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 residence permits for employees:
Visa and residence permit - what is the difference?
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. The visa's period of validity depends on which type of visa you applied for. 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/ residence permit entitles the holder to stay in Germany and includes or excludes permission to pursue gainful employment, depending on the legal basis of the residence permit. Residence permits can only be applied for at an immigration office. The responsibility of the immigration office depends on the place where the person concerned has registered. In Berlin, the State Office for Immigration is responsible for this. A residence permit will only be issued if you can also prove that you have German health insurance.
Both a visa and a residence permit are issued for a specific purpose and are valid for a fixed period of time.
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 national visa for the purpose of employment at the German embassy of your home country or your country of residence.
Nationals who may enter Germany without a visa and may change their status here (tourist to employee/self-employed): You must have a residence permit 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 §18b (1) immigration law
Prerequisites for a residence permit for the purpose of employment are:
- a qualified vocational education
- a concrete job offer or a signed work contract
- the federal employment agency‘s approval for the planned employment
A residence permit for employment can be issued if academic training and a concrete job offer/employment contract can be proven and the Federal Employment Agency has approved the employment of the person concerned. In certain individual cases, a residence permit may be issued if there is a regional, economic or labor market policy interest in the applicant's employment.
Residence title for the purpose of employment based on §18b (2) 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 58,400 € (4,867 €).
The salary threshold of the EU Blue Card for so-called shortage occupations, especially in STEM* and medical fields, is slightly lower at €45,552 (€3,796) gross.
* Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics
The advantages of the EU Blue Card over other residence titles for gainful employment are above all the simultaneous possibility of family reunification and the possibility of obtaining a (permanent) residence permit for the Federal Republic after only 21 months (with proven German language skills) or 33 months.
Extension and amendment of a residence title for employees
Extensions of the residence permit and changes to the basis of the residence permit for employment, such as a change of employer or a change of position in the company, may require the approval of the State Office for Immigration, in other words a new application must be submitted. For residence titles for employment according to §18a and 18b (1) or §18b (2) (EU Blue Card), an application for a change of employer or for a change of position in the company only has to be submitted within the first two years of employment.
Investors, self-employed, freelancers and selected cases
In selected cases (investors, self-employed people and people who are of particular economic or cultural interest for the state of Berlin), the Business Immigration Service of the LEA Berlin 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 Freelancers
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
|For entrepreneurs: |
|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 permits for students (§16b immigration law)
Based on their residence permit, 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 permit for job seekers after graduation from a German university (§20 immigration law)
A person who holds this residence permit for up to 18 months is allowed to start working immediately. Changing this residence permit 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 Skilled Immigration Act
An amendment to the Skilled Immigration Act (FEG) is currently being worked on, which is expected to take effect at the end of 2023.
The Skilled Worker Immigration Act (FEG) has been in force since 1.3.2020. It expands the opportunities for qualified persons from non-EU countries to come to Germany with the purpose of taking up employment.
according to the FEG, there are two types of skilled workers: those with a university degree and those with a non-academic formal professional qualification (comparable to dual vocational training in Germany).
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.
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.
Special regulations apply to professionals older than 45 years. 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
Generally, the following must be taken into account:
- The FEG 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 (Immigration Office)
- The LEA obtains approval from the Federal Employment Agency and checks everything required, issues a preliminary approval with seal
- The employer sends this document 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
Good to know
Incomplete applications lead to considerably delayed processing! Please only send applications with all required documents to the Immigration Office (LEA).
Service at all LEA locations is generally by appointment only.
Please also refer to the current notices on the LEA website.
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.