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Labor and Residency Laws for Foreigners

In most instances, foreigners who want to work or take up an occupation in the Federal Republic of Germany require the following:

  • a residence permit to work as a self-employed person, or

  • a residence permit and a work permit to take up employment as a wage or salary earner.

Various legal rules applying to employees from EU member states or other countries must be complied with.
Nationals and legal entities from EU member states enjoy unrestricted freedom of movement in the Federal Republic of Germany and do not require a work permit.

Although employees from EU member states need a residence permit, they have a legal right to be issued with one. A certificate for the "residence permit for members of a member state of the EU" must be issued if, apart from the entry permit, a certificate of employment or a declaration of appointment by the employer is available. Self-employed persons receive a residence permit if they are qualified for the occupation they intend to work in.

Employees from countries not belonging to the European Union normally require a residence permit and a work permit to take up an occupation or work as a paid employee in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The residence permit must be obtained before entering the country in the form of a visa from the appropriate representative of the Federal Republic of Germany.

There is no legal right to the issue of a residence permit. If a positive decision is made, the residence permit is generally issued for one or two years and can be extended after this period. A residence permit for an unlimited period is only issued in exceptional cases.

A distinction must be made between a residence permit and the right to reside. The latter may be issued to foreigners who have rightfully lived in the country for at least five years and have integrated into the social life of the Federal Republic of Germany. The right to reside may not be regionally restricted and runs for an unlimited period.

The following types of individuals:

  • Self-employed persons
  • Independently employed persons (such as professionals and freelance commercial representatives)
  • Members of the executive body legally representing the operation of a legal entity (member of the board of management/director of companies limited by shares)
  • Shareholders and directors with power of representation for other companies apart from companies limited by shares (general partnership, limited partnership, non-trading partnership)
  • Senior executives to whom a general or full power of attorney (power of representation) has been issued

do not require a work permit according to the principle of freedom of trade.

With few exceptions, foreign workers generally require a permit from the Federal Employment Institute in order to be employed or work in the Federal Republic of Germany. The work permit is issued after a residence permit has been granted. There is no legal right to a work permit !!!


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