The Working Holiday Program is an agreement between Germany and several other countries to offer greater cultural exchange between the two. It allows young citizens to work and travel more freely in Germany and the rest of the Schengen Area countries for up to one year. It cuts away much of the red tape involved in other German work visas, so young travelers can finance their trip as they go. The visa also includes up to 180 days of travel throughout the 25 other Schengen countries during its one year duration, making it possible to visit many other countries during the extended stay in Germany (Working Holiday Visa Germany). To learn more about the Working Holiday Visa, check out our article answering questions about the program here.
To qualify for the Working Holiday Visa, you must be 18-30 years old and from one of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, or Uruguay. Canadian citizens between the ages of 18 and 35 may also apply for the similar Youth Mobility Visa. Participants are also not permitted to be accompanied by children or other dependent family members (Nomadtoolkit).
Depending on which country you are from, you may be permitted to come to Germany and then apply for a visa after arrival. However, most countries’ embassies recommend applying in advance even if it is not required (Working-Holidays). Australians, Canadians, Israelis, Japanese, and New Zealanders are eligible to apply after arrival. Citizens of Argentina, Chile, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Uruguay are required to apply before entering Germany. The earliest you can apply from outside of Germany is typically 90 days before your planned arrival (German Missions in the UK).
As previously mentioned, just because you can apply from within Germany does not mean you should. There is often much greater competition for appointments and additional complications to the process when applying after entering Germany. For example, if applying in Germany you will be required to show proof of residence in the form of either a certificate of registration from the Bürgeramt or a rental agreement and written confirmation from your landlord. This can put an unnecessary rush on committing to less than ideal long-term housing, whereas applying in advance does not require proof of residence. This allows you to stay in short-term housing for as long as you need to find the right place for your stay (Nomadtoolkit). Citizens of each participating country can apply in the following locations before arrival:
For the citizens eligible to apply in any German embassy abroad, here is a complete list of German missions worldwide that offer Working Holiday Visa services.
There are variations in application requirements depending on where you are applying. The following documents, however, are required no matter where you apply:
To find exact details on the documents required for a Working Holiday Visa application in your country, click the link provided above for your country’s German embassy. After submitting your documents, the embassy will process your application and your visa will be prepared for you. Processing times for a Working Holiday Visa vary greatly from country to country. In Canada they are estimated to take 2-3 weeks, while in Taiwan the process can take up to two months (German Missions in Canada, German Association in Taiwan).
Though attaining your visa before arriving in Germany eliminates the requirement for proof of residence before applying, you will eventually need a certificate of registration to get your German tax ID. Without a tax ID you cannot start working in Germany (Nomaden). This certificate can be acquired at the local Bürgeramt after finding a place to stay. Appointments can be hard to come by, though, depending on which city you plan to work in. If you would like to live and work in Berlin during your Working Holiday Visa stay or any major city, it is especially important that you book in advance. Due to the supersaturated rental market of some German cities, these appointments can be booked up weeks or even months in advance. Save yourself the headache by booking an appointment before arriving in Germany.
You’ve done it, you’re finally in Germany. Now what? It’s time to start looking for a place to stay for the duration of your visa. You can line up a few appointments in the weeks before your arrival to meet with landlords through websites like wg-gesucht and immobilienscout24. Important things to look out for are apartments that say “mit Anmeldung” (with registration) or “Anmeldung möglich” (registration possible). Not all landlords allow renters to register with the Bürgeramt at their address– see “ohne Anmeldung” (without registration) and “Anmeldung nicht möglich” (registration not possible). As you will need to register to start working in Germany, it is important that your landlord does allow you to register at the address. Some landlords and larger rental companies may also require a SCHUFA, essentially a German credit history. As a non-German, your SCHUFA is likely blank. This can lessen your chances of being picked as a tenant. Looking for a room in a shared flat (Wohngemeinschaft or WG), finding a landlord with fewer properties, or finding a company that allows renting with a guarantor (Bürgschaft), can be helpful in avoiding this issue. Once you’ve found the perfect apartment, it’s time to head to your Bürgeramt appointment with a registration application, available on our website in English, and a form of confirmation from your landlord.
After successfully registering your new address in Germany, you will be sent a tax ID in the mail. If you lose track of your number, you can also go to the nearest Finanzamt (tax office) and they will reprint it for you. Now, unfortunately, comes one of the most unnecessarily complicated aspects of the Working Holiday Visa process. Though traveler’s insurance is an application requirement for the Working Holiday or Youth Mobility Visa, German health insurance is required to start working in Germany (Nomaden). To minimize the extra costs of switching health insurances, Nomadtoolkit recommends the Student, Work, and Travel Package from Mawista. Though it offers limited coverage, it has a fairly straightforward cancelation policy that will allow you to more easily transfer to a german health insurance company.
You’ve done every German bureaucratic deed under the sun, now it’s time to actually find that job. If you are staying in a larger city, you can visit your local Agentur für Arbeit (job center). Otherwise, there are many online resources to aid you in you job search. Indeed is a particularly popular website for job postings in Germany. There are many jobs available to holders of a Working Holiday or Youth Mobility Visa, the most common of which generally include tourism, hospitality, tech, call centers, online business, and retail. Au Pair jobs are not permitted under the Working Holiday Visa as they would require an Au Pair Visa.
Now you are ready to enjoy your year abroad in Germany! The Working Holiday and Youth Mobility Programs are a unique approach to tourism and cultural exchange that allow young citizens to experience a different culture over a longer period of time. Though the bureaucratic process is not always a walk in the park, hopefully this information can guide you through the bulk of the obstacles.