German Immigration Law: The different German residence titles for the purpose of economic activity (e. g. contract work or freelance work) in Germany.
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Article updated in November 2021

The German Residence Act (AufenthG) has the objective to control the migration to Germany from the viewpoint of the economic and labor market interests of the German state.

Therefore the admission of foreign employees is dependent on the requirements of the German economy, according to the consideration of the German labour market situation and the need to effectively combat unemployment.

Under this premise, especially the migration of highly skilled workers from other countries to Germany is fostered by the German state.

The residence titles for the purpose of economic activity in Germany are laid down in Chapter 2, paragraph 4 of the Law on the residence, employment and the integration of foreigners in Germany (German Residence Act, AufenthG).

Moreover, in 2012 Germany implemented the Council Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment into the German immigration law.

German Immigration authorities are therefore now authorized to issue the EU Blue Card to applicants, if the requirements are met.

The EU Blue Card is a residence permit for the purpose of occupation for non-EU citizens with an academic qualification and a certain minimum income.

The holder of the EU Blue Card will not only have the right to work in Germany, he will also have the right to travel to other countries of the European Union.

Initially the EU Blue Card will be issued for no longer than 4 years. If the work contract of the applicant will be valid less than 4 years, the EU Blue Card will be issued only for that time.

On 1st March 2020, the Skilled Immigration Act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz) came into force and amended German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) and made it much easier for third country nationals with an academic background to be employed in Germany. This also goes for third country nationals with vocational training.

Generally the German Residence Act provides the following residence titles for people planning an economic activity in Germany.

Skilled workers with vocational training

Temporary Residence permit for skilled workers with vocational training according to section 18a of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Skilled workers with academic background

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for skilled workers with academic background according to section 18b of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– EU Blue Card for foreigners with regular occupations according to section 18b paragraph 2 sentence 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz)

– EU Blue Card for foreigners with shortage occupations according to section 18b paragraph 2 sentence 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz)

– Permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) for skilled workers according to section 18c paragraph 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) for EU Blue card holders according to section 18c paragraph 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) for highly qualified skilled workers (scientists with specifically professional knowledge, teaching staff or academic personnel) with academic background according to section 18c paragraph 3 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG).

Residence titles for scientific staff and researchers

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for researchers according to section 18d paragraph 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for researchers eligible for protection in the EU according to section 18d paragraph 6 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for short-term mobility researchers for the purpose of research for more than 180 days according to section 18f paragraph 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Residence titles according to the Intra-Corporate Transferee Directive

– ICT-Card for executive personnel and specialists transferred within a company according to section 19 para 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– ICT-Card for trainees transferred within a company according to section 19 para 3 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Mobile ICT-Card for executive personnel, specialists and trainees transferred within a company more than 90 days according to section 19b para 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Residence titles for miscellaneous employment purposes

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for an employment of unskilled workers according to the employment regulation (Beschäftigungsverordnung) or an intergovernmental treaty according to section 19c para 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for the employment of a foreigner with relevant professional work experience according to the employment regulation according to section 19c para 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for the employment of foreigners, if there is a public interest in their employment according to section 19c paragraph 3 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for tforeign cicil servants of the German state according to section 19c paragraph 4 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Residence titles for foreigners possessing an exceptional leave to remain (Duldung) in Germany

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for foreigners possessing an exceptional leave to remain (Duldung), which successfully completed a German vocational training or a German university degree according to section 19d para 1 no 1a of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for foreigners possessing an exceptional leave to remain (Duldung) and a foreign university degree and 2 years of relevant professional work experience in Germany according to section 19d para 1 no 1b of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for foreigners possessing an exceptional leave to remain (Duldung) and 3 years of relevant professional work experience in Germany according to section 19d para 1 no 1c of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Residence titles for foreigners planning to participate in the European Voluntary Service

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for foreigners planning to participate in the European Voluntary Serice according to section 19e paragraph 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz)

Residence titles for job search in Germany

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 6-month job search for skilled workers with vocational training according to section 20 paragraph 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 6-month job search for skilled workers with an university degree according to section 20 paragraph 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 18-month job search for skilled workers with a German university degree according to section 20 paragraph 3 no. 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 9-month job search for academic researchers after completion of their research according to section 20 paragraph 3 no. 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 9-month job search for academic researchers after completion of their research according to section 20 paragraph 3 no. 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 12-month job search for skilled workers with a German vocational training according to section 20 paragraph 3 no. 3 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for a 12-month job search for skilled workers with a foreign vocational training equivalent to a German vocational training according to section 20 paragraph 3 no. 4 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Residence titles for the purpose of self employment in Germany

– Temporary Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for the purpose of self-employment (economic interest) according to section 21 paragraph 1 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence permit for the purpose of self-employment (with regard to international treaties between the country of the foreigner and Germany) according to section 21 para 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) permit for the purpose of self-employment of foreigners holding a German university degree, if the employment is based on the academic degree according to section 21 para 2a of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Temporary Residence (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) permit for the purpose of self-employment (freelancers) according to section 21 para 5 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

– Permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) for the purpose of self-employment (after 3 years of succesful self-employment) according to section 21 para 4 sentence 2 of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz).

Important Note: This article has been prepared by mth Tieben & Partner for general information purposes only. Mth Tieben & Partner does not accept any liability to any person or organisation for the use or reliance of the information contained in this article. On any specific matter, kindly contact us by dialing 0221 – 80187670 or sending us an email to info@mth-partner.de

Lawyers in Cologne provide legal advice on German immigration law.

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