The process to obtain a work visa in Germany depends on the Citizenship of the Applicant.

iAs a general rule, foreign nationals other than European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals may only reside in Germany for the purpose of taking up gainful employment if they have the requisite residence permit. Working without it is illegal.

US citizens may acquire residence permit from the competent foreigners’ authority after their arrival in Germany, but may not commence gainful employment until they have the permit. Alternatively, US Citizens may – like nationals of all other states are required to – apply for a work visa from their local German mission prior to their planned trip to Germany.

Contrary to US Immigration laws German Immigration law does not specify different types of Visas. Instead, the main distinction is generally between resident permit, a settlement permit or a Blue Card. The residence permit is always temporary and issued for a specific purpose, for example to take up training or to engage in economic activity, to allow immigration of family members, or for humanitarian reasons. The unlimited settlement permit is free of temporal or other restrictions and entitles the holder to engage in economic activity. In addition to that, Section 19a of the German Resident Act regulates the EU Blue Card which is a temporary residence title for workers with an academic or similar qualification and a certain minimum income. The issuing administration is the Consulate or the local labor office in Germany (örtliche Arbeitsamt). In some cases consent by the Center for the Recruitment of Foreign Staff (“ZVA” Zentrale Auslands.- und Fachvermittlung).

A comprehensive summary of employment of foreign workers in Germany can be found in English here.

Finally, except United States Citizens, all other nationals who intend to travel to Germany either on a short term basis (known as the Schengenvisa) with a maximum stay of 90 days per 6 months (e.g. business purposes, tourist purposes, visiting purposes, transiting) or intend to work or settle in Germany permanently do require a valid visa before entering Germany. A visa may only be applied for at the German Embassy abroad by those who have permanent residence in the area of jurisdiction of the Embassy.

Ellen von Geyso, PA can assist with all German-related immigration matters.