What is Germany Freelancer Visa? Requirements, Benefits & How to Apply

Freelancing is a type of self-employment. Engaging in freelancing involves undertaking specific tasks for clients without the obligation of full-time employment, in simple terms, you are your own boss. It comes with many perks such as flexibility, the ability to choose your own projects that match your skills and clients who pay you, deciding on where to work from, how many hours to work for and many more. 

In the recent years, freelancing has emerged as a continuously expanding form of self-employment, offering increased autonomy and reduced bureaucracy when contrasted with traditional employment structures.

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Freelancing In Germany:

Freelancing in Germany involves working as a self-employed professional, commonly referred to as a “Freiberufler” . Prior to considering engaging in freelance work in Germany, it is essential to grasp the legal landscape surrounding self-employment in this country. The German tax legislation precisely delineates the criteria for distinguishing freelance work from other forms of employment. Your choice of profession for freelancing should be recognized as liberal professions by the tax legislation, failing to which, your job will be considered as self-employment (tradespeople or business owners) and the taxation rules and regulations differ for both. 

Liberal Professions:

In Germany, liberal professions, or “Freie Berufe,” encompass a range of occupations that are considered to require a high level of individual expertise, trust, and personal responsibility. These professions are often regulated by professional associations. Here are some examples of liberal professions in Germany:

  • Medical Professions: Doctors, Dentists, Psychotherapists
  • Legal Professions: Lawyers, Notaries, Patent Attorneys
  • Economic and Tax Professions: Tax Advisors, Auditors, Accountants 
  • Scientific and Technical Professions: Engineers, Architects, Surveyors 
  • Language and Cultural Professions: Translators, Interpreters, Librarians 
  • Artistic Professions: Artists, Writers, Musicians 
  • Health Professions: Physiotherapists, Pharmacists 
  • Social Professions: Social Workers , Educators 

and other comparable occupations. Refer to the definition of self-employed individuals outlined in Section 18 of the German Income Tax Act for further details.

The German Income Tax Act (EStG) maintains a publicly available list of liberal and commercial professions. However, the definitive determination of whether a profession falls under the category of liberal or commercial rests with the local tax office, known as the ‘Finanzamt.’ If you’re unsure whether your freelance activities align with these categories, it is advisable to get in touch with the local tax office as they can provide clarification on whether you qualify as a freelancer and are thus eligible for the German Freelance Visa.

What is a Freelance Visa in Germany:

A freelance Visa in Germany is applying for a National (D) Visa, which you must do at the German Embassy in your place of residence. Although its validity lasts only a few months, it is necessary for entry into Germany and informing the immigration authorities of your intent to work. Upon arrival in Germany, you exchange the visa for a Freelancer Residence Permit. As implied by its name, the German Freelancer Visa enables you to reside in Germany and engage in freelance work. The visa comprises two main components and depending on your profession, you have the option to apply for one of the two categories:

  1. Visa for Freelance Employment (Freiberufler): This visa is applicable if your occupation contributes to the German economy. Eligible professions include artists, writers, self-employed doctors, engineers, language teachers, interpreters, auditors, or architects. 
  2. Visa for Self-Employment (Selbständiger): You can obtain this type of visa if:
  • You are the founder of a company, a sole proprietor, or a managing representative of a corporation.
  • There is an economic interest in Germany for your profession or business.
  • Your business will bring economic benefits to Germany.
  • Your business has been funded by equity or a committed loan.

Germany usually places no restrictions on visas. The Freelance Visa comes with a validity ranging from six months to three years. Typically, the visa has a duration of one year; thereafter, freelancers have the option to reapply if they choose to do so. Individuals from nations other than Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, or the United States are required to submit their application for the German Freelance Visa before their arrival in Germany. This application process must be completed at a German consulate or embassy located outside of Germany. It is advisable to contact your local German embassy or consulate to obtain information about the application procedure and the necessary requirements.

Germany Freelance Visa Prerequisites

To be eligible for a Germany freelance visa, you must adhere to the following Prerequisites:

  • Your profession must be in demand or economically advantageous to Germany.
  • You must demonstrate the interest of potential clients who intend to engage your services by providing letters of intent.
  • Proof of adequate financial resources to sustain yourself, with a minimum of €9,000 per year.
  • Legal residence in Germany, including securing accommodation and registering your address at a local registration office (Bürgeramt).
  • If you are aged over 45, you must have a sufficient pension plan – By the age of 67, you must either have a monthly pension of at least €1,332.36 for a minimum of 12 years, or possess assets totalling at least €194,631.

How to get a Freelance Visa:

To get a Freelance German Visa, you have to follow a set of simple rules:

  1. Prepare the required documents
  2. Visit the German Embassy and apply for a freelance visa.
  3. Travel to Germany and find accommodation.
  4. Register your living address with Tax Registration Office (Finanzamt).
  5. Get your health insurance there
  6. And lastly, apply for a Residence Permit for freelancing.

