AN EXPAT’S GUIDE TO GETTING A VISA IN BERLIN

One of the trickiest things about moving abroad to Germany for non-EU nationals is the process of getting a visa. If only it was as easy as packing you bags and booking a flight! If you only intend to stay for 90 days or less, you don’t need to worry about obtaining a visa as you are free to move around the Schengen zone for this period. For stays that exceed 90 days, a visa is needed.

If you’re thinking of moving to Berlin, this guide on getting a visa in Berlin will give a breakdown of the kinds of visas available to expats, the requirements of each as well as the visa appointment booking process.

Fernsehturn, Berlin

Do I need to organise a visa prior to arrival in Germany?

If you’re from one of the ‘friendly’ countries of Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Israel or South Korea, you’re able to apply for a visa after you have already arrived in Germany. If you’re from another country, you’ll need to apply for an entry permit to Germany before you leave home.

What kinds of visas are available to expats?

Depending on your nationality and situation, there are a number of different visas that you can apply for. These include:

Working Holiday Visa

Uniquely available to citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, if you are under 30, you may apply for a Working Holiday Visa, which allows you to stay and work in Germany for 12 months. You will need to provide evidence of health insurance, a return flight ticket and proof that you are able to support yourself with at least € 3,500 in your bank account. This is the visa that I originally started on when I arrived in Berlin. It offered so much freedom and I was not tied to one specific job in order to stay in the country.

Visa fee: 60

 

Work Permit (also Internships)

To obtain a Work Permit, you need to already have a job lined up in Germany and a contract ready to present. You also need to provide evidence of your qualifications, e.g. university degree, as well as a health insurance policy. I landed a full-time job midway through my Working Holiday Visa and when this expired, my new company organised a Work Permit on my behalf.

Visa fee: 60

 

Student Visa

If you want to study in Germany, apply to a German university and if you are accepted, you may be eligible for a Student Visa. You will need to show evidence of your acceptance letter as well as your health insurance policy and proof that you have at least € 8,000 to support yourself for the year.

Visa fee: 60

 

Language Visa

If you’re interested in learning German and are willing to commit to at least 20 hours of study per week for at least three months, a Language Visamight be a good option. You need to provide a copy of the confirmation for the language course you have enrolled in, a health insurance policy and evidence of financial stability with a bank balance of at least € 8,000.

Visa fee: 60

 

Freelance Visa

A Freelance Visa is suited to those who are self-employed. In order to obtain this visa, you need to make a pretty convincing case as to why your work is of economic benefit to Germany. This means that you need to provide letters of intent from 2-3 companies who are willing to offer you freelance work. Your application needs to also include your resume, a portfolio of your work, a business plan, a profit and loss statement, a bank statement containing at least € 3,000, as well as health insurance.

Visa fee:  50 to  110 depending on processing time

 

Au Pair Visa

If you are interested in working for and living with a German family to help with domestic duties such as housework as well as looking after children in exchange for board, an Au Pair Visa might be for you. In order to qualify, you must be aged between 18 and 27 and demonstrate basic German language skills. You are also required to stay in Germany between 6 and 12 months. You need to show written evidence of your German language skills e.g. a copy of a certificate from your language school, as well as written confirmation from a placement agency or host family. A German health insurance policy is also obligatory.

Visa fee: 60

 

How do I apply for a visa?

To apply for your visa in Berlin you need to:

  • Visit the Ausländerbehörde (Foreign Office) website and ensure that you carefully read the important information regarding visas.
  • Make an online appointment to apply. Note: don’t be surprised if the earliest available appointment is many months away. The Ausländerbehörde is a very busy place! If your 90-day tourist visa is due to expire in the meantime, don’t worry. As long as you have made a visa appointment, it will remain valid until your appointment date.
  • Get your documents in order and ensure that you have absolutely everything that is required.
  • If you can, bring someone who can speak German with you. The officials at the Ausländerbehörde very rarely speak English and are not very helpful if you’re not able to communicate in German.
  • Smile and hope for the best!