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Expats Working in Germany

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2013

Permission to Work

The first stage of obtaining permission to work in Germany is to get a residence permit. Once you have this, you need to apply for a work permit, which is then attached to your residence permit. Different residence and work permits are issued for different purposes, depending on whether you are qualified, highly qaulified or self-employed. Note that there is a ban in place on low-skilled and unskilled workers from outside the EU; it is almost impossible for such workers to find work in Germany. For more information on how to obtain a residence permit, see Settlement, Residence and Citizenship. As a prospective employee in Germany, you will need to provide some proof of employment or an employment offer to gain a residence permit.

The German authorities, keen for postgraduate students to find work in Germany, have recently taken measures to help them. After graduating from a German university, you are allowed to stay on in Germany for a year to look for work. Once you have a job, your employer should take care of the requirements of obtaining a tax card and social security number for you. If they do not, you can obtain these documents from your local authority and pension company, respectively. Citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland do not need a work permit to work in Germany, though it is still a good idea to obtain a residence permit.


In general, working conditions in Germany are very good. Salaries range from high to very high, and they often include a 13th monthly payment (known as Weihnachtsgeld – Christmas money.) New graduates can expect to command at least €30,000. Meanwhile, for those at the other end of the scale, a new minimum wage has recently been introduced.

All employees are entitled to an employment contract, and German law offers a great deal of protection to employees, including specific groups such as pregnant women and the disabled. Furthermore, Germans work shorter hours and have longer holidays than other Western countries.

Workers are also guaranteed many rights and benefits, such as paid holidays for up to 30 days and full-salary sick pay for up to six weeks. Maternity and paternity leave are similarly generous. Workers are also entitled to a minimum of 24 days a year annual leave. Many German companies also offer performance bonuses, health insurance contributions and other perquisites. All these benefits are over and above those guaranteed by Germany’s membership of the EU.

This page gives details on the working conditions, and immigration procedures necessary to obtain work in Germany. For more information about working in Germany, see our Employment and Business articles.




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