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Visa in Germany (Part 1) - On the hunt for a work visa

by Dr. (Jur.) Lulu Niu

A degree from a German university is one of the most highly prized qualifications around the world. Only students at these universities can understand how difficult it is to receive a German degree.

Yet obtaining a German degree is only the first step on a very long journey, albeit the most important. The question of a visa comes up after graduating, once you have the exam results in your hands. There is a lot to do between a student visa and receiving a work visa, then an official work visa, and finally a settlement permit in Germany, and a lot of documentation has to be prepared.

1. An 18-month work permit

 a)      Legal basis
The legal basis for the 18-month work visa lies in the Residency Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz), section 3 (Residency for Purposes of Education), paragraph 16, item 4. Upon completing their education, students have the opportunity to apply for a visa for work purposes, with a maximum term of 18 months. The terms of paragraphs 18, 19 and 19a, and 21 are requirements for the job search, as is the direct relationship between education and place of work. Verification that the individual is able to maintain their livelihood is also required. This may come in the form of bank documents or insurance submitted by the applicant.
Legislation grants graduates time to find work that relates to their degree.

 b)      The beginning of the 18 months
According to paragraph 16, item 16.0.5., graduation is regulated by the Study and Exam Ordinance. The date of the last exam applies, regardless of the actual date of exmatriculation or receipt of the degree. This may also deviate in practice due to individual regulations.

 c)      What does "relevance" mean?
If the individual has found a job that directly relates to their field of study, converting a study visa into an official work visa is no problem. Every applicant may find or request a list that shows professions that relate directly to their respective degree. Such direct relevance can be assessed during the application process. See more concerning this below. 

 d)      What type of work can one pursue?
The Residency Act, paragraph 16, item 4 authorizes gainful employment of any sort during the job search, including freelance work. Even though this only lasts for 18 months, the visa is comparable to that which grants you permanent residence, because you have the opportunity to engage in any sort of employment during these 18 months. On the other hand, the limited time frame and the possibility to convert this visa into a permit for permanent residence in the future may necessitate a language course, and part of this time will be used for that. If you intend to obtain a work permit or work for an independent company, converting your visa into an official work visa as quickly as possible is recommended. 


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