German Freelancer Visa: A Guide to Surviving

Before I came to Germany, I started researching the topic of what kind of Visa I could apply for. Believe me, the first step is the biggest headache. Four months later I found a solution called the “Freelancer Visa.”

The Freelancer Visa allows you to work in Germany if you comply with certain requirements. There are, however, some details that people don’t tell you. I will share my experience and hopefully, this will help.

The beginning - Where you come from?

This sounds stupid, but it is true. Citizens from the US, Canada, Australia, Israel and few some other countries can apply for a visa after entering in Germany. Citizens from other countries must apply for a visa before entering Germany. If you come from a country that requires you to obtain a visa before entering, then the German Consulate in your country will issue it to you. You will receive a 90-day visa that is similar to the tourist one, but it allows you to work. As soon as you arrive in Germany you will need to apply for a Residence Permit by doing the following steps:

Pro-tip: Contact the Germany Consulate in your country before planning your travel to verify if you must apply before or after your arrival. Be stubborn: sometimes they don’t thoroughly explain.

Keep in mind that Germany is very traditional about some procedures, but not complicated once you have everything ready and well organized. You will need to register as a resident at the Bürgeramt, open a Bank Account, get Health Insurance and prove that you can handle yourself. I will be clarifying these steps as we move ahead.

The whole process

Once everything is done you need to book an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde this LINK may help. Be quick, sometimes appointments are not available for the next 2 months. Bring all necessary documents for the interview.

Note: There are two kinds of Freelancer visas: The Freelancer as well and the Artist visa. The difference is that under the Freelancer visa you can be in any profession and the processing time takes up to 3 months. The Artist visa is usually limited to artists and journalists and in many cases, you get approved or rejected on the same day (This is perfect if you need to start working right away).

This sounds scary, but I have to say that I had a great experience at the Ausländerbehörde. During the interview, the guy interviewing me was kind and answered all of my questions.
What you will need to apply

This list is organized in order of priority based on my experience.

Register as a resident: You’ll need to register as a resident at the Bürgeramt. They will issue your Anmeldung, the essential document for you to start doing anything official in Germany. Bring your proof of residence (rental, contract or a letter from your roommate proving that you live there) and passport.

Bank Account: If you don’t want headaches and credit card issues, you can open a bank account with a smaller bank. I highly recommend GLS Bank; simple and efficient service and you can withdraw your money from many of ATMs free of charge.

Health Insurance: You can sign up for TK public health insurance easily and in English here. However, if you are afraid to get long-term health insurance before you receive an answer, you can get travel health insurance for 3+ months. Mavista has good options for students and freelancers. You can take short as well as long-term insurance with Mavista.

"If you can't get full health coverage or are don't want to get long-term health insurance before you receive an answer, you can get travel health insurance for 3+ months. Popsure has a good option for students and freelancers. You can sign up for an inexpensive policy (about 70 euros/month) here."

2 Biometric Photos: In Berlin, you can find Photo Machines (Passbilder) in some Train stations (Anhalter Bahnhof, Nollendorf Platz, Zehlendorf and Turmanstraße are some of them). At these machines, you pay 6 € and get 4 biometric photos in the standard size.

The application form: You will need to complete the Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels and bring it along with your passport, of course. There is a fee you need to pay for the interview. The fee ranges between 50–110 €. For Turkish citizens, the fee is no more than 28,80 €.

Bank Statement: The more money in your account, the better. You don’t need to be fancy but it needs to look safe. I personally recommend you to have enough money for three months of expenses.
Profit & Loss statement: A basic sheet showing your expenses and revenues for the next 12+ months. Don’t forget to include 19% income tax and your health insurance.

Business plan: An introduction to your business and how you are going to generate new clients.
CV + Cover Letter: You need to prove your experience in the field. In Germany, the Cover Letter needs to be very specific.

Printed Portfolio: Bring at least 6 samples of your work. No need to be fancy but it does need to be printed, even if you are a web designer.

Recommendation Letters: Basically, letters from companies you are going to work for. Please note they don’t need to be German companies. However, contracts or letters from German companies, written in German is even better.

The response

If your application falls into the Artist visa category, it is possible that you will be approved or rejected on the same day. Otherwise, your application will be sent to the Bundesagentur für Arbeit for a better review and this can take up to three months. Usually, the interview takes no more than 10 minutes if your documentation is correct.

After your approval

Before you start working, you will need a Tax ID. This is necessary to generate invoices to bill your clients. After you get your visa/permit, find a Tax accountant to help you.

The process sounds complicated, but it is not once you have everything clear. Do you have a different experience? I’ll be glad to hear! Feel free to ask me if you have further questions. @nebenderWelt

By Lucas Haas

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