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WORKING IN GERMANY

EXPLAINED: How non-EU nationals can apply for a job seeking visa in Germany

Many visas to Germany require you to already have a job or a study offer lined up. But what if you're still on the hunt for employment? This visa allows you to stay in Germany for longer to carry out your search.

EXPLAINED: How non-EU nationals can apply for a job seeking visa in Germany
Archive photo shows a job seeker at a job fair in Berlin in 2017. Photo: DPA

Like most things in Germany, any step forward at integrating (or simply legally residing) takes a healthy dose of bureaucracy. When applying for a residence or work visa, it is important to make sure that you apply for the correct one. 

READ ALSO: How non-EU nationals can get a residency permit to live in Germany

Among many other work and residency permits, Germany offers a “job seeking visa,” which is essentially a residence visa that allows you to stay in Germany legally while looking for work. Other categories of visa require that you already have a job locked down, so this outlier is rather special. 

There are rather strict requirements, however, for this visa. Here is a breakdown of those who are eligible:

What types of job seeking visas are there and how long are they valid?

If you are a skilled worker who has already completed university or vocational training, and speak enough German for your field these requirements, you may be eligible for a six-month job seeking visa. In most circumstances, German proficiency at a B1 level will suffice.

This applies both to those who are new arrivals in Germany or as well as those who have lived in Germany with legal residence status (as described in Article 16e of the German residence act). 

It is also important to note that if you completed your studies outside of Germany, your degree may need to first be officially recognized. To see if your degree has already gone through the validation process in Germany, check the online database at the Central Office for Foreign Education Affairs (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen, ZAB).

If you have studied in Germany and have been awarded a degree, you may be eligible for an 18-month-long visa. This applies to most anyone who has completed a Masters program at a German university, as well as some who have completed Bachelors studies.

For most graduates who are intimidated about job perspectives, especially in pandemic times, this year-and-a-half visa is a saving grace. Foreign graduates from German universities can also apply for a settlement permit for permanent residence after having worked in Germany for two years upon their graduation. 

An Aufenthaltstitel, or residency permit, for Germany. Photo: DPA

If you have conducted research in Germany under a temporary residence visa, then you may be granted a twelve-month-visa

As with most other visas, the fee is €100 for most foreigners, and requires many important documents, including but not limited to: proof of health insurance and proof of education and/or vocational training. 

It is important to note that this type of visa generally does not cover family members. 

How can I apply?

Note that people from United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea or Israel are only eligible to apply for the visa after entering Germany on a regular 90-day tourist stay.

However, those from all other non-EU countries can apply up to 90 days in advance of their intended stay in Germany through their local consulate or embassy.

Immigration offices throughout Germany, and especially in Berlin, are infamous for their anxiety-ridden waiting rooms filled with people queuing for a last-minute appointment or to take the spot of some poor fellow who missed his. 

To avoid this, try to sign up for an appointment as soon as possible. Seriously, the earlier, the better. Make sure to double check to assure you have the right paperwork and to familiarize yourself with full eligibility requirements.

Member comments

  1. Is the B1 proficiency required for all fields? I am finishing a PhD in the USA (US citizen) in biomedical research and plan to look for a job in Germany when I finish. My german is probably about A2 now.

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For members

EDUCATION

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

Germany has a number of specialised nursery schools that focus primarily on helping children with their German language skills. Here's what foreigners need to know about them.

What foreign parents in Germany need to know about Sprach-Kitas

What even is a Sprach-Kita? 

A “Sprach-Kita”, or Language Kindergarten, is a special type of nursery school that’s been around in Germany since 2016 under the government’s Sprach-Kita Programme. The main aim is to help young children build up their German language skills to a level that will allow them to succeed at school. 

How is this different to a normal Kita or daycare centre?

Unlike most Kindergartens in Germany, Sprach-Kitas employ staff who are specifically trained in language teaching and acquisition. These specialists are paid for through Sprach-Kita Programme funding and help to shape the environment of the nursery school, making it easier for children to develop their German skills in an everyday setting.

The schools also have access to external support and advice on catering to children with language setbacks, and may work closely with parents to encourage further language development at home. 

Since the scheme was set up in 2016, around 7,000 nursery schools have successfully applied for “Sprach-Kita” status and received at least €25,000 funding through the programme. These were mostly Kitas that had already taken in a higher-than-average number of children from foreign backgrounds, such as those in popular migrant or expat areas.

Sprach-Kitas will generally be much more diverse and focus most heavily on children’s language skills, in addition to teaching young kids about cultural inclusivity.  

READ ALSO: ‘Multilingualism is an enrichment, not a deficit’: Raising bilingual kids in Germany

Who are Sprach-Kitas for?

Any young child in Germany is allowed to go to a Sprach-Kita, but the main target audience for these specialised nurseries are the children of foreign parents.

In households where German isn’t the main language spoken, children may struggle to keep up with their classmates at school due to their lower level of German fluency. That could be because the child has two international parents – such as a French mum and an English dad – or because the child has more contact with a parent who doesn’t speak German. 

According to recent statistics, around one in five nursery-age children in Germany doesn’t speak German with their parents at home. That equates to 675,000 children in total. In addition, around 40 percent of nursery school children come from a migrant background. 

Through the Sprach-Kita Programme, government is hoping to help these children integrate at an early age to set them up fully for life in Germany. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rise in multilingual children in Germany

Do I have to pay for a Sprach-Kita? 

Parents usually have to pay a monthly fee for their child to attend a German nursery school – and the same applies to Sprach-Kitas. The fee structure is generally set by the local government, meaning it can vary widely across different regions of the country.

However, you won’t pay any more (or less) for a Sprach-Kita than you would for an ordinary nursery school. 

Where can I find a Sprach-Kita?

Around one in eight Kindergartens in Germany is currently a Sprach-Kita, meaning they aren’t particularly hard to find.

To look for one near you, the best thing to do is to hop onto the government website and look on this interactive map detailing all of the Sprach-Kitas in Germany. 

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

However, partly due to staffing shortages, Kita places in Germany are highly competitive right now – so securing a place may involve getting in touch with a number of them at an early date. 

READ ALSO: How can Germany improve its Kitas amid teacher shortage?

Is there anything else I need to know?

Currently, the funding for the Sprach-Kita Programme is due to end at the end of 2022 – and it’s unclear what the fate of the existing language-focused nursery schools will be after this happens.

Though the three parties of the traffic-light coalition had pledged to extend the scheme in their coalition contract, it appears that the programme was one of the first victims of savage negotiations over next year’s budget.

That means the federal government are now hoping to transfer the responsibility for funding the language support over to the 16 states.  

“Responsibility in the area of daycare for children lies with the states and cannot be permanently financed by federal funding programmes,” a spokeswoman for the Family Ministry told Welt. 

The Ministry for Families has also pledged to make language acquisition a cornerstone of its forthcoming Good Childcare Act, which will see at least €2 billion in federal funding made available for nurseries in 2023 and 2024. 

That could make it possible for existing Sprach-Kitas to remain in place as specialised centres for language support. 

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