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As the European Union’s largest and strongest economy, there is a strong demand in Germany for highly-skilled and qualified workers from overseas. This, combined with the excellent quality of life, attracts many foreign workers to living in Germany, and means German work visas are one of the most popular types of work visa globally.
Generally, German work visas require that the applicant has secured a job and employer sponsorship. However, a recent law change is bringing in a new visa that will allow workers to more easily enter the country without an existing job offer and sponsor. This Chancenkarte is expected to be implemented later in 2023.
Below we consider the different types of Germany visa available for skilled workers, as well as the steps required to apply for them. Note, this information is for non-EU/common market applicants. Citizens of the EU/common market have an automatic right to live in Germany.
The key forms of Germany work visa are the:
ICT Card — this work visa, standard throughout the EU, is for intra-company transferees, namely senior managers, specialists, and some trainees. These individuals can be transferred by their multinational company to a German branch/subsidiary, and on this visa, can live and work in Germany for up to three years.
EU Permanent Residence Permit — a long-term residence permit for non-EU citizens who have lived in Germany for 5+ years. It allows the holder to live and work in Germany indefinitely, and also provides access to certain social benefits, as well as the right to bring their family members to Germany.
Generally speaking, the German work visa and residence permit will be received at the same time (similar to the ‘Single Permit’ approach in other EU countries, such as the Slovenia work visa and Slovakia work visa). To apply for a work visa in Germany, generally, you should take the following steps:
Hand in the application — the application should be submitted at the German Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence. The applicant must also pay the visa fee and may need to schedule an appointment for a visa interview.
Receive a decision — the German Embassy or Consulate will review the application and, where all documents are in order, make a decision on the visa. This process can take several weeks to months.
Pick up the visa — if the visa is approved, the applicant must collect it from the relevant German mission. They will also have to register at the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) within a few days of arriving in Germany.
Unlike some other European destinations, labor shortages mean that German authorities are generally supportive of work visas (for a point of contrast, check out the process for Switzerland work visas for non-EU foreign nationals).
Nevertheless, with a range of different visas available allowing work, it is important to choose the right work visas and complete all the necessary prerequisites to receiving one. Many individuals and companies find it beneficial to get help from a specialist international employment company in that process. International Professional Employer Organizations (international PEOs) can be a good option for guiding businesses and employees through the process. For more information on these check out our list of the top international PEOs.
Processing times vary depending on the type of visa and type of occupation, but the average processing time is around six weeks from when your application is received. To ensure your work visa application is processed quickly, applicants must ensure that all required documentation is in order before submission. This helps to reduce unnecessary delays in processing and results in a quicker outcome for you.
In general, german work visas do require a sponsor, with the employer-sponsor demonstrating that the position cannot be filled by a German or EU national, that the job is at the required salary level, and that the employee has the required qualifications and skills for the job.
There are temporary jobseeker visas available that allow individuals to enter the country to search for work for up to 6 months. But they cannot begin work until the work visa with sponsorship is acquired.