Do you want to apply for a visa as a freelancer in Germany? It is great because it’s the ladder to greater independence, creativity, flexibility, and a new way of life. You may not need an office and a working protocol to follow; you choose the clients and the projects to work for.
Make some coffee and read through this guide on how to get a visa as a freelancer in Germany. It explains the application procedure, whether from within Germany or from your home country.
Definition of freelancing in Germany and how it works
A freelancer in Germany is a person who exercises free profession (given in the list below) independently for a period longer than three months; this means it’s not a business, partnership, or being employed/contract.
How it works
If you are contemplating to apply for a visa as a freelancer in Germany, understand the legal environment. First, the profession you are pursuing should be a liberal-profession; this defines your eligibility to work in Germany, as ‘Freiberufle.’ Otherwise, you may have to apply for a visa if your job under a commercial profession.
Which liberal professions qualify as freelancing work?
Before applying for a visa as a freelancer in Germany, know if the profession is considered freelance in Germany. According to EStG §18 act in German tax law, the following professions are listed as a freelance;
- Healthcare providers
- Tax consultants
If the job is not listed above, the application will be under a business visa. To succeed in freelancing in any country, including Germany. You need a set of qualities that without, you may struggle or fail as a freelancer regardless of a regime- profession. The qualities are;
- High sense of individuality.
- Creative in thinking
- Specialized education
- People skills
- Highly responsive
- High self-discipline
Legal requirements to apply for a visa as a freelancer in Germany
The legal procedures require that your freelance activity be registered with the BZSt, tax office and not the trade office. For this reason, you’re excused from applying or going through the procedure of setting up a business and obtaining a trade permit.
The above doesn’t imply that you are fully exempt from paying taxes. The tax office is the authority to issue you the tax number and to collect your income and value-added tax.
Income tax has a base rate of 14% of total income and sometimes could rise to 42% and a solidarity surcharge of 5.5%. Those making less than €9,169 are exempt. Typically, tax payment is every quarter.
Value-added tax; it is usually 19% of your annual income as a freelancer, but depending on the service that you offer, the charge could be 7%. There are VAT exemptions also in this case, where you had less than EUR 17,500 in your previous year and where you are not expecting to earn more than EUR 50,000 in the current year. You can prepare for your VAT declarations online through the official portal of the Elster portal.
Lastly, before launching your freelance activity, check if your profession requires you to get membership into a respective chamber or the recognition of the foreign qualification.
Am I permitted to work as a freelancer if living in Germany?
You have the ability to work as a freelancer if you’re already residing in Germany as a foreigner under the following circumstances;
- That you are a graduate foreigner from a state-recognized or equally recognized training institution in Germany. Note that your profession should still be under a liberal occupation.
- That you are a foreigner with a German artist visa
- That you are a foreigner having entered Germany as a scientist or researcher
- That you meet the criteria to work as a freelance if you came with a German temporary visa
Who needs a visa as a freelancer in Germany?
Passport holders of the EU oh EEA Do not need any visa or residence permit. Those who need to get a German Freelance Visa are the Visa-regime foreigners. Therefore those coming to Germany as freelancers must have a valid visa for Germany.
The good news is that the freelance visa can be converted into a residence permit after three months. The application for a residence permit is at “Ausländerbehörde or Ausländeramt,” also called the Local Foreigner’s Authority. If you are moving to Berlin, you can find more information about the Local Foreigners Authority in Berlin here.
The freelance residence permit can be extended up to three years if you previously and currently succeed with your freelance business. Thus, to receive the extension, you have to achieve success and provide evidence that you are generating sufficient profits.
If, after three years, you prove the above conditions, you may get a settlement permit. However, this only happens if you decide to set-up a retail or manual trade business. Under Residence Act, section 21/6, a freelancer can have a residence permit for self-employment if permitted to pursue the liberal profession as self-employment activity.
Prerequisites to apply for a visa as a freelancer in Germany
You must submit your application for a freelance visa at the German Embassy in your country you currently live in. Applicants should send their forms three months before the planned travel date. We are going to cover this section comprehensively to ensure high chances of acquiring a visa as a freelancer in Germany;
- Your profile.
- Basic and advanced documents.
In this section, it’s all about proving that you can contribute to the German economy. Check the below areas.
- You need to prove that there is an economic interest in your intended type of work. It means that you research the liberal profession to ensure there is demand.
- Prove that you can finance your whole stay. Therefore, you have to submit your bank statement to confirm that you have sufficient funds.
- Prove that you have clients in Germany. You cannot get a visa as a freelancer in Germany if you do not show letters of intent from clients or companies in Germany that wants to hire your service.
- When attending your visa interview appointment, show some German language conversational skills. Begin with a confident ‘Guten Tag.’ Also, get some clue from Facebook groups who now how nerve-wracking the process could be.
- Filled freelancer visa application form.
- Appointment confirmation document
- Passport: Two biometric passport photo size 35mm by 45 mm of neutral facial expression, mouth closed, background well lit and looking straight to the camera.
- Visa application fees: this could be anywhere from €56 to €100 payable in cash or debit after processing the visa. The charges cover for document copies.
