The bureaucracy of starting a job in Germany - Part 2

10th January 2014

By this stage you have got yourself a job, negotiated your pay level and organised health cover. It turns out that these steps are the easy part and you are about to embark on a journey of discovery through the German bureaucratic system. This blog will run through a number of key steps that you must cover before you can get a work permit. While I attempt to provide a guide for this process, it is important that you do some more research to clarify anything that relates to your specific situation.

You have a job offer ... check! You have your health cover ... check! What do you need? - Applying for the permit

Very good question to ask, as just having a job is not enough to get your work permit. There are few steps that must be followed before you can even enter the building to apply for the permit. The building that you have to attend for your work permit is the Ausländerbehörde, which I have read is a bureaucratic nightmare. I have not been, so I am hoping that it is not as bad as I am reading. Sometimes forums can give just as much anxiety as help with all of the horror stories that are posted.

First thing that you must do as soon as possible is book an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. Do not leave this to the last moment, as the appointments go very quickly. Also, if you are applying for a specific type of work permit (such as a permit to work as a scientist, like myself), then you really need to get in early. I found that the appointments for this type of permit were always booked out at least two months in advance.

In addition, one of the biggest thing that I have read about the Ausländerbehörde is that you should really take a German speaker with you. While you may think that the officers at the foreign office should be able to speak English, it is not guaranteed that they will want to. So one answer to the question of "What do I need?" is: find a friend to come to the Ausländerbehörde with you. This part may be easier that you think, because your work place is likely to know how difficult it is at the Ausländerbehörde. So someone there may volunteer to accompany you to your appointment.

What else do you need? - Residence registration

At this point, if you try to enter the Ausländerbehörde, then you will be turned away. This is because you have not registered your residence at the Bürgeramt. In Germany, whenever you move house you need to register your current address with the Bürgeramt. This appears not to be too hard, as it only requires you to fill out a form and take it to an office. However, this is another of those places that you can't rely on English speakers, so you are best to take your German friend along with you. Additionally, this is another place that you have to make an appointment to attend. So get in early!!!

Not done yet ... Passport photos

Your work permit will require a photo, and that photo must satisfy certain requirements. In particular, it has to be a biometric photo. What this actually means is that is satisfies a strict set of conditions so it is possible to take the biometrics from it. I imagine that all photos that are permissible for passports are sufficient. I have read that you are able to get a photo taken at the Ausländerbehörde which satisfies all of the requirements. So I going to do two things, first I will take a photo in Australia before I get to the Ausländerbehörde, which is the backup if there is no photo booth at the Ausländerbehörde, and second I will get a photo taken at the Ausländerbehörde to ensure the requirements are satisfied.

Almost there ... Current certificate of employment

My experience regarding getting a work permit is in relation to working as a scientist. For this permit type, it is stated that the required documents include a job offer and a current employment certificate. For my permit application, it is not possible to get a current employment certificate because I am unable to sign an employment contract prior to my appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. This is because my contract with the state of Berlin can not be written up until I have a valid work permit. While this sounds a little circular, the Ausländerbehörde understands this situation, so it is no problem at all. When attending your appointment, it is only necessary to provide a letter from your employer stating that it is their intention of employing you conditional upon the work permit being granted.

Now you can start work

After you complete all of these steps, you are now permitted to work in Germany. This is great, because this was the original goal. Hopefully this is not too much trouble and you will enjoy your time when you get here. In most cases, I expect that things go very smoothly. Good luck, and I will report back on my actual experiences when I arrive in Berlin.