Update: German Freelance Visa approved!
Before I start, here’s a profile about me. The steps that you can take will be different and for a number of reasons ranging from the industry that you work in right through to your nationality.
- Work in tech as a consultant (though not a programmer). Work in IT for four years, combined work experience overall is 9 years.
- Masters degree in IT with an IT certification.
- Australian, with the ability to enter Germany visa-free for up to 90 days.
- Already lived in Berlin from 2017 to 2018 under the German Working Holiday Visa.
- Some knowledge of German language (studying A2 level).
- Funds in the bank, a comfortable amount (five digits).
- Very familiar with the paperwork and processes involved, originally planning to switch to the freelance visa from the German Working Holiday Visa but decided to put it off by a year.
You can apply for the German Freelance Visa in any other German city that you reside in (aka that you have the Anmeldung in). However much of the results if you were to search for this term are in the service.berlin.de website, but it still involves having to go to the Ausländerbehörde in the city that you reside in.
First thing first – copy and paste all of the paperwork that you need from the visa website. You will constantly refer to this. Now let us take a look at the rest of the items below.
- Freelance employment
It must be a self-employed academic, artistic, literary, teaching, educational or other self-employed professional occupation in accordance with s. 18 (1) Income Tax Act (see section “Further Information”).
- Main residence in Berlin (or in this case, in the city that you reside in and have registered your Anmeldung in)
- In-person visit
The interview should, if possible, take place by appointment.
1 current biometric photo 35mm x 45mm, frontal shot with neutral facial expression and closed mouth, looking straight into the camera, light background.
You take your biometric photo at a photobooth but it needs to be the type that clearly states it can do biometric photos.
The form “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels” (Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit)
Fairly straight forward – there are multiple language versions of the form (ie French, Spanish, English)
There is a downloadable template available for the finance plan on the service.berlin.de website for the visa and there are notes available in English.
To back up the finance plan, bank statements were provided. I only provided the latest statement (so, about a 2-3 weeks old) as I didn’t have enough time to generate newer statements. This was OK.
There is a downloadable template available for the revenue forecast on the service.berlin.de website for the visa and there are notes available in English.
One thing that the revenue forecast did not include is the amount of income tax that you pay. You can state this in the ‘Other taxes’ row. The amount of tax you pay will depend if you are single, have children, pay church tax, etc.
If you want to work on a fee basis: Letter of intent for the collaboration
Submission of at least two declarations of intent (with information on type, scope and description of the occupation).
These letter of intents are very important because it shows that there is a market for your freelance services. The submission needs to be at least two letters of intent, that means, letters of intent from at least two companies.
The amount of work, payments, hours of work, tasks of work, why you were chosen/how the relationship came about, your expertise and skills (which is why you are being hired) need to be stated, also it needs to be signed on letterhead.
Some blogs have written ‘the more the better’. It all depends on what your line of work. ‘Having more’ does not makes any difference with your application. There should be a mention of economic (in my case) interest in the region.
I had no fee contracts but can be submitted if you have these.
Add details of professional career, qualification certificates, diploma, references/sponsors.
I also included printouts of my degrees and certifications, as well as two signed reference letters from two companies that I have previously worked with.
Another thing that is not mentioned that I otherwise submitted are the samples of work. I submitted several samples of work, all printouts. A couple of these were samples of work that I have done on a public capacity (ie written an article for a large website, spoken at a conference, etc). Two of the samples, I decided to translate to German (automatic translation) and the rest submitted in English.
Proof of a secure livelihood must also include sufficient health insurance. Those with statutory health insurance are sufficiently insured. Those with private health insurance must consider the type and extent of their health insurance.
Now it is extremely important that you allocate enough time to not only find a suitable insurance provider and plan. Also the insurance provider needs enough time to process your payments and process the additional paperwork. Health care insurance providers also take their time replying back to you (if they even reply back in the first place..). Research well in advance and once you have the right quote and plan, start processing these at least two weeks before your appointment.
My own insurance provider also provided:
- Further explanation of the health care plan with regard to German law, in German and in English.
