Applying for a visa for your trip to Berlin

Whether or not you need a visa depends on your home country. You can find out if you need a visa to enter Germany via the website of the German Federal Foreign Office.

You must apply for your visa in your home country well before your entry into Germany. Submit your application to the German Embassy or Consulate General in your area. An application for a visa must always be made jointly by both the employer and the employee.

OUR TIP: Check ahead of time to see which documents you’ll need to present when applying for a visa. This information can be found on the website of your diplomatic mission. This will save you the time needed to provide any additional requirements not initially submitted.

Citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan and the Republic of Korea can travel to Berlin without a visa and apply for a residence permit on-site before starting work. If you have any questions, please contact the Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office

OUR TIP: Did you know? If you apply to a Berlin company, your future employer can help you clarify immigration law issues. The Business Immigration Service (BIS) enables a fast and uncomplicated granting of residence permits for qualified specialists and entrepreneurs.

Duration and approval of the visa application

If you are requesting to stay in Berlin for a longer period of time or for work, the processing of your application will take several weeks. The application is approved by different authorities:

  • Embassy (for highly qualified people with an employment contract in accordance with the Blue Card requirements)
  • Embassy and International Placement Services [Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung (ZAV)]

FAQ: Questions about the visa

Applying for a visa and a residence permit involves many questions. An overview of the most important questions and answers can be found here:

Will I get a residence and work permit?

Anyone who is not a citizen of the European Union and wants to work in Germany needs a residence and work permit. Both are usually issued together. The prerequisite for a work permit is a university degree recognized in Germany and an employment contract with a Berlin employer. Without a university degree, the only possible work permit is as a specialist. 

Interns also need a residence and work permit. A distinction is made between compulsory internships in the context of a degree course and voluntary internships. 

How and where do I get a visa?

The visa application is always submitted jointly by employers and employees. Whether or not you need a visa depends on your current home country and your qualifications. You must apply for your visa in your home country before your entry into Germany. Submit your application to the German Embassy or Consulate General in your area. Submit your application to the German Embassy or Consulate General in your area.  before your entry into Germany. 

Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Canada or the United States may enter Germany without a visa and apply for residence and work permits directly in Germany before starting work. 

Who decides on the application?

The application is approved by different authorities:

Blue Card:

  • Embassy 
  • Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office

Regular residence permit:

  • Embassy and International Placement Services 
  • Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office and International Placement Services

The decision to grant the applicant a Blue Card or a regular residence permit is made by the embassy or the Foreigners’ Registration Office and is based on the job profile and the salary.

The Blue Card

The Blue Card is a work and residence permit for highly qualified specialists from non-EU countries that paves the way to the European Union. The Blue Card is a residence permit that is used to show proof of legal residence in EU countries for nationals of non-EU countries for employment purposes. The Blue Card is thus intended for non-EU nationals. 

For EU citizens, freedom of movement applies to their stay. 

What are the advantages of the Blue Card? 

The application process is usually faster. 

Spouses and family members can enter without any problems. You can apply for a permanent residence permit after just 33 months. If you have B1-level knowledge of German, you can apply for permanent residence after only 21 months.

What is the difference between a visa and a work permit? 

A visa grants permission to enter Germany – coupled with the permission to take up the intended employment. Visas are issued by embassies in foreign countries. These are generally valid for three to six months. 

You may then apply to the German/Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office to have the visa converted to a residence permit. Therefore, you are permitted to work if you have a visa, since it already contains a work permit.

How long is the application process? 

Application via the Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office: 

If all the required documents are submitted, the application can be approved within two to three weeks. 

Application via a German Embassy in a foreign country:

Depending on the number of applications at the respective embassy, ​​processing times can vary between a few weeks to a few months. At some embassies, there may be a wait of several months for an appointment.  

What can I do to speed up the application process? 

Fill out the application carefully, especially the job profile! Include all the required documents (employment contract, etc.) with the application and only submit a complete application. 

When applying in Berlin: Use the Business Immigration Service of the Berlin Foreigners’ Registration Office and the Berlin economic development agency, Berlin Partner for Business and Technology GmbH.

How long is a work permit valid for? 

That depends on the employment contract. One-year fixed-term employment contracts only entitle you to a one-year work permit. The maximum validity of the Blue Card is four years. If the employment relationship is shorter, the residence permit / Blue Card is valid for three months longer than the employment period. 

Extensions can always be requested in Berlin.

Blocked account: a visa requirement for citizens of non-EU States

If you come to Berlin as a student, language student, job seeker or intern from a non-EU State, you may well require a so-called blocked account. A blocked account is a blocked monetary amount that helps anyone arriving with insufficient income to obtain a visa. The account acts as evidence of sufficient funding during your stay in Berlin – a condition of the German embassies, which ensures that your living costs are covered.

OUR TIP: in certain cases, other groups of people may also require a blocked account to obtain a German visa. Check with your embassy before you arrive as to whether this applies to you! 

The process for opening and using a blocked account is relatively simple, as you only need to undertake a few steps. After opening your blocked account, you must deposit the total blocked amount into the corresponding blocked account. You will then be issued with a blocked amount confirmation, which you can present to the responsible German authorities (overseas embassy) in order to obtain your visa. 

The total amount to be deposited is based on the monthly funding stipulated by the German Training Assistance Act (BaföG) – currently, this is approximately EUR 720 per month (EUR 8,640 annually). The account remains blocked in favor of the Federal Republic of Germany until you arrive. A corresponding amount (usually EUR 720) will then be paid into your checking account every month.