My girlfriend and I recently moved to Berlin. Given my German citizenship and extensive stay in the U.S., I have had my fair share of experiences with immigration services, the countless barriers and hurdles, the ever “friendly” and “welcoming” government employees and, of course the obscene application and processing fees that would be far more usefully put towards rent, food, or even a brief get-away.

Unfortunately the German process is just as frustrating and unpleasant. But the following is a practical step-by-step guide detailing how we successfully completed the visa process, the little little things that we encountered to be unexpectedly useful, and a few words of wisdom.

1. Arrive in Germany

Some good news to start - if you plan to visit Germany for less than 90 days, you can get a visa upon arrival. After this initial period, you will need to leave for another 90 days before you can come back. Of course the prerequisite for this is to (1) be in possession of a passport that is valid at least six months and (2) not be a citizen of these countries.

2. Find a place to stay

For the less adventurous, finding a place to stay could even be considered as Step 1!
There are several websites, such as Wunderflats, Coming-Home or Crocodilian where you can find accommodation in all shapes and sizes, but if you are on a budget I would strongly suggest looking through the various Facebook groups that are both more international and often times geared to short-term subletting, which in the beginning should be more than enough to settle in and get acquainted.

3. 90 days to find a job

Now that you found a place to stay, hit up every website you can find and look through the job postings that you are interested in. Good examples are jobspotting, monster, and start up portals like,, or If you are a developer, look no further than Honeypot!

If you really commit to finding a job, which sometimes involves being realistic and not too picky, you should be able to find one in the 90-day period the Schengen Visa gives you. It can potentially be disheartening and humbling, but if you really want it, you gotta prove it.

4. Register with the city

For this, you need to bring a smile, patience, and, if possible, someone who speaks German! Now that you have received an offer that you are happy with, it’s time to register with the local Einwohnermeldeamt (a.k.a the Registry Office in English).

Bring your apartment contract and a government issued ID (preferably passport). If you are going through this in Berlin you will be on Berlin’s City Hall website more than you would like to be, but if you refresh often enough and check on a regular basis you will find an available slot at a time that fits you and is not two months from now.

5. Apply for your visa!

This step is fairly straightforward. However, it does involve making another appointment on another oversubscribed website. This time you will be making your appointment with the Ausländerbehörde and will need to bring all documents from the previous step (government issued ID, apartment lease, and the newly obtained registration form), plus the following forms Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels (Application for a Visa), Stellenbeschreibung (Job Description), Antrag auf Erlaubnis einer Beschäftigung (Application for a Work Permit), plus the actual visa forms, as well as your employment contract. Double check with for an up-to-date list of necessities. A helpful tip is to bring your degree transcript - if you have one!

Once your number is called up, you enter the designated room and hand over the documents. The exact selection seems to vary on a case-by-case basis, so make sure you have everything from the above list. The lady or gentleman will then ask you to go back to the waiting room and after 15-20 minutes will call up your number after he/she has worked his/her government magic. Now you should have a Fiktionsbescheinigung (Temporary Residence Permit), which will extend your permitted stay beyond the previous 90 days granted by the Schengen visa. This is just a precautionary matter in case the visa application process takes longer than expected. At this point you will receive a card with which you will be able to pay at the Kassenautomat. There goes the first 20€ to the German government. Given the Germans’ knack for being timely, sometimes your number will actually be called up earlier than it says in your confirmation email. So, do yourself a favour and show up a good 15 minutes early - better safe than sorry.

6. Wait

This is the worst part of the whole process, because you can’t really do anything to expedite it, you can’t work, and you should not really leave the country. This last point is more of a cautionary measure to avoid any potential problems at the border when returning to Germany.

Three weeks after you have applied for your visa you can check in with the Arbeitsagentur folks in Bonn and give them a buzz on +49(0)228-7131313. Fair warning - all they can do is give you a status update and maybe an estimate of when you can expect that email, so don’t expect too much.

7.Pick up your visa

You just got the confirmation email that your application has been approved, congratulations! You’re almost there. Just one more easy step. Now, you have to go back to the Ausländerbehörde (from Step 6) and go to the same area you were in before.

This time you will not have a predetermined number, so you will have to wait in line to get one. In Berlin, for American citizens and most African nationals, this is on the second floor of Haus C at the very end of the green corridor of Sektor 6. If you don’t see anyone waiting, knock on one of the two doors (one in each of the waiting areas) and see if they are currently occupied. For other nationalities, just refer to the receptionist as to where you have to go. The process is still the same.

Here you present your confirmation email and the necessary documents - only your passport, unless otherwise noted - you receive your final waiting ticket and once your number is called up, you will be able to pick up your passport, which is now sporting your newly approved working visa!

To complete the process, you will receive another card with which you will need to pay the final balance of 60€.

8. Willkommen!

Have a Bier, revel in your newly approved working authorisation, and then get to work! ;)

Frederik Bohn

Frederik Bohn

Frederik is Head of Business Development at Honeypot. Before moving to Berlin, he lived in New York, Bangkok and Shanghai. Reach out if you want to grab a beer and talk about all things Honeypot or sports - he is a diehard FC Köln fan