Berlin-based businesses can quickly and easily find answers to all questions relating to residence permits for their employees and family members from the Business Immigration Service (BIS) and submit the corresponding applications to the relevant department of the State Office for Immigration. The same applies for foreign investors and founders who want to become economically active here in Berlin.
- Information about the topic of preliminary approval and visas (Berlin partners and IHK)
- Information and advice regarding the topic of residence permits (Berlin partners and IHK)
- Review, creation and issue of residence permits (Foreigners’ Registration Office - LEA)
- Support in applying for accommodation at the Citizen’s Office (Bürgeramt)
The BIS is a company service and can be used exclusively by businesses, founders and independents who have registered as customers with the Berlin Immigration Office. This also applies for member companies of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Berlin Chamber of Crafts.
Not yet registered but want to use the Business Immigration Service?
Please check this website:
(Currently only available in German.)
Registration as a new customer in the BIS
(Currently only available in German.)
Students and other individuals should contact the
Berlin Immigration Office
Have you already registered?
Then please use this page:
Online application for registered BIS customers
(Currently only available in German.)
The Business Immigration Service (BIS) is a unique network of participants from Berlin’s economic and administration sector for visa and residency queries. Fast communication and transparent, solution-oriented work processes ensure cooperation at its best.
As an initial overview, we have compiled information about the topic of visas and residency permits for employees:
Visa and residence title - what is what?
A visa allows you to enter Germany. An application for a visa is issued by the local German embassy in the country of origin or the country of residence of the person applying. Based on what kind of visa the person is applying for the timeframe of validity differs. The Schengen visa (category "C") permits a short-term stay of up to 90 days within a time frame of 180 days. The national visa (category "D") is issued to persons who wish to study, work or stay permanently in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Overview of residence titles
A residence title authorizes to a legal residency in Germany. It includes the permission to work based on what kind of residence title it is, or not. The residence title is issued by the responsible foreigners department exclusively. In Berlin the foreigners department is the Berlin Immigration Office. The foreigners department is responsible as soon as a foreign person registered him- or herself in the area of responsibility of the department. One requirement to get a residence title is the confirmation of a German health insurance.
Visa and residence titles are valid for a certain timeframe and based on a specific reason.
Overview of the relevant visa and residence titles for employees
Nationals from countries which require a visa to enter Germany or those who are allowed to enter Germany without a visa, but can’t change their tourist status in Germany: You need to apply for a visa for the purpose of employment at the German embassy of your home country or your country of residency.
Nationals who may enter Germany without a visa and may change their status here (tourist to employee/freelancer): You must have a residence title for the purpose of employment before you start to work. This application must be submitted at the local immigration office.
Residence title for the purpose of employment based on §18 immigration law
Prerequisites for a residence title for the purpose of employment are:
- a qualified vocational education needs to be shown in combination with
- a concrete job offer or a signed work contract and
- the approval for the planned employment from the federal employment agency.
In certain individual cases, a residence permit may be issued if there is a regional, economic or labour market policy interest in the applicant's employment.
The examination as to whether there is a regional, economic or labour market policy interest is carried out in cooperation with the BIS partners.
Residence title for the purpose of employment based on §19a immigration law (EU Blue Card)
Three requirements must be met to receive an EU Blue Card:
- a German university degree or a degree from a foreign university which is recognised in Germany,
- an employment contract or a concrete job offer for a position that suits the educational background and
- a minimum annual salary of 55,200€ (2020).
The salary threshold for so-called shortage occupations, particularly in the MINT* and medical sectors, is a little lower at €43,056 gross.
* Mathematics, Informatics, Natural sciences, Technology
The EU Blue Card has several advantages compared with a residence permit for the purpose of employment. These include a validity for up to 4 years, a family reunion without the spouse’s need to prove German language skills and the option to obtain a permanent residence title after 21 months (with proof of good German language skills) or 33 months.
Extension and amendment of a residence title for employees
Generally, the extension and any amendment of a residence title need an approval from the Foreigners Office, and thus a new application. Possible reasons to amend a residence title for the purpose of employment are changes to its basis, e. g. another position or a change of employers.
For residence titles in accordance with §18 and §19a (EU Blue Card), the approval from the Foreigners Office in such cases must only be reapplied for within the first two years (from the date of issuance of the residence title).
Investors, self-employed, freelancers and selected cases
In selected cases (investors, startup entrepreneurs and freelancers who are of special economic or cultural interest for the city of Berlin), the BIS service of the Berlin Immigration Office also issues residence permits for individuals who are not represented by a company. The connection is usually established via Berlin Partner für Wirtschaft und Technologie or via the IHK Berlin. In these selected cases, there must be a justified economic or cultural interest of the city of Berlin. Freelancers should generally turn to their respective country department at the Berlin Immigration Office.
Application for Freelancer
Your contact at the Industrie- und Handelskammer Berlin:
Starter Center und Startups
+49 30 31510-298
Your contact at Berlin Partner for Business and Technology:
Head fo Unit Talent | International
+49 30 46302-315
|For existing companies:|
Berlin Partner's areas of expertise
|Health Care Industries / Life Sciences|
Media and Creative Industries
Transport, Mobility, Logistics
Chemicals and plastics
Food and beverage industries
|Construction and Real Estate Industry|
Other residence titles
Other residence permits that may be relevant for companies looking for foreign emloyees:
- Residence title for students (§16.1 immigration law)
Based on their residence title, foreign students are allowed to take up employment totalling no more than 120 days or 240 half-days per year, and to take up part-time student employment.
