Quick facts about Germany
Germany is the biggest European economy and fifth-largest country when it comes to area, covering 357,022 square kilometers. From rich history to diverse culture, language, food, and technology, Germany has a lot to offer.
Quick Visa Facts
Living in Germany as a digital nomad
Germany is a fantastic place for digital nomads, as it is rich in culture, has a fantastic nomad community, and now offers an excellent visa for freelancers and digital nomads.
Attractions and best places to visit
Germany has such a rich history and culture that it is impossible to list each unique attraction and place to visit. However, here are four of our top attractions that you must see while living in Germany:
One of the top attractions in Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, which symbolizes peace and unity. It is also home to the world’s largest New Year’s Eve party, so try and schedule a visit around the holidays. It was erected in the 18th century and has been the center of many important historical events.
Construction on the cathedral started in 1248, making it older than the Duomo in Milan. It is famous for housing a shrine of the Three Wise Men and was spared during World War II.
The Black Forest
For nature enthusiasts and fairy-tale lovers alike, the Black Forest is in Southwest Germany. It is known for its dense, evergreen forests and beautiful villages. The Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales are set here, which include Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, and Snow White.
Oktoberfest is held each year in Munich and is home to all the beer, sausage, and fun you can imagine. People travel worldwide to enjoy the fest, which happens over two weeks and ends on the first Sunday in October. Entry to the festival itself is free, but it will cost a pretty penny to eat, drink, and stay in Munich.
Digital Nomad Hotspots
You have a selection between lots of fantastic cities as a digital nomad. Here are a few of our favorites:
Kreuzberg is a district within Berlin known for its diverse cultural life and is immensely popular among younger digital nomads and Germans. You can expect to find lots of hipster coffee shops, restaurants, and amenities that make Germany so great. Often described as quirky, Kreuzberg is home to lots of street art and is an excellent place if you want to soak in the culture of Berlin but also be around a lot of other ex-pats.
Cologne is a city located near the border of Belgium that was originally founded by the Romans. As one would expect, you can find lots of different cultural opportunities in this diverse city. There are plenty of museums to keep you busy while living in Germany, as well as beautiful architecture everywhere you look. Many ex-pats live in Cologne, meaning lots of English is spoken here, so do not worry if your German is a little rusty.
Leipzig is an up-and-coming city that has a lot to offer. It is frequently voted the most livable city in Germany, which means ex-pats can find plenty of comforts that they are used to. It is affordable, easy to get around, and a great takeoff point for exploring more of Europe. It is an epicenter for music in Germany and is also home to many art galleries and museums. It is a leading city in Germany for those in the biotechnology industry and those that do medical research.
Although expensive, the iconic city of Munich is a must-see while in Germany. Home to the famous Oktoberfest and Christmas Markets, Munich also has delicious food and accessible public transport. It is widely known for beer and sausage, as well as many parks and outdoor spaces to enjoy. It can be difficult finding somewhere affordable to live, so it would be much easier for an established nomad with a consistent income to live here.
Cost of Living
Rest of country: $893.03
Loaf of bread: $1.97
12 regular eggs: $2.56
Bottle of wine: $5.13
Meal at an inexpensive restaurant: $12.30
McMeal at McDonald’s: $8.20
How does it compare to US cities?
The cost of living is 14.64% lower than in the United States
Rent is 44.49% lower than in the United States
Digital Nomad Essentials
Germany does not have excellent internet speeds, which is frequently an annoyance among remote workers. It ranks 35th out of all countries in terms of fixed broadband and 23rd in terms of mobile connection. However, the government is regularly improving its systems to make it easier and faster to connect to the internet.
How to get a phone (SIM card)
Germany has three main telephone providers: Telekom, Vodafone, and O2. Telekom is the most widely used, which means they have the best coverage. To get a SIM card, go to a local store and purchase one with the data plan that works best for your schedule. You will likely need to show your passport to get a SIM, so make sure you have it with you.
There are quite a few coworking spaces throughout Germany, so you have your pick on which one you would like to join. It is easier to find coworking spaces in larger cities than in smaller towns. Cafes also tend to have wifi. There are over 500 free wifi spots in just Berlin, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding somewhere to work, even if the internet is a little slow.
