Expat Life

An Expat’s Guide to Getting a Visa in Berlin

Brandenburger Tor, Berlin
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One of the trickiest things about moving abroad to Germany for non-EU nationals is the process of getting a visa. If only it was as easy as packing you bags and booking a flight! If you only intend to stay for 90 days or less, you don’t need to worry about obtaining a visa as you are free to move around the Schengen zone for this period. For stays that exceed 90 days, a visa is needed.

If you’re thinking of moving to Berlin, this guide on getting a visa in Berlin will give a breakdown of the kinds of visas available to expats, the requirements of each as well as the visa appointment booking process.

Fernsehturn, Berlin

Do I need to organise a visa prior to arrival in Germany?

If you’re from one of the ‘friendly’ countries of Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Israel or South Korea, you’re able to apply for a visa after you have already arrived in Germany. If you’re from another country, you’ll need to apply for an entry permit to Germany before you leave home.

What kinds of visas are available to expats?

Depending on your nationality and situation, there are a number of different visas that you can apply for. These include:

Working Holiday Visa

Uniquely available to citizens of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, if you are under 30, you may apply for a Working Holiday Visa, which allows you to stay and work in Germany for 12 months. You will need to provide evidence of health insurance, a return flight ticket and proof that you are able to support yourself with at least € 3,500 in your bank account. This is the visa that I originally started on when I arrived in Berlin. It offered so much freedom and I was not tied to one specific job in order to stay in the country.

Visa fee: 60


Work Permit (also Internships)

To obtain a Work Permit, you need to already have a job lined up in Germany and a contract ready to present. You also need to provide evidence of your qualifications, e.g. university degree, as well as a health insurance policy. I landed a full-time job midway through my Working Holiday Visa and when this expired, my new company organised a Work Permit on my behalf.

Visa fee: 60


Student Visa

If you want to study in Germany, apply to a German university and if you are accepted, you may be eligible for a Student Visa. You will need to show evidence of your acceptance letter as well as your health insurance policy and proof that you have at least € 8,000 to support yourself for the year.

Visa fee: 60


Language Visa

If you’re interested in learning German and are willing to commit to at least 20 hours of study per week for at least three months, a Language Visa might be a good option. You need to provide a copy of the confirmation for the language course you have enrolled in, a health insurance policy and evidence of financial stability with a bank balance of at least € 8,000.

Visa fee: 60


Freelance Visa

A Freelance Visa is suited to those who are self-employed. In order to obtain this visa, you need to make a pretty convincing case as to why your work is of economic benefit to Germany. This means that you need to provide letters of intent from 2-3 companies who are willing to offer you freelance work. Your application needs to also include your resume, a portfolio of your work, a business plan, a profit and loss statement, a bank statement containing at least € 3,000, as well as health insurance.

Visa fee:  50 to  110 depending on processing time


Au Pair Visa

If you are interested in working for and living with a German family to help with domestic duties such as housework as well as looking after children in exchange for board, an Au Pair Visa might be for you. In order to qualify, you must be aged between 18 and 27 and demonstrate basic German language skills. You are also required to stay in Germany between 6 and 12 months. You need to show written evidence of your German language skills e.g. a copy of a certificate from your language school, as well as written confirmation from a placement agency or host family. A German health insurance policy is also obligatory.

Visa fee: 60


How do I apply for a visa?

To apply for your visa in Berlin you need to:

  • Visit the Ausländerbehörde (Foreign Office) website and ensure that you carefully read the important information regarding visas.
  • Make an online appointment to apply. Note: don’t be surprised if the earliest available appointment is many months away. The Ausländerbehörde is a very busy place! If your 90-day tourist visa is due to expire in the meantime, don’t worry. As long as you have made a visa appointment, it will remain valid until your appointment date.
  • Get your documents in order and ensure that you have absolutely everything that is required.
  • If you can, bring someone who can speak German with you. The officials at the Ausländerbehörde very rarely speak English and are not very helpful if you’re not able to communicate in German.
  • Smile and hope for the best!

Are you thinking of moving to Germany? Join the discussion in the comments below!

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  • jimmydettmann@hotmail.com'
    James Dettmann
    April 13, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    @Sam Martin
    At the time when i booked my appointment i think i still had another month or 2 valid on my schengen visa but the first available appointment wasn’t for 2 months after it expired. My appointment is the 9th of may so ill let you know how that goes.

