Are you a US citizen moving to Berlin?

We’ve put together a quick rundown on what you need to know before moving to Berlin from the USA to work.  In this fast-food article you’ll find out what special opportunities and restrictions affect US citizens moving to Germany, starting from your intention to relocate through to securing your working visa.

First a quick disclaimer.

Getting your visa approved is a complicated procedure with many different factors involved.  Everything from your employment type, family status, income and working history can impact your application, so there’s really no one size fits all solution.  That’s why all of our German visa service clients go through a one-on-one consultation appointment before working together. You can book yours now here.

Can I move from USA to Berlin?

Of course you can!  The US and Germany have a close and mostly friendly relationship (except a bit of phone hacking), and generally North American citizens are presented with a plethora of options to secure their visa, including some privileges not extended to their central and southern continental cousins.

There are generally speaking 4 common ways that you can enter the country.

As a skilled employee with a job offer from a private or public organisation in Germany

As a freelancer/self-employed/artist with offers to work or collaborate with German organisations

As the legal partner or child of someone with a residency or working visa

As a tourist visiting for 90 days without the right to work

Each of these options comes with its own restrictions on your movement, access to the labour market, ability to live and work in Germany and the rest of the EU.  Thankfully the above definitions are broad enough that they are somewhat open to interpretation.

Do I need to travel to the USA to get my German working visa?

Citizens of the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Israel, Japan and South Korea are able to apply for their German working visa while they are already in the country on the limited tourist visa.

This is a fantastic advantage not available to most of the world, as you can arrive in Berlin from the US on the standard 90 day tourist trip and look for employment while here.  Once you have your job offer, unlike citizens of other countries who must fly back to their home country to apply, you can head over to the immigration office right here in Berlin and apply to stay.

No long-haul return flight to pay!

Plane ticket home and back saved. Kerching.

As a US citizen, what jobs can’t I do in Germany?

Germany as part of the EU is required to prioritise the local labour market as a form of protectionism against the import of cheap, low skilled foreign workers.  This means that as a US citizen you will not be granted a visa to work in any job that does not require some kind of qualification, university degree or specialist skills.

Unfortunately, that means that your dreams of joining the Berghain bar staff might have to go on ice until you are approved for permanent residency after a few years of contribution in other areas.

There are rare cases in which traditionally “low-skilled” jobs can be approved.  Generally this will require a letter of intent from a prospective employer that highlights your extraordinary talent, and stresses that no one in the EU will quite match up to your awesome, amazeballs brilliance.

For example, a recent Expats In Wonderland client from outside the EU was approved to become a barista at a popular coffee shop and roastery (usually classified as unskilled work) because their employer wrote a letter describing their unique sense of smell.


That said, these kind of applications are extremely dependent on many factors, and are not only a last resort tactic, but also only applicable under certain circumstances.  In the aforementioned example, our Expat was only able to cite their extraordinary sense of smell because the coffee shop was also a roastery, giving some context to the employer’s requirement.

Can an artist or musician move to Berlin from the USA?

Yes! Artist visa applications are actually one of the simplest ways to make your move to Berlin.  Having relocated a sizeable chunk of the American diaspora of DJs and producers (like Tijana T pictured below), over to sin city, we are extremely well versed in the process.

For this you’re going to need portfolio examples, letters of intent to collaborate or employment offers in Germany, and proof of earnings from your work.

Unlike regular freelance or self-employed applicants, artist applications are not required to go through the chamber of commerce, and are therefore processed more quickly and effectively through a single government office.

Bare in mind that you will need to show that you have enough income to support yourself, and some savings in your bank account to fall back on.

Is it possible to get my German visa in English?

The honest answer is no.  The majority of the staff at the immigration office, despite working exclusively with foreigners, are either unable or unwilling to speak with you in English.  German bureaucratic institutions are notoriously draconian, and offer a level of customer service which most Americans would find beyond disappointing, bordering on abusive.

Part of your move over to the old world is about shedding those happy go lucky “Good day to ya!” smiles, and trade them in for some good old fashioned East German misery.

It’s a small price to pay for life in one of Europe’s coolest capitals, and you will soon embrace the gloomy looks and nonchalance as all part of the charming ambience of creative urban decay.

When it comes to securing your visa, the solution is simpler.  Hire Expats In Wonderland to complete your new visa application or renewal and we’ll prepare all your paperwork, advise on the best solution and attend your appointments as your official translator.  We successfully complete visa applications for US citizens every week, and are verified experts in the process. Check out our Instagram to meet our happy customers!