• Germany's news in English
The easiest visas to get as an American in Germany
The American flag before Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate. Photo: DPA.

The easiest visas to get as an American in Germany

Emma Anderson · 8 Aug 2016, 16:16

Published: 08 Aug 2016 16:16 GMT+02:00
Updated: 08 Aug 2016 16:16 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

When I first moved to Berlin, I was like many a Millennial 20-something and didn’t have much of a plan.

My three-month automatic tourist visa was soon expiring and my enchantment with Berlin still had not worn off, but I still didn’t have a job, nor did I have any clue how to confront the intimidating Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Office, and really this should be the first German word you learn, if you haven’t already).

Luckily, three years and three different kinds of visa later, I think I’ve pretty much got the whole deal sorted out.

First: The basics

Photo: DPA.

Americans get three months automatically as a 'tourist visa', so you can come and stay for the entire span of that time without doing any paperwork. If you want to stay longer though, there are a number of options.

Before you even get to the Ausländerbehörde though, you’ll have to register your address at your neighbourhood Bürgeramt, Einwohnermeldeamt, or Kreisverwaltungsreferat to get a certificate, or Anmeldung. This can be a hassle in and of itself, but if you don’t yet have a job, at least you have free time on your hands to get there early and wait for hours if you can’t get an appointment ahead of time (this may also be the case at the Ausländerbehörde).

If you haven't been able to get an Anmeldung (which may also prove necessary when opening a bank account or even registering for German classes), you can also walk into the foreigners office with your lease and a letter from your landlord.

SEE ALSO: Six essentials to ensure a smooth landing in Germany

The most important things that the Ausländerbehörde will be looking for are that you have proper health insurance coverage in Germany and a way to support yourself. Usually some form of traveller’s insurance with a German firm will at least temporarily appease the bureaucrats (they might give you a temporary permit and tell you to come back again with better insurance if it’s not sufficient).

And a letter (even if it’s in English) from a parent or partner, saying that they will financially support you, along with their bank statements and proof of income, should fulfil the whole proof of financial stability thing.

But then you have to know what kind of permit to apply for:

1. The ‘job-seekers’ permit

Photo: Pexels.com

This is for people with at least a bachelor's degree at a university recognized in Germany (basically all accredited American universities), who want to look for a job. It lasts for just six months, but at least it buys you some time to figure things out further.

Make sure to have an original certificate of your degree(s) as well as a copy to submit, and it doesn’t hurt to throw in any other qualifications that you might have under your belt. The rule of thumb for German bureaucrats: the more paperwork, the better.

2. Permit to study German

Another option is a permit to study German. This is for up to one year and you must be enrolled in 'intensive classes' of at least 18 hours a week.

You’ll of course have to show proof of enrolling in a course.

If you’re looking for an option that will also offer some form of financial support or professional experience, you might consider one of the following options:

1. Au pair visa

An young man working as an au pair in Bielefeld. Photo: DPA.

If you like taking care of kids, working as an au pair for up to a year is an option worth considering. You’ll first need to find a host family, which you can do through sites like Au Pair World, or Au Pair Care Germany, as well as a number of others.

2. Internship visa

It’s also possible to get a permit for even an unpaid internship, though no income will mean showing proof that you have another means of support, as previously mentioned.

Check out The Local’s jobs page, as well as BerlinStartupJobs.com, XpatJobs.de or one of the Jobs In Network sites for English-language listings.

3. Self-employed artist or English tutor

Story continues below…

Photo: DPA.

If you can't find a job, why not work for yourself? Another type of permit is the self-employed or freelance permit. But this does require a bit more paperwork. You'll need at least two freelance 'job offers' (I submitted short, not-legally-binding letters from people who said they'd be interested in hiring me) in the field that you want to freelance in.

What kind of work you'll be permitted to do depends on what these letters say. So for a hot minute I was a freelance 'editor, journalist, and English tutor', according to my permit.

But the Ausländerbehörde won't buy any old job: You also should have some sort of qualification (I used a certificate from a journalism exchange programme) and references backing up that you have previously done this kind of work.

If you're an artist and have some interest lined up in your work, this permit applies to you, and some people may use it flexibly: like being a freelance musician and using that to teach little kids music theory.

One final important term: Fiktionsbescheinigung

If you don’t yet have all the paperwork you need and your tourist visa is about to run out - don’t panic. Take everything you do have to the Ausländerbehörde and if it’s not quite enough, ask about a Fiktionsbescheinigung - literally fictional certificate.

When I first applied, I was still somehow missing one vital piece of paper, so they gave me this temporary permit which also entailed an extension of time since I was just days away from that three-month mark.

This might all seem very overwhelming, but it’s really not. There are more than 100,000 Americans who have somehow found a way to live in Germany, and so can you.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Emma Anderson (emma.anderson@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd