This guide explains all you need to know about how to apply for a German freelance visa, from the required documents to who qualifies as a freelancer in Germany and everything.
So, if you’re looking to apply for a Germany freelance visa, grab a cup of hot chocolate and sit back, as there’s so much you need to know to increase your chances of getting your visa approved.
First of all, who qualifies as a freelancer in the German context?
Who is a Freelancer?
A freelancer privately engages in a liberal profession (offering an intellectual service) and has a recognized university degree—for example, an engineer or artist.
To qualify for a German freelancer visa, you must meet these two key conditions: offering an intellectual service and having a degree or equivalent education.
If you don’t meet these criteria, you’re self-employed. In German lingo, there’s a legal distinction between a freelancer (Freiberufler) and a self-employed (Selbständiger/Gewerbetreibende). More on that below.
Note: Immigration law uses Selbständiger, while business law uses Gewerbetreibende, which means the same thing.
Freelancing vs. Self-Employment in Germany
According to the German Income Tax Act, a freelancer or Freiberufler must fall into one of the following categories:
- Health care provider
- Software Developer
- Tax/business consultants
While a freelancer offers an intellectual service, a self-employed individual or Selbständiger is someone who sells tangible goods and/or engages in commercial activities. In order words, a tradesperson.
If you’re not a freelancer, you’re automatically self-employed. A self-employed person would require more documents to apply for a freelance visa in Germany. Then, you’d be applying as a business owner. Do your research to know what licenses and permits your business would need in Germany.
However, how you run your freelancing may turn it into a commercial activity, steering you towards self-employment.
Note that it’s illegal to be hired as a freelancer when you should be an employee.
Who can Apply for a German freelancer Visa?
- You can only apply for a German freelance visa if you are not a citizen or permanent resident of Germany, the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland. Since Brexit, UK citizens will have to apply for a freelance visa.
- You have an address in Germany, meaning you currently live in the country
- You have a liberal profession
- You have clients (not just one) in Germany already working with you or who wish to do so
- You have health insurance.
- You have enough funds to sustain yourself. This means enough for your monthly rent and health insurance plus €502.
Not meeting any of those requirements can hamper your plans to get a German freelance visa.
While writers, journalists, and other artists can apply for the Germany freelance visa the same way, theirs will be approved on the spot. The Chamber of Commerce won’t review their application, so they’ll be given the visa right now and then without waiting three to four months like other applicants.
Note: If you’re a citizen or permanent resident of Germany, any EU country, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, you don’t need a freelance visa to freelance in Germany.
What are the Benefits of a Freelance Visa in Germany?
The German freelancer visa can benefit students or workers who want to earn more. However, if you’re an employee, you must maintain the occupation for which you originally got a visa. For example, if you’re on a work permit in Germany and are employed as a doctor, you can decide to freelance to earn more money on the side. If you have a BlueCard, you can freelance without applying for a freelancer visa, but you must keep the job. If you stop the job, you need to get a freelance visa.
Unless you’re a citizen of an EU or EEA country (those countries mentioned above), you need a work visa to live and work in Germany. The visa you’ll be given will only be valid for a limited time, say six months to 3 years. So, if you wish to live and work in Germany on a long-term basis, the German freelance visa can be a gold mine.
Assuming you’re currently in Germany on a student visa, you can get a German freelance visa as a writer. This will allow you to continue living in Germany long after graduation and your student visa expires.
But remember that a student visa does not allow you to freelance in Germany. Hence, you would need to get permission from the Ausländerbehörde. One of the criteria is that you must prove that your freelance activity will benefit the cultural or economic interests of the country. But if your freelance work is related to what you are studying, you might not need to prove that.
How Much Does the German Freelance Visa Cost?
The German freelance visa fee costs a maximum of €100 (€28.80 for Turkish citizens).
Depending on your situation and intentions, you may pay other fees such as an Embassy fee of €75, an Extension of Temporary Residence Permit of €100, and a settlement Permit of €124.
The Required Documents for the Germany Freelance Visa
To be eligible for the German freelance visa, applicants must meet specific requirements, which typically include demonstrating relevant professional qualifications or experience, providing sufficient financial means to support themselves during their stay, and obtaining adequate health insurance coverage.
Now, what documents do you need?
- National Visa Application form – known as Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels
- Two recent Biometric photos – You can take this at the Immigration office or even train stations.
- Valid passport
- Visa application fee
- Proof of health insurance
- Apartment lease (from landlord) or proof of home ownership
- Letters of intent from two German clients or prospects
- CV or resume
- Cover letter (optional)
- Professional license (if applicable).
- Proof of education (optional)
- Bank statements
- Adequate pension plan (if you’re over 45)
*Most of these documents are required regardless of which German visa you apply for.
How to Apply for a Germany Freelance Visa
Suppose you’re from the US, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, or South Korea. In that case, you can come and live in Germany without any entry visa for up to 90 days and make your freelance visa application while inside the country.
But if you’re from any other country apart from those EU and EEA ones mentioned earlier, you have two options:
- To apply for a freelance visa at the German embassy in your country. This is safer and cheaper.
- You can apply directly after arrival to enter Germany with a National Visa or Job Seeker Visa. This is usually more expensive.
We’ll talk about each of these scenarios.
Apply for a German Freelance Visa from Your Home Country
Applying for a German freelance visa from your home country involves a series of steps and requirements to ensure a smooth and successful application process. Here’s a brief overview of the key steps:
- Book an appointment with the nearest German embassy in your country. The embassy will notify you about the required German freelance visa application documents. You might not yet have a German residential address or health insurance, but proof that you have German clients will likely be required.
- Apply for health insurance. Health insurance is extremely crucial to the success of your freelance visa application. It’s illegal not to have health insurance in Germany. You can get expat health insurance valid for a few months before obtaining public or private insurance.
- Keep up with the visa appointment. Ensure you complete and submit all the required documents on the day of your appointment. They’ll keep your passport but will return it to you after they’ve decided on your application.
- Collect your visa. If your freelance visa is approved, it will be attached to your passport. While some embassies will ask you to collect it in person, others may send it via courier.
- Travel to Germany. On receiving your Germany freelancer visa, you can hop on a flight to begin your freelancing journey.
- Register your home address. Getting an apartment in big cities like Berlin is not your regular cup of tea, so checking out accommodations online before ever setting foot in Germany is advised. Register your address with the local Citizens Service Centre (Bürgeramt) for accommodation. You’ll be given a certificate and Tax ID when you do so. You need this certificate to get a bank account and residence permit.
- Open a bank account in Germany. As a freelancer in Germany, you’ll need a German bank for all your transactions. Your passport and registration certificate will be required to open a German bank account.
- Register for tax. Before officially beginning your freelance work in Germany, register with the German Tax Office (Finanzamt) to get a freelance tax number. You must declare your freelance activity to do this. You don’t want to run into tax problems, so it’s good to find out all you need to know about freelancer tax in Germany before heading to the tax registration office.
- Fill out the Tax Collection Questionnaire. You can do this on the German Ministry of Finances website. Your Tax ID, bank information, and description of your freelance activity will be required.
- Apply for a freelancer residence permit. The German freelance visa you got at the embassy is only valid for three months. That’s why you must travel to Germany within that time frame and apply for a freelancer residence permit before expiration.
Apply for a Freelance Visa in Germany
Applying for a freelance visa if you’re already in Germany involves a step-by-step process. Here’s a concise overview of the key steps:
Step 1: Book an appointment with the Immigration office
If you walk into the German immigration office hoping to be attended to, you might be turned away. So it’s best to make an appointment prior. Note that your appointment may be dated months into the future. so, for those on a 90-day no-visa stay, book your appointment as soon as possible to avoid risking overstaying the 90 days before you’re called upon.
step 2: Get health insurance
After booking your appointment, sign up for health insurance. Health insurance is a basic requirement for a German freelancer visa, and your application will be revoked if you have none. While there are public and private health insurance, freelancers and self-employed individuals usually go for the private one. But it’s best to talk with a health insurance broker in Germany to find out what works best for you.
step 3: Register your address
Proceed to register your address at the Citizens Service Centre (Bürgeramt).
step 4: Open a German bank account
You’ll need this for transactions within the country. Transfer money into it since bank statements are usually required when applying for freelance visas.
step 5: Gather all your documents
This will include tax, letters of intent, proof of working with German clients, health insurance, etc. If you’re new in Germany and don’t yet have a German tax ID number, register for tax and fill out the Tax Collection Questionnaire.
step 6: Attend the visa interview
On the scheduled date of your freelance visa interview, visit the immigration office with all the required documents, leaving nothing out. Valid national passport There’s nothing like coming over-prepared. Just don’t come underprepared. The Germans take every document seriously. If you don’t speak German, you might have to go with an interpreter since it’s not guaranteed your interviewer will speak English.
Teachers, Writers, and Artists will get their German freelance visas during the interview. Software developers are sometimes also lucky. Others will have to wait three to four months to receive theirs.
Your freelancer visa can be valid for up to 3 years. Apply for a freelancer residence permit for self-employment before it expires. You can renew your residence permit for as long as you want.
You Don’t Qualify as a Freelancer but Wish to Apply as a Business Owner
If you don’t fall under the German “freelancer” classification, you can still apply for a German freelancer visa as a self-employed individual or Gewerbe. You will, however, need the following additional documents:
- Business plan
- Company profile
- Business concept
- Capital requirement plan
- Business concept
- Trade Registration
Before completing the Tax Collection questionnaire, you must register your business and get a license at the local Trade Office (Gewerbeschein). Again, it’s best to consult with a German tax professional, as dealing with the tax office can be daunting.
