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How it works

  • 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. A visa can be valid for 90 days to literally enter Germany and needs to be changed for a longterm residency once the person arrived or even for the whole period of residency.

Overview of Visa and 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. 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

People with a citizenship from countries who are not allowed to enter Germany without a visa or those who are allowed to enter Germany without a visa but can’t change the current status as a tourist in Germany need to apply for a visa for employment reasons at the German embassy of their home country or the country of residency. Those people with a citizenship who are allowed to enter Germany without a visa and are able to change their status in Germany (tourist to employee/freelancer) need to have a residence title which allows employment before starting to work. This title the person can apply for and get it from the foreigners department.

Overview of visa requirements/exemptions - Federal Foreign Office
Residence permit for the purpose of employment

Residence titles for employment reasons based on §18 immigration law

To receive a residence title for employment reasons a qualified educational certificate needs to be shown in combination with a concrete job offer or a signed work contract and an approval from the federal employment agency regarding the planned employment. In special cases a residence title for employment reasons can be given when a regional or economic interest is fulfilled or the employment refers to labour market policy interests.

If there is a regional, economic or labor market related concern, will be issued within the partner organizations.

Option I

Option II

Residence title for employment reasons after §19a immigration law (Blue Card)

Three requirements need to be fulfilled to obtain a Blue Card. These are:

  1. a German or in Germany accepted university degree,
  2. a concrete job offer or a signed work contract for a position that fits the educational background and
  3. an annual salary of at least 50.800€ (for 2017).

The minimum annual salary for positions Germany faces a shortage, mainly positions in mathematics, IT, life sciences and engineering as well as doctors, is a bit lower with 39.624€ at least. In these cases an approval from the federal employment agency is necessary. The advantages of a Blue Card in comparison to other residence titles for employment reason are a possible family reunion where the spouse doesn’t need to proof any German language skills and the option to obtain a permanent residence title only after 21 months (by proofing good German language skills) or 33 months (without German language skills).


  • Extension and change of a residence title for employees

Extension of a residence titles and any change of the basis of a residence title for employment, like changing the company or changing the position in the company, need an approval from the foreigners department which means a new application. For residence titles based on the paragraphs 18 and 19a (blue card) the approval from the foreigners department in cases of changing the company or changing the position is only needed within the first two years (of the validity of such a residence title). 

  • Start-ups, freelancing people, Investors and special cases

In special cases (Investors and founding Start-up Entrepreneurs as well as freelancing people the city of Berlin has an economic or cultural interest in) the business service of the foreigners department Berlin gives residence titles to individuals, which are not connected with the service through a specific company. These cases are initially handled by Berlin Partner or the CCI Berlin and are transferred to the business service after approving that these people are those the city of Berlin has a reasonable economic or cultural interest in. Normal freelancers need to apply at the country departments of the foreigners department.

Application for Freelancer

Your contact at the Industrie- und Handelskammer Berlin:

Maxim Kempe  
Starter Center and Start-ups
+49 30 31510-298

Your contact at Berlin Partner for Business and Technology:

Burkhard Volbracht
Head fo Unit Talent Services
+49 30 46302-315

David Kremers
Projekt Manager Talent Services
+49 30 46302-353

For existing companies:
Berlin Partner's areas of expertise
For entrepreneurs:
CCI sectors
Health Care Industries / Life Sciences
ICT, Media and Creative Industries
Transport, Mobility, Logistics
Energy technologies
Chemicals and plastics
Food and beverage industries
Service industries
Construction and Real Estate Industry
Digital Economy
Health Industry
Creative Industry

  • Other residence titles

Other residence titles which could be interesting for companies looking for foreign emloyees:

  • residence title for students
    foreign students are allowed (based on their residence title) to work 120 days or 240 half days within 12 months or be employed as a working student
  • residence title for job seekers after graduation from a German university
    a person who holds this kind of residence title is allowed to start working immediately within a period of 18 months additionally changing this residence title into one for employment reasons is much easier since a German university degree is accepted in any case
  • residence title for family reunion of a spouse to a German citizen or a foreign citizen with a valid residence title or a citizen of the European Union
    someone who obtained a residence title for family reunion reasons (marriages or status similar to marriage) like in cases mentioned above is allowed to work in Germany and no approval from the federal employment agency is needed
  • Acknowlegdment of a foreign degree

The Acknowlegdment of a foreign degree needs to be done through the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany. The application needs to be made online first and after filling in the form, printing and signing it and of course having all the required documents (certified hard copies and normal copies depending on the country the degree is from) the application can be handed in finally – if the reason for acknowlodging the degree is to obtain a blue card it will be done within two weeks, if not it can take up to three months. 

The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs

  • Good to know

Better as early as possibe than too late: The business service tries to prioritize urgent cases even to act in the interest of the Berlin economy but in any case handing in the application as early as possible is a good idea. The federal employment agency works on the cases strictly based on their hand in date so this could cause some deceleration in the end even with the business service.

A delay can also be caused by the authorities in Germany, when the embassy ordered a checking of the case, which happens if the candidate lived in Germany before (longer than 90 days). In these cases the foreigners office in Berlin needs to be involved which can take up to three months.

Limited residence titles from other member states of the European Union do not have any legal relevance in Germany.