Visas for Germany

Visa requirements for Germany differ according to an expat’s nationality as well as their reason for being in the country. The situation is quite straightforward for nationals of EU-member states, who can enter the country with nothing more than a valid passport. Their citizenship allows them to live and work in Germany without a visa. They are, however, required to get a residency permit once they’ve arrived in the country.

Requirements for non-EU citizens are more complicated. For short-stays, non-EU citizens may need to apply for a Schengen visa before travelling to Germany. If they are planning to live or work in Germany, they will need the necessary work or residency permit.

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Germany is signatory to the Schengen Agreement, so nationals of other Schengen member states won't need to apply for a tourist visa before they arrive. Their passports are stamped upon arrival, and they can stay for 90 days within a 180-day period.

Aside from the Schengen countries, citizens of the UK, US, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand can stay in Germany for 90 days or less without a visa.


Most non-EU citizens have to apply for a tourist visa at a German embassy or consulate ahead of time. It's best to apply well in advance.

Schengen visa holders can visit other Schengen states, but if they do plan on travelling to other countries, they should apply at the consulate of the country they arrive in or the one they plan to spend most of their time in. 

Anyone travelling to Germany for business purposes will need to apply for a business visa. This requires a formal invitation from a Germany company. They'll also need to provide evidence of their visit, including the duration of their stay, and a guarantee for any costs involved. 

Obtaining a work permit in Germany isn’t easy. Due to high levels of unemployment in much of the Eurozone, the government has had to take steps to protect local jobs by giving priority to locals or EU citizens who already have the right to work in Germany.

Expats from outside the EU will need to apply for one of three types of work permits for Germany: a general employment permit (Arbeit), a specialist professional residence permit, or a self-employed residence permit. 
General employment permits are difficult to obtain because employers need to prove why a non-EU expat is more suitable for the position than either a German citizen or EU national. To apply for this type of work permit expats need a vocational qualification in addition to a job offer from a German company.

Specialist professional residence permits are granted to those with specific in-demand skills including graduates with specialist skills, university professors, and managers with several years of experience. Expats will also need to show proof of sufficient funds to support themselves in Germany, have a firm job offer and submit degree certificates and proof of qualifications. Having German language skills is also beneficial.

Self-employed residence permits are reserved for expats who are self-employed or planning to set up a business in Germany. Applicants need to prove how their specific skills will benefit the economy of the particular area of Germany they plan on settling down in. Applicants need to have a clear business plan which shows how they intend on employing local staff and funding their business. Having established businesses elsewhere is likely to boost an application for this type of permit. Self-employed residence permits are usually granted for three years to give the business a chance to get off the ground and flourish. When it comes to renewal, the permit will be extended indefinitely if the applicant can prove it's been a success.

Regardless of nationality, any foreigner who wishes to live and work in Germany requires a residency permit (Aufaenhalt). These can either be applied for in person at a German embassy or consulate, or through the immigration authorities in Germany.

There are three different types of residence permits for Germany.

The Temporary Residence Permit or Limited Residence Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) is for shorter stays of up to one year. However, it has the possibility of extension provided that your situation does not change and that you fulfil the requirements. It is granted to foreign nationals if they have a specific reason for staying in Germany. However, you cannot engage in an activity that your residence permit doesn’t allow. If your temporary residence permit is for studying, you can’t work, and vice versa.

The EU Blue Card is similar to the Temporary Residence Permit, but is only accessible by certain expats and has longer validity. The EU Blue Card is for foreign nationals of non-EU countries who are highly skilled in a profession and want to work in Germany. Those who are more likely to get the EU Blue Card have an IT or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) background. They must obtain a job offer in Germany in the same field as their educational qualification, they should earn above a certain income bracket, and they should have a high level of German proficiency.

Lastly, the Permanent Residence Permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) allows expats to live and work in Germany and travel in and out of the country whenever required. Usually, only expats who have held a Temporary Residence Permit for a few years or those with the EU Blue Card can get this permit. They need to prove that they have worked for at least five years, that the Federal Employment Agency approved their job, and that they have paid the necessary taxes and contributions to the government. Additionally, the German language proficiency requirements are more stringent, so you will need to know more advanced German. If expats have a permanent residence permit, their children and spouse are allowed to join them.