Freelancer Self Employment Visa Germany

There are two types of freelancer visas for Germany: each covering different professions and each converting into a freelancer residence permit for the holder to legally live and work in the country long-term. If you are a freelancer, you can apply for either a freelance employment visa (a Freiberufler) or a self-employment visa (Selbständiger), depending on how your profession is classified under German law.

For help navigating the German visa application and/or appeals process, get in touch with Total Law. Call our office today on (+44)333 305 9375.

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    Overview of the Freelance Visa in Germany

    Germany is an economic and business hub of the European Union, considered by many to be the capital of the continent. As a result, it’s an increasingly popular destination to live and work for freelancers worldwide.

    Germany offers specific employment visas for those who want to live in the country and are or intend to be a freelancer. Which is suitable is dictated by the legal definition of the profession to be conducted under German law. Some roles are considered to be freelance and of benefit to the German economy, and these are covered by a Freiberufler visa. Others are considered to be the management of a business through self-employment, and these are covered by a Selbständiger visa.

    Roles that are considered to be ‘liberal professions’ (freie Berufe) are suitable for a Freiberufler visa. These include:

    • Health care professions
    • Consulting professions (usually in the industries of law, taxation or economics)
    • Scientific and technical professions
    • Information-providing or creative professions (such as interpreters or writers)
    • Pedagogical professions (including teachers and child care professionals).

    While many roles easily fit into this category, some may be considered to lie in a grey area. In these cases, the categorisation of the occupation will be judged on a case-by-case basis. Contact the specialist legal team at Total Law for help undergoing this process on (+44)333 305 9375.

    Roles that are considered to be the management of a small business where the individual is a self-employed owner are suitable for a Selbständiger visa. The business must be registered in the location of its future headquarters in Germany with the local tax office. In many cases, the business will require licensing and permissions. The business must also meet the following criteria:

    • The applicant for the self-employment visa must be the founder of the company, a sole proprietor or a managing representative of a larger corporation
    • There is an economic interest in Germany for the business
    • The business is expected to benefit the local economy in Germany
    • The business must have been financed by either equity or a specific loan commitment.

    Applying for a Selbständiger visa is considerably more complicated than its freelancer equivalent, as the founding of a business must take place first. Total Law’s team can help: call us on (+44)333 305 9375 for support in this step well ahead of any visa application.

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    German Freelance Visa requirements

    Not every candidate who wishes to work in Germany on either a freelance or self-employed basis will be eligible to do so. The following requirements are in place for those applying:

    • The professional must not be a resident of the EU (European Union), EEA (European Economic Area) or Switzerland (as residents of these territories do not require a visa to work in Germany)
    • The profession intending for completion in Germany must be needed or financially beneficial to the country
    • The professional must have clients interested in working with them
    • The professional must have sufficient financial means to live in Germany with no reliance on state benefits (as of January 2024, this equates to a minimum of €9,000 per annum)
    • The professional must be intending to reside legally in Germany and must register their address at a local registration office (Bürgeramt) upon arrival in the country.

    If, at the time of the visa application, the applicant is aged 45 or over, they must have sufficient means in place for their retirement. This includes requirements for:

    • Holding a monthly pension of at least €1,332.36 for at least 12 years from the age of 67; OR
    • Hold financial assets to the total value of at least €194,631.

    If the applicant lives in a country which has a formal visa-free travel arrangement in place with Germany (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the United States of America), the visa itself may not be required for entry into the country but a specific freelancer residence permit it converts into is needed. Residents of these countries should seek legal assistance. Total Law can offer this support – call the team on (+44)333 305 9375 for specialist advice.

    German Freelance Visa: Supporting documents required

    As with most visa applications, German authorities will require a variety of supporting documentation from the applicant to demonstrate their eligibility in order to apply for a German freelance visa or German self-employment visa.

    It is likely that additional documents will be requested throughout the application process for the visa by the local immigration office, but the following can be considered standard requirements:

    • A completed national visa application form (this can usually be completed online, but a paper copy should be printed for presentation at an immigration office application appointment)
    • A valid passport
    • Two biometric photographs taken to passport standards no longer than six months prior to application
    • A receipt for the payment of the German freelancer visa application fee
    • Proof of adequate health insurance (this may be private or public)
    • Recommendation letters from any relevant previous employer
    • An up-to-date CV
    • A portfolio of any previous relevant professional work
    • (Where required) Proof of any required professional authorisation such as a business license
    • Certificates of relevant academic qualification
    • Proof of financial means that the applicant can cover their living and freelancing costs (this is usually demonstrated through the presentation of bank statements and a profit and loss statement from the business)
    • (Where required) Proof of an adequate pension plan
    • A business plan for freelancing
    • Letters of intent to hire from clients (at least two)
    • (For a self-employment visa) Proof of the business’ equity or letters of intent from financiers for a loan commitment.

