18. July 2016

Working in Germany as a U.S. citizen

Bavaria is an attractive location for qualified professionals from the United States. Its strong economy and booming labor market offer plenty of employment opportunities in all sectors.

In addition to global players like BMW and Siemens, Bavaria is also home to many small and medium businesses with an international focus and high export volume.

Working in Germany

Nationals from European Union (EU) member states or the European Economic Area (EEA) are entitled to live and work in Germany without restrictions. In contrast, citizens of outside the EEA, including the U.S., generally need a residence permit in order to work or be employed in Germany.

U.S. citizens

The right of U.S. citizens to live and work in Germany is regulated by the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) and Residence Regulation (Aufenthaltsverordnung). U.S. citizens in possession of a valid U.S. passport do not need a visa to enter Germany for stays up to 90 days.

If U.S. citizens wish to undertake paid employment in Germany, they are required to apply for a residence permit from the responsible Foreign Residents Authority (Ausländerbehörde) after arriving and registering their residential address.

To avoid delays and work immediatly after entry, a so-called “national visa” must be applied for at a German Embassy or Consulate prior to entering Germany. A further permit, for instance a EU Blue Card, can then be issued by the German Foreign Residents Authority.


According to the German Residence Act, foreign nationals may carry out business activities during short-term stays only in exceptional cases. This may cover business trips.

Residence permits

The German Residence Act does not distinguish between work and residence permits. Rather, the different permits available to stay in Germany specify whether and to what extent the holder is allowed to work. The available permits include:

  • A visa (not applicable for U.S. citizens for stays up to 90 days)
  • Residence permit with time restriction (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
  • Settlement permit for highly qualified persons, with time restriction (EU Blue Card)
  • Settlement permit without time restriction (Niederlassungserlaubnis)
  • Permanent EU residence (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt-EG)

Obligations for employers

The employers of foreign nationals in Germany are required to check whether a residence permit is required and existing. They must keep an electronic or physical copy of the permit.

Foreign employees enjoy the same rights as German employees. All the relevant provisions of German Labor and Social Law apply from the start of the employment, including collective wage agreements.


Matthias Werner

Betriebliche Altersversorgung, Arbeitsrecht, Internationales Arbeitsrecht

Matthias Werner