To work in Germany, you will need a residence permit that allows you to take on employment. There are a few options out there, and each of them has its requirements. Particularly for the EU Blue Card, applicants need to provide a minimum salary, which changes every year.
The minimum salary for a German work permit for highly qualified specialists is 58,400 EUR (EU Blue Card) and 45,552 EUR for shortage occupations (2023). A regular residence permit for work purposes doesn’t have restrictions on salary.
In this post, I will be explaining German residence permits for work purposes, which one of them is suitable for you, and of course, the requirements.
Which salary requirements should you expect in 2023?
Each residence permit for Germany has its requirements and conditions. If your goal is to work in Germany, you should check the conditions for resident permits with the purpose of work. Below you can see all which are currently available for you as a non-EU citizen.
EU Blue Card
EU Blue Card was made particularly for highly qualified professionals or academics. The permit requires a minimum salary of 58,400 EUR, which is not easy to get in Germany. If your area of expertise falls into shortage occupations minimum annual earning must be 45,552 EUR.
These occupations include doctors, engineers, natural scientists, mathematicians, IT specialists, and others.
Other requirements are:
- University degree, which is recognised in Germany
You can check if your diploma fits the criteria under “foreign university degrees” on this website.
- Have either a job offer or a signed employment contract in your field of study
Germany has increased the minimum salary for the EU Blue card in 2022.
With the EU Blue card, skilled workers from non-EU/EEA counties can live and work in Germany for up to 4 years; after, it can be exchanged for a permanent residence permit.
However, it’s not that easy to find an employer ready to pay such a high salary. You need to have good professional skills and some years of experience.
Non-EU citizens should apply for a visa at the German embassy of their home country.
Some countries fall into the privilege list; their nationals can enter Germany without a valid visa but cannot take up employment before applying for the EU Blue Card. These countries include:
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- the United States of America
Job search and receiving a visa can take a long time, sometimes several months. Therefore visa application before entering Germany can make sense, as they only can stay in the country for up to 3 months.
This information is valid for all residence permits mentioned in this article.
Benefits of the EU Blue Card
The main benefit is that you don’t need approval from the Federal employment agency to receive this visa, as with a regular working visa.
For example, Germany already has too many salespeople to hire someone from abroad for this position. Therefore, the Federal employment agency most probably won’t approve this candidate, and they won’t receive a working permit.
The EU Blue Card has numerous privileges for the immigrant and his family. For example, after just 33 months holder can apply for a permanent residence. As far as German language skills can be proven at Level B1, the settlement permit is already issued after 21 months.
Your family is eligible to join you in Germany and receive a working permit too.
EU Blue Card was inspired by Green Card from the US, but in my opinion, it is much better and perspective for applicants:
- Equal work and salary conditions for national citizens
- Free movement throughout the EU
- Social rights, including education, economic, cultural, human, and health rights
- Your family can move with you
- Rights on permanent residency
Read more about Permanent Residence Permit in Germany.
Also, EU Blue Card holders can go back to their home countries or non-EU states for a maximum of 12 consecutive months without losing EU Blue Card ownership.
Regular German visa for work purposes
The alternative to the EU Blue Card is a regular residence permit with permission to work. You might want to choose this option if your annual salary isn’t high enough for the EU-Blue Card.
The downside of the regular residence permit is that the federal employment agency will prove if there are other applicants from EU countries or Germany. However, if the job you apply for belongs to the shortage list, the employer can offer the position to a non-EU national without any approval.
This will happen if you apply for an academic position, skilled labor doesn’t undergo this procedure, and they will easily be granted a visa.
With this visa, you can get a permanent residence permit after working for 4 years in Germany.
The length of this visa usually aligns with the length of your contract but can be issued for a maximum of 4 years. It is possible to extend an employment permit if your contract is prolonged or by receiving a new one.
