Getting a visa in Germany

How to apply for the Self-Employment Visa.

You want to know how to apply for the “Artist Visa”. In actuality, it’s a ”Self Employment visa” that extends special rules (it’s easier to get) to artists, architects, and language teachers. If you’re in a time crunch, or just want to know how it’s done, here’s how to apply for this visa.

It seems the Ausländerbehörde now takes only interviews via appointment, queues can be up to one month, so get one as early as possible.

Step 1

Your announcement

Getting your announcement is done easily enough at the bürgeramt (http://www.buergeramt.info/berlin.htm) You’ll either need to be on a rental contract and have proof of papers, or have the person who is sign and confirm your information on the application. You can either forge the signature, or bring the actual person with you. They’ll ask you when you arrived, what floor you live on, copy down your passport information and you’re on your way. You get a little paper with an authoritative stamp. Approximate wait times can vary, it can take up to 2 hours and if you’re lucky much less.

Step 2

Making a trip to the Ausländerbehörde

It’s always good to hear first hand information. So make a trip to ask questions. You’ll also get the necessary forms for the self-employment visa. Tell them you’re an Artist, and they’ll hand you a application form and insurance paper (you’ll need to take it to the insurance company to get stamped.)

While you’re there, go to the 1st floor and take some “Biometric” passport photos. You’ll see a room with a little camera sign. It’s 7 euros in exact change, and it gives you the photos that they want. They’re quite picky and like the one’s from this machine. It will print the photos out with a green tab showing you’ve met their regulations.

Step 3

Getting your Insurance, Making your resume and printing Bank Statements

Insurance of atleast 1 year. Check out “HanseMerkur” (http://www.hansemerkur.de/) which starts off at around 51 euros a month for basic coverage. Bump it up to 69 euros a month, and you’ll get coverage for 5 years. You can cancel the basic 1 year insurance by the day and the 5 year one by the month. I would really recommend going for the 5 year, it looks better on paper and you can always switch to the cheaper one later. Go ahead and look up an office near you and go in person. Bring the insurance form you got from the consulate and get it filled out and stamped.

Making a Resume with attachments of your work

Who knows what you do in the states. I don’t and the people at the Ausländerbehörde for sure don’t either. Make your resume look good, put down all the shows you done, the clients you’ve worked with and attach a thumbnail page of your artwork. If your show list is on the shorter side, use your artistic skills and make it pretty. And by pretty, I mean longer. Mine included 100 or so shows, a short artist biography and a nice print out of selected artworks.

Printing Bank statements. This is a very important part of the application process. The number they like to see is around 600 euros a month. Which means showing around 13 grand in your account to be able to stay a year. The more the better. All you’ll be giving them is a print out, so maybe you’ve got some nice friends or parents who will lend you some cash for a few days while you do this.

Along with bank statements have a written letter of financial support from a spouse/friend/parent saying that they’ll back you up in the case that you run out of money. You want to look financially strong. Their biggest fear with issuing you a visa is that you’ll find a way to abuse their social benefits system. This is how you prove to them that you’re financially sound and have no intention of doing so.

Step 4

Getting the Visa

The Ausländerbehörde is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Mon/Tues start at 7 and on Thursdays they open at 10 (http://www.berlin.de/labo/auslaender/dienstleistungen/).

In hand you should now have all the paperwork you’ve collected:

Filled out Application form

  • Proof of Insurance
  • 2 passport photos
  • Bank Statements
  • Artist Resume
  • Announcement
  • Passport
  • 50 euros (visa fee)
  • A friend who speaks German if you do not

Once your number pops up, you’ll go into a little room with a lady behind a glass. Hand her your paperwork and if all is good she’ll hand you a new number while they look over your portfolio.

Your final wait. It’s been a long day, you’re tired, you’re nervous.

After another 20-30 minutes, you are then called to another room. Upon entrance is a thick, older German lady with stacks of files, classical music playing in the background and a little flower calendar behind her desk. She’ll go over your information and you will either be granted a visa, or receive an interim visa if they need more time to make a decision. If you do receive a visa (most likely a year, so they can try you out) you can officially freelance and work as an Artist. You’ll need to apply for a tax number (done later). Try to hide your glee long enough to exit the room. Pay 50 euros at the cashier downstairs, hand her your receipt and you’re done. If you do receive an interim visa, this buys you another 4-6 weeks. This is another person’s experience at the Ausländerbehörde who did (http://suitcaseinberlin.com/) and an encouraging quote I found online:

"If you go back over and over and over again, they eventually give you the work permit just to get you out of their faces. Be persistent

Yep, exactly what happened in my case. Took literally 6 months of me going back, getting declined, trying again, getting declined, trying again etc until one day they caved and gave me a 2 year visa (with no change in my applications)”

The process is hard, but not impossible. It’s difficult because there are so many variations of experiences. It can also be hard to navigate if you have a lack of German skills. The actual application of the visa however, is not difficult. The fact that you can get a visa in a day is amazing. Be prepared, read up, and if you really want it, you’ll get it.

Helpful information about other types of visas

So you’re not an Artist, a language teacher, or an architect but you want to stay in Germany for more than 3 months at a time.

There is a visa for people who just want to learn German. By taking on this visa, you’ll have to enroll in some sort of German course taking 17-20 hours a week. The VHS (http://www.vhs.de/), a public highschool that offers night classes is a good option if you’re tight on money. You’ll have to enroll in the “Power” Courses in order to get the proper hours in. A quote taken from toytowngermany about the VHS:

"Yes, they count. I live in Frankfurt with my German boyfriend. I came here in September 2004. Near the end of my 3-month tourist visa, I enrolled in an intensive German language course at the VHS. I took the proof of enrollment, my boyfriend and other documnets to the Aliens office and applied for a one year student visa. About 6 weeks later, I picked up my passport with my student visa inside. That’s it. The course must be min. of 19.5 hours per week to qualify. Oh, and I had to act as if I intended to go to German university after my language studies."

For comments, additions to this posting or questions, feel free to email me at:

4dayvisa@gmail.com