Germany relaxes visa rules for students working alongside studies

Germany relaxes visa rules for students working alongside studies

On March 1, 2024, the second part of Germany’s new skilled worker law was adopted, bringing in new rules around working visas for international students. Here’s what you need to know:

Second part of the skilled worker law adopted in Germany

Germany has just implemented the second part of its new skilled worker law, the first part of which came into effect in November 2023. 

From nursing to hospitality to IT, the German government hopes that the law will encourage skilled workers from all kinds of industries to come to the federal republic and ease the country’s record-high worker shortage.

However, qualified jobseekers who are yet to begin their career, namely international students, can also benefit from the new law. Whether you are already studying in Germany or planning to soon, here’s what international students should know about the new rules:

Work in Germany before you start your studies

The new rules will make it easier to combine work and studying in Germany at every stage of higher education, including before you’ve even been accepted to study.

With the Visum zur Studienbewerbung (literally, visa for study applications), non-EU citizens will be permitted to come to Germany for up to nine months while they prepare a university application. During this time, applicants can complete language courses in English or German, whichever is relevant to their desired course, gather documents and get to know the country. 

Perhaps most crucially, prospective students from so-called third countries can now work up to 20 hours per week during these nine months to fund their stay. Previously, prospective students were permitted to come for the nine-month stay but were not allowed to work, meaning the visa was less beneficial for applicants from lower-income families.

Apprenticeship applicants also benefit from new law

As with university applicants, third-country nationals who would like to do an apprenticeship in Germany can now work in the country while continuing their search.

Applicants are now able to stay in Germany for nine months while they look for an apprenticeship, so long as they have B1-level German skills and are below the age of 35. 

During this nine-month application period, they are allowed to work part-time hours in any job and can continue working for 20 hours per week alongside their training once they have secured an apprenticeship spot.

International students can work more hours

With affordable tuition fees and lots of benefits, German universities attract students from all over the world. However, since only EU nationals are eligible for the country’s BAföG student loan scheme, as a third-country national it can be hard to finance the cost of living in Germany during your studies.

Thanks to the second part of the skilled worker immigration law, this has just gotten a little easier. This is because the amount of time that international students are permitted to work has now increased, from 120 to 140 full days in any calendar year, which works out to 20 hours per week. This can also be worked as 280 half days per calendar year.

German university graduates can change fields more easily

Graduates from German universities are already permitted to stay 18 months after graduation to look for work. After two years of employment, they can also apply for permanent residence. These rules will stay the same, but anyone who would like to stay in Germany after their graduation but change career direction will have an alternative visa route, by changing to an EU Blue Card or German Skilled Worker Visa.

Under the new German Skilled Worker Visa rules, anyone with a degree from a university or a vocational qualification recognised by the country in which it was obtained can come to Germany if they can demonstrate two years of experience in the field in which they would like to work. The qualification and experience do not have to be related or in the same industry, only applicants' work experience has to align with the job in Germany that they hope to get.

These new rules apply to people who graduate outside of Germany but allow international students graduating in Germany more choice of direction once they have completed their studies.

For example, if you worked as a hairdresser in Argentina for two years before your studies, came to study philosophy in Germany but realised you wanted to go back into hairdressing after your studies, you could apply for an EU Blue Card or German Skilled Worker Visa and stay in Germany to work as a hairdresser, rather than having to do a job related to philosophy to eventually secure permanent residence.

Thumb image credit: Monkey Business Images /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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