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Studying in Germany For Members

Reader question: Can you work in Germany on a student visa?

Paul Krantz
Paul Krantz - [email protected]
Reader question: Can you work in Germany on a student visa?
Students at an introductory event at the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU in Munich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

A German student visa allows the holder to stay in the country during their studies and take on part-time employment, but there are limitations. The Local takes a look at what work is and isn't permitted on a student visa.

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Germany has steadily gained popularity as a study destination in recent years. Last year, Germany was host to more than 450,000 international students. That’s up ten per cent from the year before, and up 50 per cent in ten years, according to data gathered by Wissenschaft Weltoffen.

The main reasons students cite for choosing Germany are free or affordable education, affordable cost of living, and an excellent higher education system.

Germany also offers a number of scholarship opportunities, including the DAAD Scholarship Programme, Heinrich Böll Foundation Scholarships, or DeutschlandStipendium National Scholarship, to name a few. Students seeking scholarship opportunities can get started with this list of scholarships for international students compiled by “Study in Germany.”

READ ALSO: The top German cities for international students in 2024

Among the top countries of origin for international students in Germany are China, India, Syria and Austria.

What it takes to get a student visa

Student visa applicants have a relatively high success rate, provided applicants have all the necessary documents – and yes, there are a lot of required documents.

Applying for a student visa in Germany requires: 

  • A completed application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Biometric photos 
  • An acceptance letter from a German university
  • Proof of financial resources (either a blocked account with about  €11,000, or a guarantee from a financial supporter called a ‘Angaben zur Verpflichtungserklärung’)
  • Letter of Motivation
  • CV
  • Proof of health insurance 
  • Proof of language skills (either English or German, depending on your course of study)
  • Certificates for past degrees 
  • Application fee (€75)

After arriving in Germany, international students typically have 90 days to gather all of the above documents and schedule an appointment with the visa office ‘Bürgeramt’ to apply for their student visa.

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Many universities offer visa services to their students, and some will even help make appointments at the Bürgeramt on students’ behalf.

Employment on a German student visa 

A student visa allows one to reside in Germany for the expected duration of their studies and also to work, but with some limitations.

The main limitation on student visas, regarding employment, has to do with how much someone is allowed to work. The idea behind these limits is to encourage students to focus on their studies, rather than work, while still allowing them to earn a modest income to support themselves. It may also be intended to prevent foreign workers from using student visas to stay in the country.

Interestingly, EU nationals are limited to 20 hours of work per week during the semester, whereas students coming from outside the EU are limited to either 120 full days or 240 half days per year. (With a full day being eight hours, and a half day being four, this averages out to 20 hours per week.) Additionally, one cannot exceed 20 working hours during study periods, but can work more during study break periods – provided annual limits are not exceeded.

Students need to be mindful not to exceed these limits as penalties for working beyond a students’ legal capacity may include fines or even the loss of your student visa.

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While keeping track of these limits may sound a bit complicated, most jobs that are readily available to students are designed not to exceed legal limits. For example, some German companies offer ‘working student’ positions, which are essentially part-time entry level positions that won't go above students’ weekly or yearly working limits.

Alternatively, some students work ‘minijobs’ or ‘midijobs.’ Students may also take on paid or unpaid internships, or even self-employed or freelance work. But keep in mind that self-employment requires one to keep track of their own work limits. Unpaid volunteer work is not limited on a student visa.

If you're looking for more information on applying for a German student visa, check out some helpful sites such as the Schengen Visa Info site.

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