Also, people without a degree can apply for a working residence permit; in this case, they need to have some vocational qualifications. Thanks to the new Immigration Law, receiving a visa doesn’t involve either employer and the German Federal Agency for Employment.
For both the EU Blue Card and the regular residence work permit, candidates need to have a job offer before the application.
Job Seeker visa
German Job Seeker visa allows you to come and stay in the country for 6 months while looking for a job. By obtaining this visa, a skilled worker can access the German job market.
After finding the job, it can be converted into a working residence permit within Germany. To apply for the Job Seeker visa, you need to have a degree or complete vocational training and have some funds in the banking account to support yourself.
Since 2020 holders of Job Seeker visa can also work up to 10 hours per week.
Below you can see the main requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree from a recognized university or vocation qualification (min. duration of 2 years)
- Sufficient funds to prove that you can stay in Germany without any financial dependency on the government*
*853 EUR per month or 5,118 EUR in total for academics and 600-700 EUR per month or 3,600-4,200 EUR for vocational specialists
- Health insurance (that takes care of your health-related expenses until you receive a Germany Work Permit) – use this policy when applying for any German visa.
- Other documents: CV, motivation letter.
Applicants without a degree but vocational qualifications must also have at least level B1 German language. Processing time for a Germany Job Seeker visa is 4 to 6 weeks, but it can take as long as 12 weeks.
This option is suitable only for non-EU/EEA citizens. EU citizens don’t need a visa. People from privileged countries (the USA, etc.) can travel to Germany and stay for 90 days without a visa. Therefore, a Job Seeker visa isn’t necessary.
The best chances to receive a job in Germany with a degree can be found in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-based (STEM) professions.
Nursing, electricians, metalworkers, hospitality, and gastronomy workers are very popular professions for people with vocational qualifications.
Last year, German companies could not fill 337,900 STEM vacancies and more than 1.2 million open vacancies in total.
Self-employed and freelance work permit
Firstly there is no minimum salary when applying for a freelance visa, but if you want to become self-employed and open a company in Germany, you need to consider a share capital for a corporation.
Who are freelancers? Freelancers aren’t directly employed by a company as employees but receive work orders from different companies or clients.
This means that freelancers are primarily employed during a project, for example, or support a company in certain tasks and challenges. They independently manage their working time, load, working place, etc.
As a freelancer (Freiberufler) in Germany, you can also have your own practice, firm, or studio where customers receive their services.
Freelancers distinguish themselves from tradesmen (self-employed) and small business owners by their professional qualifications and the independent work they can accomplish for other businesses.
Also, their clients are primarily other businesses and not the end customers (consumers). For example, a web development agency hires a web developer or graphic designer.
A company is hiring a marketing consultant, etc. Their employment relationship is often regulated by a work or service contract.
To register as a freelancer or self-employed in Germany, use this tool.
Sorted is an online platform for managing all your tax obligations, reports, payments, and communications with the Finanzamt (tax office) in Germany. The tool will do all the bookkeeping, tax, and VAT declarations. Sign up for a free account here.
Description of freelancers in Germany:
- a self-employed person who carries out orders of a company
- has a service or work contract
- no social security obligation
- employment in the context of a temporary employment relationship
- no-strings-attached/not bound by instructions
- usually several clients at the same time
- work at their client’s office or remotely from their home office or a coworking space
German Freelance visa
To work in Germany as a freelancer, you must first possess a profession that belongs to the so-called liberal professions in Germany. If you don’t fall into this category, you should apply for a self-employed visa with a more extensive requirements list.
Freelancer in German is a particular group of professionals who can work independently. For example, doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers, scientists, engineers, software developers, etc. (see the complete list below).
Liberal professions called Freiberufe in Germany include:
- medical professions: doctors, dentists, midwives, practitioners of alternative medicine, psychologists, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists
- lawyers, notaries, attorneys
- coaches, teachers
- graphic designers
- engineers (IT included), architects
- commercial chemists
- auditors, inspectors, tax consultants, economics and business consultants
- journalists, writers, photojournalists
- interpreters, translators
- traffic controllers
Anyone who doesn’t fall into one of those categories becomes a sole proprietor/selbständige. In this case, you must register the trade (Gewerbe) in Germany.
