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Making it in Germany: The 4 most important steps to relocate

With it’s booming start-up industry, thriving tech scene, and attractive open culture, many expats from around the world have been flocking to Germany for work. While the prospect of this new adventure is exciting, it can also feel a little dauntingparticularly when trying to navigate the many requirements that must be fulfilled in order to legally gain residency, healthcare, and employment.

Feeling overwhelmed already? Fear not! We recently caught up with our newest team member, Yunus, to share his recent experiences of moving to Berlin from Turkey and the most important steps he had to take to successfully settle here.

Step 1: Employment

The Federal Employment Agency, also known as the “Bundesagentur für Arbeit”, is responsible for ensuring that non-EU candidates have a valid job contract, which states the reasons why this candidate is more eligible for the position than other European candidates. They also safeguard the employee’s rights, by ensuring that the conditions of employment meet the same standards required for German citizens—for example, fair salary, vacation days, bonuses, etc.

In order to gain pre-approval from The Federal Employment Agency, your prospective employer must send the following documents:

  • Your CV (translated into German)

  • References from your previous employers (translated into German)

  • A form filled in by you (Antrag auf Erlaubnis einer Beschäftigung)

  • Your job contract, signed

  • A form filled in by your prospective employer (Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis)

  • A letter from your prospective employer (in German), explaining the position, your eligibility, and relevant skills that make you indispensable

  • Copies of your university degree certificate and university ‘anabin’ rating (which can be found here)

  • A copy of your passport

  • Any other certifications that are relevant to your profession.

After sending all the scans via email, all you have to do is wait! The approval process normally takes 2-4 weeks. If something is unclear, the Federal Employment Agency may ask for more documents from your side.

Being from a non-EU country, I had to submit a lot of documents and prove my qualifications. I had already resigned from my job in Turkey when we sent my documents, so it was a risk. For 3 weeks, while waiting for an answer, I was very stressed. If I would be rejected, it would be devastating! Luckily, the answer was positive. I really wanted to move to Berlin and start my life here. It is a dream city for me, and my girlfriend is going to move here soon as well from Turkey”. – Yunuscan

Once your new employer receives confirmation via post of your pre-approval from the Federal Employment Agency they must send it to your home address, as you will need the original copy for your appointment at the German embassy.

Step 2. Your appointment at the German Embassy

While waiting for your pre-approval of employment, you can book an appointment at the German Embassy in your own country in order to obtain a valid German work visa. For this you must submit the exact same documents as listed in step 1, alongside your most recent bank statement. Normally the temporary visa that you will receive will be for six months. If you would like to move to Germany before your employment contract begins, then you will also need to get travel insurance, as the German state insurance only begins from your first working day.

In the embassy, they carefully check all the papers, plus your bank statement and your health insurance. If you already have the pre-approval confirmed, then there should be no problem. The lady I interviewed with at the German Embassy did not know much about my position of Advertisement Operations Manager, so spent slightly longer reading the letter from the company and asking questions about the role. She also asked me a few basic questions about myself in German to test my language skills, and even with my A1 level skills I could answer!” – Yunuscan

Step 3. Moving to Germany!

After getting the temporary visa, you can buy a one-way ticket, and pack your suitcase for the big move!

My situation was quite complicated because of the pandemic. I was checking updates regarding the Covid situation all the time and hoping lockdown would be eased enough for me to move. Suddenly a hard curfew was introduced in Turkey in May 2021, and I was unable to go anywhere in my home city or even see my parents. This gave me the push to try and get over to Berlin as soon as possible."

"I hadn’t been able to travel for the 15 months prior to my move, so when I was finally on the plane, I was very excited. For me it was also the first time I had relocated to another country, so I was super nervous—I must have played over 1000 different scenarios in my head about what could go wrong. But luckily everything went smoothly, and Berlin greeted me with a rather surprising snow-storm and 6-degree Celsius temperatures at the end of May.” – Yunuscan

Step 4. The Foreigners Office

During the first six months of your temporary visa in Germany, you must visit the Berlin Foreigners Office (also known as the Ausländerbehörde) for a final appointment to receive your residence permit. Before that, you will need to register, open a bank account and sign up for German health insurance. Normally, the residence permit will last as long as your job contract, or 3 years, if a contract is unlimited.

You will need the following documents:

  • Job contract, signed

  • Approval from the Federal Employment Agency (original document)

  • Confirmation that you have German health insurance

  • Registration of your address (Anmeldung)

  • Contract from your landlord for your address

  • Your recent bank statement

  • Your passport and 1 biometric photo

  • 2 x completed forms (same as in step 1):

When I went to the Foreigners Office, I was expecting to have a detailed discussion about my qualifications and experiences, but the interviewer simply checked that all the documents were in place. He explained that as I already had pre-approval from the Federal Employment Office, I was welcome, and he did not need to check my qualifications again. From my experience, it seemed that the pre-approval paper was the most important in the process."

"And now that I’m here I can finally relax and explore my new city. I love how different Berlin can be— there are green parks and peaceful neighborhoods on one side, and then lots of alternative areas with graffiti on the walls, art galleries, bars and night clubs. It’s great!” – Yunuscan.


Thank you to Yunuscan for sharing his experiences and good luck to any of our readers making the leap to move to Germany!


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