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Foreigners´ occupation in Germany

Please consider that the following information only gives an overview on the legal situation and doesn´t found any binding legal advice. We don´t warrant the correctness, completeness and up-to-dateness of this overview.

This article gives a short overview on the options a foreigner without German citizenship, who wants to come to Germany in order to work there, has.

I. Entry into Germany

1. Citizens of member states of EU, EWR (EEA) and Switzerland

Citizens of member states of the EEA (European Economic Area, in German: Europäischer Wirtschaftsraum, EWR, which includes, besides the member states of the EU, also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) don´t need a visa if they want to enter Germany. They don´t need a residence permit if they intend to work in Germany.

Citizens of Switzerland have the right to enter into an EU member state and to work there without residence permit as well.

2. Citizens of third countries (i. e. countries outside EU, EWR and Switzerland)

A citizen of a third country needs a residence permit before he enters Germany. For him, an entry without visa isn´t allowed. He has to visit a German diplomatic mission in his home county in order to apply for a residence permit there.

Members of the following states are allowed to enter Germany without visa even if they intend to commence an occupation there: Australia (including Cocos Islands, Territory of Norfolk Islands, Territory of Christmas Island), Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea (i. e. South Korea), New Zealand and United States of America (including United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and Puerto Rico) (as of July 2017). A necessary residence permit has to be applied for within 90 days after the entry.

II. Residence permits

The “Aufenthaltsgesetz” (German Residence Act) includes several kinds of residence permits:
Aufenthaltserlaubnis, Blaue Karte EU (Blue Card EU), Niederlassungserlaubnis, Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt – EU und Visum (visa).

If the respective conditions are fulfilled, a foreigner can get a residence permit that allows him to work in Germany. Such a kind of residence permit can, as a rule, only be granted if the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) has given its approval. But there are some exceptions to this rule, which are mainly regulated by the “Beschäftigungsverordnung”. The approval by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit is for example not necessary in the following cases: Residence permit for a member of the board of an Aktiengesellschaft (AG) or a GmbH, an executive with general power or Prokura (power of procuration) or a manager working on board level for an enterprise that is active outside of Germany as well.
Under certain circumstances the approval for granting a Blue Card EU isn´t necessary either.
Hereinafter, we give an overview on the different kind of residence permits, insofar as they are relevant to an occupation in Germany.

1. Aufenthaltserlaubnis (§ 7 Aufenthaltsgesetz)

The “Aufenthaltserlaubnis” is a kind of residence permit that allows a foreigner to stay in Germany for a limited period of time. The length of this period depends on the intended purpose of the stay in Germany. An “Aufenthaltserlaubnis” that permits an occupation in Germany usually requires the approval by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

2. Blaue Karte (blue card) EU (§ 19 a Aufenthaltsgesetz)

The Blaue Karte EU allows a foreigner to stay in Germany for a limited period of time. It is designed for qualified employees with university education. The stay in Germany granted by Blaue Karte EU is limited to a period of four years resp., if the employment contract has got shorter duration, of its duration plus three months. The owner of a Blaue Karte EU is entitled to apply for a Niederlassungserlaubnis (permanent residence permit) after he had been working for 33 months. If the owner of a Blaue Karte EU has sufficient skills in German language, he can apply for a Niederlassunsgerlaubnis already after 21 months of occupation.

Conditions of granting a Blaue Karte EU:

  • Binding job offer or employment contract.
  • Yearly gross salary in the amount of at least € 39.624,00 (as of July 2017), if the applicant has got a shortage occupation (Mangelberuf), e. g. mathematician, natural scientist, architect, designer, engineer, doctor of human medicine or specialists in information and communication technology. The mentioned amount of yearly gross salary is variable and may change.
  • Yearly gross salary in the amount of at least € 50.800,00 (as of July 2017), if the applicant has got another profession than a shortage occupation. This amount of yearly gross income is variable as well.
  • A completed university education. The degree has to be proved. If the studies were completed abroad, the degree has to be approved in Germany or be comparable to a German degree. Competent authority is the “Zentrale für ausländisches Bildungswesen (ZAB)”, located in Bonn.

3. Niederlassungserlaubnis (§ 9 Aufenthaltsgesetz), Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EU (§ 9a Aufenthaltsgesetz)

The Niederlassungserlaubnis is an unlimited residence permit and allows its owner to stay in Germany permanently. It entitles its owner to work. The conditions of granting a Niederlassungserlaubnis are stated in § 9 Aufenthaltsgesetz. Among others, it is necessary that the applicant is owner of an Aufenthaltserlaubnis for at least five years.

A foreigner who successfully completed his studies at a German university and has been owning a residence permit that was granted for the purpose of occupation for at least two years can get a Niederlassungserlaubnis already after two years if other conditions are fulfilled (cf. § 18b Aufenthaltsgesetz).

A special kind of Niederlassungserlaubnis is the Niederlassungserlaubnis für Hochqualifizierte (permanent residence permit fo highly qualified persons), cf. § 19 Aufenthaltsgesetz. Highly qualified persons within the meaning of the law are especially scientist with specific knowledge in their fields or teachers resp. research fellows in key positions. The Niederlassungserlaubnis für Hochqualifizierte can be granted without the approval by the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.

Comparable to the “Niederlassungserlaubnis” is the “Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt – EU”. It is unlimited as well and entitles to work in Germany. The requirements are subject to § 9a Aufenthaltsgesetz. Among others, it is necessary that the foreigner has been staying in Germany for five years and had a residence permit during this period of time.

4. Visum (visa) (§ 6 Aufenthaltsgesetz)

Excluding the cases of visa exemption (conf. Sec. I. above) a foreigner who wants to enter Germany and stay there but isn´t owner of one of the aforementioned residence permits needs a visa. This is granted by the competent German diplomatic mission. A visa only gives the right to work if it explicitly includes such permission.

Status August/2017