Self Employment Visa – or – how to become legal in Germany

This is how I (a Canadian) received my first 1 year freelancer/self employment visa - Freiberufliche Tätigkeit, how I extended it for 2 more years & then got the insanely easy unlimited spouse/marriage visa I have now .

The Self Employment visa is the least complicated to get if you are an architect, artist, language teacher or have profession that can be easily proven to work on a freelance basis (ie: graphic design, catering, hairstylist, etc…) .

If you do not speak a passable level of German you MUST take along someone who does. Seriously, governmental offices do not make a habit of employing English speakers, you are in Germany after all.

Before you can do any sort of governmental paperwork in Germany you need an Anmeldebescheinigung (certificate of address registration), apparently this is so you can easily be found in an emergency situation (or if you owe back taxes, miss a payment on your TV, commit a crime, etc…). The Anmeldebescheinigung is easy to get, simply go to your local Bürgeramt (citizen center)  -info here - with your passport & rental agreement with you as the renter or, if you’re staying with someone else,  the rental agreement AND the person whose name appears on the rental agreement. Once you’ve given all of your info you’ll receive a fancy printout with pretty blue stamp. *You must re-register every time you move.* This now (2011) costs €5

Now you can begin the relatively painless process of applying for your visa at the Ausländerbehörde (exact translation – Public Authority Responsible for Aliens)

1. Check the self employment “information” provided on the official Ausländerbehörde website

2. Download the application here

3. Get yourself some health insurance, there are tons of insurance offices around, just pop into one (with a German speaker of course) –  while you’re in the insurance office answering the list of personal health history questions get the Certificate of Health Insurance stamped – you will not be issued a visa without it.

4. Call & make an appointment to apply for your visa (again, if you do not speak German have someone call who does) You will be given a date, time, waiting room & number.

5. Make a nice looking portfolio including all of your required info (the more you include the better!):

- Anmeldebescheinigung

- Completed Visa Application

- Stamped Certificate of Health Insurance

- Biometric photos (you can get the exact photos required from the machine at the Ausländerbehörde on the day of your appointment)

- Bank statements proving you have enough to meet the basic costs of living for a year (about €500/month – around €6000 total) – I actually didn’t provide any bank statements but instead had a letter from my fiance stating that we lived together, were engaged & that he would completely support me should I fall on hard times. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he was actually there with me saying it in person as well.

- A fantastic CV (in English is acceptable) including copies of any & all degrees, certificates and anything else you can come up with. If you’re an artist put together a mini-portfolio of your work, if you’re a teacher add in some worksheets/lesson plans you’ve created. Bombard them with information proving how qualified you are (even if it’s not all technically true, they’ll just flip through it anyway, but man, will you look impressive!).

- Visa fee (mine was €50 but it may have increased – ask!)

- A friend who speaks German if you do not

The day of your appointment be sure to go a bit early and get your biometric photos from the machine. You’ll then go to your assigned waiting room and wait until your number (given when you made the appointment) pops up on the screen & proceed to the corresponding room. Once in the room you’ll hand over all of  your paperwork (& photos), if all is in order you’ll get another number and wait again. When your number is displayed again you’ll go into a different room where you’ll make some pleasant small talk with your assigned staff member, then get a card and told which room & machine to make your visa payment at. Make your payment, get the printed receipt, return to the room & pick-up your passport which now holds your shiny new visa!

A lot of running about collecting paperwork but actually a rather simple & straightforward process compared to other countries I’ve lived in.

Renewing your visa is even easier. 4 – 6 weeks before your visa expires call the Ausländerbehörde and let them know what kind of visa you currently hold, when it expires and that you’d like to extend it. You’ll again get an appointment (date, time, waiting room & number.). Take all of your info with you to the appointment along with new biometric photos & the visa fee (I didn’t need to show my info again but it’s good to have just in case). It’s basically the same procedure as getting your original visa except now they have a big red file containing all of your info.

Getting my spouse visa was a snap. The first step is to fall in love and marry a German, obviously! I then called up the Ausländerbehörde, got an appointment, showed up with my marriage certificate and got my visa within 5 minutes, best of all, it was free! The first spouse visa is for 3 years, just to make sure it’s a real marriage. The following spouse visa is forever!

*Please keep in mind that I am not a German visa expert & have not had any further “German visa experience” since receiving my spouse visa in 2010. Information may have changed since I applied for my first freelancer visa in 2008 so I highly recommend checking with the German embassy in your home country or contacting your nearest Ausländerbehörde if you’re already in Germany:

Ausländerbehörde Berlin: http://www.berlin.de/labo/auslaender/dienstleistungen/selbststaendige_en.html

still have questions? check out the comments below…

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20 thoughts on “Self Employment Visa – or – how to become legal in Germany

  1. Thanks so much for your information. If you apply for a freelance visa as an artist or teacher, are you still allowed to be employed for other jobs? Thanks!

    • As far as I know you can only legally work in the type of job that you applied & were issued a visa for – my freelancer visas clearly stated which field of employment I could apply/work in.