  • samdmartin1@outlook.com'
    Sam Martin
    April 6, 2016 at 2:10 am


    Did you apply for your WHV after your Shengen visa expired? How did it turn out? I need to apply for my WHV but the earliest appointment is in 3 months….

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  • redouanemenad@gmail.com'
    menad redouane
    March 12, 2016 at 1:31 am

    I’m from Algeria 28 old years a need you to help my for visa and job to Germany please

  • jimmydettmann@hotmail.com'
    James Dettmann
    February 17, 2016 at 4:19 am

    Hi Rachel, Im an australian currently in Austria and have booked my appointment for the WHV but it is 2 months after my schengen days expire. Just wondering how sure you are that this is fine as on the official site it says the appointment doesn’t overrule the schengen days. Or would it only be a problem if you got denied the visa and then had to leave? Thanks. James.

  • bobbirickards@hotmail.com'
    January 25, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Hi, I’m so glad i found your blog, so helpful! Im from Sydney and I’m about to move to Berlin too for a little while on the working holiday visa, I was just wondering is there any point in trying to apply for it here in Australia? or is it more practical to just wait until I get there? Also if I do apply after I get there If I don’t speak german very well and I have no one to help me translate will it just be ridiculously stressful?

  • hr.lowe@hotmail.com'
    November 6, 2015 at 3:22 am

    Hey Beth,

    I think I was really lucky, it couldn’t have gone better. I just had my travel insurance that covered me for health insurance that I purchased when I got my flight…..I’ve heard from others though you need German health insurance – but I think it just depends on who you get on the day. I also think people get that confused with other visas, as yes other visas like the freelance visa requires you to have german health insurance from a german health insurance company.
    When is your appointment? Do you have someone who speaks german (if you don’t) to go in with you? Again, I was lucky to have a lady nice enough to ask ‘German or English’ at the beginning but I did bring someone along with me who is German, but literally she didn’t even ask me anything.
    I know how stressed and worked up I got over this process so if you need any help even with completing the paperwork let me know and I would be happy to help.
    Have you registered your address in Berlin yet?
    Let me know how you go, my email address is hr.lowe@hotmail.com or you can add me on FB if you like (Hannah Rachel Lowe).
    All the best 🙂

  • bethyoung86@gmail.com'
    Beth Young
    November 6, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Hannah, how did you go getting your visa? I have an appointment to apply in a couple of weeks and I’m trying to work out the health insurance. Did you just get travel insurance that is valid for one year? Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks 🙂

  • hr.lowe@hotmail.com'
    August 28, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Thanks Rachel, I just realised that shortly after writing to you, I’ve managed to book myself in for my residence permit appointment first (can you do that at any Burgeramt or only the ones in your area?) and then I’ve booked in for my visa appointment 1 week later. Have printed off all the forms so will make sure I have a good understanding of it all and complete them.
    Did you have someone come with you who spoke German?

  • hr.lowe@hotmail.com'
    August 27, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Hey Rachel,

    What a great post, you’ve certainly helped me! So Thank you. I arrive in Berlin on the 30th September and have secured an appointment for my visa on the 26th October.
    Not sure if you know, but do you have to apply for your residence permit/visa prior to the working visa appointment, or can you complete the residency application form, have the address details of where you will be living and take it in with you to the working holiday visa appointment? I’m just a little confused. I have a place to live and can get my future roommate to complete a letter saying i’ll be living with her, but wasn’t sure if I need to apply for this separately?
    Hoping you might be able to shed some light 🙂
    Thanks again!

    • Rachel Bale
      August 27, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      Glad it was useful to you Hannah! Definitely register your address at the Burgeramt before your visa appointment. They won’t give you a visa without your official address registration form. You can’t do the two things at the one appointment as they are different departments. Good luck!

  • spiritual_therapist@hotmail.com'
    Mohsin raza
    August 2, 2015 at 1:08 pm

    I m from Pakistan. Age 36. Wants to move to Germany. I wanna apply for work visa. Please guide me friends

  • thomson.sonja@gmail.com'
    June 3, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Hey! Any advice on how to get the travel insurance? Everything I look out seems to be ridiculously expensive! 🙂

  • tilly.m.devine@gmail.com'
    Tilly Devine
    May 28, 2015 at 3:36 pm


    I’ve been reading lots about the working holiday visa and I was wondering if you could apply for it in another city in Germany? Ie Freiburg or Munich? Also I know you have to apply before your 31st birthday, what happens if you book an appointment and it’s not for 6-8 weeks after and in that time I turn 31?

