Looking for a job in Germany

 Job-hunting on the Internet

Whether you are still in your home country or already in Germany, the best way to start looking for a job is over the Internet. One place to find vacancies in Germany is on the Internet pages of the following government institutions:

    Federal Employment Agency: Germany’s largest official job portal belongs to the Federal Employment Agency (BA). One of its tasks is to support job-hunters in Germany and abroad in their search for suitable job offers. On the BA Web site, you can do targeted searches for vacant jobs. The search engine is available in German, English and French. However, for the moment most of the job offers are in German only.

    You will find many of the jobs which are posted on the Federal Employment Agency portal also on the “Make it in Germany” job exchange. Here, you can do targeted searches in professions where Germany lacks qualified professionals.

    “Hotline to Working and Living in Germany”:
    Qualified professionals who have migrated or are interested in migrating to Germany are welcome to contact our hotline for advice in German or English. You can phone the hotline on +49 30 1815 – 1111.

    EURES: The BA is also a member of the network of European employment agencies, which is called EURES. EURES is committed to promoting the mobility of job-seekers in Europe by providing advisory and job-finding services. EURES offers interesting job prospects and funding programmes. You can find out more about this from the EURES advisors in the respective countries.
    The EURES Internet portal has job offers from 31 European countries – including Germany – information about living and working in the different countries and the contact details of the EURES advisors. The portal is available in 25 languages.
    In addition, every spring and autumn EURES organises European Job Days in a large number of European countries, at which vacancies in Germany are also presented. You can find the dates of these events by asking the EURES advisors of the respective countries, or by consulting the EURES Web site or Facebook pages.

    Job portals: Many German companies advertise their vacancies not only through official agencies, but also publish them on the Internet. Take a look at the well-known job portals (German keyword: Jobportal) and on social networking sites. Otherwise, search for companies in Germany which are most likely to offer jobs in your line of work. Many of these companies offer vacancies on their own Web sites. The job sections are usually called “Stellenangebote”, “Karriere” or “Vakanzen”. Complete Guide to “Working in Germany”

 Applying for a job

  Application documents

In Germany, the usual way of doing things is to send your application documents – printed – in a special application folder by post. However, more and more companies also point out in their job offers that they will be glad to receive applications online. In that case, you can send your documents in a PDF file. However, regardless of whether you apply by post or online, the information and documents that go to make up your application are the same:

    Covering letter: In your covering letter, you give the company a first impression of yourself. You explain why you are interested in the post and describe your own strengths. In your letter, try to express yourself convincingly to set yourself apart from the other applicants.

    Curriculum vitae: In your CV, you describe your personal and professional career so far. A CV does not have to be written out in full: you can list the most salient information in the form of a table. Previously in Germany, applicants were expected to include a photo of themselves in their CV. However, depending on the company this is no longer necessarily the case.

    As a rule, German CVs are not written in strict chronological order. However, the most recent professional experiences are usually placed at the beginning. Divide your CV up into the following categories:

        Personal details: name, address, contact details

        Professional experience: what companies have you already worked for? What did your work there consist of? You should list this information in chronological order. Start with your most recent professional experience.

        Education: which schools and universities did you attend? What were your final grades? What subjects did you study? Have you completed a vocational training course? Or, have you done any continuing education courses? You should list this section chronologically too, with the most recent qualification first and your school education at the end.

        Language skills: what languages do you speak? How well do you speak them? In Germany, the following terms are often used to describe this: “Muttersprache”, or native language; “verhandlungssicher” or business fluent (excellent skills); “fließend”, meaning you speak the language currently (sound knowledge of the language); and “Grundkenntnisse”, or basic skills (beginner). However, it is more advisable to refer to the standards of the Common European Reference Framework for Languages (CEFR).

        Special aptitudes and interests: For example, do you have any special computer skills that are important for your work? And what are your hobbies.

    Certificates: Finally, include your most important certificates in your application. Examples of these include certificates obtained during your vocational training, as well as your school-leaving and university degree. If you have any references from previous employers, you can include those too. Do not send any originals, only copies. This is because very often, the documents are not returned. In normal circumstances, an ordinary photocopy will do. You only need officially certified copies if the company asks for this expressly. Important: it is advisable to have your certificates translated into German or English so that the company can understand your qualifications.

    Please note: The Europass website will provide you with helpful information on the formal design of your CV and cover letter.

    The Europass documents will help you present a clear picture of your skills and qualifications to enhance your chances in the labour market. German companies, however, like your documents to be personalised. Therefore, your best bet is to use the Europass CV as a starting point and adapt it to your personal requirements

        Download a Europass CV template here (Word format)

        Europass will also provide you with filled-in CV templates in 26 languages.

        You can also download a Europass application guide with the five most important instructions for composing a good-quality CV.