When you have all your ducks in a row, apply for your Freelancer Resident Permit, which is the last step of the freelance visa application.
Ensure you provide all this information in German, as the interviewer may not speak English. To make things easier, consider using a translation service to translate your documents from English to German.
Taxes for Freelancers in Germany
Freelancers and self-employed individuals in Germany pay their full taxes themselves, unlike when working for an employer. Freelancers and the self-employed pay 14-45% of their earnings on tax.
You pay zero tax if you earn less than €9,985 as a freelancer in Germany.
- Up to €9,984 — 0%
- €9,985-€58,596 — 14-42%
- €58,597-€277,825 — 42%
- €277,826 and above — 45%
You can submit your tax reports electronically to Finanzamt through Sorted. Sorted is a third-party service integrated into Finanzamt and provides bookkeeping and accounting support in your freelance activity.
How Long Does it Take to Process the German Freelance Visa?
The German freelancer visa usually takes 3-4 months to process. The processing time varies depending on the country and time of year.
However, artists, language translators, and teachers can get their freelancer visas on the same day of the interview.
You Have Arrived in Germany. Now What?
Once you arrive in Germany with an entry visa, get an apartment and register your address at the Local Citizens Service Centre as soon as possible. Then, open a German bank account, register with the tax office to get a freelancer tax number, and complete the Tax Questionnaire before applying for a freelancer residence permit.
If you don’t already have a health insurance plan, you’ll need one before applying for the residence permit, as it’s illegal to live in Germany without health insurance.
Now, you can begin your freelance journey in Germany! Network with other freelancers, source for clients, and deliver excellent service.
Best Coworking Spaces in Germany
Here’s a quick roundup of the best co-working spaces in Germany to start working after securing your freelance visa:
- Betahaus Co-Working (Berlin)
- Ahoy (Berlin)
- Kaos (Berlin)
- Mindspace (four locations)
- Unicorn Workspace (Berlin, Munich, Cologne, Hamburg, and Lisbon)
So, there you have it; all your questions on applying for a Germany freelance visa are answered. To sum it up, first, ensure you’re eligible to apply for a freelance visa. If you are, you can apply at the immigration office in Germany or the nearest German embassy in your country. Again, the importance of having health insurance before applying cannot be understated.
What is the minimum salary for a German freelance visa?
To be eligible for a German freelance visa, you must demonstrate a reasonable livelihood of at least €9,000 annually.
Can a tourist work as a freelancer in Germany?
You’re not allowed to get a freelance visa in Germany if you arrive with a tourist visa.
Does Germany have a digital nomad visa?
No, Germany does not have a digital nomad visa. Germany only offers a freelancer visa, which can also be valuable for remote workers and freelancers.
Can a freelancer get a blue card in Germany?
The EU BlueCard only applies when tied to an employer via employment. So, as a freelancer or self-employed business owner, you can’t get a BlueCard in Germany.
Can I work as a freelancer if I am a foreigner already in Germany?
Yes, you can work as a freelancer if you’re a foreigner in Germany. But you must get a freelance visa before you’re allowed to freelance. Just make an appointment with the immigration office for your freelance visa application. Note that to qualify for a freelance Visa in Germany, you must fall under what Germany classifies as a freelancer or Freiberufler.
Can I freelance on an F1 visa?
International students are not allowed to freelance in Germany. The student visa doesn’t allow them to. But if you must, you must seek permission from the Ausländerbehörde on the condition that your freelance activity benefits the German economy.
Can H1B visa holders freelance?
Employees on a work visa can freelance in Germany, provided their service is a liberal (intellectual) profession. They must, however, apply for a German freelance visa before they can freelance, as a work visa doesn’t give them that capacity.
While some employers allow their employees to freelance, some require that you don’t seek clients in their industry. Doing so is more like stealing their prospective clients from them, making you a direct competitor.
Can H4 visa holders work as freelancers?
If you enter Germany as a dependent, you can work as a freelancer only if the visa with which you entered grants you access to the labor market. For example, a Family Reunion Visa usually gives you free access to the labor market.
It also depends on the work visa possessed by the person on which you depend, as not all work permits give dependent work rights in the first 1-3 years unless they have their own visa.
If the person you depend on has a BlueCard, you can become a freelancer in Germany.
Even when you’re eligible to freelance in Germany, you must apply for a German freelance visa before starting work.
Can you freelance as an artist in Germany?
Having entered Germany with an artist visa, you can freelance as an artist.
Which countries offer freelance visas besides Germany?
- Czech Republic
- Hungary White Card
- Cayman Islands
- Antigua and Barbuda
- The Bahamas
- Costa Rica
- Costa Rica
- Cape Verde
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