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Starting out in germany

Important information on formalities relating to the new workplace

Clara Görtz, 26.09.2019
© dpa/Oliver Berg - Visa

Depending on which country you are from, you may need a residence permit. And you should find accommodation as soon as possible. Here are the most important websites and tips. 

Quick Check

Who can work in Germany? And what are the requirements? For quick and simple answers to these questions use “Quick Check” on the “Make it in Germany” portal. The free online tool available in German and English asks where you are from and what certificates and qualifications you have. In the following step you find out which criteria you need to fulfil to be able to work in Germany.


Citizens of an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland generally do not need a visa to stay in Germany and have unrestricted access to the German labour market. After moving to Germany they need to register at the relevant citizens’ office or residents’ registration office.

Visa for citizens from third countries

You generally need a visa if you come from a country other than European Union member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, i.e., citizens of so-called “third states”. German diplomatic missions in the respective country are responsible for visas. With a few exceptions, a visa should definitely be applied for before arriving in Germany. It is important that it corresponds to the actual purpose of the stay. It may take some time to receive a visa. The multilingual website of the German Foreign Office provides an overview of visa requirements and of all German diplomatic missions. Anyone planning a longer stay in Germany should apply for a residence permit (“Aufenthaltstitel”) in addition to a visa. Residence permits are generally issued for a limited time. To be able to work in Germany, you should apply for a residence permit that entitles you to take up gainful employment (“Aufenthaltstitel zum Zweck der Erwerbstätigkeit”). Incidentally, no additional work permit is required with this. The portal “Anerkennung in Deutschland” gives information on the exact conditions in eight languages. Simplified residence requirements apply to academics and scientists from third countries. Further information is provided under the heading “EU Blue Card”.

Work permits

Citizens of the European Union, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland will not normally need a work permit. Citizens of other countries, so-called third countries, generally need to apply for an “Aufenthaltstitel”, a residence permit allowing you to stay in Germany for a specified purpose. To receive an “Aufenthaltstitel zum Zweck der Erwerbstätigkeit”, a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment, and be able to work in Germany you need to have certain qualifications. Simplified conditions apply to highly qualified professionals, scientists and self-employed persons. Non-academics from third countries can also work in Germany under certain conditions. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) provides further information in German and English on its website. The German Federal Employment Agency’s International Placement Services (ZAV) department is responsible for granting work permits and approving residence permits. Complete information on residence and work permits is available on the German and English-language ZAV Internet portal. It also lists a few exceptions. You can additionally approach the relevant immigration authorities and German diplomatic missions for information. The German Federal Employment Agency’s “Migration-Check” gives you an initial idea as to whether you can get a work permit in Germany. It has a clear structure and takes only a few minutes.

EU Blue Card

In August 2012, the European Union introduced numerous simplifications for foreign professionals in the visa process and right of residence. A key instrument here is the “EU Blue Card”, a special work and residence permit. It grants academics from third states easier access to the German labour market. It requires a recognized university degree or a document comparable with a German university degree certificate and a firm offer of a job in Germany with a gross annual salary of at least 48,400 euros. For academic professionals in the areas of mathematics, IT, science and technology and for doctors, the minimum salary requirement is 37,752 euros. The web portal “Make it in Germany” provides more information in English and German. After a residence of three years, immigrants with a Blue Card can obtain a permanent settlement permit (with those who demonstrate good German skills entitled to it after just two years). The German Rectors’ Conference explains the options German residence law offers specifically foreign researchers from third countries on its website, available in German. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) also has information on options for researchers in German and English.

University graduates

Career starters who have successfully completed their studies in Germany can search for a job relating to their degree for up to 18 months afterwards. They may work in any job during this period. More information is available on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium des Innern, BMI) in German and English.

Graduates of vocational training programmes

Those who have completed non-academic vocational training in a country outside the EU can immigrate to Germany to work. There are three requirements these professionals need to fulfil: They need to have a job in Germany or at least a firm offer. Secondly, their qualification needs to be recognized in Germany (for more information see “Applying”). Thirdly, their profession must be a so-called “shortage occupation”. The German Federal Employment Agency’s (BA) “Positivliste” (whitelist) contains the professions this applies to. More detailed information for graduates of vocational training abroad is provided on the multilingual website “Anerkennung in Deutschland”.


A nice home helps many people to quickly feel at ease. There are various options to consider. For those who wish to save money and meet new people quickly, a flat share is a good idea. Here flatmates share a kitchen and bathroom as well as the costs for rent and other joint expenses such as the telephone and electricity bills. Studentenwerk Aachen lists a number of websites you can use when looking for a flat share on its German and English-language portal, such as “wg-gesucht”, for instance. An alternative to a flat share is a private flat or house. In Germany rented apartments and houses are generally unfurnished. NB: Estate agents may charge commission! City websites also often have information on free rooms, flats or houses for rent.

Registering with the authorities

In Germany you are legally required to register with the authorities, i.e., at the residents’ registration office in your city or district, and register as a new citizen as soon as you have found accommodation. There is a registration deadline. For more detailed information on registering and starting out in Germany visit the German and English-language website of the Federal Employment Agency (BA).

Taxes and insurances

Most people don’t particularly enjoy researching this topic. But taxes and insurances are important. Anyone earning over 8,130 euros per annum must pay tax. Your employer will automatically deduct the relevant amount. The amount of tax to be paid depends on how much you earn and your tax class. This in turn depends on your personal circumstances: Are you married? Do you have children? These are some of the criteria for your tax class. You will find more detailed information in German and English on the Federal Employment Agency website. (BA). Another important topic is social insurance. In Germany every employee is a member of the national social insurance system, which protects you against a number of risks. Social insurance includes state health, nursing care, accident, pension and unemployment insurance. Similarly to tax, these contributions will be automatically deduced by your employer. The amount you pay likewise depends on how much you earn. More information is available from the BA.


Family members from the EU can move to Germany without restriction. Citizens of a third state need to fulfil four criteria to come to Germany with their family: They require a residence or settlement permit or an “EU Blue Card” for Germany (more details under the heading “EU Blue Card on this page). Also important are accommodation and sufficient financial means to care for the family. Moreover, the spouse must be at least 18 years old. Sometimes the spouse will be required to have some knowledge of German. The web portals of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and “Make it in Germany”, both in German and English, provide details on the precise entry requirements for family members.