        On Europass you can directly compose your CV online in a uniform format in German or English.

        The Europass skills passport will let you give a comprehensive picture of your skills and qualifications. You can include explanations regarding reports and certificates, photocopies of documents and evidence of work you have done. The skills passport will also let you indicate your knowledge of foreign languages. Using the online editor, you can compile your skills passport and link it with your Europass CV, for example.

  Getting your qualifications recognised

What professional qualifications do you have? This is often a key question for companies in Germany. You are no doubt capable of answering the question. However, the qualifications obtained in your home country are often not comparable with German qualifications, or are called something else. In that case, German companies will find it difficult to judge your application. This is an opportunity for you to score points: find out for yourself whether your qualification can be or must be checked for equivalence, and to which German reference profession it corresponds. You can then include the information in your application right away. You can find out more about “Getting your professional qualifications recognised”

The interview


The company is interested in your application and has invited you to an interview – congratulations, you have got one important step further. The job interview offers you and the company a chance to make acquaintance with one another. In most cases, you will meet the personnel manager and the line manager. They will probably ask you questions about your CV, your expectations of the job and salary, as well as about your aptitudes and interests. The interviewers may also want to see how well you speak German or English. In many cases, they will ask why you want to work in Germany and what you expect from living in Germany.

There are lots of things you can do to prepare for these interviews. For example, find out about the company in advance. Also, prepare a couple of answers about your aptitudes, strengths and weaknesses. You can do this by reading your CV through again and writing a couple of key words by each point, for example. You can also think about the questions that your interlocutors might put. That is a way of showing that you are interested.

Besides what you say during the interview, a couple of other criteria are important too – no doubt the same all over the world. Be punctual. Your mobile phone or smartphone should be systematically switched off during a job interview. Also, come along wearing appropriate clothing: women should usually wear a trouser or dress suit, men a suit with a shirt and tie. However, you need to take the particular circumstances of specific sectors into account.

Not living in Germany?


In Germany, the company usually pays the costs of job interviews. If you are travelling from abroad, ask whether all your costs will be paid in this case too. Also, ask the company whether you can be interviewed over the phone or by video-conference. If the company would still rather get to know you in person, ask whether you have to pay the travel costs yourself or whether the company will pay them.

Non-EU citizens should also find out what entry requirements apply to them. A visa is available that permits you to come to Germany for six months to search for employment. All related costs are your personal responsibility.

Assessment centre


For higher-ranking positions – management jobs, for example – companies often use assessment centres. This is a special kind of selection process. Here, the applicant is asked to perform certain tasks with other applicants. For example, you might be asked to discuss topics as a group, do role play or give a presentation. This is a way for the company to find out how you tackle problems, cope with stressful situations and use your soft skills.

To conclude: the final decision

Some time later, the company will let you know whether or not you have got the job. Many companies will notify you after just a few days, others only after a few weeks. If the company wants to recruit you, once you have accepted its offer it will send you a work contract. If you agree with the work contract, sign it and return it to the company. You can find out what to look out for in the work contract

Work contract: One more signature before Germany

Read the contract thoroughly

It is most unusual for a work contract to be delivered orally in Germany. This is why serious employers will always send you a written contract. Read the contract thoroughly from start to finish before signing it. If you do not understand something, this is not a problem: ask the company's personnel department or the personnel officer about it.

What you should find in a work contract

Every work contract should contain the following information:

    Name and address: yours and that of the company

    Date on which the contract starts: the date on which you officially become an employee of the company (that means: starting from which date is the contract valid?)

    Term of contract: is your contract only valid for a certain period of time? When does it end? The term of the contract must be agreed in writing, otherwise it is considered to be valid for an undetermined period of time.

    Trial period: How long does the trial period last? This is the period during which you or the company can terminate the contract relatively quickly.

    Place of work: where will you be working? If you are to work in different places, this should be stated in the contract.

    Job description: what tasks will you be expected to do in the company?

    Remuneration: how much will you be paid for your work? Will the company pay you supplements or bonuses, for example at Christmas or for working weekends, on top of your normal pay? When does the company pay you – for example, at the end or beginning of the month? Note: the work contract usually states the gross remuneration. From this, certain amounts will be deducted for tax and social contributions, such as health insurance, long-term care insurance, a pension scheme and unemployment insurance.

    Working hours: how many hours a week will you be expected to work?

    Holiday: how many days' leave are you entitled to per year?

    Notice period: how long in advance must you notify the company, or the company notify you, that the work contract is going to be cancelled?

    Collective agreements and works agreements: often, in addition to the work contract, special regulations also apply. For example, in many branches of industry, employer associations and trades unions have reached collective agreements.These agreements may regulate questions of remuneration, bonuses or holidays.Companies can also sign special agreements with their Employee Councils, which represent the interests of the employees. These are called works agreements.You can ask your employer if these agreements also apply to you.This may also be stated in your work contract.

