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Working in Germany is really different from my home country. Now, I appreciate the planning and processes, because it makes work often easier and more effective. (Stella, 32)
Working in Germany at a glance
While a lot of countries are struggling with economic growth, Germany remains one of the most important economic countries in the world. The label ‘Made in Germany’ is world-renowned and highly prestigious. The unemployment rate is low and highly qualified manpower is in great demand. In the past years, Germany has made a lot of agreements with different countries to open up the job market and make it easier for people from all over the world to settle down in the heart of Europe.
Living and working in Germany can be a great experience and offer many opportunities. Germany provides a safe and welcoming environment for all foreigners, looking for work opportunities in the middle of Europe. In the recent 2016 study by InterNations the two German cities Dusseldorf and Munich even made the top 10 in the category "Top-Rated Expat Cities".
We’ve collected some important information to make arriving in a new country easier for you. Whether you need to know how to get a work permit, which insurance suits you best, what the most vibrant German cities are or how to find a flat – we’ve got you covered.
Before you come to Germany to work you need to organize some things while you’re still at home. Getting the right visa which will allow you to work is certainly on top of that list.
If you are a citizen of the European Union, Switzerland or the European Economic Area you don’t need a visa to come and work in Germany. With the European right of unrestricted mobility you can simply settle down and work wherever in Germany you’d like to.
If you are an Australian, Israeli, Japanese, Canadian, South Korean, New Zealand or US citizen you don’t need a visa to come into the country. Nevertheless, you will need to get a residence permit once you have arrived to Germany. After you get the document from the local office for foreigners you are allowed to take up your work. Hence getting a work permit is possible even after your arrival in Germany.
It is also possible to have a working holiday in Germany. This program allows you to travel through Germany for up to one year and work at times to top up your travel funds. You could work at restaurants, language schools or help with the fruit harvest. This way, you will be able to live in different parts of Germany, get to know interesting people and gain an in-depth understanding of the German culture. Working holiday agreements have been made for citizens from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Israel and Chile. There are different rules for working-holiday seekers depending on their home country. Contact your local German Embassy for further information.
All other citizens need to contact their local German embassy in order to get a work visa before they come to Germany. Generally, there are restrictions for people coming from other countries. University graduates with a detailed job offer and a contractually-guaranteed annual salary of at least 47.600 Euro can get an ‘EU Blue Card’. This card is similar to the ‘green card’ in the USA and allows you to work and live in the European Union.
There are more exceptions for visa applicants with qualifications that are in great demand. You can try the ‘migration-check’ online to see if you meet the requirements.
If you have gained a university degree in Germany or other recognized country you can apply for a jobseeker’s visa. This allows you to stay in Germany for up to 18 months to look for a job. After you have found work, the visa can be converted into a designated work visa and residence permit.
Everyone who lives in Germany is legally required to have a valid health insurance. In Germany there are two kinds of health insurances: public and private health insurance.
It is compulsory to get insured with public health insurance if your annual salary is under a certain limit (In 2016 the limit is a monthly salary of 4,237.5 Euros). If your spouse is unemployed or if you have children they are insured with your health insurance at no extra cost. You will also get the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which means you get free medical treatment in all member countries of the European Union. The DAK is one of Germany's biggest statutory insurers with comprehensive service and quality. You can take out insurance easily online.
If you earn more than a certain limit, are self-employed, are sent to Germany to work at one of your company's branches or come to Germany looking for a job you can choose to become privately insured. A private insurance has many benefits, including a better coverage of medical costs, for example coverage of medical treatment in private hospitals, and a wider range of health care options. You can choose your private insurance’s benefits individually depending on your personal needs.
You can also extend your public health insurance and take out additional private insurance. We have listed some of the best value insurances for you to compare.
Before you start looking for a job, you should check if your qualifications are recognised in Germany. This is the only way you can be sure to be allowed to work in your desired field. You can easily check online whether your qualifications are compatible with German standards. Should your qualifications not be accepted at first, you should try and get them recognised in order to increase your chances ofgetting a job. Contact the local German authorities to get help with the recognition process.
The biggest resource for job offers is the internet. There are several job agencies that post new offers daily. online job agencies that specialize in international applicants are particularly useful. Most companies in Germany will require you to send your application via email or fill in online application forms. This is very comfortable because you will be able to apply for jobs even though you aren’t in Germany yet.
Once you are in Germany you can check newspapers and magazines for job offers. Another resource that will help you get a job is the Federal Job Agency. Get in contact with the local branch and arrange an appointment with a job agent. The agent will discuss different career opportunities with you and select job offers.