      *Please keep in mind that I am not a German visa expert & have not had any further “German visa experience” since receiving my spouse visa in 2010. Information may have changed since I applied for my first freelancer visa in 2008 so I highly recommend checking with the German embassy in your home country or contacting your nearest Ausländerbehörde if you’re already in Germany:

      Ausländerbehörde Berlin: http://www.berlin.de/labo/auslaender/dienstleistungen/selbststaendige_en.html

  2. Hey there, thank you for your post, is really give me some hope here….can I apply this self-employee visa as I am a freelance makeup artist? Do they have any other office I can apply the same visa too or I have to apply in Berlin?

    Thank you and hope can hear from you soon.

    • You can apply for the freelance/artist visa as long as you can prove that your job can be done on a freelance basis. Put together a mini portfolio of your work (in English is fine), include copies of any certificates/degrees you have. Provide loads of information proving how qualified you are (even if it’s not all technically true, they’ll just flip through it anyway, but man, will you look impressive!).
      As far as I know, you can apply at the Ausländerbehörde in any German city. Simply google: Ausländerbehörde + your city name to find the correct site – all the relevant info should be there (address, contact, etc…)

      Good Luck! =O)

  3. Hey there, do any of the staff members speak English? Just curious … figured b/c it’s the immigration office, someone has a to even a if just a little …

    • It’s possible that some staff might speak English, however you are at an immigration office in Germany and, just as in every other non-English speaking country, there is no rule that states employees should be able to communicate in the language(s) of the foreigners applying for visas…I actually found the exact opposite to be true, no one even attempted to speak English to me…it makes sense really, foreigners visiting English speaking countries and applying for visas have to speak English to the immigration employees, so of course the same would be true in non-English speaking countries. As I said in the post, if you don’t speak German at all, it’s a good idea to take a German speaker with you just to be safe.

  4. Wow! Thank you for taking the time to note your experience down!
    Just a quick question – do you know of any sites that compare private insurance companies (fees, coverage, etc)?

    This process seems too easy!!

  5. Wonderful post, danke schoen… I am curious, approx. what amount can we expect to pay for insurance? I am a Canadian as well, I understand that we need to buy German insurance, travelers insurance will not cover, correct? Also, as a freelancer I am working on a book with a sizeable advance that I will be living on, I’ll make fairly little on an monthly level through residuals and royalities. But it exceeds the 6,000 Euro required, closer to 30K. These are my tow main concerns. Thanks for the clarity of post, you laid it out quite well.

    • Hiya

      Unfortunately travellers insurance isn’t accepted & as foreigners can’t be insured under Germany’s public healthcare system the only option is to go with a private insurer. Private Health insurance costs vary greatly for each individual & depend on a number of factors such as age, sex, health history, which health plan you choose etc… *As an “in my 30′s” non-smoking, non-drinking, female with no past or present health problems I paid €156.00 per month for the basic plan (with a deductible of €1200/year). Here’s the link to the company I used: http://www.ergo.de/de/Privatkunden/Produkte/Gesundheit-Pflege (now that I’m married to a German I’m publically insured – whew!)

      A quick tip: With most basic healthcare plans overnight hospital stays are covered – a few hours in the ER are not, so if you must go to the hospital let the doctor admit you for at least 1 night.

      A 30K bank statement is more than enough to prove that you are able to pay the basic cost of living required.

      *On a side note: Your work is fantastic & thought provoking! Awesome!

    • “§41 of the AufenthV makes it possible for citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, and the USA to apply for residence permits (Aufenhaltserlaubnis) at their local Ausländerbehörde within 90 days of arrival.”

      For more info visit: http://www.toytowngermany.com/wiki/Applying_to_live_long_term_in_Germany_after_you_have_arrived_here

      *I can only comment on my experience as a Canadian getting the freelance/artist visa in 2008, renewing it in 2009 & then receiving my spouse visa in 2010. A simple internet search about the visa requirements for your specific country or better yet, contacting the German embassy in your country should properly answer all of your questions.

  6. I was wondering if you’d know if this visa is restricted to certain nationalities or open to all.
    And is it possible to apply before arriving or better once you’re there on a tourist visa?
    thanks

  7. Heya
    Include anything & everything to make yourself appear as “employable” as possible. Put together a mini-portfolio of your work to leave with your assigned staff member – it makes renewing your visa easier as they’ll file it away & have it on hand when you re-apply.
    *I’m not a German visa expert by any means, the above article was strictly my own personal experience as a Canadian getting visa(s) in Germany.

  8. Hi :-)

    I am a freelance writer, actor, model, dancer, filmmaker, etc. When applying for the VISA as a freelance person, would my application be strong by providing proof from all these sources (which I have and make money from) or should I choose one source?

    Thank you :-)

  9. Hi Sid
    I honestly have no idea if a minimum residency requirement exists or not. The only residency-type document I ever had to show was my Anmeldebescheinigung (certificate of address registration) – nothing at all about my length of stay in Germany. *I’m not a German visa expert by any means, the above article was strictly my own personal experience as a Canadian getting visa(s) in Germany. Your best bet is to contact the Ausländerbehörde directly – just click the link in my post and it will take you to the official site.

  10. Hi, to extend the self employment visa do they have minimum residency requirement like out of 12 months how many months do I have to live in Germany. The reason of asking as I am already citizen of two countries and I travel a lot and can not stay in Germany throughout the year.

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