Recognition of vocational credentials in Germany

There are all kinds of different names all over the world for similar professional qualifications. For example, do you know what “Dipl-Ing.” is? It is the conventional university qualification for German engineers. It is unlikely that your professional qualification will be familiar to every German company. That means that the company will read the name of the qualification in your application and still not know what you can do and whether you are sufficiently qualified for the job. So here’s our tip: have your qualification recognised. You can find out how to do that here.

Taxes in Germany

The most important tax for jobholders in Germany is income tax. You will make acquaintance with this from your very first wage or salary payment. Here, we explain how to calculate the amount of income tax you have to pay and whether you might get some of the tax which was withheld from your salary during the year back again.

Who transfers the tax payments

You pay income tax on all your income for one calendar year – in your case, this will probably correspond primarily to your income from your work as an employee. If you are employed by a company, you do not even have to trouble yourself with the question of income tax at first, as your employer will automatically deduct the income tax from your gross wage/salary in the form of wage tax (Lohnsteuer) and transfer it to the tax office on your behalf. Your employer also transfers the “solidarity surcharge” (Solidaritätszuschlag) and – if you are a member of a religious community which levies it – the “church tax” (Kirchensteuer) as well. Your pension, health, nursing and unemployment insurance are also deducted from your wages and paid by your employer. You can see how much your employer transfers to your account and how much your net salary amounts to every month from your wage or salary slip.

How much income tax you pay

In Germany, everyone’s earnings are subject to a basic tax allowance. Up to this amount, your taxable income is not subject to tax. In 2013, this basic tax allowance is 8,130 euros if you are unmarried and not in a civil partnership. From 2014, the basic tax allowance will be 8,354 euros. For couples who are married or in a civil partnership, it was 16,260 euros in 2013 and will be 16,708 euros from 2014. If your taxable income is higher than these amounts, you will pay income tax on it. The taxation rates vary from 14 percent to 45 percent. The rule is: the higher your taxable income, the higher the rate of taxation. However, the top tax rate of 45 percent is only payable on incomes of more than 250,730 euros a year if you are unmarried and not in a civil partnership. For couples who are married or in a civil partnership, the maximum tax rate is applicable for incomes of over 501,460 euros.

Tax relief for families and single parents


The amount of income tax you pay does not just depend on your income. To calculate how much income tax you have to pay, your family situation is also taken into account. To avoid a situation in which this is done only at the end of the year but rather to take it into account for the month in progress, all taxpayers are divided into different tax brackets:

Tax bracket 1: If you are single and not eligible for tax relief as a single parent, you will come under tax bracket 1. The same applies for permanently separated spouses or civil partners, and divorced people.

Tax bracket 2: This tax bracket applies to single parents who live alone and are entitled to tax relief for single parents.

Tax bracket 3: Employees who are married or in a civil partnership can choose this tax bracket if one of the couple does not work or earns considerably less than the other. The other spouse or partner then comes under tax bracket 5.

Tax bracket 4: If the two spouses or partners earn about the same amount, this tax bracket is better for them.

Tax bracket 4 with factor: Couples who are married or in a civil partnership can apply annually for a factor to be applied. This takes into account the amount of income tax that is payable jointly under the income splitting system. In that case, the amount of income tax which is deducted every month corresponds more or less to the probable annual amount of tax due by the couple.

Tax bracket 5: Jobholders who are married or in civil partnerships come under this tax bracket if their spouse or partner comes under tax bracket 3.

Tax bracket 6: This applies to all those who have a second job or more.

Income tax declaration


At the end of one calendar year, you can ask the government to check whether you have paid too much income tax. To do so, you submit your income tax declaration to the tax office. On the basis of the figures you supply about your actual income and financial charges, the government is able to check whether you are entitled to a refund. It usually worthwhile filling in the tax declaration form: according to the data of the Federal Statistical Office, nine out of ten taxpayers receive a refund. On average, they receive a refund of around 900 euros.

How to fill in your income tax declaration

You can collect the tax declaration forms from your tax office, or download them from the tax office Web site and print them out. You also have the possibility of making your tax declaration online, at www.elster.de. If you are obliged to file an income tax declaration, either because you have chosen the combination of tax brackets III and V (3 and 5), or have received indemnities (for example health insurance payments, unemployment benefit or child benefit ) of more than 410 euros, you must hand it in to the tax office by the end of May of the following year. In the tax declaration, you state how much you earned in the past year and how much income tax, solidarity surcharge and, if applicable, church tax, your employer has paid to the tax office on your behalf. Your employer will normally inform you of these figures once the calendar year has ended in a separate statement (a print-out of the electronic income tax certificate). You should then enter these figures in your tax declaration.

