Five Types of Work Permits in Germany

by Expath Global Mobility

Which one applies to you: Blue Card, Academic Degree, IT Specialist, C-Level, Freelancer?

1. EU Blue Card

This is the type of permit that most people already know about and although it isn‘t really specific to Germany, it is one of the most popular work permits here. The Blue Card applies to certain qualified professionals who are looking to work in Germany and you can read more about how to apply for this type of permit here.

2. Specialists With an Academic Degree

If you‘re planning on coming to Germany with this type of work permit, it is very important to know that a) you need to have a high annual gross income (you need to do some research on this, as the thresholds change annually, but the good news is that in 2023 they have been lowered due to Germany‘s shortage of skilled workers) and b) your academic degree needs to be comparable to a German University degree.

To check if your degree meets this requirement, you can look it up in the Anabin database — a list of all Universities and degrees that have been evaluated by the German Central Office for Foreign Education. Two important criteria need to be met:

  • The University that issued your degree has to have a very good rating (H+) in the Anabin database

  • The degree title itself has to be comparable (Entspricht) or equivalent (Gleichwertig) to a German degree title.

Tip: If you‘re coming to Germany with this type of work permit, you can ask the company hiring you to write a letter of support, explaining why they need you for this role.

3. IT Specialists

Germany‘s shortage of skilled workers is probably the main reason why the country is now looking to facilitate the application process for IT specialists and people working in the IT field. The conditions for this type of work permit are therefore not (that) hard to meet:

  • At least three years of experience in an IT field over the last seven years

  • A high annual gross salary (in 2023, this was €45,552 but thresholds keep on changing so make sure to check it for the year that you are considering applying)

  • B1 German level — this can be exempted by your employer if German knowledge is not required for your role.

Tip: If you‘re applying for this work permit category, you can submit letters of recommendation confirming your three years of experience in the IT field over the last seven years, and any certificate of courses or training that you may have completed to support your role.

4. Company Specialists

This type of work permit applies usually to people who are hired in executive or senior roles. The conditions for this category of permits are:

  • Individuals have to be key players in a company‘s organizational structure — such as executives or specialists who have key knowledge about how a company operates

  • The annual gross salary needs to meet at least the regular Blue Card threshold for that year

  • The annual gross salary has to fall within the regional average for that (or a similar) role.

Tip: Your company can support you by writing a letter that specifies the expertise that you‘re bringing to the role as well as the reasons why they are hiring you specifically for this role.

5. Freelancers

This type of permit is reserved for individuals who practice a certain trade and would like to be self-employed here in Germany as a freelancer.

Freelancing in Germany is possible but comes with a lot of extra work and many tiny bureaucratic details you need to be wary of if you want to make your life easy here and enjoy all the benefits of professional flexibility and financial freedom.

We have more than a decade of experience in helping freelancers set themselves up in Germany and we‘ve put all that knowledge in a self-study workshop that gives you a good understanding of how to apply for this type of work permit.

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