Residence permit for gainful employment

Residence permit for gainful employment

A residence permit for gainful employment allows foreigners to work in Germany. A distinction is made between self-employment and employment. Applying for the correct residence permit for gainful employment depends largely on the type of planned activity - self-employed or employed, i.e. salaried - and on your qualifications.

It is therefore essential to seek legal advice to ensure that the entire procedure is carried out quickly and efficiently.

Independent activity

§ Section 21 AufenthG offers entrepreneurs and investors the excellent opportunity to expand their existing company to Germany or to establish a new company in Germany. This gives entrepreneurs and investors from outside the EU the opportunity to obtain a residence permit for self-employment.

As part of the processing of the application, the planned activity will be assessed according to your chances of success and the economic interests of the Federal Republic of Germany. § Section 21 AufenthG is based on a public, economic interest or a regional need for the activity:

  1. It depends on the viability of the underlying business idea, i.e. the more original and therefore unrivaled it is, the more likely it is to be successful;
  2. Your entrepreneurial experience plays an important role, i.e. if you have already founded and managed a successful company, this speaks for your entrepreneurial spirit;
  3. The financing of the company is decisive, i.e. whether equity is used for financing or whether there is a loan commitment from a third party;
  4. The effects on the employment and training situation and the contribution to innovation and research are taken into account.

Since such an examination can neither be carried out nor expected from the foreigners authority alone, it involves expert bodies, the competent trade authorities, the public professional associations and the authority responsible for professional licensing.

RT & Partner's Business Immigration department offers entrepreneurs and investors a full-service package: We take care of your visa application, check all documents, in particular your business plan, and handle all communication with all authorities.

Self-employed activity

In addition to the possibility of taking up self-employment, the Residence Act naturally also offers jobseekers various ways of taking up employment in a dependent manner. Visas for employees make up the majority of residence permits.

Whereas the enabling of self-employment is based primarily on Section 21 of the Residence Act, the regulation of residence permits for "normal" employees is much more complex.

For highly qualified professionals and for people who have already lived in Germany for a long time, there is also the possibility of applying for an EU Blue Card, a settlement permit or even naturalization. For intra-company transfers, the ICT card is the right residence title.

In addition, however, there are numerous other residence titles for taking up gainful employment in Germany, such as:

The principles of skilled labor immigration are determined by § 18 AufenthG.


The various residence titles require the fulfillment of different prerequisites. However, Section 18 of the Residence Act sets out a number of requirements that must always be met:

  • You must have a concrete job offer in Germany or a valid employment contract.
  • Your university degree or professional qualification must be equivalent or comparable to a German one.
  • If you are over 45 years old, you must also receive a gross annual salary of EUR 48,180 (year 2023) or provide evidence of adequate pension provision.
  • Depending on the profession you wish to pursue, you may need a license to practice.
  • As a rule, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency is also obtained during the visa procedure.

Skilled workers with vocational training (§ 18a AufenthG)

The German labor market is burdened by an overwhelming shortage of skilled workers. To counteract this, there has been a trend in politics for several legislative periods to facilitate immigration for skilled workers. As a (non-highly qualified) skilled worker, obtaining a residence title is governed by § 18a AufenthG.

Until now, the receipt of a work permit for skilled workers was linked to the fact that their qualifications qualified them for their intended work in Germany. This often led to difficult demarcation issues. Now, however, skilled workers are entitled to carry out any activity, regardless of whether their professional training qualifies them to do so or not.

It should be noted here that some foreign university degrees are only regarded as vocational training in Germany.

Highly qualified skilled workers (§18b AufenthG)

Highly qualified skilled workers, i.e. those with a university degree, are the most competitive on the global labor market. In order to attract them to the German labor market, obtaining a work permit for highly qualified specialists is particularly easy.

In line with the residence permit for non-highly qualified skilled workers, a university degree was also required to qualify you for employment. However, this often complicated requirement has now been abolished.

Another point that should facilitate the immigration of highly qualified skilled workers is the possibility of a residence permit for highly qualified workers to look for a job in accordance with Section 20 (2) AufenthG. This releases them from the basic requirement of already having a job offer or an employment contract before immigration to Germany is permitted.

It should also be noted that, in addition to the "normal" residence permit in accordance with Section 18b AufenthG, highly qualified skilled workers also have the option of obtaining an EU Blue Card. The EU Blue Card has many advantages over the residence permit in accordance with Section 18b AufenthG, such as easier family reunification or the option to switch to a permanent residence permit such as a settlement permit more quickly. If you would like to find out more about the EU Blue Card, click here.

Residence for research purposes (§ 18d AufenthG)

A residence permit is issued for research purposes under two conditions:

  • There is a hosting agreement with a research institution recognized by the BAMF (Section 18d (1) No. 1 AufenthG).
  • The research institution has undertaken in writing to bear certain costs that may be incurred by public bodies as a result of an unauthorized stay after the end of the hosting agreement (Section 18d (1) no. 2 Residence Act).

The second requirement may be waived under certain circumstances, for example if there is a special public interest (Section 18d (2) Residence Act).

Furthermore, it is possible that your research institution has already made this commitment in general, which means that an additional commitment specific to you would also no longer be necessary. It is best to inquire directly with your research institution whether this is the case (Section 18d (3) AufenthG).

If the research project is to take no less than one year, the residence permit will be issued for at least one year.

The Private Immigration Department of RT & Partner offers you comprehensive advice and support on your way to gainful employment: We take care of your visa application, check all documents and handle all communication with all authorities.