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Top New Ways to Stay in Berlin for Non-EU Citizens Written by Tia Robinson on 16. April 2014


Anyone who has been to Berlin knows it’s an amazing place…but figuring out a way to stay can be tricky, especially if you are a non-EU citizen. Luckily for us, the German government has recognized how valuable we well-educated and passionate expats are. Over the past few years, they have created several interesting new avenues for enabling highly-skilled workers to more easily live and work in Berlin.

In this piece, Tia Robinson from Expath – a startup helping expats find their feet in Berlin – and residency & immigration lawyer Anne Glinka outline new possibilities for German residency, as well as some general pointers to keep in mind if you’re thinking of taking the plunge and moving over.

The 6-month Residence Permit for Qualified Workers to Search for Employment

This residency permit allows university graduates to come for up to six months to look for full-time or freelance work. You’ll need to bring your university/college degree, proof that you’ve got enough savings to support yourself, and health insurance. You can see if your university degree is recognized in Germany here (sorry, in German only). If your university is not listed, you can check with a lawyer about the degree recognition process. Careful – you cannot start working on this residency permit. Once you secure a job offer(s), you’ll need to apply for the right work permit.

The European Blue Card

An ‘upgrade’ from the normal full-time employment work permit for job offers over €47,600 per year, this work permit can be issued for up to four years and allows your spouse to work too. It also allows easier access to work in any other EU country. For workers in shortage professions (scientists, mathematicians, architects, engineers, doctors, and IT professionals, for example), the job offer only needs to be €37,128 Euro.

18 Month Residence Permit to Search for Employment for those Finishing a German University Degree

Finishing a Bachelor’s, Master’s, Magister or Diplom in Germany earns you the right to stay for up to a year and a half to find a job or start your own business. You’ll also need to show proof of finances/savings and health insurance. If your job offer also meets the requirements for the EU Blue Card, you can skip the requirement for approval by the Federal Employment Agency for you to do the job.

Advantages for Spouses of those with Work Permits

New since September 2013, when your spouse receives a valid work permit (freelance or full-time employment), you can apply for a work permit that allows you to do both freelancing and fulltime work. Important – you’ll need to get an Apostille for your marriage or civil partnership certificate before coming to Germany.

What’s your nationality?

  • Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the Unites States can come directly to Berlin without an entry visa for up to 3 months and can apply from here for a work or residency permit. (Note: You can stay in the Schengen Zone for 90 days out of every 180 days. Ex.: If you’ve just spent 2 months travelling around France & Italy, you’ll have just one month in Berlin before needing to leave the Schengen Zone for at least 3 months to ‘reset’ the clock).

  • Citizens of other countries typically need to get a residence permit and entry visa in their home country or country of residence before moving – this does not apply for those who have graduated from a German university.

What else?

  • You’ll need to prove there’s a real reason to hire you and not an EU citizen.
    This could be formal education or your unique language, artistic or technical skills, for example – and means you can forget about getting a work permit as a tour guide or bartender, as those jobs can easily be done by EU nationals.

  • You can’t stay long-term in Berlin and work (only) for home-country clients.
    Unfortunately the government’s interested in what you contribute to the local economy and doesn’t care about your US- or Australian-based clients. To get a work permit here, you’ll need to show local contracts or job offers.

  • Definitely bring plenty of savings with you (it often takes several months to find job offers and receive an answer on your work permit) and your original high school and university degrees and transcripts.

  • When should you get professional legal advice?
    If you’re coming with dependents, have been rejected for a work or residency permit in the past, have ever been denied entry to or expelled from an EU country, or have any other ‘tricky’ circumstances. A residency lawyer will help you through the work- or residency permit process and can greatly increase your chances of staying.

As you can see, plenty of bureaucracy remains, but if you do your research and come prepared with a plan, savings and lots of energy and motivation, you have a good chance at making it. Viel Glück & see you soon in Berlin!

Image: © Some right are reserved by Kate Ter Haar