1. I am a foreign national interested in working in Germany. What opportunities are open to me?
Foreign nationals other than European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals may reside in Germany for the purpose of taking up gainful employment if they have a residence permit which explicitly authorises them to do so. Foreigners’ access to the labour market is limited by the ordinance on the admission of foreigners for the purpose of taking up employment. Access is in principle limited to certain occupational groups and normally requires the approval of the employment authorities; nonetheless there are numerous exceptions to this principle. In fact in recent years, various legislative measures have further liberalised access to the German labour market.
For unskilled and low-skilled workers access to the labour market remains limited. In contrast, in the case of highly-qualified foreign nationals such as university graduates, the legal barriers to working in Germany have been further reduced.
As from 1 August 2012 people with a recognized university degree or a degree comparable to a German degree will, under the EU Blue Card system, have easier access to the labour market. To obtain the Blue Card, they must simply furnish proof of their qualifications and a concrete job offer that would provide annual gross earnings of at least 47.600 euros (2014). In these cases the approval of the Federal Employment Agency is not required.
In the case of highly qualified foreign nationals with a background in mathematics, IT, the natural sciences or technology as well as medical doctors, the EU Blue Card facilities and arrangements also apply, provided they are offered the same salaries as comparable German employees and their annual gross earnings would be at least 37.128 euros (2014). In these cases the approval of the Federal Employment Agency is required.
2. What is the EU Blue Card? Who is eligible for it? Where can I get it?
EU Blue Cards are issued by EU member states to third-country nationals. The holder of an EU Blue Card is entitled to take up residence in the EU for the purpose of taking up gainful employment.
The legal basis for the EU Blue Card is Council Directive 2009/50/EC. The EU Blue Card is designed particularly to attract highly qualified third-country nationals to jobs in occupations where there is a shortage of qualified personnel or where a shortage is likely to arise in future.
The EU Blue Card is the main residence permit for university graduates from abroad. It is a simple and un bureaucratic procedure geared to third-country nationals keen to put their talents to use in Germany.
Applicants must furnish proof that they have a university degree and have been offered a job that would provide gross annual earnings for at least 47.600 euros (2014).
In occupations where jobs vacancies for e.g. doctors, engineers, natural scientists, mathematicians, and IT-specialists cannot be filled due to a shortage of qualified personnel applicants need a job offer providing gross annual earnings in the order of only 37.128 euros (2014). To prevent abuse, in such cases the authorities will check the terms and conditions of the job offer with respect to working hours and salary. The EU Blue Card offers special privileges to immigrants and their families. The prospect of obtaining permanent resident status at an early stage encourages would-be applicants to plan their long-term future in Germany. After 33 months of residence, Blue Card holders are eligible for a settlement permit. Those who prove they have good German language skills may be granted a settlement permit after 21 months.
In Germany the EU Blue Card can be obtained only from the foreigners offices. Third-country nationals who are eligible for the EU Blue Card and require a visa to enter Germany will be issued a national visa for the purpose of taking up gainful employment. Once in Germany, their local foreigner’s office will issue them the EU Clue Card.
3. Is it true that foreign nationals can now come to Germany to start their own business?
We want to make it easier for innovative people from abroad to start their own business in Germany and help create jobs here. The changes in the Residence Act in force since August 2012 are intended to encourage would-be entrepreneurs to invest in Germany and give the federal states more leeway in assessing whether a given business project is likely to be successful. The rules prequiring a minimum sum to be invested and a minimum number of new jobs to be created have been abolished.
For independent professionals, for whom residence permit requirements are less stringent, the situation remains unchanged.
4. What is the procedure for applying for a work visa?
As a general rule non-EU nationals need a residence title (visa or residence permit) to take up employment in Germany. By law the residence title has to give information whether and to which extent access to the labour market is granted. This information replaces the former work permit. If you intend to commence work in Germany you have to apply for a visa with the competent German mission abroad before entering Germany. (Only nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States may apply for the necessary residence title after arrival in Germany.
5. I am an EU citizen and want to live and work in Germany. What are my options?
EU citizens do not need a visa for entering Germany.
Since the entry into force of the Freedom of Movement Act/EU on 1 January 2005, EU citizens are no longer required to apply for a residence permit after entering Germany. However, they need to register, like everyone else, with their local residents registration office.
For citizens of Croatia, freedom of movement remains subject to various transitional arrangements that might possibly expire on 30 June 2015. For citizens of Bulgaria and Romania these arrangements recently expired on 31 December 2013.
6.Will my occupational qualifications obtained abroad be recognized in Germany?
For certain occupations (e.g. lawyer, chartered accountant, teacher, physiotherapist, doctor, nurse, midwife, community pharmacist, architect) you need to prove you have the required qualifications. Whether your qualifications obtained abroad entitle you to pursue the occupation of your choice in Germany is something you need to check with the agency responsible for recognizing qualifications in the relevant occupation.
Since April 2012 immigrants are legally entitled to an official ruling on whether their occupational qualifications obtained abroad are deemed equivalent to the relevant German qualification.
7.What exactly is the Working Holiday programme?
Working holiday programmes exist with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan,Hong Kong, Israel and Chile. The programme with Israel is expected to start not before the end of 2014.
The programmes give young people between 18 and 30 the opportunity to gain an insight into the culture and daily life of the partner country. They can stay up to 12 months. Holiday jobs can be taken on to help finance the stay.
Citizens of Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand can apply for the relevant visa at every German mission abroad or after their arrival directly at the competent aliens office.
Citizens of Chile can apply for the relevant visa at every German mission abroad.
Citizens of Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong have to apply for the relevant visa for their working holiday stay in Germany at the competent German mission abroad.
8.I am not a EU national and want to live in Germany with my German spouse. What do we have to do?
First of all you have to apply for a visa for family reunification (subsequent immigration of spouses) from the competent German mission abroad.
Documents required include an authenticated marriage certificate as well as the German passport of the German spouse.
The German mission will forward the visa application to the foreigners authority in the place where you want to live in Germany for an opinion.
The German mission abroad can only issue a visa for entry once the foreigners authority has given its approval. The final residence permit will be issued by the foreigners authority in Germany once you are there.
Details on the documents to be presented with your visa application are often available on the webpage of the competent German mission abroad or directly from the mission itself.
9.Where can I get information on the validity of my foreign driving license in Germany?
The Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure offers information on the validity of foreign driving licenses in Germany on its webpage.