Certain expenses may lower the amount of tax you have to pay. You should also enter these in your tax declaration. They include, for example:

  • Expenses for moving house for professional reasons, including from abroad
  • The costs of applying for jobs, including from abroad
  • Expenses for travel to work
  • The costs of private pension schemes

For many kinds of expenses, it is important to keep copies of receipts as proof, and that the expenses/costs were incurred between January 1 and December 31 of the year in question. However, if you take up employment in Germany which makes you eligible for income tax, and you incurred costs related to this during the previous year, you can declare them and have them deducted from your taxable income. To do so, you must submit a tax declaration for the previous year as well. The tax reduction is effective for the year during which you earned income in Germany.

Do it yourself or ask an expert?

You can also ask a tax consultant or an “income tax assistance association" (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein) to fill in your income tax declaration. Although you have to pay for the services of a tax expert, it can be worthwhile – for example, if your income situation is complicated – getting help either from an association or a tax consultant.

If you prefer to deal with your tax declaration yourself, the tax office or the Help and FAQ pages on the Elster Web site can answer your questions. Elster is an electronic form with which you can send your tax declaration to the tax office online. For fuller advice, you can also go to an “income tax assistance association" (Lohnsteuerhilfe-verein) which will provide advice or fill in your tax declaration form for you at fairly low cost. Another alternative which is open to you is to buy software for your PC. These programmes guide you through the tax declaration and then forward your completed declaration to the tax office.

Social security: A help in many situations

Germany has a well-developed social security system. As a jobholder paying statutory social security payments, you are sure of being protected against the biggest risks – for example illness, occupational accidents, unemployment, or when you grow old. Here, we explain about the different types of statutory social security that exist and what the situation is regarding your entitlements if you want to move back to your home country.

Opportunities for family members

From outstanding schools to full football stadiums at the weekend, from leisure parks to exciting career prospects, Germany has plenty to offer families. So simply bring your spouse and children with you to Germany. Here, we explain how to go about it.

Third-country nationals

You can look forward to spending your time in Germany with your spouse and children – although there are a few conditions attached to entering Germany with your family. However, as an international skilled worker, you no doubt fulfil them:

    Residence permit: As an employee, you have a temporary or permanent residence permit or an EU Blue Card for Germany.
    Accommodation: You have rented accommodation in Germany which is large enough for your family. You can find tips on hunting for accommodation here.
    Money: You have sufficient financial means to be able to care for your family.
    Legal age: Your spouse is of full legal age, that is, at least 18 years old.

One a residence permit is granted to your accompanying family members, they are entitled immediately to take up any kind of employment in Germany.
Must my family be able to speak German?
Must my family be able to speak German?

Not necessarily. However, as a general rule, the spouses must have basic knowledge of German in order to get a residence permit. For example, they should be capable of introducing themselves in German or asking the way. However, there are any number of exceptions. Your spouse does not require any knowledge of German to obtain a residence permit if:

    You are an EU Blue Card holder.
    You are working in Germany as a highly qualified worker or a research scientist.
    Your spouse has a university degree.
    You are a national of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand or the United States of America.

Nevertheless, your family will probably feel most at home in Germany if they all speak a little German. We explain how to achieve this in the chapter “It’s easier in German”.
Bringing your children to Germany
Bringing your children to Germany

It goes without saying that you can also bring your children to Germany. If you and your spouse have a residence permit for Germany, or if you are a single parent with legal custody of your children, your children aged up to 16 will also receive a residence permit. Special rules apply to children over 16. The best thing to do is to enquire at the German embassy in your home country, or at a foreign nationals' registration authority in Germany.
How to bring your family to Germany
How to bring your family to Germany

Step 1 – in your home country: Your spouse and your children should go to a German embassy or consulate in their home country. There, they should apply for a residence permit for Germany for reasons of reuniting the family. Please note: processing this application can take some time in certain circumstances. This is why you should acquaint yourself with the necessary documentation for the application well enough in advance and submit your request in plenty of time.

Step 2 – in Germany: Once your family has arrived in Germany, you must register them at the residents' registration office and at your local foreign residents' registration office. To do so, you must present your passports, birth and marriage certificates, salary slips and tax certificates, as well as proof that you are renting accommodation. Ask the registration offices what other documents are needed. Depending on the specific situation of your family, various conditions may apply.


Language skills: It’s easier in German

A language is always a part of home. If you speak German, you will see how quickly you feel at home in Germany. Before or after arriving in Germany, over the Internet, in a language school, watching TV or cooking with German friends – there are all kinds of ways to learn German. You can find out more about language-learning and the German language here.


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