    Any help would be great I’m Australian and I’m 30 now.

  • olive_hunt@yopmail.com'
    May 20, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    So much well-structured information! I didn’t know that there are so much type of visas out there and that I have a 90-day period to stay without having one. Thanks for sharing it here!

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  • skyeclasstravels@gmail.com'
    Skye Class
    April 27, 2015 at 2:02 am

    Thank you so much for this information. I’m looking at somewhere to live in Europe for a few weeks later this year, and someone else mentioned Germany. I just wish I hadn’t just missed the age restriction for au pair. Still, it looks like it might be quite a bit of effort to get my visa. I’m also looking at the SE non-Schengen countries like Croatia and Macedonia. Any recommendations?

    • Rachel Bale
      April 28, 2015 at 1:36 am

      What a great decision you’ve made to travel abroad for a few weeks! Depending on your nationality, you should be able to stay within the Schengen zone for 90 days without a visa. Would this option work for you or do you intend to stay longer? Sorry I can’t give advice on anywhere else besides Germany!

  • BradleeLocke@gmail.com'
    April 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I’m actually moving to Germany in a little over 4 months to be an au pair!! I’ll be in Munich for 10 months. I’m already trying to learn German and have been trying to figure out everything I need to do in order to get (and stay) there. Everywhere I’ve read has said I probably just need a work permit, but you said there is an au pair visa… What are the main differences between those as far as qualifications and such go?

    This post was so timely and perfect! Thanks for writing it 🙂 I can’t wait to finally get to this incredible country. I’ve heard so many good things about it.

    • Rachel Bale
      April 28, 2015 at 1:31 am

      That’s so exciting Bradlee! It sounds like you’re busy doing all of the research about visa options before you go which is so important. If you can get a work permit, that’s great, but it might be easier to get an Au Pair visa instead. I’d go with this option if you’re set on being an Au Pair, as it is non-renewable so it would be good to get one. Good luck with it all!

  • alejandra@the-wham.com'
    April 26, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Thanks for this post! I’m actually planning to move from the USA to either Norway or Germany in a few of months. Happy to read that Americans can apply for a visa while in Germany! How long does the visa processing take based on your experience?

    Alejandra | http://www.the-wham.com

    • Rachel Bale
      April 28, 2015 at 1:15 am

      They’re some very exciting plans, Alejandra! Yep, you can apply once you arrive in Germany. My visa was processed on the spot which was super helpful. This experience might not be universal though — it’s possible that you might have to wait a few days for it to be processed. All the best with the move! 🙂

  • zascha_friis@hotmail.com'
    April 25, 2015 at 10:56 pm

    Although I’m from an EU country (Denmark), I still find these type of posts interesting.
    I had no idea that you could apply for a visa after already arriving in the country, but that is way more convenient for people.
    Besides that, I always find all of these visa rules sooo confusing. They give me headaches! 😀

    • Rachel Bale
      April 28, 2015 at 1:00 am

      I hate visa stress too Zascha! That sticker inside your passport (or lack thereof) has such a huge impact on your life. I’m so envious that you don’t have to worry about visas in Europe, being an EU citizen!

  • happenstance13@gmail.com'
    April 25, 2015 at 7:32 am

    I lived in Germany for a year during undergrad (study abroad year was the best year!) and I always dream of moving back, even if just for a short time, but have now passed the age limit to au pair and struggle to find my way back in!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 8:09 am

      The age limit thing is tricky. Maybe the best option is to try to find a job here in Berlin so that you can apply for a Work Visa. Good luck with it! 🙂

  • lyndeavenue@gmail.com'
    April 25, 2015 at 5:23 am

    This post had me intrigued! I was actually just in Berlin for a school trip a couple of days ago (returned last night) and it was one of the most amazing cities I had ever visited. We did the full tourist thing – I particularly enjoyed the Ampelmann shops…you just don’t get that in America! 😛

    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 8:07 am

      I’m so glad to hear that you loved Berlin Emily. It really is a unique city isn’t it? 🙂

  • agirlcandream30@gmail.com'
    April 25, 2015 at 3:02 am

    This is very helpful!!! I am planning on moving to Munich in a few months. I am currently working on getting a job lined up for the work visa. But I am wondering if I need to apply for the visa before I arrive or can I do this after?

