- Despite a reputation for bureaucracy, due to strong demand in Germany for skilled workers (particularly in IT, software development, engineering and manufacturing), Germany has a relatively efficient work visa processing system.
- There are a range of work visas available for those interested in moving to Germany, including the EU Blue Card and the Skilled Worker Visa. While most require employer sponsorship, as of 2023, this is about to change.
- When applying for a Germany work visa, make sure to follow all the required steps to ensure that the correct visa is received in a timely fashion.
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.
What are the different types of Germany work visa?
The key forms of Germany work visa are the:
- EU Blue Card — a work visa for highly-skilled non-EU citizens who have a university degree or equivalent qualifications, as well as a job offer from a German employer. EU Blue Card holders can live and work in Germany for up to four years, with the possibility of renewal for another four years.
- Skilled Worker Visa — an alternate work visa for skilled workers that have a job offer from a German employer and are in a qualified profession, but don’t otherwise meet the requirements of the EU Blue Card. It allows the holder to live and work in Germany for the duration of their work contract.
- Jobseeker Visa — a temporary (six months) visa for non-EU citizens who are seeking employment in Germany. This is not technically a work visa, as it does not permit the individual to work, but it does allow the individual to enter the country and search for work with the hopes of acquiring a work visa.
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.
- Apprenticeship Visa — a work visa for individuals who are going to Germany to complete an apprenticeship. Holders can live and work in Germany for the duration of the apprenticeship.
What is the procedure for applying for a work visa in 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:
- Search for a qualifying job — for most Germany work visas you need to secure a job offer from a German employer. The employer must also obtain a valid work permit from the German Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), specific to that job, before the employee can apply for a visa.
- Prepare and collect the required documents — the next step is to put together all the required documents for the application. This will usually include passport, resume, educational certificates or proof of qualifications, criminal record checks, and other documents specific to the type of visa.
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.
- Register on arrival — once employees arrive in Germany, they should keep in mind that they must immediately register their residential address with their local authority (Anmeldung).
Germany work visas — tick all the boxes
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.
It's hard to say. If all documents are in order, work visas can often be processed in a few weeks. However, a recent surge in visa processing workload means that it is sometimes taking several months to process visas at the moment.
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.