    How to apply for a Freelance Visa and Freelancer Residence Permit for Germany

    The German immigration system can be a complex one, but with diplomatic missions for the country in most territories worldwide there is plenty of advice available for those wanting to apply for a visa and/or residence permit.

    Applications for freelance visas largely follow the same process as other visa classes, and as such the standard procedure is as follows:

    • Contact the local German Embassy or Consulate. Germany has one of the largest overseas diplomatic missions in the world, with immigration offices in most countries globally. Applicants must get in touch with their nearest (even if it is geographically located in a neighbouring country) to book a visa interview appointment.
    • Gather all supporting documentation. The Embassy will have provided a list of supporting documents required and the applicant must ensure these are available for inspection ahead of the official filing of the visa application (no matter which of the freelance visas is being applied for).
    • Submit application form online and pay fee. The application form can be submitted and application fee paid online. Printed copies of both the completed form and the receipt for payment should be made and filed with the supporting documents.
    • Attend visa interview appointment. The applicant must attend the visa interview appointment on time and in person with a copy of the visa application form and all relevant supporting documents. Biometric information will be taken and the supporting documents will be detained until a decision on the visa has been made.
    • Await visa decision. Every visa is processed on an individual basis on its merits. In most cases, a decision will be reached on whether to grant a freelancer visa within 15 working days but this may take longer depending on holidays and workloads.
    • Receive visa and returned supporting documents. If a visa has been granted, it will either be posted to the applicant along with their returning supporting documents, or, if the applicant lives close to the Embassy or Consulate, they may collect it in person. If the visa has been declined, the documents will be returned and any recourse to appeal will be detailed in a written letter.
    • Travel to Germany. The visa holder may enter Germany to begin their freelancing or self-employment work as soon as it is valid.

    After arrival in Germany with a Freelancer Visa

    Once a visa holder enters Germany in order to begin work, they must apply for a freelancer residence permit. Exactly how to apply for a residence permit may vary somewhat dependent on the location in Germany in which the holder now lives, but the standard procedure is as follows:

    1. Register address. Once the freelance visa holder has found and moved into their accommodation, they must register this address at their local citizens’ service centre (Bürgeramt). A registration certificate known as an Anmeldebestätigung will be issued.
    2. Open a German bank account. German banks will accept applications for professional bank accounts once an Anmeldebestätigung can be presented. A work account must be opened for all work-related transactions.
    3. Register with the German tax office. All freelancers and self-employed people must be registered with the Finanzamt to declare their business activity.
    4. Complete the Tax Collection documentation. The visa holder must complete the questionnaire for tax collection (Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung) online to register their business.
    5. Receive a Freelancer Tax Number. Once registered, a Steuernummer (tax collection number) will be assigned to the freelancer or business. This may take several weeks.
    6. Apply for a freelancer residence permit. Once a Steuernummer has been received, the freelancer is ready to apply for a specific freelance residence permit. This is done in person at the foreigners’ registration office (Ausländerbehörde).

    This whole process must be completed within the first three months of arrival into Germany, or the visa holder may forfeit their right to legal residence under a residence permit in the country.

    Our team of legal experts can help you obtain a freelancer visa Germany. Contact Us

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      German Freelancer Visa Fees

      The German immigration office charges a non-refundable visa application fee, but there are other charges that applicants must pay. These are as follows:

      • Embassy fee: €75
      • Residence permit fee: €100 (or €28.80 for Turkish citizens)
      • Extension of a freelance residence permit prior to its expiry: €100.

      Applicants must also consider that they may be liable to pay bank charges, the fees involved in incorporating a new business, costs for copies of supporting documents and/or travel to and from a German immigration office.

      How can Total Law help?

      Whether you are already self-employed or hoping to work as a freelancer, or just looking for information on which freelance visa or residence permit is most appropriate for you, the Total Law team can help.

      We’re a team of expert immigration lawyers with in-depth knowledge of German immigration law; which can certainly be a complex and nuanced specialism, but one we navigate daily for clients all over the world. Priding ourselves in communicating without jargon and never charging any hidden fees, we’re the choice of many and maximise your chances of success for a freelancer visa. Call us today on (+44)333 305 9375.

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                Frequently Asked Questions

                If you are applying for a German freelance visa and are a Turkish national, the visa fee remains the same but the residence permit fee is €28.80 as opposed to a standard €100.

                Yes. You must prove that you are able to work or remain working in Germany under a freelance visa and that you have clients willing to hire you while in Germany, but you don’t need to set up entirely afresh upon arrival there.

                It is always recommended that you seek legal advice to be sure which category of employment your profession falls under by German law. Total Law can advise: call us on (+44)333 305 9375.