Work permit

Working in Europe | Work permit | Germany

Third country nationals (non-EU foreign nationals) who wish to pursue gainful employment in Germany usually require a residence permit authorising gainful employment. Application should be made to the Immigration Office at your destination, possibly together with the visa formalities. Information about the various residence permits available can be found under Visas and Entry.

The following residence permits are granted in respect of gainful employment:

While completing their studies, students may work for 120 whole days or 240 half days without further permission. They are additionally permitted to hold a student job.

Foreign university graduates may extend their residence permit for up to one and a half years after the successful completion of their studies in order to search for employment. During this time they can undertake any gainful employment, with no restrictions.

This residence permit includes the right to pursue the respective permitted employment activity. Depending whether qualified vocational training is required, different requirements must be fulfilled. Foreigners who are sent from a research institution in another EU Member State to work at a German research institution are not issued with residence permits for the purpose of research. As a matter of principle they have to apply for a residence permit for the purpose of employment.

For highly-qualified persons there are no restrictions in respect of engaging in employment. In particular, this applies to researchers with specialised knowledge.

Those holding an EU Blue Card must be engaged in highly-qualified employment that is commensurate with their qualifications.

A residence permit granted under § 20 entitles the holder to engage in the employment activity relevant to the research project described in the hosting agreement, as well as engaging in teaching activities.

If you want to spend time in Germany researching on the basis of a fellowship, provided that the fellowship secures your livelihood, and depending on the circumstances, you may be eligible for a residence permit for the purpose of either research, pursuing gainful employment or studying.

If you are employed in Germany based on an employment contract, in principle only German labour laws apply to you. The German labour laws includes numerous regulations to protect the existence of the employment relationship (protection against dismissal, time limitation, etc.) as well as employees' health (working time law, workplaces ordinance and many other regulations) and their material needs (ban on immoral practices, a partial national minimum wage, or generally binding collective agreements, etc.).

Persons requiring particular protection are protected by special laws:
  • Expectant and breastfeeding mothers by the Maternity Protection Act ("Mutterschutzgesetz")
  • Parents by the Parental Allowance Act ("Bundeselterngeld") and Parental Leave Act ("Elternzeitgesetz")
  • Young persons by the Youth Protection Act ("Jugendschutzgesetz")
  • Trainees by the Vocational Training Act ("Berufsbildungsgesetz")
  • Disabled persons by Book IX of the Social Code ("Sozialgesetzbuch")
  • In general, protection is provided against discrimination e.g. due to ethnic origin or race but also due to age in the General Equal Treatment Act ("Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz").


Further information

  • Residence permits for scientists from third countries pursuant to the German Residence Act
    The German Rectors' Conference (HRK) has worked out a synopsis which provides an overview of the potential residence permits for scientists from third countries (§16, §18, §19, §19a, §20) and depicts the necessary requirements for obtaining a respective residence permit.
    German Rectors' Conference (HRK)
  • Taking up employment in Germany
    Access to the German labour market
    Federal Foreign Office
  • Make it in Germany
    The "Welcome to Germany" Portal of the Qualified Professionals Initiative
    Make it in Germany
  • Recognition of vocational qualifications in Germany
    The recognition portal of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research gives information on how to proceed if you wish to have foreign vocational qualifications recognized in Germany.
    Federal Ministry of Education and Research