Is Germany safe?
Overall, Germany is a very safe country to visit for ex-pats. Crime rates are low, and the law is generally well followed. But, of course, in any big city, it is vital to take precautions to avoid petty crime. Always look after your belongings to prevent pickpocketing. Many cities throughout Germany are just as safe or safer than other cities throughout Europe. Germany is also considered one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, which is excellent news for LGBTQ travelers. It is also safe for solo women travelers.
For citizens of the Schengen Zone, you can live and work in Germany as long as you’d like. For those who are not that lucky, you have a few different visa options available, depending on how long you would like to stay.
If you want to be self-employed in one of the liberal professions, you can get a residence permit for freelance work (“Freiberufler”). It is for one year, but you can reapply for it.
You must fall under one of the following professions according to German tax law:
- Tax consultants
- Sworn accountant
- Photo reporter
- Business Economists
This residence permit is granted if you can:
Prove that you have the means to fund your project.
The means to support yourself.
A permit to exercise that profession.
If you are over 45 years old, you must also provide proof that you have adequate provisions for old age.
Suppose your business idea is successful, and you are thus able to make a living for yourself and your family. In that case, you can have your residence permit extended, initially for a maximum of three years. However, if you set up a manual trade or retail business, you can apply for a settlement permit after just three years.
If you are not in one of the categories considered valid for freelance work, you will be required to get a “Gewerbetreibende” or self-employed residence permit. This is intended for those looking to establish a business in the country and won’t apply to most digital nomads.
For citizens from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Israel, Chile, and Brazil, you can apply for working holiday programs, which give young people between 18 and 30 the opportunity to gain an insight into the culture and daily life of the partner country. They can stay up to 12 months and take holiday jobs to help fund the stay.
Current travel restrictions
As of June 11, 2022, travelers from all countries except China can enter Germany without restrictions. Proof of vaccination, recovery, or negative COVID-19 test is not required.
Who Can Apply for the Digital Nomad Visa for Germany
An essential thing to keep in mind when looking for information on remote working from Germany as a foreigner is the distinction between “freelancer” and “self-employed.” The latter means you have your own company or brand, which entirely changes the requirements you must fulfill in terms of taxes, registration, visa application, etc.
According to the German government, the principal consideration when processing visa application requests is the potential positive economic or cultural impact your freelance occupation has on the country.
How to Apply for the Germany Digital Nomad Visa
- Make sure you comply with the prerequisites.
- Get the documentation required for the visa application process.
- Make an appointment at your local German embassy.
- Present yourself on the day of the appointment with the necessary documentation and pay the fee.
- Wait up to 3 months for the visa application to be processed.
- If your visa application has been approved, you must travel to Germany and show that you have adequate health insurance in Germany.
- Make an appointment with the Foreigners Authority to apply for a residence permit for self-employment. You must apply before the expiration of your entry visa.
Documents required to apply for the digital nomad visa in Germany
Completed visa application form
Two recently made biometric photographs
Visa application fee
Recommendation letters from previous employers
Portfolio of your previous work
Professional authorization for those working in medicine or law
Evidence to show you can support living and freelancing expenses, which can include:
- Bank statements
- German blocked bank account
- Profit/loss statement for your freelance business
- If you are older than 45, proof of pension plan
Freelance business plan
At least two letters of commitment from future customers/employers
How much does it cost?
The fee to apply for a freelance visa is 60 euros, a residence permit is 100 euros, and a settlement permit is up to 260 euros.
Timeline for Applying
Processing time for German visas varies depending on the visa but can take as little as one month and as much as four to five months, so it is best to do your research before booking a plane ticket. Give yourself a few months to get all the paperwork together and hear back from the embassy on the status of your application.
Taxes for Germany digital nomad visa
Germany is one of the countries that require foreign freelancers to register their activity with the tax authorities. There are two taxes you have to pay as a freelancer in Germany:
Income Tax: Paid by any freelancer with an income higher than €9,169. This tax has a base of 14%, which can go up to 42% depending on the case.
Added Value Tax: Paid by all freelancers based on your revenue, it can be as low as 7%, but the average paid is 19%
While paying taxes certainly adds a layer of complexity to working in Germany as a digital nomad, this goes in hand with all the benefits that living in the country with the biggest economy in Europe brings.
