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!):
- 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…