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Am I Eligible for the German Freelance Visa?

Sunday, June 14, 2020

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The freelance visa is a great way for foreigners in Germany to work for themselves while securing a residence in Germany, but the visa is not for everyone. There are strict guidelines as to who is eligible for the visa and what qualifies as freelancing in Germany. Also, Germany’s artist visa and language teacher visa function in similar ways and have an identical application process to the freelance visa. This article seeks to clarify some of the questions surrounding eligibility for Germany’s freelance visa.

Do I need a freelance visa to do freelance work in Germany?

Not everyone requires a freelance visa in order to work as a freelancer in Germany. Citizens or permanent residents of the EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway are exempt from the freelance visa requirement. Those who already have a German visa are also exempt if it contains the sentence “Selbstständige Tätigkeit gestattet.” This does not apply to those with a student visa, though it is possible to hold both a student and freelance visa simultaneously (Allaboutberlin).


Do I qualify to be a freelancer?

In order to be considered for the freelance visa, you must fulfill the bureaucratic definition of a freelancer, or Freiberufler. This means you must be self employed in one of the following fields: healthcare, science, technology, law, tax and business counseling, or linguistics and information transmission (Germany Visa). In the case of Germany’s artist visa and language teacher visa, artists, writers, journalists, and educators are also eligible.


Have I met all the requirements for eligibility?

Working in a relevant field alone is not enough to attain the freelance visa. You must also be able to prove there is local interest in your service in the form of letters of intent from German businesses stating that they want to hire you. It is important that these potential clients are in fact German, as it is necessary to prove that your work will stimulate local economic interest. Foreign graduates of German universities, however, are not required to prove this so long as their work relates to their area of study (Allaboutberlin). On top of that, an applicant must be able to prove that they have sufficient funds for their stay in Germany. Due to the variability of freelancers’ income, applicants are required to prove they have enough money to support themselves should they earn to little to cover their expenses one month. This can be shown through a finance plan and current bank statements.

Working in a relevant field alone is not enough to attain the freelance visa. You must also be able to prove there is local interest in your service in the form of letters of intent from German businesses stating that they want to hire you

How do I apply for the freelancer visa?

In order to apply for a freelancer visa, you first need to know whether or not citizens of your country require a visa to enter Germany. If not, you can enter Germany and search for your perspective German clientele during your allotted visa-free travel time. This applies to Australian, Canadian, Israeli, New Zealand, South Korean, and US American citizens. Citizens of other countries must either obtain a job seeker visa to enter Germany in order to look for German clients and eventually apply for a freelancer visa, or they can apply for the freelance visa at the German embassy in their home country. The second method, however, entails a 2 to 6 month wait period (Allaboutberlin). Upon finding your aforementioned German clients, you must find a place of residence, register yourself at your new address, sign up for German health insurance, and schedule an appointment at the local Ausländerbehörde (foreigners’ registration office) (Visa Guide). You must bring the following documents along to your appointment at either the Ausländerbehörde or you country’s German embassy (Settle in Berlin):

  • An application for a residence permit (available here in German, English, French, and Italian)
  • A valid passport
  • 35mm by 45mm biometric photos
  • Rental contract and proof of residence registration
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of a sufficient pension plan (only for applicants over the age of 45)
  • A finance plan (available here in German and English) and recent bank statements, your finance plan should provide an overview of your current financial situation which is supported by your bank statements
  • A revenue forecast or Ertragsvorschau (available here in German and English), this should show the predicted expenses and income of your business
  • Your cover letter
  • Copies of any relevant diplomas or certificates
  • Letters of intent from German businesses
  • €50-100 visa fee

After a successful interview, you will receive a freelance visa that lasts upwards of 3 months. Your freelance visa can also eventually be extended (Germany Visa). Artist and language teacher visas are typically processed immediately, but the freelance visa wait time can take several months and varies based on location. Wait times in Berlin are typically 3 to 6 months as opposed to 6 to 12 in Münich. In the case that your allowed visa-free days or current visa are close to running out, you may receive an extension for the length of your processing time (Settle in Berlin).


What do I do once I have my freelance visa?

Once you’ve received your freelance visa, there are still a few tasks left on the to-do list before you can begin freelancing in Germany. You must fill out the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung and submit it to your local Finanzamt, or tax office. Here is an english translation of the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung. Doing this is the final step to receiving your Steuernummer (tax number), your VAT number (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer), and being entered into the Handelsregister (trade register). After that, you should make sure your website is up to the standards of the regulations of Germany and the European Union. A guide from All About Berlin on how to do so can be found here.


Now you’re finally ready to hit the German job market as a self-employed worker!


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