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The German Freelance Visa: Legal Advice from German Lawyers

The German Freelance Visa allows freelancers, self-employed individuals and digital nomads to establish themselves and reside in Germany. This visa is required for those looking to freelance in Germany who are not permanent residents in Germany, EU citizens or citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Freelancing and digital nomadism have become more viable in recent years, as with automation and increasing connectivity, individuals can conduct their employment without needing to be in the office or restricted to a certain location. Our lawyers support individuals from all over the world in obtaining a German Freelance Visa.

Our team of German visa lawyers at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte advises and represents private individuals and corporate clients in all German immigration law issues. We are your reliable partner when facing German bureaucracy and dealing with legal disputes. Contact us now by phone, by email at or by using the contact form below.

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Your full-service law firm in Germany: Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte

Our Services as Immigration Lawyers in Germany

At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, we are widely experienced in the German Freelance Visa’s legal requirements and with generally German immigration and residence permit law. Our lawyers will advise you on all of the requirements for the application and can oversee the entire process, allowing you to relax knowing your future is in good hands. Our lawyers can accompany you to the interview and other meetings with the immigration authorities regarding the visa. Should you face any legal issues or other disputes, our lawyers will be in your corner and defending your rights.

Our legal team is highly experienced with such visas, and we understand what the official bodies are looking for. We can advise you on what you need to display in your freelance plan that the authorities will examine during the interview process. We can counteract any potential errors in the application process, and we will look to accelerate the process wherever it is viable. Support from experienced professionals ensures that you will save time by avoiding common pitfalls that may set back the entire process.

Once the application process is successful, our lawyers will support you in matters such as family reunification in Germany and in gaining permanent residency. Additionally, our corporate law team can support you with establishing your business in Germany. As a full-service law firm, our team is available to advise on all areas of German law, including intellectual property law, employment law, tax law and more. Establishing a productive partnership with our firm means that you will be granted legal expertise, industry-specific insight and tailored service for all of your legal matters. Contact us now directly by using the contact form below.

Eligibility as a Freelancer in Germany

Freelancing in Germany involves appreciating the difference between freelancers in “liberal” professions (“freier Beruf “) and those in commercial professions (“Gewerbe”). The German Freelance Visa is designed for “Freiberufler” from liberal professions. Such professions are seen as those that will have a positive impact on German culture and the economy. Traditionally, such freelance professions involve self-employment in areas such as healthcare, law, tax advisors, architects, engineers and other roles as outlined by the § 18 Income Tax Act of Germany (EStG). There are differences between the two positions as freelancers do not need to be registered with the German Trade Register or pay the trade tax. There are also differences relating to bookkeeping requirements and business registration.

The process for self-employed entrepreneurs is different. They can also apply to reside in Germany under § 21 German Residence Act; however, they need to demonstrate that their business will have a positive impact on the economy, it meets an economic interest or regional need, and the financing must be secured by equity capital or a loan commitment. Self-employed entrepreneurs can learn more about the requirements for starting a company in Germany by visiting our Business Immigration page.

The Freelance Visa can be applied for in Germany by applicants from particular countries, including the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand,  the UK, Israel, South Korea and Japan. These individuals can visit Germany on visa-free travel and make the application from Germany. Other individuals can also make the application from Germany if they are there on a previous visa. Such visas or residence permits may include the EU Blue Card, the Working Holiday Visa and the Job Seekers’ Visa. However, it is also possible to apply for a German Freelance Visa at the German embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country. However, it is crucial in such situations to be fully aware of the requirements for the application.

Application Process for the German Freelance Visa

Once shown that you are eligible for the German Freelance Visa, the process of applying involves several steps and can be time-consuming. Generally, the application process can take up to three months and that needs to be factored into planning. When applying, you need to be able to demonstrate that you can financially support yourself in Germany. Letters from future clients in Germany are needed to demonstrate that your services are sought after in Germany. Please note that it is better to have more than one letter when going for the meeting.

Here is a list of requirements to have ready for the application process:

  • Completed visa application,
  • Valid passport with additional passport pictures,
  • An up-to-date CV,
  • Visa Fee,
  • Health Insurance (most likely from a German provider),
  • Letters of Recommendation,
  • Professional Authorization (proof of expertise),
  • Education and qualification certification,
  • Freelance plan,
  • Letters of commitment from future clients (proving your income will continue)
  • Proof of local accommodation with a signed lease: the “Anmeldung”

Our lawyers will assist you with the preparation for the application and will advise you on which documents should be transalted into German.

Upon arrival in Germany, it is then expected that the visa holder registers their German address with the local Bürgeramt. From there it is required to open a bank account, ensure that your health insurance is appropriate and to register with the tax office where you are residing. At the tax office (“Finanzamt”) the freelance visa holder needs to complete the “Fragebogen zur steuerliche Erfassung” to receive a tax number. This number is needed for the authorities to tax the individual correctly.

Issues to be Aware of with the German Freelance Visa

When applying for the German Freelance Visa, there are some important aspects that applicants should be aware of.

“Fake Self-Employment” (Scheinselbstständigkeit): “Fake self-employment” or “fake freelancing” arises when as a freelancer, your services are only available to one client. In such a case, the freelancer works like an employee of a company or group, but that company does not officially register them as an employee. This relationship is shown to arise if the freelancer has worked exclusively with one client for a lengthy time period (one year or more) or where one client is responsible for 83.3% or more of the freelancer’s income. Other factors can also demonstrate that fake self-employment is happening, such as having a client company email address, having a client’s logo on your business card or other forms of communication, attending staff meetings and more. If you are in such a situation as an employer or freelancer, it is important to consult with our legal team to find out your options.

Age and Pension Considerations: Although the Freelance Visa is not limited by working age, there are issues to be aware of if you are older than 45. Essentially, the German authorities need to ensure that the applicant has made adequate retirement preparations before granting them the visa. Applicants must demonstrate that they have a private pension plan that provides enough for them by the time they reach retirement age or to show that they have the required amount as personal assets.

Digital Nomads in Germany

Digital nomadism is a growing area, and the increase in remote working following the Covid-19 pandemic indicates that more people are likely to follow this route in the coming years. As the world of work changes, and technology and connectivity improve, digital nomadism is here to stay. In Germany, digital nomads can also apply for the German Freelance Visa if it is suited to their current situation. With widely available co-working spaces and a growing culture of Start-Up companies, Germany is a popular destination for digital nomads looking for a new base to establish themselves. Our article on Digital Nomads in Germany: Residence Permits and Visas provides more information on digital nomadism in Germany.

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Practice Group: German Immigration Law

Practice Group:
German Immigration Law

Aykut Elseven

Lawyer | Managing Partner

Nora Nolan


Dania Höltershinken