Although it might seem like a lot of work to get a digital nomad visa for Germany, there are a lot of payoffs. You can find just about anything you are looking for in Germany, and it is an excellent base to explore the rest of Europe.
FAQs About the Germany Freelance Visa
Who Needs a German Freelance Visa?
Freelancers who are not citizens of the European Union (or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Sweden) who wish to reside in Germany and work as a Freelancer should apply for a Freelance Visa. You must have evidence of potential German clients wishing to work with you to submit an application. Similar visas are available for artists, language teachers, and business owners who wish to work or operate in Germany.
How Long Can I Leave Germany on a Freelance Visa?
German Freelance visas are granted for between six months and three years depending on the details provided as part of your application. You can leave Germany for a maximum of six months each year without your visa becoming invalid.
Can I Get a Permanent Residence with a German Freelance Visa?
Your German Freelance visa entitles you to temporary residence in Germany for up to three years. You must be resident in Germany for at least five years to qualify for permanent residency. The time you spend on a Freelance Visa can count towards your residency period for permanent residency applications.
What Are the Benefits of a German Freelance Visa?
The Germany Freelance Visa will allow you to live and work in Germany for a period of up to three years, and enable free travel around the Schengen area. You are eligible to freelance both for German and international companies, but bear in mind that foreign income is taxable in Germany.
Can I Freelance in Germany Without a Visa?
You can only freelance in Germany if you have a residence permit; excluding a student visa, which does not permit work. For example, if you are on a work permit, you can freelance in addition to the job that sponsors your permit, but you cannot leave your sponsored job. If you wish to leave your sponsored job to work freelance in Germany, you will need to apply for a German Freelance Visa. You can apply from within the country.
Can I Sponsor or Get Visas for My Family When I Have a German Freelance Visa?
If you have a German Freelance Visa you can apply for Dependent Visas for your spouse or dependent children to join you in the country. You will be required to show that you have sufficient funds to support your dependents and that they are covered by health insurance. Your dependents are eligible to work and study in Germany for the duration of their visa.
How to Prepare for the German Freelance Visa Application Interview?
All applications for a German Freelance Visa include a face to face interview, to which you will also need to bring all of your application documentation. You should also have found a place to live in Germany and have obtained health insurance before attending your interview.
The interviewer will want to know why you need to be located in Germany to complete your freelance work, for which proof of German clients intending to work with you is generally required. They will also want to confirm that you have the means to support yourself in Germany. As a minimum, this requires showing that you have sufficient funds to pay for your accommodation and health insurance, plus an additional €449 per month to cover living expenses.
Do I Have to Pay VAT Tax on My German Freelancer Visa?
As a German resident on a German Freelance Visa you will be required to pay local taxes, which includes VAT tax on goods and services provided. For most freelance work, the standard VAT rate is 19%; this applies in about 95% of cases. Some specific goods and services incur a lower VAT rate of 7%.
Goods that may incur a reduced rate include agricultural goods, books, magazines, and other publications, medical and nursing supplies, and works of art.
Services that may incur the lower rate include dental services, entrance fees to cultural events, overnight accommodation, and services for non-profits and charities.
How Is the German Artist Visa Related to the Freelance Visa?
The Artist Visa is a subcategory of the Freelance Visa and is designed for artists who can show that they need to be in Germany for the sake of their artistic work. It can only be applied for in Berlin.
The advantage of this visa over a standard Freelance Visa, which artists can also apply for, is that your application does not need to be reviewed and approved by the Chamber of Commerce. This means that it can be granted immediately. A Freelance Visa usually takes 8-12 weeks to be approved, but can be applied for from any German city or international German embassy.
What Are Additional Documents Required for Self-Employed When Applying for a German Freelance Visa?
If you intend to apply for a German Freelance Visa by showing that you are self-employed, you are required to demonstrate that your business activities: (1) meets an economic interest or regional need; (2) will have a positive effect on the economy; and (3) that you have the personal capital or loan undertaking to realize your business idea. This information should be communicated in a clear business plan that will be reviewed by the relevant trade and industry authorities.