German Skilled Worker Visa

Obtaining employment as a skilled worker in the renewable energy sector in Germany

German Skilled Worker Visa

In this blog post, we will provide a summary of the two main ways green technicians can power the German energy transition, either as a skilled worker who has found contracted work with a green energy company, or as a skilled worker planning to enter the country to look for work under the Jobseeker visa

Note that there are other forms of visas, including special visas for IT professionals, students and freelancers, but this post will focus on those seeking work in the energy sector. For the latest information about all visa types, please refer to the official site “Make it in Germany” administered by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. The data below was extracted from the site on June 1, 2023.

Work Visa for qualified professionals

In line with the Freedom of Movement Act/EU, nationals of the EU and the EEA enjoy unrestricted access to the German labour market. The same rules basically apply to Swiss nationals. So they do not need a visa or a residence permit to take up employment in Germany. 

Relaxed rules apply to nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America. In principle, citizens of these nations can enter Germany without a visa and can obtain the necessary residence permit for the taking up of employment from the relevant foreigners registration office in Germany once they have arrived in the country. They can start working as soon as they receive the residence permit.

Nationals of all other countries in principle need a visa to enter Germany and must convert this into a residence permit once they are in Germany so that they can live and work in Germany.

The visa process for contracted skilled workers 

Any foreign skilled worker or, for example, a trainee who wishes to work in Germany requires a residence authorisation for the purpose of commencing employment or taking a training course. Usually, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) will be required for this residence authorisation to be issued, pursuant to Section 39 of the Residence Act.

The approval of the BA is usually obtained by the German mission abroad or the foreigners registration office via an online, internal administrative procedure. Approval from the BA is normally necessary both when hiring a skilled worker coming to Germany to start work, and also when hiring a foreign skilled worker who already resides legally in Germany.  In the case of qualified professionals already living in Germany who have already worked or lived in the country for a certain period of time, approval from the BA is not normally required (Section 9 Ordinance on the Employment of Foreigners).

The BA must respond to the German mission abroad or the foreigners registration office within two weeks regarding approval of employment pursuant to Section 36(2) Ordinance on the Employment of Foreigners. If the BA does not inform the German mission abroad or the foreigners registration office that any documents or details are missing, the approval shall be deemed to have been automatically given following expiry of the deadline. If, in preparation of the visa application, a fast-track procedure for skilled workers is used (see Chapter 3), the deadline for the response is reduced to one week.

Companies are obliged to inform the BA about the skilled workers remuneration, the working hours and other conditions of employment for this purpose. The entry visa is usually issued for a period of up to six months; in the fast-track procedure for skilled workers the period can be up to twelve months. Once the skilled worker has entered Germany, they must apply within this period for the appropriate residence permit from the relevant foreigners registration office.

Steps to visa approval

According to Section 18a or Section 18b(1) Residence Act, a skilled worker can be granted a residence permit for the purpose of working in a skilled occupation which their acquired qualification enables them to exercise. The preconditions for the visa or the residence permit are:

  • The person has a specific job offer. aims to acquire job offers for green technicians via its Sourcing and Screening service for firms.
  • Approval has been granted by the BA for the employment.
  • If the person has a qualification awarded abroad, the equivalence of the vocational training or the foreign degree must be determined. This generally takes place via a recognition notice issued by the relevant recognition body in Germany such as the IHK, KMK, HWK etc, recognising the equivalence of their foreign qualification. can assist firms and skilled workers in preparing the documentation required for this process as part of our Tailored Onboarding service.
  • If permission to work in the occupation is required (i.e. for a regulated occupation such as doctors and nurses), this must be presented or have been promised when the application is made. 
  • In the case of people aged over 45, documentation of appropriate pension provision must be supplied, or the gross salary to be paid must be at least 55% of the annual contribution assessment ceiling in the statutory pension insurance system. The assessment ceiling means that individuals earning above this threshold are only required to pay pension contributions based on the capped amount. This ceiling amount is adjusted each year, and differs depending on whether the employee is in a former West German or East German state. Although it may sound complicated, your employer will in most cases be aware of the ceiling amount when making a salary offer to you.

If granted, the residence permit for skilled workers pursuant to Section 18a or 18b Residence Act is issued for a period of four years. If the employment contract is limited to a shorter period, the residence permit will be issued for this period. If the preconditions for a residence permit continue to apply, the residence permit can be extended, or a permanent settlement permit can be issued.

Coming to Germany to look for work

In our second area of focus, and pursuant to Section 20(1) and (2) Residence Act, skilled workers can also be granted a visa for the purpose of finding a job if they meet the following requirements: 

  • The qualification obtained abroad is recognised in Germany or is comparable with a German qualification. As this may differ from country to country, can support in preparing the documentation for this submission process to the various authorising bodies. 
  • The skilled worker is able to maintain themselves in Germany. This is usually demonstrated by a minimum amount in a locked account.
  • For qualified professionals with vocational qualifications: they possess the German language skills needed for the occupation. Generally, language skills at at least B1 level of the CEFR are required. Note that most companies require a professional fluency of at least B1.2–a level to which helps bring skilled professionals to as part of the Bridging Program before their application process begins.

The Jobseeker visa is issued for a maximum of six months. If the skilled worker succeeds in finding a job during this time, the residence permit to take up employment can be applied for from the relevant foreigners registration office without the person needing to leave Germany. 

The employment can be commenced once this residence permit has been issued. With a visa or a residence permit in place for the purpose of seeking employment, skilled workers are permitted to take up employment for up to ten hours a week on a trial basis. This enables companies to get to know the applicant better, e.g. during a trial day at work, and to assess the applicant’s profile.

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