German Visa

AmCham Germany German Visa

German Visa Information

The information on this website has been collected to assist those applying for residence and work permits in Germany. AmCham Germany is not responsible for the accuracy of the information provided on this site. In addition this information cannot provide full assistance for applications for German work visa and residence and work permits.

For a complete list of AmCham Germany members providing immigration and visa services, please visit our Online Services Directory (OSD). Type in the keyword "immigration" and activate all four check boxes for your search.

General Information

Foreign nationals require work authorization in order to perform activities that are considered to be 'work' under German regulations. The term 'work' may apply to short-term trips to Germany as well. Only business visitor activities or tourist activities will not be considered work. In order to be compliant, companies and travelers should review if the activities that will be performed in Germany are considered as work in which case, a work permit will be required.

Business Visit

Business visitors may be authorized to stay in Germany without a work permit for a limited period of time depending on their planned and performed activities. The following activities are typically considered as business visitor activities when limited to a particular time frame:

a) Up to 90 days within rolling 180 days:

  • Attending meetings and negotiations 
  • Preparing contract offers, signing contracts and supervising the implementation of contracts 
  • Establishing, auditing or steering an entity in Germany

In addition, 'leading executives'* may perform tasks and duties without a work authorization. The leading executives will need to be subject to their regular roles for their employer abroad while in Germany for 90 days within rolling 180 days.

b) Up to 90 days within rolling 12 months:

  • Participating in exhibitions to present and sell company products 
  • Attending or holding internal seminars or trainings

If the performed activities in Germany exceed the aforementioned activities, a work authorization will be required.

Work Visa

In general, employees would apply for a work visa in relation to local employment or an intra-company assignment. They could also apply for a work permit waiver for technical support activities. The following provides additional detail regarding each option.

 

Local Employment

To qualify for a local employment visa, the employee:

  • Obtains a German employment contract 
  • Will be placed on German payroll

There are a few types of work permits for local hires, as discussed below.

EU Blue Card
The predominant work permit for local hires is the EU Blue Card.

A foreigner, a citizen of a non-EU country, may apply for the EU Blue Card (hyperlink) if the candidate has:

  • a German or an accredited foreign or comparable university degree
  • sufficient salary (determined on a yearly basis)

The EU Blue Card is at first valid for up to four (4) years with a permanent German employment contract. If a fixed-term contract is less than 4 years, , the EU Blue Card will be valid for the time of the German employment contract plus an additional 3 months.

Family members of an EU Blue Card holder are permitted to work in Germany without any restrictions. Similar to the principal EU Blue Card holder, spouses are also not required to speak German in order to join the principal EU Blue Card holder in the country.

EU Blue Card holders may obtain a German permanent residence permit after 33 months of legal residency in Germany, and 21 months depending on their German language skills. 

Other Local Employment Permits
If the EU Blue Card requirements are not met, candidates may apply for either a Specialist local hire permit or a so-called "Best Friends" local hire permit.

The eligibility for the above permits depend on the personal qualifications and work- and the company-specific experience of the visa/work permit applicant. To assess eligibility, a complete review of the case details, including job description, job title, experience and remuneration, should be conducted.

 

Intra-Company Assignments

There are generally three types of intra-company assignments: 'Best Friends' assignments, assignments for other nationalities and the International Staff Exchange Program.

Assignments for Best Friends
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the United States of America have privileged access to the German labor market in regard to short- and long-term work assignments and do not require a visa to enter Germany.

To qualify for an intra-company assignment, there are no restrictions regarding the work place. Employees may be assigned to the German client site directly, or work for their home entity while living and working in Germany.

The key advantage of the intra-company assignment is that work permits are not limited to a certain period of time.

Red Flag: The disadvantage with the "Best Friend" category is that the German authorities may apply a labor-market-test prior to approving the application. The labor-market-test enables German authorities to pre-check whether a German/EU-citizen would also be eligible and comparable for the offered position by the company.

Assignments for other nationalities

  • Home and host entity should belong to the same group of companies 
  • Applicable for 'specialists' 
  • Prior employment with the sending company

Assignments for other non-EU-nationalities are limited to 3 years.

Any work extension will require a change in the immigration category. This can be achieved by either moving the assignee into the International Staff Exchange Program, or by providing a local employment contract so that a local hire category permit can be used.

With the implementation of the Intra-Corporate Transferee Directive (ICT) in Germany in August 2017, two new permit types-the ICT Card and the Mobile ICT Card-were introduced for 'specialists', leading executives and trainees who are assigned to Germany. The general requirements for both ICT Cards are comparable to those for the current specialist permit.

For holders of the ICT Card based on the ICT-Directive issued from another EU member state, Intra EU mobility will be facilitated. Intra EU mobility will allow for the possibility to work in Germany via a more simplified process for 90 days within 180 days rolling.

International Staff Exchange Program
The International Staff Exchange Program is a national Intra-Corporate Transferee (ICT) category, which stands independently from the specialist assignment category.

It is based on an equalized number of outbound and inbound moves from and to Germany, and is therefore considered to be labor market neutral. As such, no labor market test applies to this permit. Under this category, assignments can take place up to 3 years.

International Staff Exchange can be combined with a previous stay in the specialist assignment category (or vice versa), resulting in maximum of a 6 year assignment.

 

Technical Support Activities (work permit waiver)

A work permit waiver allows extended business visitor activities for technical support, including installation, maintenance, repair work and conducting training for customer staff.

Generally, a work visa will not be necessary to enter the country, only a notification issued by the Federal Employment Agency (Notification).

The government processing time is approximately 1 week until the Notification is available for use. Afterwards, the applicant can perform technical support in Germany for up to 90 days within 12 months.

The Notification can be obtained from the Federal Employment Agency, if an individual is employed with a company outside of Germany and will perform any of these activities:

  • Installation, acceptance, maintenance, repair and providing training for use of machinery, equipment, or computer programs sold by the employer to a German company 
  • Testing of equipment and facilities 
  • Receiving training for use of the equipment and facilities purchased by the employer with a commercial entity outside Germany 
  • Dismantling of purchased, used equipment for the purpose of reconstruction in the employer's entity outside of Germany

The Federal Employment Agency issues the Notification based on the statement of work and purchase order that must be submitted.

Any other activities that exceed the maximum number of days permitted to be in Germany require a work authorization.

Process

The following summarizes the immigration process in Germany:

Process timeline:

  • File the approval application with Federal Employment Agency (if required) 
  • File the visa application at German Consulate for Entry Visa (if required) 
  • Entering Germany 
  • Registration at the local town hall (if required) 
  • File application with immigration office for final work and residence permit

Even though "Best Friends" citizens do not require an entry visa in order to enter Germany, it is in some cases beneficial to do so in order to avoid delays. The entry visa will also allow the employee to start working immediately upon arrival in Germany.

For stays longer than 3 months, the employee must register at the local town hall in Germany.

The application at the immigration office cannot be filed without proof of registration from the local town hall.

Dependents
Dependents are allowed to join the principal applicant, if the assignment duration is longer than 12 months at the time of the dependent's application. According to German immigration law, spouses (marriage certificate required) and/or children (birth certificates required) under 18 years are considered dependents.

Dependents of EU Blue Card holders may also join the principal applicant for stays in Germany of less than 12 months.

Spouses, including same-sex spouses, may accompany employees to Germany.

In certain circumstances, if the spouse does not hold an university degree or an A1 Level German language certificate, a dependant visa/permit may not be granted until the A1 Level language certificate has been obtained.

Katrin Utzinger

Manager, Business Services

+49 69 929104-50

Masha Conquest

Assistant, Membership & Business Services

+49 69 929104-52