How to get a visa for Germany in 2023 for work, study, and travel

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Discover your visa options for Germany based on your citizenship, length of stay, and purpose (work, study, travel). Use our eligibility check and apply for a German visa now!

Andrea Roth Last updated on May 22, 2023
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Get your visa for Germany to work, study, and travel (long/short-term)

Are you seeking a career boost in the heart of Europe? Do you want to acquire internationally recognized higher education? Or do you simply want to enjoy a healthy premium lifestyle? Then Germany is an excellent choice for you.

However, unless you are a citizen of the EU or the EEA member states, you will need a visa.

This German visa navigator takes you through the different types of visas and how you can apply for the right visa for your personal situation. Whether you’re a skilled worker or student or simply want to move to Germany to search for job or business opportunities, start your new life with Nioomi!

Principally, there are two types of visas:

1. Schengen visa for up to 90 days (does not allow work and study)

The Schengen visa is ideal for foreigners who require a visa for Germany and want to travel within the Schengen area for a shorter period of time, e.g., for holidays or medical treatment. The requirements include:

  • Plausibility of the purpose of your stay
  • Financing of living and travel expenses
  • Travel health insurance

However, the Schengen visa only allows you to stay for 90 days (work and study are not allowed).

2. German national visa for 90+ days (allows work and study)

Most non-EU-foreigners wanting to work or study in Germany or to stay longer than 90 days in Germany for other purposes usually need a so-called D-visa.

The type of visa you receive will determine the specific residence permit you can apply for. It’s important to note that having health insurance is mandatory for entry into Germany.

Types of visa

Eligibility to work in Germany is based on your citizenship & qualifications

  1. Citizens from the EU, EEA, Switzerland

You can enter Germany without a visa and must not obtain permission to take up employment.

  1. USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, South Korea

You can enter Germany without a visa. You can then submit an application for your German residence title at the foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde) of your future place of residence in Germany. If you wish to begin working immediately upon arrival prior to obtaining a German residence title, then you must apply for a visa.

  1. Other Non-EU/EEA Citizens

To take up employment in Germany, you have to (1) find suitable employment, (2) apply for an entry visa for employment purposes from the German Embassy in your country, and (3) travel to Germany to apply for a work permit and the residence permit at the Immigration Office.

Alternatively, you can also (1) apply for a job seeker visa from the Germany Embassy in your country, (2) travel to Germany to find suitable employment, and (3) apply for your work permit and residence permit at the Immigration Office.

Important: You cannot enter Germany with a Schengen visa or through the visa-free agreement and apply for a work permit. You have to prove to the immigration authority that you entered Germany for employment purposes, not tourism.

Types of work permits: your way into the German labor market

The official term for the German work visa is a residence permit for the purpose of employment. However, it is common for people to use the terms work visa, work permit, and residence permit interchangeably.

Please note that the work visa is different from the D visa, which enables non-EU nationals to enter Germany and then apply for a German work visa. ‍

There are five primary visas available for non-EU nationals to apply for:

  1. EU Blue Card
  2. Work visa for qualified professionals
  3. Visa for IT specialists
  4. Visa for self-employment
  5. Visa for research

Visa requirements

If you need a visa for Germany and try to immigrate without one, you will be denied entry and transported back at your own cost.

German national visa (D visa) requirements

This visa (in combination with a valid travel document) allows holders to move freely in the Schengen area for up to three months in any six-month period. The general requirements include:

  • Valid passport and biometric photos
  • Proof of funds to cover your living cost for the duration of your stay
  • Health insurance
  • No pre-existing reason for rejection
  • Knowledge of the German language (A2-B2) may be required

Apart from the general requirements, there are additional specific requirements that vary depending on the type of visa.

1. EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is issued for the duration of the work contract plus three additional months, with a maximum validity of 4 years. The requirements for the EU Blue Card are:

  • German degree, recognized foreign higher education degree, or comparable foreign higher education degree
  • Concrete job offer from a German company
  • Job position related to applicant’s university degree
  • Minimum gross annual income of 45,300 € per year (~49,600 USD) or 41,042 € per year for shortage occupations (~44,900 USD) (as of 2023). Shortage occupations include scientists, mathematicians, architects, planners, designers, engineers, physicians, and ICT professionals.