- Proof of insurance coverage: A Private or Public Health Insurance cover is a must-have in Germany. Having a travel insurance cover does not exempt one from having a health insurance cover. Health insurance for freelancers can be public or private health insurance.
- Proof of residence: A prove of house or apartment ownership or rental contract from the landlord for where you will be staying.
- Proof of ‘Altersversorgung’ (pension plan). It’s compulsory for; an applicant of a visa as a freelancer in Germany above the age of 45 or those working towards getting a permanent residence.
- Revenue forecast documents; this shows your estimated income and expenses. Include the costs of running your operations and profit or loss estimates. Conduct extensive research and intelligently create a budget that proves you can survive with your intended work and consumers.
- Work samples or contracts; it is advisable that you bring printed copies of your work, at least 4-6 examples. If you already have clients attach copies of current deals to show your earnings.
- Recommendation letters: at least two recommendation letters from previous employers, professors, or customers for work done for the profession you are seeking a visa as a freelancer in Germany.
- Resume: A resume will assist in referencing your professional experience. It will help to stamp your visa as a freelancer in Germany.
- Cover letter: some interviewers might not ask for it, but it’s safer to have it and, if possible, in German.
- Your portfolio: it includes samples of previous work to demonstrate the ability to do your job.
- Professional permits: For professions like medical care require approved licenses, bring them during interviews.
- Passport: a passport for identity on the visa
Guide to freelancing after arriving in Germany
Register your new home address
To get a visa as a freelancer in Germany, you must complete your residence registration in Germany. But since you’ve passed all that, you now must register your home address within 90 days of your arrival, regardless of your nationality, including EU passport holders. Visit the closest Resident Registration Office ‘Burgeramt’. The procedure of registration is called ‘Anmeldung.’
The documents to bring include; your passport or National ID, a rental contract signed by your landlord and yourself, and a fully completed registration form.
Open a bank account
A bank account is compulsory for the completion of other steps, such as getting a residence permit. You will also need to open one to receive payments from your clients. Most German banks have special offers for freelancers; you can find one suitable for you. You do not have to worry about learning German; the banks have English speaking representatives.
Register with the tax registration office
As mentioned earlier, freelancers are not exempt from paying taxes, therefore upon arrival, register with the tax office so they can assign you with a tax number. Complete the registration form and attach evidence of your qualifications.
The tax office will then decide if you qualify to register as a freelance. It is vital to begin this process soonest because without a tax ID number; you will not be able to create invoices or receive payment. When you qualify at the end of the process, you will receive the Tax ID’ Steuenummer.’ Using this unique number, you will charge your clients and pay taxes.
Get a health insurance cover
The German Healthcare system requires everyone to have health insurance in Germany. The traveler’s insurance is not sufficient for a German freelance visa. Therefore you have two choices; to sign up for public health insurance which ensures adequate coverage or private health insurance in Germany.
Note that public health insurance is the cost based on your income and whereas private insurance costs established depending on your health. When you just move to Germany probably may have to apply for private health insurance because public insurers often refuse to cover freelances who just arrived in Germany.
If you consider the private option, get a package whose value is equivalent to that of the public. If not, you risk rejection as your health insurance will reflect insufficiency. The health insurance package costs at least 100 Euros a month.
Get insured with B-Protected Germany.
Apply for a residence permit
After three months of arrival, you must apply for a residence permit at the Foreigner’s registration office, ‘Auslanderbehorde.’ It is simple; provide a completed application form for a residence permit. Supplement this with supporting documents such as a letter of residence confirmation issued by your landlord and the rental contract.
Ready to work;
Start to implement your plan by contacting your clients and letting them know you are available to work. Read the following brilliant tips to aid with your freelancing in Germany;
- Choose a location to base your freelancing activity; the place where you want to base your operations depends on your sector and target clients. You can also choose other flexible options like working from home.
- Look for a co-working space; commuting from your bed to your working desk in your living room could be frustrating and tiresome. Co-working spaces are more productive because of networking and social benefits.
- Buy a mobile phone; the most accessible form of communication is using a mobile phone. Mobile phone plans in Germany come in the pay-as-you-go option or the same contract. The former is ideal for heavy users, while, the latter for users on a budget.
List of German terminologies
The ease of communicating with locals could increase the rate of your potential customers. If you have a German-speaking friend in Germany, ask them to accompany you during the procedures or when pitching potential customers. Now that you are ready to work, it would be nice to learn a bit about Germany, so you can speak simple phrases or greet your customers.
- Foreigner’s office- Bürgeramt
- Tax office- Finanzamt
- The process of registering the home address- Anmeldung
- Tax identification number- Identifikationsnummer
- Tax number- Steuernummer
- Value-added tax- Mehrwertsteuer
- Freelancer-tax-number application form- Fragebogen Zur Steuerliche Erfassung
- Can you please help me- Können Sie mir Helfen
The application process of a visa as a freelancer in Germany could be tedious and disappointing. You can talk to immigration specialists. It is essential to consider getting help because if you fail for the first time, it gets hard to get approval in the future.
Throughout the processes, submit all the required documents without delays.