If you’re overwhelmed by all the different types of visas and residence permits available to you in Berlin and Germany, this short glossary should clear things up.
German Visas and Permits: A Glossary
Before we start, let’s get one thing straight. There is a difference between the word visa and residence permit. A visa (Visum) is a permission to enter a country. Sometimes you have to apply for it before you cross the border into that country. A residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) is permission to live and/or work in the country for a long period of time.
Artist’s Visa. This term spread like a wildfire thanks to the freelance blogging community in Berlin. The “artists visa” in Berlin is just another way of saying “residence permit for the purpose of freelance or self-employment” when that particular type of permit is issued to someone who just happens to be an artist.
Aufenthaltstitel. This word means “residence permit”. If you see this sticker in your passport and the sticker is still valid, you’re sweet. There are many different types of these.
Au pair permit. You have to be between 18-26 years old with an above-board au pair contract from a family who speaks German at home and doesn’t come from the same country you do. You should also like the idea of looking after children.
Blue Card (EU Blue Card). The red carpet of residence permits. Issued to a person holding an academic qualification who has been offered a full-time employment contract in their field with an annual salary of over 50,000 Euros, or in some cases, just under 40,000 Euros.
Employment Permit. This is a work and residence permit issued to a qualified person who has been offered a full-time employment contract in their field under suitable working conditions if Germany has an economic interest in that field. In a nutshell.
Family Visa/Spousal Permit/Spousal Visa. Spouses and children of German citizens, EU citizens or foreign citizens can stay in Germany as a family unit if the German/EU/foreign citizen is resident in Germany for a particular purpose. The applicant/s and the EU citizens/foreign citizens have to fulfil certain conditions to get their permit. This is either issued as a Residence Card for 5 years or a residence permit for 3 years the first time around.
Freelance Permit. This is a work and residence permit issued to a self-employed sole trader with permission to work in a certain field.
Language Visa/Language Learning Permit. You can come to Germany and stay for up to a year if you’d like to learn the German language. It has to be an intensive course, and they do actually have to attend it. There are a few other prerequisites too.
National Visa. A national visa is a permission to stay in Germany for a particular reason, e.g. work or family reunification. It can be issued on a long-term basis. You get this type of visa from an embassy or consulate before you get to Germany.
Qualified Workers Permit. The long name is Residence Permit for Qualified Workers Wishing to Seek Employment. If you have a college degree that Germany recognizes as the equivalent of a German university degree and you don’t have a residence permit yet, you can get this type of permit for 6 months.
Residence Permit for a Foreign Child Born in Germany. If you have a baby in Germany and at least one of the acknowledged parents of the child has a residence permit and lives with the child, the baby can get a permit too.
Residence Permit for a Foreigner with Long-Term Residence in An EU Member State. If you have permanent residence in another European country using the words “permanent residence EG” or “permanent residence EU” (or the translation fits), you can get residence in Germany too.
Residence Permit for University Graduates Looking for Employment. If you graduated from a German university, they’ll give you up to 18 months to find a suitable job. Get your university to help you with this permit.
Residency to Start an Internship. As long as the internship is above-board, you have the contract and your employer doesn’t mind jumping through a few hoops, this could work.
Schengen Visa. Also known as a tourist visa. Citizens of certain countries can enter any of the 26 Schengen countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) without organising a visa first. When you enter, your passport is stamped and you automatically have a Schengen Visa: 90 days within a 180-day period to travel through the Schengen area at your leisure.
Student Permit/Student Visa. A residence permit for the purpose of study is issued to students who have been offered a place in a German university, or in some cases, another sort of vocational training course. Get your institution to help you get this permit – they probably have a Student Services department that can help. Also ask the university to help you with the permit if they are hiring you as a visiting scholar.
Study Preparation Permit. If you want to study at a German university in the future but need to complete some prep courses (e.g. language course or similar) first, you can get up to two years residency to prepare for your university course.
Working Holiday Visa. When two countries form an exchange agreement to let young citizens stay for up to 1 year in the other country, it gets called a Working Holiday Visa, a Youth Mobility Visa or similar. The fact that it is called a visa is a bit confusing because under some circumstances, you can also apply for it after already having entered Germany.
Youth Mobility Visa. When two countries form an exchange agreement to let young citizens stay for up to 1 year in the other country, it gets called a Working Holiday Visa, a Youth Mobility Visa or similar. The fact that it is called a visa is a bit confusing because under some circumstances, you can also apply for it after already having entered Germany.
Of course, it’s not always easy to fit into the right box. If your situation is unique and you’d like some more personalised help figuring out which permit is right for you, I’d be very happy to help.