- Residence title for job seekers after graduation from a German university (§16.5 immigration law)
A person who holds this residence title for up to 18 months is allowed to start working immediately. Changing this residence title into one for employment reasons is much easier due to the German university degree.
- Family reunion to Germans (§28 Residence Act), to foreigners with a valid residence title (§30 Residence Act) or to EU citizens (§3 Freedom of Movement Act EU)
People who hold a valid residence permit for family reunion (marriage or marriage-equivalent partnerships) may work without restriction.
Acknowlegdment of a foreign degree
For foreign university degrees that are not recognised in the anabin database, recognition of these can be applied for via the Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen - ZAB) The application is submitted online and then all the required documents sent by post. Copies and certified translations are sufficient here. A response is received within around three months.
If the purpose of the recognition is to receive a Blue Card, the application will be processed within several weeks.
Information on statements of comparability
The new law on the immigration of skilled workers
On 1 March 2020, the new Skilled Immigration Act (FkEG) came into effect. It expands the possibilities for qualified professionals from non-EU countries to migrate to Germany in order to work. This is made possible by:
- Expediting the recognition of foreign qualifications
- Increased support with learning the German language abroad
- Improved and more efficient administration processes
Firstly, the qualified professionals must be defined in terms of the FkEG: those with university degrees and those with vocational qualifications (comparable to the German dual vocational training system).
For qualified professionals with academic degrees, both the university and degree received must be recognised as was previously the case:
The degree should be listed in the anabin database. The university must be rated as “H+” and the degree should be comparable to a German degree qualification. If found, you create a PDF of the evaluation and submit this along with the other application documents.
Before applying for a visa, prospective applicants require official recognition of their academic qualification. For vocational qualifications, this is carried out by the relevant official body only. Further information can be found at www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de. Prospective qualified professionals should begin this process as soon as possible. This can also be done before the new rules enter into effect in March 2020.
Once you have obtained the official proof of recognition, qualified professionals can apply for a visa to come to Germany and take a job for which they are qualified. If the German authorities have only partially recognised the professional qualification, interested parties can receive a visa for further training and qualification in Germany. Under certain circumstances, you can undertake employment during this period of further training.
People with sufficient knowledge of the German language and adequate financial resources to support their livelihood can apply for a visa to look for a job. This visa is valid for six months.
Different rules apply for qualified professionals who are over 45 years of age. Those coming to Germany for the purpose of employment must submit a work application with a specified minimum salary or proof of an adequate pension scheme.
School graduates under 25 years of age can come to Germany for up to six months to apply for an apprentice position if their school leaving qualification entitles them to undertake higher education, they have good knowledge of German (B2 level) and have the financial means to support their livelihood. This residence permit allows up to 10 hours of employment as a trial, during which or following this a job should be taken.
- FAQ from the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community
- Information on the Skilled Immigration Act
Key changes by the FkEG:
- In future, qualified professionals will include university graduates and employees with certified professional training as standard. You can undertake employment as a qualified professional for which the qualification permits, providing your qualification has been officially recognised. Under certain conditions, IT specialists can access the employment market without a formal qualification. The law however offers no new possibilities for unqualified or poorly qualified individuals to access the German employment market.
- If the qualified professional is able to provide an employment contract and recognised qualification in Germany, the so-called priority check is not required.
- The previous limitation to shortage occupations no longer applies to qualified professionals with recognised professional training. They receive access to qualified employment to which their qualification entitles them.
- Professionals with certified professional training are permitted to come to search for employment. The requirement for this is knowledge of the German language and the financial means to support a livelihood in Germany.
- Providing a certified foreign degree increases the chances of staying for qualification measures in Germany with the aim of recognising the professional qualification. Recognition procedures can be carried out entirely within the country as part of the reconciliation agreement of the Federal Employment Agency (BA).
Generally, the following must be taken into account:
- The FkEG only applies for people still living abroad (place of residence).
- No professional recognition is possible without formal training.
- Professional experience + post-qualification = qualification
- If a language course has been completed, this counts towards the training or post-qualification.
- Knowledge of the German language is required.
- A binding offer of employment is required.
- This applies for individuals only (not for groups of employees).
- The employer must file a copy of the current residence permit.
- At the end of the contract, the employer must notify the LEA of this within four weeks.
The “expedited procedure”:
- Fee €411
- Employers require a power of attorney from the qualified professional
- The employer concludes an agreement with the LEA
- The LEA obtains preliminary approval from the Federal Employment Agency and examines the preconditions for approvals, granting preliminary approval with a stamp
- The employer sends this to the applicant who presents it to the embassy
- The embassy will arrange an appointment within three weeks and take a decision on the visa within an additional three weeks
- This visa is valid for 12 months
- The expedited procedure is also available for the immigration of family members if joint arrival - within three months - is envisaged (€411 per person)
- If this is rejected by the LEA, a visa to obtain post-qualification is possible
- The expedited procedure is no guarantee of obtaining a residence permit
(Sources: Foreigners' Registration Office, Foreign Office, BMI, BMAS and MiiG)
Good to know
Sooner rather than later: Even though the BIS cooperation partners work hand in hand to provide the best possible support for Berlin's economy, the required documents must be submitted at an early stage.
Temporary residence permits from other EU countries are not valid in Germany.
If an applicant has already stayed in Germany for a longer period of time (no tourist stay), delays may occur. In such cases, the embassy will involve the „Einreisestelle“ of the Berlin Immigration Office, which may take up to three months.