Many international students want to stay in Germany after successfully completing their Bachelor's or Master's studies at a German university. And they want to do that by finding a job. As you might have already heard about it, finding a job that corresponds to your degree soon after your graduation is a challenging task, and many students do not manage to do that.
The good news is that even if you fail to immediately find a relevant job that qualifies you for a job visa, you can still stay in Germany thanks to the job seeker visa! Would you like to know how exactly that is possible? Then this article is just for you, as here we address the most crucial questions when it comes to getting a job seeker visa after graduating from a German university!
It is our goal to inform you honestly and accurately, therefore, we need to add a DISCLAIMER:
You should use this text as a general guide, but it cannot be a legal consultation. All of the information regarding the job-seeker visa needs to be verified by the Foreigners' Authority (Ausländerbehörde). Please be aware: some rules and procedures can vary based on your location in Germany. That is why we highly recommend you consult the local Foreigners' Authority for information that applies to your case.
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What is a job seeker visa?
The job seeker visa (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Arbeitsplatzsuche) is actually a type of residence permit that international students studying in Germany can apply for after they graduate. This type of visa - also known as a residence permit to seek employment - allows the graduates of German universities to stay in Germany after completion of their studies for the purpose of finding a job corresponding to the degree they obtained. The job seeker visa is a temporary residence permit, which is valid for maximum 18 months and cannot be prolonged. During these 18 months, you need to find an appropriate job and switch to a job visa (also known as the residence permit for the occupation). The appropriate job is one where your position and your salary at least partially correspond to the degree that you acquired. For example, you cannot get a job visa if you got a degree in physics and want to work as a security at a grocery store.
It is noteworthy that the 18-month timespan starts as soon as you officially graduate. Moreover, if you do not apply for a job search permit immediately after your graduation but later, your application might be rejected. Hence, you need to apply for a job seeker visa once you have proof that you completed your studies.
There is an entitlement to this residence permit. In other words, you will definitely be able to convert your student residence permit to a job search residence permit as long as you successfully completed your studies at a German university and correctly and timely submitted all of the necessary documents.
WARNING: When you have a job seeker visa, you are allowed to stay outside of Germany for up to 6 months. If you stay more, your job search residence permit will be cancelled.
Who is eligible for a German job seeker visa?
Everyone who completed their studies in Germany with an appropriate residence permit for study purposes, no matter the country of origin, is eligible for a German job seeker visa. It should be emphasized that the students from EU member states, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, do not need a job seeker visa to stay in Germany because, basically, they have the same rights as Germans.
Group 1 (EU + 4)
No job seeker or employment visa needed.
Group 2 (rest of the world)
Job seeker or employment visa needed.
Can I work with a job seeker visa?
You might already be aware of the fact that to pursue a degree in Germany, most of the international students need a special type of residence permit for studying. This residence permit grants them the right to work in Germany, although with some limitations. In particular, international students can work in Germany 240 days per year part-time (e.g. up to 20 hours per week) or 120 days per year full-time (e.g. more than 20 hours per week).
After completing your studies, you can convert your student residence permit or student visa to a job seeker visa. And the job seeker visa also allows you to work in Germany. In other words, in this case, the residence permit to seek employment comes with the work permit. In fact, employment-wise, you have more rights with the job seeker visa rather than with the student visa. For example, you can work full-time without limitations with a job search residence permit. Moreover, you can take up any type of employment, even the one that does not correspond to your qualifications/degree. For example, even if you studied engineering, you can work in McDonald's as a cook with your job search permit.
Further ReadingLOM for a Visa in Germany: A Guide (2022/23)
Job Seeker Visa Germany: Requirements
Actually, it is easier to apply for a job seeker visa rather than for a student visa. You should apply for a job search visa immediately after you receive proof that you successfully completed your studies at a German university. The documents that you need to apply for a job seeker visa after your studies are usually listed on the website of the relevant Foreigners' Authority office. Depending on the city or town you reside in, there might be some slight differences in requirements. After looking through various requirements across locations in Germany, our team came up with the following general checklist of documents that you will usually need for your job seeker visa application:
Checklist for the job seeker visa in Germany
Completed application form
You can find the application forms on the website of the Foreigners' Authority responsible for your application. The form is usually quite self-explanatory and easy to fill in. It asks you to provide information regarding your personal details, like your first and last names, date of birth, email, address, marital status, etc. Here is one of the examples of the German job seeker visa application form.