- Health care confirmation for the Ausländerbehörde in German. For example they provided “Bescheinigung für die Erteilung von Aufenthaltstiteln über einen privaten Krankenversicherungsschutz von einem EU/EWR-Dienstleister” alongside additional details (in German).
There are some providers out there that handle ‘expat insurance’ but you need to double check with them, before parting money, that they can provide those details above, at the minimum.
Lease or proof of home ownership
I submitted my lease contract.
Rental cost / expenses for property
Proof of the monthly rental costs (e.g. current account statement) or costs of the inhabited property; in each case in original form.
My bank statement should show expenses of property, but also the lease states amount I pay per month.
Proof of main residence in Berlin
This can be the certificate of registration at the main residence (Meldebestätigung) or lease and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord.
In this case, I submitted my Anmeldung as proof of main residence in Berlin since the written confirmation of occupancy is required for the Anmeldung anyway. Basically the written confirmation of occupancy states that you have actually entered your apartment, collected your keys, and that you are occupying that said apartment.
German bank account
Open a German bank account, I did not provide my bank details but you still need one for certain things (ie some services require German bank details).
I managed to get the necessary paperwork ready fairly quickly. I got my Anmeldung shortly after I moved in, and I got the freelance visa appointment three weeks after I moved on. The appointment schedule is a bit of a nightmare though, for example I checked online and say next appointments not being available until 3 months into the future. Highly recommended to check each day to see if there are any cancellations.
I arrived 30 minutes before the appointment. However interestingly enough, there was a delay of about 20 minute until my number flashed. You go into the right building, level and room to wait.
Upon arrival, all sections of my documentation are all sectioned in its own plastic sleeve and they were handed over to the visa officer. The visa officer had to check some things, so I headed outside to the waiting area for another 20-30 minutes.
Back to the appointment, I was given a Fiktionsbescheinigung (Fictional Certificate) valid for 6 months as the application needed to be sent off to the Senate Department for Economics, Industry and Commerce since a decision cannot be made on their end about the application. Immediate decision (approval, rejection) can be made if you are, for example, applying for the freelance artist visa (but of course, you can only work as a freelance artist of a certain field). Unfortunately it’s not clear how long it takes – I’ve read anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months, which is why I have this certificate just for some peace of mind so I am not worried about overstaying Germany as per the Schengen Agreement. Another thing is that on the event a decision is not reached for 6 months, there is also the option to have the Fiktionsbescheinigung extended.
Is the communication in English or German?
So while on the train, I was going through my A2.1/A2.2 level notes trying to brush up on my German. Overall, we both communicated a bit in English and all terms were understood, I had a couple of questions and it was all answered. The visa officer also mentioned that he was impressed with my CV with all the samples of work I provided and the copies of degrees also and is confident that I will get the freelance visa application through, it is just that a part of the process (the actual decision) is out of his area.
Total time spent at the interview? About 5 minutes.
In total, amount spent with the visa officer was probably 5 minutes (both initial glance at the documents and the final say). No further questions were asked of my application. This was probably because everything was sectioned off, and it helps to be there being completely organised with all your paperwork and your presentation. Waiting time was a lot longer.
Now time to wait …
This is why extremely important that you have enough funds to wait out the decision period – yes you could very well be living in Germany for up to 6 months with no income since you cannot work in Germany. I was reading a post about someone waiting for just over half a year for a decision (this was January 2019), and another person 7 months ago who waited 2-3 months for a decision. So, if you are in a field of work that requires further confirmation from the Senate, get ready for a mini sabbatical and use that time to catch up on your German lessons, relax and tour the city or country a bit, brush up on some learning in your field or work on your own personal projects. It would also be a good idea to set an interval of when to check, as well as you might even want to find an immigration lawyer, and/or keep your visa consultant/translator in the loop also in case things get a bit topsy-turvy.
Another thing is – make sure to double check all details. Do not entirely depend on just one source of information, make sure to do your research and be prepared. The common theme that I see is that it is up to the individual to make sure that they themselves are informed.
Note to readers: Please note that this post does not constitute as visa or immigration advice and that your experience will be completely different to mine. By the virtue of your nationality, profession, preparation and attention to detail to the process you may also have a different outcome to mine.