city, and official function.
    • Capital requirement plan
      All expenses you plan for starting the business: equipment purchases, real estate, licensing fees, vehicles, etc.
    • Business concept
      Your industry, the target customers, marketing & sales strategy, and the market forecasts.
    • Financing plan / Capital budget – Your financial situation. How and where will you acquire money for your business?

Moreover, the following information must be included:

  • Company profile
  • Business plan
  • Business concept
  • Capital needs plan
  • Description of the personal qualifications
  • Market and competitive analysis
  • Marketing strategy
  • Output preview; profit-and-loss account, the liquidity forecast
  • Description of the future plans and perspectives
  • Additional information on the number of jobs expected to be created and the number of jobs expected to be completed in the resulting training places (Ausbildung)
  • If possible: explain to what extent the areas of innovation and research are positive about the project

For applicants over 45 years old

It’s more challenging to get approval for a Freelance visa if you are older than 45. You need to prove an adequate retirement plan, which can be:

  • Private pension, which guarantees at least 1,332 EUR per month for at least 12 years by the time you are 67 years old
  • Or at least 194,631 EUR worth of assets by the time you are 67 years old

However, proof of a pension plan isn’t required for applicants from these countries: the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the United States of America.

Keep in mind that an adequate pension is always necessary for the permanent residence permit – regardless of age or nationality.

Document checklist for German Freelance Visa

Here you can see the complete checklist of documents for your visa application:

  1. Address registration confirmation (Anmeldebestätigung)
  2. Appointment confirmation from the Ausländerbehörde
  3. Bank statement (Kontoauszug)
  4. Business plan (for self-employed/business owners)
    • Company profile
    • Capital requirement plan
    • Business concept
  5. Cash for the application fees – about 120 EUR
  6. Cover letter (Anschreiben)
  7. CV or resume
  8. Financing plan
  9. Freelance visa application form
  10. Letter of confirmation from your landlord
  11. Letters of intent from German companies/customers
  12. Passport
  13. Passport photos x 2
  14. Portfolio/examples of your work, printed
  15. Professional permit (optional)
  16. Proof of adequate pension plan (if you are over 45 years old)
  17. Proof of education (optional)
  18. Proof of regular income (artists and language teachers only)
  19. Proof of health insurance coverage
  20. Recommendation letters
  21. Rent contract
  22. Revenue forecast / Profit and loss statement

See the full list of documents for a freelance visa on the official website.

Fees for German Freelance Visa

The fee for the Freelance visa application is 60 EUR. After that, you must apply for a residence permit within Germany which costs around 140 EUR. Upon submitting all documents, it will take about 5–6 weeks to proceed with your visa application.

Your Freelance visa will be valid for three months, during which you have to enter Germany and apply for a residence permit, which then replaces the visa.

Berlin Freelance Visa for artists and language teachers

The artist visa has the same concept as the German Freelance visa. The only difference is that you get it instantly, without any processing time, and it’s only available in Berlin.

Be aware that everyone needs health insurance in Germany. One of the top-rated insurance for international workers, expats, freelancers, and business owners is Ottonova.

Health insurance for freelancers in Germany

stethoscope used by doctors.

For your Freelance visa application, you will need to get health insurance. For this, you can usually use some type of travel insurance.

However, it won’t be sufficient to apply for the Freelance residence permit and to stay In Germany for the long term. For this reason, you must get a proper public or private health insurance plan; Ottonova is highly recommended for freelancers and expats.

The optimal private insurance provider in Germany can also be found on the platform Tarifcheck, but most freelancers, self-employed, and expats opt for Ottonova

Benefits of a German Freelance Visa

late afternoon view of Germany's business center.

German Freelance visa has many advantages. Firstly, not many countries have this type of visa. You are already lucky to have a chance to come and work in Germany as a freelancer.

1. You can get a permanent residency in Germany

After 3 years of living and working in Germany as a freelancer, you can apply for a permanent residency, which will allow you to stay in the country for an unlimited time.

