When you study Germany, will your study place look like the library in Drachensburg Castle?
2) Study at a German University
Public German universities are well-respected, known for their academic rigour. In addition and unbelievably, they also offer free tuition for Bachelor and Master programmes – even for foreign students. You’ll likely have to pay an administration fee, but that usually only costs around €100 to €200 per year.
The first step is to apply to a German university. Once you’re accepted the university will help you with the paperwork that you need to get your student visa. You can find a list of international programmes, i.e. where instruction is in English on the DAAD site (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) or the German Academic Exchange Service in English. Note: if you choose a private university, you must pay tuition, which is usually a significant amount.
3) Marry a German
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t just marry a German so that you can immigrate to Germany. After my one-year German Language visa, I obtained a marriage visa which was valid for three years. At any point in that three years, if we divorced, my visa wouldn’t have been valid any longer. I have other American friends who had a marriage visa for five years. Perhaps it depends specifically on the country or on the person issuing the visa. I’ve had this conversation with many Americans and Mexicans. It seems rather random, although I’m sure it isn’t.
You can either get married in Germany, or outside of Germany. If you do the latter as we did by getting married in Canada, you’ll need to show proof that your marriage certificate is legit. In our case, that meant sending our wedding certificate to the German Embassy in Canada. They then provided a letter written in German saying it was valid. Back in Germany, we had to have our wedding certificate translated by an official translator before I could apply for the visa. After three years, and five for some of my friends, I was given permanent residency. I.e. my visa isn’t dependent on my marriage. I just have to renew it when my passport expires. You can find the specific paperwork that you need for marriage here.
4. Obtain a freelance/Self-Employed Visa
Germany is one of the easiest countries in Europe to get a freelance/self-employed visa. This includes artists – painters, musicians, writers, journalists, engineers, architects, auditors, tax advisors, interpreters, English teachers etc. This is valid for up to three years and is extendable.
Remember, that while your primary concern might be finding a way that you can immigrate to Germany, officials are more concerned with your skills and the economic benefit you will have on the country. Keep this in mind when you meet with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners Authority) office. You can find specific requirements and considerations for a self-employed visa here.
5. Obtain a Work Visa
Unless you’re sponsored, or work in an incredibly specialized field, this is a difficult option for North Americans. In order to hire a non-EU citizen, a company has to prove to the German government that no one else in Germany or in the entire EU is capable of doing the job. Not an easy feat.This will be even more difficult if you don’t speak fluent German. Most of the North Americans that I know who are working in Germany are here with a company that they were working for back home. They then transferred, almost always temporarily to the company’s office in Germany.
In addition, the sponsorship process complex. It’s easier, and cheaper for companies to hire someone already legally able to work in Germany. In other words, they have to really want you to go through all the effort. I’m not saying it’s impossible, just difficult. Most of the North Americans that I know who work in Germany and didn’t transfer with an existing company. Instead, they entered on one of the other visas first. Once you have permanent residency, which you can get after being here for three to five years, you can then work for any company with no special visa required.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on the fast track to immigrating to Germany from North America!
Disclaimer: This information is intended to be a guide to immigrating to Germany and is not legally binding. Refer to the German Office for Migration and Refugees for official information.