Are you interested in getting a freelance visa in Berlin? Acquiring this visa is a good decision as it holds the key to unlocking your flexibility, creativity, independence, and starting a new life. With the freelancer visa, you don’t have to worry about having a physical office, or even about following numerous laid down protocols. You get to choose the projects to take on and the clients to work with. The German freelance visa, in German, ‘Aufenthaltserlaubnis für selbständige Tätigkeit’, is created to enable one to become freelance or self-employed in the capital.
The correct grammar for it is, a freelance residence permit, but most refer to it as a ‘freelance visa.’
This article guides you through the procedure that you need to follow when applying for a freelance visa in Berlin.
Freelancing in Berlin
Freelancers in Berlin refer to individuals who are in a position to practice a free profession or work freely for a duration lasting more than 90 days. Simply put, these are people not involved in a partnership, limited company, or serving a contract/employed.
Before you start the process of getting a freelance visa in Berlin you must know which category you fall under.
Selbständiger or Freiberufler?
The first thing you need to do before starting the application process is to determine whether you are self-employed (Selbständiger) or are a freelancer (Freiberufler). These two categories have different application requirements.
- Freelancer: It’s a term used to refer to independent professionals such as software developers, artists, engineers, scientists, and teachers, based on the §18 EStG1 guidelines.
- Self-Employed: If you don’t fall into the freelancer category, then it means you are self-employed or you run a business of your own.
Where to start from?
If you are committed to getting a freelance visa in Berlin, ensure you start by getting a good grasp of the legal environment. To begin with, make sure the profession you intend to pursue is deemed as being liberal: your chosen profession is what will determine whether you are eligible for this visa or not. If proven otherwise, the only other option open to you is to apply for a visa under the commercial professional section.
Professions that fall under the Freelance Visa in Berlin
As you are preparing to start the process of getting a freelance visa in Berlin, establish whether your type of work falls under the freelancing category. Professions that fall under freelancing, according to EStG §18 act of the German tax law include:
• Tax Consultants
• Healthcare Providers
If your profession isn’t featured in the list above, it means you will need to apply for a business visa.
Who needs a Freelance Visa in Berlin?
You will require a visa to freelance in the capital if:
• You aren’t a permanent resident or citizen of the EU
• You would like to become self-employed in Berlin. This refers to running a business of your own or freelancing after getting a freelance visa in Berlin.
You don’t need to worry about getting a freelance visa in Berlin if:
- Your current visa grants you permission to freelance (check the guidelines provided in the residence permit)
- You are a permanent resident or German citizen
- You are a citizen of Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, or Liechtenstein
- You are a permanent resident or citizen of the EU
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that the occupation for which the visa has been granted will need to remain your primary occupation. Once you have attained employment, you can no longer use freelancing as your primary income source or a primary occupation. For those individuals who would like to freelance even after obtaining formal employment, they will need to obtain consent from their employers.
As you look forward to getting your freelance visa in Berlin, understand that you aren’t allowed to freelance when you have a student visa. Nevertheless, you can have a freelance visa and a student visa at the same time.
Documents required to Apply for a Freelance Visa in Berlin
You have to submit your application for the freelance visa at the German consulate or embassy in your country of residence. The process of getting a freelance visa in Berlin is the same as the one followed when applying for any other visa. Authorities recommend you submit the necessary documentation at least 90 days before your intended travel date.
Your application should be accompanied by your original documents and their copies. In the process of getting a freelance visa in Berlin, you will need to provide documents such as:
- Recommendation letters from past employers
- A duly completed German visa application form
- Health insurance
- Valid national passport
- Payment of the freelance visa application fee
- 2 recently taken biometric photographs
- Cover letter
- Curriculum vitae
- Portfolio indicating previous work. Here, make sure to include numerous printed samples of past freelance projects
- Professional authorization. You are required to provide a license or certificate to demonstrate your expertise in that given field. A professional authorization document is required when a person is interested in pursuing a profession requiring expertise and experience, e.g., law, medicine, and other similar fields.
- Means of subsistence. This is proof to indicate you have enough funds to cater for your freelancing and living costs.
Your proof can include:
- The latest bank statement from a banking facility in your home country showing you have enough funds at your disposal
- Profit and loss statement. Ensure the statement indicates your income projections for the next few months
- If you are above 45 years of age, include proof of an adequate pension plan
- Proof you have a freelancing plan
- Commitment letters from future customers. You need to attach at least two letters with a clear intention of purchasing your product/service.
Application Process for Getting a Freelance Visa in Berlin
Schedule a visa appointment
You will need to make an appointment for getting a freelance visa in Berlin. It’s recommended you make reservations as soon as you can, as this may take a few weeks.
