Tried & True Insights For a Successful German Freelance Visa Application
Have you ever thought about living and working in Berlin or Germany as a freelancer?
I won’t lie, applying for a freelancer’s visa in Berlin is a doozy. It’s impossible for me to say whether getting a freelancer’s visa is “easy” or “hard” since every person’s application will look different based on their income, job description, and so on.
However, I will say this: completing a German freelance visa application requires some intense preparation and lots of paperwork.
The fact that you’re reading this blog post is a good sign, though. It shows that you’re doing your research and are already working to prepare your application. That’s the first step!
In a Rush? Pin These Tips for Later!
In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my top tips for applying for a freelancer’s visa in Berlin. There are quite a few “unspoken rules” you have to deal with during the application process, and you definitely don’t want any surprises during your visa appointment!
Disclaimer: This blog post is not legal advice. The following are simply tips I gleaned after going through the visa application process myself.
The Freelancer Behind This Blog Post
Before diving into the tips for the visa application process, I wanted to briefly introduce myself so you know who I am and why I’m qualified to write this post in the first place.
I’m Claire, a freelance writer from the USA and the blogger behind Tall Girl Big World. I moved to Berlin in May 2019 and received my freelancer’s visa in August 2019.
Prior to my transatlantic move, I worked a full-time editorial job in NYC. After nearly three years at that company, my entire team was laid off due to budget cuts. From there, I spent almost a full year working to grow my freelance business in preparation for my move to Berlin.
Now, enough about me. Here are my top 7 German freelance visa application tips.
Tip #1: Meet with a Relocation Specialist
If there’s one thing you take away from this blog post, let it be this tip. Even if you think you fully understand the requirements for the freelancer’s visa … you probably don’t. Hence my reason for writing this blog post in the first place!
Yes, the Berlin government has a checklist of required materials for the freelancer’s visa application. However, there are many unspoken do’s and don’ts when it comes to applying for a freelancer’s visa.
As such, I highly recommend meeting with an immigration lawyer or a relocation specialist. I had an hour-long appointment with a relocation specialist at Expath and considered it money well spent. I met with Expath at the beginning of my first 90 days in Berlin, which gave me plenty of time to drum up the materials for my application.
Tip #2: Check That You Qualify for a Freelancer’s Visa
In Germany, the government makes a distinction between self-employed persons and freelancers. As a rule of thumb, a freelancer is anyone who works for multiple clients on their projects. Conversely, a self-employed person may run their own company or be a sole proprietor of a business.
The requirements for the freelancer’s visa and a self-employment visa are different. If you meet with an immigration lawyer or relocation specialist (which you should!), have them confirm that you’re considered a freelancer in the eyes of the German government.
Tip #3: Fit the Mold Perfectly
This is one instance in life where being unique and standing out from the crowd isn’t a blessing. Triple check which documents you’re required to bring to your visa appointment and try to tick the boxes as best as you can.
I’d also recommend formatting your documents in the German style. For example, Germans write dates in the order of day / month / year.
Additionally, it can’t hurt to format your curriculum vitae (CV) as Germans do. American resumes are formatted much differently than German resumes, so this is one simple thing you can do to “fit in.”
Tip #4: Choose Your Job Title Carefully
The job title you put on your visa application form will dictate the type of work you can legally complete for German clients for the duration of your visa.
Initially, I selected the job title “Writer and SEO Consultant” for my application. However, the relocation specialist at Expath warned me that “consultant” implies that I’m self-employed rather than a freelancer.
When choosing your job title, it’s better to choose something broader so that you can accept work in neighboring fields in the future. In the end, I wrote down that I was a “Writer” because that gave me the flexibility to apply for copywriting jobs, as well as blog post writing jobs and so on.
Tip #5: Secure Clients Based in Germany
The biggest pain point when preparing my visa application was acquiring “Letters of Intent.” Letters of intent are basically non-binding documents that prospective clients will write for you.
The letters of intent should state the type of work they want you to do for them, when the project will start, and how much they’ll be paying you.
The government website says nothing about letters of intent, besides the fact that you need to provide a couple (I recommend having at least two, by the way). What the government website fails to mention is that these letters of intent must come from clients based in Germany.
I spent the year leading up to my move to Berlin growing my freelance business. I had been under the impression that the contracts I had with my US-based clients would count as letters of intent. Wrong!
The German government wants to see that you need to be in Berlin to freelance successfully. They also want to see that you’ll be paying into the tax system with your German-earned income.
Tip #6: Bring Supplementary Materials
To play things super safe, you may want to bring some supplementary materials with you.
In addition to the required application materials, I also brought my bank statements from the previous 90 days, letters of recommendation from past clients, and printouts of my recently published articles.
None of the materials I just listed are required by the German government. However, any additional documents you can provide to prove that you are an experienced freelancer in the field you’re applying to work in can only help your case.
Tip #7: Hire a Translator
Here’s one last curveball you should be aware of: the government official who will be processing your visa application is legally required to speak to you in German.
If you don’t speak German or you’re not confident in your language abilities, you need to pay a translator to accompany you to the appointment.
Make sure to hire a certified translator (again, I hired one through Expath), and have them bring some form of documentation with them to the appointment. The government official will ask to see their credentials before beginning the application process.
Want Even More Insider Advice for Your German Freelance Visa Application?
I have an entire guide on my blog, Tall Girl Big World, that breaks down exactly How I Got the Berlin Freelancer’s Visa. In that post, I share even more German freelance visa application insights, plus useful resources for moving to Berlin and what you can expect from the visa application appointment.
If you have any questions about applying for a freelancer’s visa in Berlin, drop your comment down below.