Taxes and Social Security
Generally employees in Germany have to pay a good deal of tax. The most important one is the income tax. It is based on the family situation and annual salary. Just like the solidarity surcharge, it is automatically deducted by your employer. If you are a member of a certain church (for example, Catholic or Protestant Church), a church tax will be deducted from your income as well.
Most jobs in Germany require certain contributions to the social security system. These usually include public health insurance, occupational accident insurance, unemployment insurance, pension insurance and nursing care insurance. These insurance charges are also deducted from your salary. On your pay slip you can see the total deducted amount as well as your resulting net salary.
At the end of every calendar year, you can get a tax refund by filling in an income tax declaration.
Even if you return home after a while you can transfer your pension fund contributions to the pension fund in your home country.
Finding a flat
Don’t freak out if you come to Germany but don’t have a place to live yet. There are several
In Germany, most people don’t own a house or flat, they rent one. The leasing market is big and
It’s easiest to find estate agent offers online or in the local newspaper. An advantage the online
If you are renting, a written contract has to be signed. It states all terms of lease for example how
When you are signing the contract, a deposit has to be paid. The deposit is usually three
Additionally you have to pay radio license fees if you have a TV, radio or computer. The fees are
An internet and telephone line is usually already installed when renting a flat or house. After you
Last but not least, it is important that you get registered once you’ve moved into your new flat. Go
Opening a bank account
When living in Germany you will notice quickly that you won't get far without your own bank
There are many different banks in Germany with a huge portfolio of different account types and
Even if you should not happen to need German in your work life it is certainly helpful to know the
If you already are in Germany you can ask your employer for support. Some companies have their
Berlin is the capital of Germany and has a boosting economy. Especially innovative start-ups and
the internet sector are growing rapidly. There’s a high demand for English native speakers and
international high-skilled workers. People from all over the world call Berlin their home. It is easy
to blend in and get along. Berlin prides itself as a child- and family-friendly city with over 1.800
day care centres.
Hamburg is Germany’s leader in trading, logistics and shipping. With the second biggest port in
Europe there are a lot of jobs on offer. The port itself is the fastest growing job sector. But with
120,000 companies established here, there are many more opportunities. Hamburg is also a
city of contrasts: on the one hand the distinguished shopping streets and chic restaurants and
on the other hand the hip and artistic underground districts. Close to the Baltic Sea and North
Sea, Hamburg is also a popular holiday destination.
Munich is close to the Alps and organizer of the world’s largest popular fair, the ‘Oktoberfest’. It
has the lowest unemployment rate in the entire country. There are many rapidly developing
companies with a high demand of workforce. Especially the technology and automotive sector
offers huge job chances. The earnings in Munich are among the highest in Germany. The
drawback is that this also reflects in higher living costs.
The city by the river Rhine is very vibrant. The highlight of the year for most inhabitants is the
colourful carnival that is celebrated with parades and parties. Two of the largest TV stations
produce their formats here; hence Cologne is the media capital of Germany. Many international
trade fairs take place in Cologne. A lot of companies, including two large insurance companies,
also have their headquarters here. The city is known all over the world for its cathedral and the
invention of Eau de Cologne.
Dusseldorf is the capital of Germany’s largest state North Rhine-Westphalia. With Vodafone
and E-Plus headquarters located here, Dusseldorf is the country’s telecommunication centre.
Additionally, numerous advertising agencies have their roots in Dusseldorf. The city is loved for
the international atmosphere with the third largest Japanese community in Europe calling
Dusseldorf their home town.
Stuttgart is in the south of Germany and lies within an important industry area. There are a lot of
opportunities for those wanting to work in the construction, automobile or mechanical
engineering field. World-renowned companies like Porsche, Daimler and Bosch have their
headquarters and production sites here. If you are a wine enthusiast, you’ll love this city with its
surrounding vineyards and hills.
Frankfurt is the major financial centre of not only Germany but Europe. With the financial potency
there are many jobs available. Frankfurt is also Germany’s gateway to the whole world with the
country’s biggest airport. Chic bars and restaurants as well as its significant skyline make
Frankfurt a popular destination. Getting along here will be easy: every third person holds a
Hanover is a laid-back city in the heart of Germany. It is known worldwide as the ‘Exhibition City’. It
hosts the world’s biggest computer and IT fair, the CeBIT, every year. Additionally, the EXPO took
place here in the year 2000. Many financial service providers have their head office in Hanover.
With the city’s history of kings and queens, there are beautiful old buildings and immaculate
The Ruhr district is Germany’s most densely populated industrial area. Former home to
countless coal mines and steel mills, the region is now entering a new era with a stronger focus
on the service sector. Big cities, lots of work and leisure time opportunities as well as friendly,
down-to-earth locals make this region a favourite among expatriates.