Application Requirements:

  1. Show Your Financial Independence: Freelancers often face the challenge of securing consistent work, especially when breaking into a new market. To meet Germany’s requirements, demonstrate your ability to sustain yourself for a minimum of three to four months. You can achieve this by providing bank statements, preferably from a German bank account, although international statements are also permissible.
  2. Secure Clients in Germany: To be eligible for the Germany Freelancer Visa, you need to demonstrate a demand for your services from local businesses. Obtain letters of intent from German companies expressing interest in hiring you. Having three to four paying clients can fulfill this requirement and establish local economic interest. Additional evidence may be necessary depending on your freelance specialization.
  3. Submit a Financial Proposal: Including a financial plan significantly enhances your application’s strength. Present a well-prepared report outlining operational expenses, your pricing structure, and anticipated earnings to bolster the viability of your venture. The more realistic your business appears, the greater your likelihood of approval.

If the documentation provided for these three aspects is deemed inadequate, your application will not be approved. The German government will only allow individuals from abroad to work in their country, who can demonstrate financial independence and contribute positively to the nation’s economic development.

Required Documents:

To streamline the application process, we’ve categorized the necessary documents into the following sections:

Standard Documents:

  • Passport
  • Biometric Photos
  • Confirmation of health insurance
  • Proof of address and rental contract
  • Registration and Landlord Confirmation
  • Duly completed national visa application form
  • Visa application fee

Professional Documents:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Recommendation letters
  • Portfolio
  • Diplomas and academic certificates
  • Freelance contracts or letters of intent (2 or more)
  • Current contracts
  • Professional permit (if applicable)

Financial Documents:

  • Bank statements
  • Financing plan
  • Profit and loss statement
  • Revenue forecast
  • Pension plan (if applicable)

To apply for a freelance visa, you typically need to visit the German Embassy or Consulate in your current country of residence. The procedure mirrors that of any German visa application. It’s advisable to submit your application at least three months before your planned travel date and include original documents along with photocopies.

When to apply for a German Freelancer Visa?

Obtaining the German freelancer visa involves the following steps:

Before your travel:

  • The first step is to schedule an appointment at the nearest German embassy. 
  • Gather the necessary documents. It is essential that you have all the documents needed for your application beforehand which is aligned with the list issued by the embassy
  • Sign Up for Health Insurance and ensure to check the best suited ones from various options available.
  • Visit the embassy on the appointment date: Submit the completed document checklist and  also provide the biometric photo as well as your fingerprint at the embassy during your appointment. Also note that your passport will be retained by them and returned upon a decision.
  • Wait till you hear back a decision: You can anticipate hearing back within 15 working days from the day of your submission, although processing times may vary, especially during busy periods like holidays or festivals. If the embassy approves your application, a copy of it will be attached to your passport while it is returned to you. 
  • Find a Place of Residence: Commencing your search abroad can offer significant advantages. As a foreigner likely without a German financial track record, your choices might seem restricted. Opting to rent a room in a shared apartment is a popular remedy for this situation.
  • Travel to Germany. Once your visa is granted, you’re ready to embark on your freelancing journey in Germany.

Upon Your Arrival in Germany

After securing your freelance visa and arriving in Germany, follow these steps:

  • Register and Enrol your address at the local Citizens Service Centre once you’ve secured accommodation. Obtain a registration certificate and a duplicate for banking and residence permit needs.
  • Establish a German bank account by presenting your registration certificate and passport and also keep in mind that there could be additional criteria for opening an account which may vary depending on the bank.
  • Register with the German Tax Office and declare your freelance activity, and obtain a freelance tax number Consider professional assistance from Sorted, specializing in freelancer taxes.
  • Complete the Questionnaire for Tax Collection online or request it from there, providing your Tax ID Number, bank details, and a detailed description of your freelance activity.
  • Get yourself covered by proper health insurance.
  • Await your freelance tax number which is typically delivered by mail within a few weeks.
  • Apply for a freelancer residence permit at the Foreigner’s Registration Office within three months of your arrival in Germany.

Typically, the Germany freelancer visa approval process spans over a period of three to four months. The duration varies based on factors such as your country of application, the season, and any additional document requirements.

Germany Freelancer Visa Fees

Here are the costs associated with the German freelancer visa:

  • Embassy fee: €75
  • Ausländerbehörde fee: €100 (€28.80 for Turkish citizens)
  • Extension of Temporary Residence Permit: €100
  • Settlement (PR) Permit: €124

In conclusion, freelancers operating in Germany must grasp the intricacies of regulations, taxation, and legal obligations pertinent to their profession. Effective time management involves arranging appointments in advance, securing flights, obtaining health insurance, and locating suitable accommodation. Subsequently, a journey to Germany is necessary to progress further. Upon arrival, essential tasks include signing a lease for accommodation, registering one’s address, and opening a German bank account. It’s essential to note that not all self-employed individuals qualify for the status of “Freiberufler” under German tax law. Meeting specific criteria is crucial to attain freelancer status. Seeking guidance from tax advisors or legal professionals can provide clarity on individual circumstances. Ultimately, thorough research and meticulous preparation significantly bolster the chances of securing the Freelance Visa for Germany.