Make sure that your passport's expiry date is not very close and that it has enough free pages left.
Registration of the address (Meldebescheinigung)
When you arrive in Germany, you have two weeks during which you have to register your new German address at the local citizens' office (Bürgeramt). After doing that, you will receive a paper confirming your registration. This is the paper that you need for your job seeker visa application.
Proof of graduation from a German university
Usually, you do not need to wait for your diploma. Transcript of records and proof from your academic supervisor and/or head of the study program that you have successfully passed all of the subjects, including the thesis, should be enough.
Proof of valid health insurance
You can ask your German health insurance provider to send you a paper, which states that you are indeed insured by the given company.
Proof of sufficient funds
You need to prove that you are able to secure your livelihood. This can be done, for example, by providing the bank statements of the last 3-6 months, a blocked account*, a declaration of commitment and an employment contract.
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Current biometric passport photo
The size of the photo should be 35(W) x 45(H). Your face in this photo should be clearly visible and should occupy 70-80% of the picture. This equals to 32-36mm of height. The background should be without shadows, bright and unicolored, preferably in neutral grey. Further details regarding the photo quality, head position and the rest can be found here.
Table: Examples of job seeker visa requirements across German cities
Once again: it is crucial to check the websites of Foreigners' Authority offices in various towns and cities of Germany, as the requirements might slightly vary. For example, to be considered for a job seeker visa, the authorities in Berlin-Charlottenburg require you to submit proof that you have applied for at least three jobs, while in the case of Bremen such kind of proof is not required.
How to apply for a job seeker visa in Germany?
As already mentioned, you should apply for a job seeker visa as soon as you officially finalize your studies. Ideally, the application should be sent to the Foreigners' office 4-6 weeks before your student visa or student residence permit expires.
Currently, in most cases, there is a three-step procedure for getting a job seeker visa:
Sending the application package to the authorities (via email or post).
Submission of the biometric data and payment. After you send the application, the authorities will get in touch with you (usually via email), stating that your complete application was well received and checked. Besides, they will inform you about the specific day you have to visit their office so they can collect your biometric data. Put another way, you have to appear in person to
Sign the necessary documents
Hand in your fingerprints
Show your passport
Submit the biometric photo
Pay the job seeker visa fee. The job seeker visa usually costs around 100 EUR. In most cases, the Foreigners' office accepts payment by both cash and EC card.
Receiving the residence permit card. After the biometric data is collected and the payment is made, you immediately receive a paper, which serves as a substitute for the residence permit card. It states when the card will be ready and that this substitute paper is valid for 3 months. You will be informed whether you will receive the card by post or if you need to visit the office once again to pick it up. So, the final step is getting the card either via email or in person. It is noteworthy that the processing time for the German job seeker visa is circa 4-6 weeks. The countdown starts as soon as you submit the biometric data and pay the fee.
Just like in the case of the requirements, the procedure to apply for a job seeker visa may also vary based on your location in Germany. That is why, in this case as well, it is crucial to check the websites of the relevant Foreigners' Authority offices. For example, in the case of Bonn, there is an additional step. In particular, the first step described above is divided into two parts. First, the authorities in Bonn ask you to submit just the filled-in application form without any other documents. After you do that, they send you a message stating the further documents that you need to provide. And submission of the remaining documents is the second step of your application.
Key things to remember about the job seeker visa:
You should apply for a job seeker visa immediately after your graduation
It is valid for maximum 18 months
It grants you the right to take up any type of job
The application fee is around 100 EUR
The processing of the application takes 4-6 weeks
You should always check the information on requirements and procedures on the website of the Foreigners' Authority that is responsible for your application