In many aspects, permanent residency is similar to citizenship; you can live and work in other EU countries for up to 2 years.

However, PR will expire if you leave the EU for more than 12 months.

Read more about permanent residence in Germany.

2. You can travel outside the country for 6 months in the year

Germany is located right in the center of Europe, which allows you to travel to any country on the continent without much hustle. Luckily, with the German Freelance Visa, you can stay out of the country for up to 6 months without losing its validity.

You can read the main requirements for permanent residence after a Freelance visa in Germany on this website.

3. You can benefit from tax advantages

As a Freelancer or Business owner in Germany, you can benefit from taxation; for example, you can write off several expenses.

Register as self-employed and submit your tax declaration in Germany online and at affordable price.

Taxes for Freelancers in Germany

dollar bills in different denomination with a letter box that states "taxes" on top of it.

As a freelancer in Germany, you’ll be excused from the business registration procedure and from getting the trade permit.

Traders (self-employed) are obliged to pay trade taxes, freelancers-freiberufler are exempt from this obligation, but others aren’t and have to pay it together with the traders. 

Both of them have to plan ahead of time how they will pay taxes next year to avoid troublesome situations. 

Compare providers and rates for various insurances, debit & credit cards, credits & loans, tariffs for internet, electricity, much more to find a perfect deal for your situation. You can do it all on the platform Tarifcheck.de which will also allow you to buy from a selected provider. 

The following overview illustrates the tax difference between freelancing and self-employment:

  1. Freelancers don’t have to register a business
  2. Freelancers-freiberufler don’t pay a trade tax
  3. Freelancers aren’t subject to trade supervision
  4. Freelancers aren’t subject to trade law
  5. Freelancers aren’t subject to commercial law
  6. Freelancers aren’t subject to the obligation to be members of a chamber
  7. Freelancers aren’t required to keep accounts (regardless of the amount of income)
  8. Freelancers only have to submit a surplus income statement for the annual accounts

Read more about taxation in Germany on their official website

Einkommensteuer (Income tax)

In Germany, self-employed are exempt from income tax up to an annual income of 9,408 EUR; anything earned beyond that must be taxed.

The income tax is calculated depending on the annual income; the higher the income, the higher the taxes. Overall, the tax rate is between 6% and 42%. 

For freelancers and self-employed people, the income tax will apply to everything they earn from their business activities.

The income tax has to be paid yearly before the 31st of May to the Finanzamt. It’s a part of the Steuererklärung (tax declaration).

Gewerbesteuer (Trade tax)

This tax only applies to Gewerbetreibende (self-employed/trader); freelancers who fall into the category of liberal professions are exempt from it. Self-employed/freelancers only need to pay a trade tax if their annual revenue annual higher than 24,500 EUR.

Also, limited companies, partnerships, and joint-stock companies are all subjected to this tax.

Trade tax is the responsibility of each municipality in Germany. The amount varies from municipality to municipality (from city to city).

Umsatzsteuer (VAT)

Both self-employed and freelancers are obligated to pay VAT or Umsatzsteuer. Each self-employed in Germany needs to pay taxes on goods or services they sell. The good thing about VAT is that at the end of the year, you can claim a return in taxes on purchased items or services. 

However, you will be exempt if yearly revenue is lower than 50,000 EUR and earning under 17,500 EUR.

Also, if your VAT the previous year was less than 1,000 EUR, you don’t need to prepare VAT declarations in the future, but you need to declare all revenue in your annual VAT return (Umsatzsteuererklärung).

There are two rates for Value Added Tax (VAT): reduced 7% and regular 19%. Which one applies to you depends on the type of service or product you serve in your business.

Solidarity Surcharge

The solidarity surcharge is an interesting tax, everyone must pay in Germany, even employees. It has a fixed rate of 5.5% of the income tax to be paid.

If you still have questions regarding visas in Germany, you can call the “Working and Living in Germany” hotline. It’s an official government hotline that helps people settle in Germany. They offer help in English and in German.

Find a job as a freelancer in Germany:

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