Alternatively, consider waking up early in the morning and be one of the first at the Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office) without going through the hassle of scheduling an appointment.
For those interested in getting a freelance visa in Berlin, they will need to make an appointment by visiting the Friedrich-Krause-Ufer Ausländerbehörde.
In case you don’t manage to get an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde before the expiry of your category D or residency permit, you will receive an automatic extension. This is valid until the next date of the Ausländerbehörde appointment.
Register the Home Address
Any applicant interested in getting a freelance visa in Berlin will need to register in Germany. Having already passed this stage, you now need to ensure that you have provided a valid home address within 3 months of arriving in the country. This applies to all freelancers including those holding EU passports. A visit to the ‘Burgeramt’ (Resident Registration Office) will help you complete this procedure. The process is known as ‘Anmeldung.’
During the visit, you will need to bring several documents. This will include:
- A fully completed registration form
- A rental contract signed by both you and the landlord
- A national ID or passport
Opening a Bank Account (Optional)
You have to open a bank account in Berlin for you to complete the previous steps. It’s also necessary for you to open a bank account for use in processing payments from your customers. Freelancers often benefit from the many offers provided by German banks. All you need to do is find one that works well for your banking needs. If worried about having to learn German, don’t! The banking facilities have employed English speaking staff that will guide you through the entire process.
Register with the German Tax Authorities
In the process of getting a freelance visa in Berlin, you have to become aware the tax model, freelancers are required to pay. This means you need to make a visit to the local tax office for registration purposes. Here you will be assigned a unique number for use when paying taxes. Make sure to fill the form and supply accompanying evidence. This is known as the Tax ID. You can find a further explanation of the tax treatment at the end of the article.
It’s upon the tax office to determine whether your application qualifies to fall into the freelance category or not. Registration should be done immediately on arrival as you will need the unique tax number to receive payment and create invoices.
Acquire a Health Insurance Cover
All individuals living in Germany are required to have an insurance policy per the guidelines provided by the German healthcare system. This sums down to two choices: to register with a private German health insurance provider or to opt for the public healthcare insurance plan.
At this point, you should understand that an insurance policy offered by a private insurer is based on the status of your health. The public plan, on the other hand, is based on how much money you earn from your freelancing work. On your arrival in Berlin, you may have to contend with private cover as public insurers are often reluctant to insure new freelancers.
Apply for the Residence Permit
Once you start reaching the three months in Germany, you will need to visit the ‘Auslanderbehorde’ or Foreigner’s Registration Office to apply for a residence permit. The process is simple and straightforward as all you need to do is to hand-in a completed application for a residence permit. When submitting the application, make sure to supplement it by attaching supporting documents, e.g., the rental contract and the confirmation issued by the landlord.
You could also bypass this requirement by taking it upon yourself to schedule an appointment via the web portal before the current permit reaches its expiry date. It doesn’t matter whether the appointment will come after the permit has expired, provided it’s already in the register.
Receive the Freelance Visa
Some individuals are lucky to get their hands on to the freelance visa immediately after attending the first interview. The length of time it takes to get the visa is dependent on your chosen field and your preparation level. Language teachers and artists are among the people who tend to receive the visa on the first try.
Software developers may get it after the first and second trials, while others may have to wait for several months. The person conducting the interview will need to forward your documents to another office for review purposes. Once an application gets the go-ahead, a letter is issued detailing the process you need to follow to obtain the visa. Make sure to abide by the instructions included in the letter.
A letter will also be issued when the application gets rejected. In this case, you have an option to either return to your home country or to appeal. For those that do get a freelance visa, they will have it valid for between six months and three years.
It takes between 5 to 6 weeks to process the request. It’s recommended you make a personal visit to the relevant office four to six weeks before the expiry of your visa.
Tax Treatment of Freelancer Visa in Berlin
German law requires that all your freelance activities get listed with the BZSt as opposed to registering with the trade office. This will ensure you get exempted from having to apply for a trade permit.
However, this doesn’t mean that you will be exempted from paying taxes. Your value-added tax and income tax will be collected by the tax office after issuing you with a unique tax number.
The rate for income tax stands at 14% and may at times rise as high as 42%. Note that a solidarity surcharge of 5.5% will also be charged. If you earn less than €9,169, you get exempted from paying tax.
For freelancers, the value-added tax stands at 19% of the yearly income. Nevertheless, the rate may be set at 7% depending on the kind of services you are offering. After getting your freelance visa in Berlin, it will be important to determine whether your line of work calls for you to register into a respective chamber. To help you navigate further, consider getting a tax advisor in Berlin.