Relocating to Germany

Working in Germany? First steps and the fine print to know

By Jörg Kleis

Why do I need a permit to relocate from Africa to Europe?

When coming to Germany from an African country you are technically a third state citizen, i.e. not a EU citizen with a passport from a member state of the European Union. Citizens from a country that is associated with the EU, such as Switzerland or Norway, benefit from bilateral agreements and therefore enjoy the same rights as EU citizens. However, African countries are not among them.

What is the very first step?

It makes sense to first retrieve information from the website of the German embassy in your African home country. This helps to get a first overview and understanding of the procedure. Once you have your job offer in front of you, you must first coordinate your next steps with your employer, even before going to the embassy or even booking your flight. Some companies are already experienced when it comes to hiring employees from Africa, Asia or South America, while others are doing it for the first time. Depending on their experience, your contact person in HR will also take certain measures or give you specific instructions. In any case, you will have to personally pay a visit to the embassy where you will be officially informed about all legal and documentary requirements.

Which permits do I need and how do I initiate the process?

We are only presenting the case in which you are a highly qualified non EU-citizen with an academic degree who is not yet in Germany. In that case you will typically qualify for an EU Blue Card. (We are leaving the settlement permit aside as it rather applies to a different case.) The Blue Card contains your visa for travelling to, entering and staying in Germany as well as your work permit for your concrete employment. It therefore differs from regular visa for tourists or students because it entitles you to work full time. The EU Blue Card is only issued if your employment contract states that you will have a gross annual salary that is higher than 52.000,- EUR. However, if you are a software developers, engineer or any other professional that is taking a job in an area where there is an officially recognized scarcity of skilled labour on the German labour market, an annual salary of 40.560,- EUR will do. The limits and levels are regularly adapted by the EU. Continue reading to find more information.

What documents should I have ready?

Besides your passport and two biometric photographs of yourself you are going to need our degree certificate. If you did not receive your degree from a German university you will have to demonstrate that the degree you obtained is equal to a German one. Moreover, you are going to present a printed version of your job offer, i.e. the draft of your employment contract stating your annual salary and your tasks and responsibilities. Last, you will probably be asked to turn in a CV as well as a clearance certificate from your local (police) authorities. Just ask for the exact prerequisites and they will be given to you by the administrators of the German mission in your home country.

How long does the process take and what is it exactly that is going to being examined?

The embassies will try to push the many applications they receive and the processes relating to them as much as they can. Nonetheless, it is likely to take several months until your documents will be issued. Only afterwards should you book your flight and take further steps.

The reason for the duration is that several criteria will have to be thoroughly checked, such as your work conditions (salary, working hours, responsibilities, etc.) and a priority examination, i.e. whether the position you are going to fill can be filled by job seekers with unrestricted access to the German labor market (Germans or EU citizens). They will also check the so-called “Positivliste” (positive list), so whether the job belongs to a group of jobs where there exists an acute shortage of skilled workforce in Germany. There exists a list of those jobs which the German Federal Employment Agency regularly publishes online and that particularly includes jobs related to medicine, mathematics, engineering, natural sciences and technology. For more information, see here.

What about a long-term perspective for me and my family?

When being issued a Blue Card for the first time, it will extend to a period of four years. Under certain circumstances you can get an unlimited settlement permit afterwards. Your work and residence permit will automatically extend to your family for Germany. Your husband or wife can also start working under your Blue Card. Their permission to stay is directly connected to yours. Other than your kids, no other family members will be granted a permission to stay or work.

Last, what is important to know is that if you are citizen from a state that has a bilateral agreement with the EU or Germany, than that agreement will apply and contain all the criteria you need to know about. The embassy will inform you about that.


This information does not constitute any legal advice, but merely an overview of general and publicly available information. Accordingly, no liability is accepted for any possible damages resulting therefrom. Sources: Chamber of Commerce (IHK) Leipzig / Chamber of Commerce (IHK) Mainz / Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)

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