If you are thinking about working in Germany, you have made an excellent decision — Germany is Europe’s largest, and the world’s fourth largest, economy. Germany boasts not only colorful cities and beautiful scenery, but decent employment opportunities as well. Whether you want to work in a large multinational corporation, as a researcher at a renowned institute, or as an automotive engineer, Germany has much to offer.
Do not let the citizens’ worries about unemployment figures, demographic change, and welfare cuts fool you. Most people living in Germany actually enjoy a comparatively high standard of living. Qualified employees are rewarded for their hard work and paid relatively well.
While spending part of your career in Germany can be a rewarding experience, it is important to note that the German bureaucratic system is far from simple. If you want a smooth entrance, be sure you have all necessary information and necessary paperwork ready.
The first step is establishing your legal residency. Without this, it is nearly impossible to go about working in Germany. This applies to anyone planning on staying for longer than three months.
For more information, please consult our Germany: Visa and Administration section.
EU citizens and nationals from Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein do not require a visa or permit of any kind. Due to agreements between countries of the European Union moving and working across country boundaries has become much easier. (There were some exceptions to this rule for nationals of the newest EU member state Croatia who want to start working in Germany, however, these regulations expired on 1 July 2015).
Like every resident in Germany, nationals from the aforementioned countries only need to obtain a registration certificate officially proving their residence in Germany (Meldeschein or Meldebestätigung). It is necessary for every change of address, whether you just move next door, from Berlin to Munich, or from Atlanta to Hamburg.
To complete your registration, you simply need to show your passport and your rental contract or sales agreement. For the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) this will suffice as proof of residency. This is a legal requirement in Germany and is also crucial for all sorts of bureaucratic issues such as opening a bank account.
If you are not a citizen from an EU/EEA country (or Switzerland), you also have to visit the Einwohnermeldeamt and register your new address when you begin working in Germany. However, that’s not all! You will need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) as well.
For this, you have to provide your passport, proof of health insurance cover and sufficient funds to support yourself (i.e. a bank statement or an employment contract). Confirmation of your city of residence is also required. The duration of your residence permit will depend on your reason for staying in Germany and the type of visa you hold, but it will typically last at least one year and can be extended.
If you are moving with a family and you are a non-EU national, your spouse and/or dependents must apply for their own residence permits separately based on your approved visa and residence permit. If you are an EU national, your family members are not required to apply for a residence permit; however, they must report their address to the immigration office and register with the registration office to receive a certificate of residence (Aufenthaltskarte).
There are limited and unlimited residence permits for expats interested in moving to and working in Germany. As suggested by their names, one is valid for an infinite time without the need to renew it. When applying for your residence permit within Germany, it takes roughly four to six weeks until you receive your so-called eAT, i.e. the electronical card with your residence permit.
Government officials hardly ever deny residence permits, unless, of course, they believe that you are planning to take advantage of the country’s social welfare system instead of benefiting the economy. While this fear of foreign residents “exploiting” the German welfare state is often a source of xenophobia and social tensions within Germany, it should not be a problem for expats working in Germany. Expatriates usually have a work contract and an employment visa prior to their move.
Also check out our article on how to get a German residence permit!
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