Compared to German students, international students face additional challenges when studying and looking for a job. We advise you on issues such as work permits and the EU Blue Card, looking for work and working while you study.
Guidance for international students
If you are an international student and decide to stay in Germany after studying, you will face a number of challenges. In addition to cultural and linguistic aspects, there are several bureaucratic hurdles to overcome depending on your home country. If you are not an EU citizen, you will require a German work and residence permit. On the other hand, you boast additional qualifications that will be advantageous to your professional profile. Intercultural experience, additional language skills, perhaps another degree from a foreign university and/or work experience abroad can boost your chances in the labour market.
We, the Career Service for Internationals, aim to assist you in your transition to professional life by providing the following services:
- Information and guidance, e.g. on the German labour market and the legal framework
- Checking application documents
- Workshops/seminars/lectures, e.g. on intercultural training, applying in Germany, supplementing your German language skills for the working world
- Getting to know companies in the region
- Information on services from other institutions and organisations, e.g. on how to start a business.
Working While You Study
If you hold a residence permit based on Section 16b of the Residence Act, you may work 120 full days or 240 half-days per year in addition to studying (Section 16b (3) of the German Residence Act). The period of one year is based on one calendar year (January to December).
It is advisable to note down exactly how many hours you work and on which days. This is important as proof for yourself, for a potential employer and for the Foreigners’ Authority.
All working days in excess of the rule on 120 days/240 half-days must be approved in advance by your local Foreigners’ Authority.
Please also note:
Voluntary internships are also subject to the rule on 120 days/240 half-days, even if they are unpaid.
Mandatory internships are not subject to the rule on 120 days/240 half-days because they are part of your degree programme.
Work performed as an undergraduate assistant (studentische Hilfskraft) does not count towards the 120 days/240 half-days if the work is for a university or an institution with a link to a university, provided that you do not work so much that it jeopardises your studies. In any case, please speak to the Foreigners’ Authority about any such job.
Exceptions: the rule on 120 days/240 half-days excludes holders of residence permits for the purpose of:
- applying for a course of study under Section 16b (1) of the German Residence Act;
- measures in preparation for studies, such as a preparatory course (Studienkolleg) or language courses, during the first year. If you hold such a residence permit, you are not allowed to work.
Please read your residence permit carefully. If you are unsure how many days you are (still) allowed to work, please contact your local Foreigners’ Authority.
Working After Graduation
If you wish to stay in Germany after graduation, you must apply for an extension of your residence permit at the Foreigners’ Authority responsible for your place of residence.
Residence permit for seeking work:
As a graduate of a German university, you may apply for a residence permit to look for work, which can be issued for a maximum of 18 months. This extended residence permit should help you seek a job that is “commensurate with your qualification”, i.e. a job that corresponds to your qualifications and your degree.
A residence permit for seeking work includes an unrestricted work permit, which means that you can also work in an unqualified job, for example as a temporary worker in a restaurant. The intention is that you can finance yourself while you look for a job.
The maximum validity period of 18 months begins on the date on which you are notified in writing that you have successfully completed your studies.
Please note that in addition to your degree, you will need to present other documents to obtain a residence permit for seeking work, e.g. proof of sufficient living space, health insurance and a minimum income.
It is recommended that you visit your local Foreigners’ Authority as soon as possible after the announcement of your examination results.
EU Blue Card under Section 18b (2) of the German Residence Act
In August 2012, the EU Blue Card was introduced in Germany to promote the immigration of skilled foreign workers throughout Europe. International graduates of German universities can also apply for an EU Blue Card if they meet and can prove all of the following requirements:
German higher education qualification
draft employment contract or specific job offer related to the higher education course/qualification (“commensurate job”)
minimum gross income: 55,200 euros per year (2020)*
for so-called shortage occupations, especially natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and IT specialists: 43,056 euros per year (2020).*
* Please note that the salary limits are adjusted annually.
Benefits of the EU Blue Card:
It is valid for a maximum of four years when first issued.
A permanent settlement permit (unlimited work and residence permit) can already be issued after 21 months, subject to proof of German language skills at B1 level.
Holders may leave Germany for up to twelve months without losing their status.
Holders may move to another EU country after 18 months (except the UK, Ireland, Denmark) and can benefit from accelerated and simplified conditions when applying for a new national EU Blue Card.