With its cultural offerings, strong economy, and high quality of life, it’s no wonder Germany ranks as the third most popular European destination (after Portugal and Spain) for digital nomads and remote workers.
Buzzing cosmopolitan cities like Berlin and Munich provide vibrant nightlife and restaurant scenes, numerous coworking spaces, and easy access to the rest of Europe for those with itchy feet.
Despite being Europe’s largest economy, the cost of living in Germany is lower than in other Western European countries like France, Belgium, and the UK and is estimated to be 35% lower than in the US. Germany also has a social healthcare system, which allows taxpayers to access partially free healthcare through social contributions.
All of these factors make Germany a great place to live and carry out your remote work. However, it’s important to note that Germany does not (currently) offer a specific digital nomad visa. Instead, it has a freelance visa (Freiberufler), which is suitable for freelancers and self-employed entrepreneurs.
Today, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to set up your German freelancer visa.
To obtain your German freelance visa, nationals of non-European countries will first need to get a freelancer entry visa, which is only valid for three months but will allow you to enter the country and start working. Note that nationals of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, and Israel do not need an entry visa to enter Germany.
Those who arrive with the entry visa will need to let the immigration authorities know they’re entering the country to work as a freelancer and intend to apply for the Freiberufler (freelance residence permit) to continue living and working in Germany.
Freelancers from all non-EU countries must apply for a freelance residence permit upon arrival in Germany. You can do this through the Ausländerbehörde (German Immigration Office). Once you get it, your entry visa will no longer be valid (if you have one); however, you’ll be able to live and work in Germany for up to three years.
The Freiberufler is best suited to freelancers in occupations that will have a positive impact on the German culture and economy, such as artists and writers or self-employed professionals like architects, teachers, engineers, or doctors.
Another type of visa, the Selbständiger, is a self-employment visa and is designed for founders, sole proprietors, or managing directors of a company. To be eligible for this visa, your company must be of economic interest to Germany, positively impact the German economy, and be financed through equity or a loan.
Anyone who meets the eligibility requirements and is either a freelancer or self-employed can apply for a German freelancer visa — as long as there is an economic interest or regional need for your professional services.
Germany accepts all those in “liberal professions,” which include, but are not limited to:
Before applying for your German digital nomad visa, you must ensure you meet the following visa requirements:
Here is a list of the documents you’ll need to submit to obtain your visa:
Remember that if you need an entry visa, you’ll have to apply for it at the German embassy or consulate in your home country and apply for a residence permit once in Germany.
Additionally, requirements may change or vary, so it’s always best to check with your embassy or consulate.
If you require a freelancer entry visa to enter Germany, start with the following steps:
Once you arrive in Germany, follow these steps to apply for a residence permit (within the first three months of arrival):
1. Register with the tax office (Finanzamt) to get a Freelance Tax Number (Steuernummer) — you need this to apply for the residence permit.
2. Register your address for your resident’s registration (Meldebescheinigung) at the Residents’ Registration Office (Bürgeramt). To do this, you will need to provide the following documents:
3. Set up an appointment for an interview with the Germany Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde).
4. Pay the application fee for the residence permit:
5. Attend your interview and submit the required documentation, including your Freelance Tax Number and letters from prospective clients.
6. Wait for permit processing. This can take several months.
Relocating to Germany can open up a world of opportunities for freelancers and self-employed professionals — but the visa application process is not without its risks and pitfalls.
Many digital nomads heading to Germany find that partnering with an employer of record (EOR) like Remofirst can make the process run more smoothly. For instance, we help digital nomads with the visa application process and setting up compliant independent contractor agreements with their clients.