However, writers, journalists, and artists of all types can also apply for the Artist Visa, a particular subcategory of the Freelance Visa.
As a freelancer, you can work with clients from all over the world or offer your services to German companies and private clients. This way, you can still work in English, choose your clients, and let them choose you on platforms like Upwork or Freelancer.com.
Check out an in-depth article on how to apply for a freelance visa here.
Requirements for a freelance visa are different than for the working visa:
- University degree, which is recognized in Germany
- Proof of income
- Portfolio of work
- Prior experience
- Proof of funds to independently support yourself
- Health insurance
- Letters of intent from German companies who express an interest in contracting your services
A self-employment visa is a right fit for people whose degree doesn’t fall into liberal occupations, don’t have a degree at all, or are willing to start a business in Germany. However, this type of visa has several pre-requirements and, on average, is more complicated than the freelance visa.
A foreigner may be granted a residence permit for the pursuit of a self-employed occupation if:
- an economic interest or a regional need exists,
- business activity is expected to have a positive impact on the economy
- candidate has enough funds to realize the idea and support himself (can also be as a loan)
For people older than 45 years old: to have a monthly pension of 1,280 EUR or assets in the amount of 187,682 EUR.
*Proof of a pension plan isn’t required for these nationalities: the Dominican Republic, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and the United States of America.
For your visa application, you will also need to have:
- business plan
- financial plan
- revenue forecast
- health insurance
- funds to support yourself and share capital on your banking account
So German authorities can see if your business is going to be profitable or not.
Selbständige will need to open a business/trade (Gewerbe) to work in Germany. You can see the complete list of documents on the official website.
Furthermore, as a self-employed or freelancer, you should opt for private health insurance in Germany. Ottonova provides suitable to self-employed coverage.
Share capital ranges between 20 EUR and 50,000 EUR depending on the company type you decide to start. The most common form of self-employed in Germany is a sole proprietorship which costs 20 EUR, and GmbH with 25,000 EUR in share capital.
What are the differences between self-employed and freelancers in Germany? Read here.
Are you eligible to work in Germany?
Each of these visas has different eligibility, but EU Blue Card, especially, requires a minimum salary for visa application.
Generally, to work in Germany, you need to have some qualifications recognized in Germany. This is by far the most significant eligibility criteria.
For high degree holders
For you, several options are available: EU Blue Card, residence permit for work purposes, residence permits for freelance, and self-employment.
EU Blue Card: work contract with a minimum salary of 58,400 EUR or 45,552 EUR for shortage occupations.
Residence permit with the work purpose: your profession must be in shortage in Germany, so no other people from Germany or the EU are applying for the same job. Otherweise there is the risk that the Federal Employment agency won’t give you a work permit.
Job Seeker Visa: The applicant must provide financial proof for the entire visa length – 6 months.
Freelance visa: your occupation must belong to the liberal professions in Germany. Applicants also need to provide a portfolio of work, existing or potential customers for their service, and funds in the banking account to support themselves.
Self-employment visa: there must be economic interest or regional demand for your product or service. Candidates must have enough money for the realization of a business idea and to support themselves. They should have funds for share capital if founding the corporation.
Holders of vocational qualifications
Residence permit with the work purpose: qualification of the applicant is their eligibility criteria. No validation from the Federal Employment agency will take place.
Job Seeker Visa: German language certificate – at least B1, financial proof of 600-700 EUR for the month (6 months in total).
Self-employment visa: there must be economic interest or regional demand for your product or service. Candidates must have enough money to realize a business idea and support themselves.
They should have funds for share capital if founding the corporation. This option is available for people without any qualifications.