2. Work visa for qualified professionals

The work visa for qualified professionals is available to individuals who have received education or vocational training outside of Germany and want to work in the country. This visa or residence permit can be issued for up to four years or for the duration of the work contract if it is shorter. The requirements for this visa are:

  • Qualifications must be recognized in Germany or equivalent to those from a German higher education institution.
  • A concrete job offer from a German company.
  • If the applicant is over 45 and coming to Germany for the first time, the gross annual salary for the position must be at least 50,736 € (as of 2023). Alternatively, proof of sufficient old-age pension provisions can be provided.
  • Approval from the Federal Employment Agency (BA) is necessary. It must be demonstrated that there are no preferential (nationals of EU member states or the EEA States) workers available for the job.
  • The employment conditions must be comparable to those of domestic employees.

3. Visa for IT specialists

For IT specialist who doesn’t meet the qualifications for the previously mentioned work permits, there is a third option: the visa for IT specialists. To be eligible for this visa, applicants must:

  • Have a job offer in the IT sector in Germany.
  • Show proof of at least three years of IT sector experience within the past seven years, qualifying them for the job.
  • Provide evidence of relevant theoretical knowledge through training courses and exams.
  • Receive a job offer with a minimum gross annual salary of 41,042 € (as of 2023).
  • Possess German language skills at the B1 level, with exceptions possible.
  • Obtain approval from the Federal Employment Agency (BA). It must be demonstrated that there are no preferential (nationals of EU member states or the EEA States) workers available for the job.
  • The employment conditions must be comparable to those of domestic employees.

4. Visas for studying requirements

If you’re interested in learning more about moving to Germany as a student, Welcome Hub Germany has provided a helpful checklist. Here are the requirements for the student visa:

  • Acceptance to an officially recognized higher education institution in Germany.
  • Proof of secondary school diploma enabling admission to a higher education institution or a recognized degree or diploma from a higher education institution.
  • Sufficient funds to cover living expenses during your studies. This can be achieved through a blocked bank account, a scholarship, or a declaration of commitment.
  • Language proficiency proof may be necessary, depending on the admission requirements of your chosen study program. If language skills need to be demonstrated, a minimum level of B2, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), is generally required.

How to apply for a visa

Everyone moving to Germany needs a valid visa if they work, study, or stay longer than three months unless they are citizens of a visa-exempt country.

  1. Start your visa application process early (4-5 months before your trip) to avoid any delays.
  2. Check if you fulfill all requirements.
  3. Download the visa application form, and fill it out at home.
  4. Prepare all supporting documents.
  5. Make an appointment at the German embassy or consulate in your home country.
  6. In person, submit the visa application documents as originals in duplicate and in the language required by the foreign representation; make sure to bring all supporting documents; your fingerprints will be taken during this appointment.
  7. Receive your visa.
  8. Travel to Germany (health insurance required upon arrival).

If you are an IT expert, you can create a job profile on Nioomi. Interested companies will reach out to you, and you can decide whom to talk to. Nioomi also offers free assistance for the visa process.

Do you need a German language certificate? You can find more information here.

Approval Duration

The application process for a Schengen visa usually takes up to 14 days for a Schengen visa and six to eight weeks for a German national visa.

Visa fees: how much does it cost to get a visa for Germany?

The general processing fee for a Schengen visa is 80 € and 75 € for a national visa. Discounts may apply to special groups.

So, now you have your German national visa. What’s next?

Congratulations, you have obtained your employment visa, job seeker visa, or your EU Blue Card.

Now, you can get your German work permit and residence permit.

  1. Register your German address at the district registration office to get your address registration (Meldebestätigung) and German tax ID.
  2. Get an appointment at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde).
  3. Submit the application forms and supporting documents in person.
  4. Receive your German work and residence permit

Key takeaways

  • Most non-EU-foreigners need a visa to enter Germany. Schengen visas are for short touristic stays; German national visas are for long stays, work, and study.
  • The type of your visa for Germany is determined by your citizenship, purpose, and length of your stay. Your visa will determine the type of German residence permit you can apply for.
  • The most popular German work permits are the work visa for qualified professionals, the visa for IT specialists, and the EU Blue Card, each with specific eligibility criteria.

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