Are you considering applying for a German self-employment residence permit? Read this and check if you meet all German Self-Employment Visa Requirements?
Getting a German self-employment residence permit is not a fabled myth. It is just…a very polarising topic.
Some say it’s very difficult to get, and yet others have received it on the spot on their first visit to the AHB. Your experience can vary depending on your nationality, your skills, earning potential, work history or maybe even your caseworker’s mood that morning.
Then it is either a very long frustrating process or an extremely straightforward deal.
My self-employment visa took NINE torturous months to process…NINE! I’d describe how that went, but it would take up a whole new blog post. 😉
When I was applying for my German self-employment visa, I could not find any info relevant to MY nationality. I am an Indian passport holder.
Almost every ‘get your German freelance visa‘ guide was by someone from the US, UK, Canada or Australia. You see, Germany permits a visa-waiver program for citizens of 62 countries. Under this visa-waiver program, the nationals from these countries can enter Germany without needing an entry visa. India isn’t one of these 62 countries.
Expat freelancers in Germany are not all that rare. But, if you are a non-EU, Southeast Asian expat freelancer, then congrats! You’re officially a unicorn!
You may want to read: How to Get a German Freelance Visa From India (or any non-EU Country)
So my hope is that if there’s someone from one of ‘the rest of the world’ countries looking to set themselves as a freelancer in Germany could get some valuable info from here.
Let’s see the requirements for the German self-employment visa.
Note: If you are applying for a German Freelance visa from your home country then please read this post. This article describes the German self-employment visa requirements for foreign nationals who are already staying in Germany on a valid residence permit.
1. You Must have a Legal Visa For Germany
You should be in Germany legally before applying for a German self-employment residence permit.
Citizen of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, and the United States can enter Germany without applying for an entry visa from their respective countries.
If you are a resident of one of the third countries or the rest of the world, you may need a German entry visa first.
However, if you already live in Germany and meet some of the following conditions, then you may be able to apply for a freelance work permit.
- You successfully wrapped up your German university degree, and now hold the 18 months job search visa
- You are the spouse of a person legally residing and working in Germany
- You currently hold a German full-time employment visa and want to switch to self-employment (possible under certain circumstances)
As soon as you find a permanent or long term accommodation in Germany, you should register yourself at your local citizen’s registration office or Bürgeramt.
This procedure is known as ‘Anmeldung’. Once the registration process is completed, you’ll receive the confirmation on the living address registration ‘Meldebescheinigung’. You will need this document for your freelance permit in Germany.
2. You Must Have a Valid Health Insurance
All residents in Germany must have health insurance.
If you are a new arrival in Germany, then you’ll need an insurance plan that is meant for self-employed people. Here are some visa office approved health insurance providers in Germany.
If you have been on an employee’s health insurance plan in Germany, then you will have to inform your health insurance provider once you register as a freelancer.
Bear in mind that health insurance for self-employed people is VERY expensive.
In Germany, the employer pay for almost half of the health insurance premium and the rest is shared by the employee. In your case you are wearing both hats- so you have to pay for both employer and the employee part of the monthly premium.
You have the option to choose either public or private health insurance.
Both insurances charge according to your monthly income. The public health insurance premium is about 14% of your gross income. But and that’s a BIG but, the public system has a maximum monthly contribution cap.
So after a certain income threshold, you end up paying a flat rate regardless of how high your monthly income gets. The last time I checked this threshold was at about EUR 5,500 as gross income per month.
Read more about: Health Insurance for Freelancers in Germany (2020 Update)
3. You Must Earn Enough Monthly Income to Support Yourself
…without relying on the German social welfare system.
This is a no-brainer! The financial requirement for a German self-employment visa is just like a regular resident permit.
That is, you should be able to financially support yourself through your business. Your caseworker will ask you for some kind of proof of income.
In my case, I was asked to submit the previous year’s income tax statement. Since I’d only freelanced for a few months, I submit some of my invoices, the copy of contracts that showed my hourly rate or project fees.
I also submitted an income overview that my tax consultant prepares for each month. Heck, I even printed out a couple of my Upwork contracts. That seemed to have done the trick as well.
The minimal monthly income could be different depending on your location.
Some places are much more expensive than others. I live in South Germany, where the cost of living is higher. In some cities, you could get away with €700 per month, but in others €4000 won’t cut it.
ABH caseworkers assume freelancers to be the experts in their field. Some earning even more than regular employees in their field and experience. You should aim for a much higher monthly net income from your business.
4. You Must Have German Clients
This one is iffy. Depending on who you ask, you will get a different reply.
German Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory clearly states that:
(1) A foreigner may be granted a temporary residence permit for the purpose of self-employment if:
1. an economic interest or a regional need applies,
2. the activity is expected to have positive effects on the economy and
3. the foreigner has personal capital or an approved loan to realise the business idea.
This means the applicant has to demonstrate that they have existing or potential clients in Germany. You can prove this by showing invoices or contracts or through the letter of intent by German businesses.
In my case though, I was able to get my self-employment visa without any local contracts. When I applied for my self-employment visa, all my clients were from Upwork. And none of them from Germany!
However, I’ve had email inquiries from a few German businesses, and I also occasionally worked on short term projects with German clients. But nothing ongoing.
My recommendation would be to work with as many German clients as you can. The visa applications are analysed on their own merits, and it’s best to cover all your bases. And this is an important one.
5. You should Get Your Tax ID and Register With the Finanzamt
This is not a requirement for German self-employment visa, but for invoices and taxes. You need your tax ID, Tax Number and (or) VAT ID to invoice your clients.
It shows your seriousness if you have already come prepared with your German tax ID in your hand.
Your local Finanzamt will also decide what kind of self-employment entity you are – a freelancer OR a trader based on the info you give them.
This is a whole new can of worms within the German tax bureaucracy, so make sure you get this one right during your Finanzamt registration. If you get it wrong, you could potentially end up paying more taxes and having to submit various kind of accounting documents at the end of the financial year.
Have you ever applied for a German self-employment visa? How was your experience? Did you meet all the German self-employment visa requirements or had to provide additional documentations to your foreigners office?
Tell us in the comments below.