photos: Vismante Ruzgaite.
No matter how great their love for Berlin is, many non-EU expats agree that the visa process can be quite off-putting. Nevertheless, it’s a challenge that many of the most brilliant members of our community have to deal with. We’ve spoken to some of them – who also happen to be dear friends – and, basing on their personal experiences, we’ve put together a rough overview of the most common visa types. While this article isn’t aimed at helping you navigate through the maze of available options, we hope it might inspire you to pursue your Berlin dream – especially in spite of the setbacks that many others had to face as well.
German Language Course Visa
From the experience I’ve had talking with expats, this doesn’t seem to be the most popular option, and yet it’s probably a pretty reasonable first step if you really want to live in Germany. The main requirement for the German language course visa is pretty self-explanatory: you’re entering the country with the intention to complete an intense German language course. Possibly the main drawback is that it can’t be extended for too long so you’ll have to stay ahead of the game and think about your next step already as you’re memorizing those tables of irregular verbs.
Enrolling in a university could be the next step after a German language course. For that, you’ll obviously need the student visa. To get it, you are required to prove that you have enough funds to get you through your degree, especially since there’s a limit on how many hours you can be working as a student. Good news is – as explained in detail on the Make it in Germany website, there is a possibility you could actually be granted a permit to come to Germany even before you are accepted at a university.
Here’s some info on a work visa – in case you already received an offer and can skip the ”seeking” part. If not: the job-seeking visa could be an option if you hold a valid degree which is acknowledged as similar to a degree issued by a German university. As with other kinds of visas, you need to prove you have enough funds for the period it is granted for. When you do find work, you’ll be able to change the visa into a residence permit.
First of all, there is a difference between being a freelancer and being self-employed. To qualify for the former, you have to present all relevant documents that prove your particular freelance profession. As an artist, these are: MFA degree/diploma, artist CV, portfolio. Then you also need three letters from galleries or other art businesses, not of recommendation, but showing their intent to work with you. Finally, you have to prove that you have some money.
Family reunion visa
Getting the ‘‘Familienzusammenführung” visa might be a bit tricky, since you can only apply if you’re a non-EU citizen married to a EU citizen. If your spouse is German, you have to get a german A1.1 Certificate at a Goethe Institute, but if your spouse is a non-German EU citizen you don’t need it. This kind of visa is valid for 3 months and within that time you can go to the Ausländerbehörde and change it to an “Aufenthaltstitel mit Arbeitserlaubnis” for 3 years. If you’re still married after 3 years you can apply for an unlimited residency.
We claim no legal responsibility for the accuracy of the information contained in the article – our only hope is that it’ll make some legal concepts a bit less intimidating. If you’ve made any other experiences with visas for Germany do share in the comments below.