    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 8:06 am

      Such exciting plans Jaime! If you’re planning on applying for a Work Visa, you can only do so once you already have a job contract, so you’ll need to get the job first. Good luck!

  • olg.rabo@gmail.com'
    April 25, 2015 at 1:13 am

    I’m living in Germany since last Thursday, and thankfully I don’t need a visa because I’m a EU citizen.
    It doesn’t mean, however, that it’s any less difficult to rent an apartment here, by the way, because apparently I’m still not viewed as an equal to Germans, and there’s much more paperwork that I need to submit. So annoying!


    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 2:36 am

      I feel your pain Olga! Finding an apartment in Berlin can be hellish. I have managed to avoid the hassle completely by renting out a very reasonably priced AirBnb to live in. I’ve been here for over a year now and don’t intend on leaving. It’s too much of a good deal! I wrote a little post about why it’s such a good option here: http://departmentofwandering.com/ive-lived-airbnb-flat-year-no-plans-move/. German paperwork is super complicated. Good luck!

  • litonkrl@gmail.com'
    Clipping Path Outsource
    April 24, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Great post with all details. Thanks.

    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 1:06 am

      Thanks so much 🙂

  • vmetaxas31@gmail.com'
    April 24, 2015 at 9:08 pm

    Berlin has been on my wishlist for so long now! Gotta get over there soon!


    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 1:05 am

      You must Victoria! Make it happen! 🙂

  • thisoffscriptlife@gmail.com'
    Jennifer @ This Off Script Life
    April 24, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Getting a visa is never easy (I had to get one for Switzerland), but it looks like there are several ways in which young people can live and work in Germany for longer than 90 days. The working holiday visa is definitely an interesting one.

    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 1:02 am

      It’s definitely possible, Jennifer. The Working Holiday visa is a GREAT option if you’re eligible. I wish I could get it a second time!

  • cuteinstgram@gmail.com'
    April 24, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    ahhhh, this post reminded me of my long journey of getting a visa before i moved in here to Munich, it was a very hard experience since you don’t get it this easy 😐 but it was worth it of course i can never describe how happy i am to be here in Munich and be living here. BTW i love all your posts, you are an inspiration for me 😉 you have helped me to make my huge move <3


    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 12:59 am

      I hate visa stress too Julie! It’s the worst! I’m happy that it all worked out for you though. So glad to hear you’re loving Munich. I haven’t spent much time down there yet. Have you been up to Berlin? Come! Thanks so much for your lovely words. I’m thrilled that you’ve made the big move abroad! x

  • arnewell@gwu.edu'
    April 24, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I spent a semester abroad in Berlin during college, and most of the creatives I met were there on a freelance work visa. I loved how many creatives and start-ups were there. Berlin seems like a perfect place for this type of commerce, but a lot of locals aren’t pleased with how this dynamic has impacted the city.

    German universities are now tuition-free, and offer German as a Foreign Language courses along with programs in English. So if you’re looking to take up a new study, or learn some German for free, this might be a great option. The enrollment process is a bit of a headache, but I loved my semester at the Humboldt Universität!

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Berlin is definitely someplace I contemplated never leaving!


    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 12:50 am

      The Freelance Visa is such a great option if you can score one. Berlin certainly is the place to be if you’re interested in the start-up scene. And how amazing is the new tuition-free study scheme?! It certainly makes getting a place in a university so much more competitive, but is a fantastic opportunity if do get one. Glad you enjoyed your semester studying in Berlin! x

    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 12:58 am

      I hate visa stress too Julie! It’s the worst! I’m happy that it all worked out for you though. So glad to hear you’re loving Munich. I haven’t spent much time down there yet. Have you been up to Berlin? Come! Thanks so much for your lovely words. I’m thrilled that you’ve made the big move abroad! x

  • jenniferdstevens@gmail.com'
    Jennifer Stevens | Adventurous Appetite
    April 24, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Good to know that I can apply after I arrive! Really thinking about moving there after my teaching contract is up in Shanghai 🙂


    • Rachel Bale
      April 25, 2015 at 12:46 am

      You should definitely consider it Jennifer! If you’re looking for a new teaching contract in Berlin, let me know 😉